We’re all in this together? It just means more? Apparently not.
The day following the ACC’s decision to pursue a 10-game conference model plus one non-conference contest (which presumably would have allowed the opportunity for the ACC/SEC rivalry week games to still be played), the SEC basically told the ACC to kick rocks announcing a 10-game conference only schedule.
While I guess I understand it and idea of “better control” of the teams and who they are in contact with competitively if it is SEC games only, I sure do hate to see those usual ACC vs SEC rivalry games: Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Kentucky vs. Louisville and South Carolina vs. Clemson be put on the shelf for 2020. It’s been quite some time since those games were not played during a college football season.
“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”
Both sides in the Palmetto Bowl rivalry spoke out about how they desired to play but ultimately the SEC shot down the notion. If we do indeed play football this year, those rivalry games unfortunately will not be on the docket. For Clemson-Carolina, it snaps a 111 game steak which makes for the second-longest uninterrupted series. What a shame to see that end.
University of South Carolina president Bob Caslen reportedly voted against the conference-only model but overall the league presidents were in favor of the decision.
“I am disappointed that we will not play our in-state rival this year. It is a great rivalry and one of the nation’s best,” South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner said in a statement released by the school. “The pandemic has created many challenges and forced us to make adjustments.”
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp also spoke out against the decision and how the camp at SC was fighting to make it happen.
“It’s unfortunate that we will not be playing Clemson this season but that wasn’t our choice, it was a league decision,” Muschamp said. “That’s a game that is important to our program, our institution and our state, and one that President (Bob) Caslen and Coach Tanner pushed hard to make happen. I look forward to renewing the rivalry in 2021.”
Clemson shared in the disappointment of the news that the 2020 chapter of the rivalry will now produce a blank page.
“Clemson aggressively lobbied the ACC to include an additional non-conference game for the primary purpose of maintaining our long-standing rivalry game with South Carolina,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said in a statement. “We’re disappointed to hear of the scheduling decision announced by the SEC, as we know the importance of The Palmetto Bowl to the State of South Carolina.”
If you live in this state, you know how important that game is to so many people and it is truly a shame it couldn’t be worked out. But let’s be clear that it is not the fault of either team but rather the SEC.
It just doesn’t feel like a season if you don’t play your rival. As I mentioned previously, Thanksgiving/Rivalry Week is my favorite week of the entire year and one that I thoroughly look forward to regardless of the team’s records.
As fans of the sport, we live for these rivalry games each year. I wouldn’t care if we had to play the game in a random field somewhere in Cowpens, SC at 3 a.m. Get us some lights and lines on that field and let’s play ball!
Rivalries are part of what make college football one of the best sports on the planet. The hate runs deep and not much brings people together or tears them apart quite like college football rivalries. Marriages, families, friendships and beyond are somewhat put on hold as we cheer on our respective teams in hopes for another year’s worth of bragging rights.
But the cancellation of the Clemson-South Carolina game in particular got me to thinking. South Carolina’s journey in 2020–with all due respect to Clemson–perhaps just became a little more difficult with this conference-only model. Yes, the game was as far away as can be but not sure anyone really had the Gamecocks pulling the upset this year. However, a loss or two more on the year in a “toss up” game against a Missouri, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M or Tennessee within the conference would be another hard blow to Muschamp’s job security. With this year’s game off the table, have we seen him coach in his last Clemson-Carolina game?
Muschamp is backed up into the corner this season and really needs to show signs of progress if he doesn’t want to be handed a pink slip come late November….or whenever the regular season concludes. He is 0-4 against Clemson since arriving in Columbia following the 2015 season and with the exception of a late push in 2015, none of the games have really been that close.
It doesn’t help that his new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo hasn’t had much time to implement his system with the Gamecock offense due to a limited spring and ongoing concerns with Covid-19 through the summer. The Gamecocks have posted a pair of losing seasons through his first four years in Columbia including last season’s 4-8 mark. To say his seat in the midlands is heating up is quite the understatement and he’s already agreed to a buyout reduction headed into the 2020 season. He knows how important this season is.
Perhaps if we do play this season, most coaches will be given a mulligan this year because of the pandemic. I would argue that you should take year one with a grain of salt for guys like Mike Norvell (FSU), Mike Leach (Mississippi State) and Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss). Not to mention the stress and pressure for first-time head coaches Jeff Scott (USF) and Jeff Hafley (Boston College) navigating uncharted territory amidst a world pandemic.
The picture for the 2020 college football season will come into greater focus in the coming weeks as we are closing in on the beginning of August and fall camp. For those keeping track, I’m still not convinced any of this matters and that we’ll have a season at all.
The clock continues to tick….