South Carolina vs. Clemson rivalry week history

Palmetto Bowl Preview | Photo by @toririchman_photography for @dailygamecock

On Saturday the annual Carolina-Clemson game, AKA the Palmetto Bowl, returns to Williams-Brice stadium marking the 112 matchup between the two schools. Until last year, when the rivalry game was cancelled due to COVID-19, the matchup was the second longest continuous rivalry in all of college football. 

If you’re not from around here, you might not understand what makes this rivalry such a competitive affair. You might wonder, why does Carolina host an annual Tiger burn? Or why did Clemson hold a mock funeral for Cocky for so many years? 

Let’s look back at some of the rivalry shenanigans. 

1902  — Clemson’s only loss of the season came at the hands of the Gamecocks, who won 12-6. The game, which was then played on Big Thursday during the State Fair, involved three days of fist fights between the two fan bases after South Carolina fans carried a poster showing a tiger with a gamecock standing on top of it.

The aftermath resulted in the stoppage of the rivalry until 1909. 

1946 — A near riot ensued when fans from both sides were denied entrance to the game due to the distribution of counterfeit tickets. At halftime a Clemson fan strangled a live chicken at midfield and both fanbases stormed the field. It took U.S. Secretary of State — then James F. Byrnes — and then-Governor-elect, Strom Thurmond, to subdue the crowd. The Gamecocks eventually won the matchup 26-14. 

1961 — “The Prank” might be the most infamous moment in the history of the rivalry. Minutes before the Clemson football team was set to start pregame warmups, members of the Sigma Nu fraternity at UofSC dressed in makeshift Clemson uniforms, took to the field kicking the ball backwards + intentionally dropping passes. Clemson’s band played their fight song “Tiger Rag” before they realized they’d been duped. Another near riot ensued, before Carolina eventually won the game 21-14. 

1992 — The Gamecocks started off the season 0-5 before freshman, Steve Tanneyhill helped the team win four of their last five games. After the team defeated Clemson 24-13, Tanneyhill with his mullet in tow, famously signed the Tiger’s paw at midfield

2004 — An on field brawl between the two teams led to the retirement of legendary South Carolina coach Lou Holtz shortly thereafter. The following season both teams met at midfield in a sign of sportsmanship.

Since the 2004 melee, the rivalry has let on-field performances settle debates with the Gamecocks winning five straight games in that time, and Clemson winning the last six. With the Gamecocks riding high off wins against Florida and Auburn, could this be the year that Carolina ends the streak?