Almost as Different as the Score

I had two agendas when I went to Columbia last Saturday night for the 101st meeting of the Tigers and the Gamecocks. The first and most important agenda was watching Clemson play Carolina. My second agenda was a little deeper. I wanted to try and make an honest comparison between our own Death Valley and Williams-Brice Stadium.

To begin with, I've been to Williams-Brice over 50 times dating back to the early 1980's. Of course, I've been to Death Valley many more times than that. However, I had not been into Williams-Brice Stadium since Clemson completed the renovation phases that began 2 years ago. Most of the renovations so far done to Death Valley have been aesthetic and not fundamental changes in the structure of Death Valley.

Before I begin with my comparisons, I realize that the exterior renovations at Death Valley have been a bit of a sore spot for some folks who feel like the West End Zone project should have been the top priority because of the benefits of recruiting. While I agree with that philosophy to some degree, it is a moot point at this time because we have what we have.

The brick facades at Clemson, along with the brick walkways near in the East End zone add a modern and clean look to Death Valley. The newly renovated concessions that are on the opposite side of the portals give the feeling of more openness with less congestion. And the signs hanging from the trestles punctuate the history of Clemson football for Tiger fans as well as visiting teams.

All of the above are in stark contrast to the outdated Williams-Brice Stadium.

The location of WB is somewhat of a moot point, because it's not like they can move it. However, the stadium sits so far away from anything it takes on the appearance of lost puppy. But it is what you see when you enter Williams-Brice that emphasizes the difference between it and Death Valley.

Let's start with the upper deck. The long walk up the spiral "staircase" is enough to get you dizzy to begin with. Just when you think you have turned the final corner and you are at your destination, there is another loop to make.

When finally at your destination, the area outside of the portals is terribly cramped. During timeouts or at halftime, even moving from one point to another in the upper deck walkway is almost futile. The concessions have nothing remarkable in the signage, leaving you to think you are buying your food from a high school booster club at a Friday night high school game.

Once in your seat, the quarters are cramped because of the backrests on every seat. While the backrests are comfortable, the annoyance of having people try to walk past you is laughable, resulting in getting way to close for comfort with most that are walking by.

The sightlines are pretty good from up there, even at the top. Williams-Brice is quite smaller in height than Death Valley, so those fearful of extreme heights won't be thrown off. However, the terrible rust that has overcome the lighting grid above the upper deck looks disgusting. I kept waiting for a chunk of rust to fall down and hit me in the head.

And the swaying is not my favorite part of the upper deck either. Keep in mind, it was only the Clemson fans cheering Saturday night and the thing still shook a little bit.

The lower deck is not much better overall. When you walk into the lower concourse, you feel like you are in a metal factory with beams going everywhere in a complete mess of engineering going awry. It's dark, dusty, and as far away from being attractive to the eye as you can get. While there is plenty more room to move about in the lower deck concourses, you are so intimidated by the look of it that you want to get back to your seat as soon as possible.

There is no television or radio to let you know what is going on in the game, which has been a huge addition to Death Valley in the past 2 years. And just like every other part of Williams-Brice, there are absolutely no visual references to South Carolina's past. Where is George Roger's Heisman Trophy? Where are the references to Black Magic? Where are the back-to-back Outback Bowl banners? The answer…nowhere in the sight of the common football fan.

If there is a positive to Williams-Brice, it is the end zone area. Everything over there has a cleaner and more modern feel to it. The high dollar middle section is roomy and allows for members to bring their drinks into the game while still allowing them to sit in the open-air portion of the stadium. The upper deck is steep, similar to Death Valley. And the top 15 rows don't have a complete view of the field, cutting off the back 1/3 of the end zone. Overall, however, the end zone is the highlight of the Williams-Brice Stadium experience.

After visiting every ACC stadium over the course of the last two years, it is apparent that Clemson has an outstanding stadium aesthetically relative to what is around the league. The only stadiums that would be comparable in looks are Doak Campbell in Tallahassee and Bobby Dodd in Atlanta. In fact, the upgrades at Bobby Dodd would have to put that stadium very near the top in the southeast in my opinion.

Having not been to every single SEC stadium, I have no reference point for the Gamecocks. However, comparing Williams-Brice to the ACC it would clearly fall behind the stadiums at Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Virginia aesthetically. Williams-Brice would be comparable to, but not better than, N.C. State, Maryland, and North Carolina. And Williams Brice certainly falls ahead of Wake Forest and Duke.

Clemson still has a ways to go, specifically with the West End Zone project. When that project is complete, Clemson will arguably have the best facility in the ACC even with the additions of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. And, maybe more importantly, Clemson will have a much, much better facility than our archrival.

So while we bask in the afterglow of a great win against South Carolina last Saturday, we can also bask in the truth that Clemson is exceeding South Carolina by a pretty good margin in football facilities. The Gamecocks and their administration are in dire need of pushing some new upgrades, which will no doubt put a strain economically on their Athletic Department.

We know. We were laughed at by our rival for our dire straights financially in the Athletic Department when Terry Don Phillips took over. But it is a necessary evil to achieve what we want ultimately for Clemson. What we want at Clemson is the premier football facility in the conference. South Carolina would be wise to take a page from the Clemson playbook in this case or they will continue to fall further and further behind.

Which may not be such a bad thing for Clemson! Top Stories