The University of South Carolina and its in-state neighbor, Clemson University, are the co-authors of the most storied collegiate rivalry in the Palmetto State. Athletic teams and fans of the Gamecocks and the Tigers regularly make the 129-mile journey between the respective campuses with great anticipation for contests that always deliver excitement.
Williams-Brice Stadium is the biannual host of one of the highest profile football games in the country each year. The game was first played in 1896 and was played consecutively from 1909 to 2019, until the COVID-19 pandemic ended the streak.
According to the Palmetto Bowl’s website, the 111-game streak “was the longest continuous non-conference rivalry in the nation, the second longest continuous rivalry in Division I college football, and the longest uninterrupted rivalry series in the south.”
Along with football, nearly every South Carolina Division I and club sports team has a rivalry match, meet or game against the Tigers. In February 2021, amid concern surrounding the pandemic, South Carolina baseball was able to fit a series against Clemson into its schedule for the 122nd and 123rd editions of the rivalry.
“Great environment. It didn’t feel like there was a pandemic — that was as loud a crowd as I’ve heard in a long time. It was just great to be out there. Two good teams getting after it, competing,” Gamecock baseball head coach Mark Kingston said at a press conference after the second game of the series.
This school year, the rivalry has already played out on the soccer pitch, with men’s and women’s soccer each traveling to Clemson in early September. New men’s soccer head coach Tony Annan admired the intensity of the rivalry after his team saw two players sent off with red cards en-route to a loss.
“It’s pretty impossible to outmatch such a great team like Clemson at their home stadium, which was fantastic tonight, the fanbase and Clemson are a very, very, very good team," Annan said postgame.
After a 2018 victory over the Tigers from a late goal, women’s soccer head coach Shelley Smith commented on the importance of the win in front of a record-breaking crowd.
“Against our rival, you know, obviously we want to get the win and we want to keep progressing as a team,” Smith said at a postgame press conference. “I think tonight we did that, and to do that against a strong team like Clemson, and when the emotions are high, and to be able to play through it and get the job done, I’m very proud of these girls.”
Dawn Staley, another coaching legend at South Carolina, outlined the weight of playing against Clemson before her women’s basketball team faced it in November 2019.
“No matter what the record is, no matter what sport it is, it’s a rivalry and we need to do our part in winning a point for the Palmetto Series,” Staley told The State.
Gamecock women's basketball went on to earn its 10th straight win against Clemson the following week.
With both soccer teams already having faced Clemson and the basketball seasons only just tipping off, Gamecock club hockey continues to give Gamecock students a team to support. On Oct. 1, the team earned a win in its first of three games against the Tigers, two of which will be at home, with the winner of the best of three earning the Palmetto Cup victory.
“That game, every year, is pretty — seems to be the most anticipated for attendance, and we always seem to have a great showing from our fans on those games," said Cameron Mecca, senior sports and entertainment management student and club hockey team captain. "Every time we play Clemson at home, it's always the most packed of the year."