One Sided Rivalry

Playing golf last week with a buddy of mine (who is a loyal Gamecock fan), I was caught off guard by a conversation I had with him about Clemson and South Carolina.

I know my credibility with South Carolina fans is almost non-existent. Most of the time, the truth is really hard to swallow and I try my best to stick to the truth. But, I just can't believe that Gamecock fans cannot use the word "dominate" when discussing the Clemson/Carolina rivalry.

Gamecock fans are maybe the most loyal and devoted followers anywhere in the country. Most outsiders would also agree that their fans, as a whole, are much more loyal and devoted to their school than Clemson's fans.

But, some Gamecock fans seem to have selective memory. Most Gamecock fans, if you press them, admit their lack of success in football over the course of their 100-year history. But, for some reason, many Gamecock fans do not think that Clemson is, or has been, dominant over their Gamecocks. That is where the Gamecock fans love for their football program is blinded and without facts.

The entire Clemson/USC rivalry is quite one sided. So, for arguments sake, let's take a look at some of the facts in what I call the "modern day era" since 1980. Again, these are simply the facts…like them or not.

Since 1980, Clemson holds a 15-5-1 record against the Gamecocks (a winning percentage of .714). The Tigers are 6-4-1 in Death Valley (.600) and an astonishing 9-1 (.900) in Williams Brice Stadium. The Tigers have not lost in Columbia since a 20-7 defeat in 1987 when Ronald Reagan was still occupying the White House.

In the 21 games that have been played since 1980, Clemson has outscored the Gamecocks 541-363. Broken down, that averages 26-17 per game in the Tigers favor. During Clemson's wins, the Tigers have averaged defeating the Gamecocks by 14.5 points per game. During the five South Carolina wins, the Gamecocks averaged defeating the Tigers by 10.8 points per game.

One of the more interesting facts about the rivalry since 1980 is the fact that every Clemson coach has a winning record vs. the Gamecocks and every Gamecock coach has a losing record vs. Clemson.

For the Tigers, Tommy Bowden leads the Clemson coaches since 1 980 in winning percentage with a perfect 2-0 (1.000) record. Ken Hatfield ranks second with a 3-1 (.750) record, followed by Danny Ford at 7-3-1 (.636), and Tommy West at 3-2 (.600).

Ironically for the Gamecocks, Brad Scott holds the best record of Gamecock coaches since 1980 vs. the Tigers with a 2-3 (.400) record. The late Joe Morrison ranks second with a 2-3-1 (.333) record, followed by Jim Carlen at 2-5 (.286), Sparky Woods at 1-4 (.250), Richard Bell at 0-1 (.000), and Lou Holtz at 0-2 (.000).

The rivalry has produced several streaks since 1980, all of which favor the Tigers. Clemson has defeated the Gamecocks four times consecutively on three different occasions. The first 4 game winning streak came from 1980-1983, during which the Tigers won a National Championship. The next 4 game winning streak for the Tigers came from 1988-1991, during which the Danny Ford era ended and the Ken Hatfield era began. And the Tigers are currently in the midst of a 4 game winning streak vs. the Gamecocks dating back to 1997.

On the flip side, the Gamecocks have not defeated the Tigers in consecutive years during the "modern era". The 1984 Gamecock victory in Clemson was followed by a 24-17 loss to the Tigers in 1985. The 1992, 1994, and 1996 Gamecock victories in Clemson were all followed up by losses the following year to the Tigers in Columbia. The closest thing to a winning streak the Gamecocks have had was the 1986 and 1987 years. In 1986, the Tigers and Gamecocks battled to a 21-21 tie in Clemson, followed by a 20-7 Gamecock victory in Columbia the following year. So, theoretically, the Gamecocks went 2 years without a loss to the Tigers, even if they did not beat the Tigers two years in a row.

The Bottom Line
As loyal, devoted, and rabid the Gamecock fans are, their assumption that USC and Clemson are equals on the gridiron is simply misplaced. The rivalry has been quite one sided in the 100 year history, and very one sided since 1980. The Tigers have not only dominated the Gamecocks in wins and losses, but the advantages stretch from points scored, to coaching records, and to winning streaks. There is not one phase of comparison that you could chalk as a victory to the Gamecocks, unless you count optimism and fan support.

The 2001 season may be the year of the Gamecock. And, the 21st century may be colored with the glory of a USC football team that becomes a football powerhouse. Lou Holtz has started the Gamecocks off on the right foot with an 8-4 record in the 2000 season.

But, to attempt to compare the history of the Tigers and the Gamecocks on the football field is quite futile. There is no comparison, and that is because the Tigers have dominated.

And, it is going to take a long, long time for the Gamecocks to catch up. The good news for the Gamecocks is that, with a new century, comes new hope.

But hope does not beat the Tigers. Never has.

You can reach Scott Rhymer at Top Stories