The State House in Columbia, with its Confederate Memorial
This Saturday, the football team at the University of South Carolina hosts its cross-State rival, the defending National Champions, Clemson University, in a rivalry known as the Palmetto Bowl, in honor of their home, the Palmetto State.
Before You Go. South Carolina is in the South, so it could be a bit warmer than you're used to, including at this time of year. Saturday is forecast for mid-60s by day, low 40s by night. You won't need a Winter jacket for the entire trip, but you should still bring one.
Although South Carolina was the original "Southern State," you don't need a passport or to change your money to visit. It's in the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to fiddle with your timepieces, either.
Tickets. Both teams have stadiums seating over 80,000 people. Clemson nearly always sells theirs out, and South Carolina usually gets over 70,000. Getting tickets might be hard, especially for this game.
Pretty much every seat for this Palmetto Bowl at Williams-Brice Stadium is going for $134 and up, though you might be able to get a seat in the upper deck for $112. And because Clemson has already played its last home football game of the season, I wasn't able to get ticket prices. I did find a site (not the University's) that said that the average ticket price was $83.
Getting There. This will be Thanksgiving Weekend, so demand means that the usual guidelines for availability and pricing will not apply.
It's 717 miles from Times Square in Midtown Manhattan to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina, and 777 miles to Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. Knowing this, your first instinct will be to fly.
Unfortunately, neither Columbia nor Clemson (nor Greenville nor Spartanburg, near Clemson) is big enough to have a major airport. You may be better off flying to Charlotte Douglas International Airport and renting a car and driving the last 102 miles to Columbia or 132 miles to Clemson -- or flying to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and renting a car and driving the last 219 miles to Columbia or 133 miles to Clemson.
Amtrak goes to both towns. Columbia is on their New York-to-Florida routes, the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor. It would be $438 round-trip, except every train from Florida to New York is sold out for Sunday. You would have to stay in Columbia an extra night. The station is at 850 Pulaski Street, at the western edge of downtown. You'd have to walk a few blocks to Assembly & Blossom Streets, and take the Garnet Bus (campus bus) to get to the stadium, 2 1/2 miles to the southeast.
Were this game at Clemson, you could take the Crescent, their New York-to-New Orleans train. It leaves Penn Station at 2:15 PM and arrives in Clemson at... 4:54 AM. The return trip leaves at 9:45 PM and arrives back in New York at 10:35 the next morning. It'll cost a whopping $496 this week. The station is at 1105 Tiger Blvd., about a mile north of the campus. Red Route bus.
Greyhound to Columbia may not feel worth it, either. Round-trip fare is $338, but it can drop to $299 with advanced purchase. 710 Buckner Road, about 5 miles north of downtown. You'd have to walk a mile and a half to Main and Oakland Streets to get Bus 101 to downtown. Greyhound to Clemson is worse: The Dog doesn't even go to Clemson. It gets no closer than 4500 Highway 81 South in Anderson, 20 miles to the southeast. Fortunately, Clemson Area Transit runs bus service to Clemson proper.
So it looks like the best way down is driving. For Columbia, you'll be going down Interstate 95 (or its New Jersey equivalent, the Turnpike) almost the whole way, until Exit 160B, onto Interstate 20 West. That will get you to Columbia's beltway, at Exit 76A, taking Interstate 77 South, to Exit 5, to State Route 48 North, which will get you to the stadium.
It'll be about 2 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, 20 minutes in Delaware, and an hour and a half in Maryland, before crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, at the southern tip of the District of Columbia, into Virginia. Then it will be 3 hours or so in Virginia, another 3 hours in North Carolina, and about 2 hours and 15 minutes in South Carolina. That's a little over 12 hours. Given rest stops, preferably in one in each State from Maryland to South Carolina, you're talking about a 16-hour trip.
For Clemson, take the New Jersey Turnpike/I-95 all the way from New Jersey to Petersburg, Virginia. Exit 51 will put you on I-85 South, and that will take you right through North Carolina and into South Carolina. Take Exit 19 to U.S. Route 76 West, to State Route 93 West, and that will take you to the campus.
Once In the State. Like North Carolina, South Carolina was named for the King of England at the time of its settlement, Charles I. It has just under 5 million people, and is 1 of 4 States, along with North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, to be both 1 of the Original 13 and 1 of the Confederate 11. Indeed, South Carolina was the 1st State to secede, shortly after the 1860 election, and had threatened to do so once before, during the Nullification Crisis of 1832. It is still in the shadow of its racist and rebellious past.
Founded in 1786 as a State capital with a central location, and named for Christopher Columbus, Columbia is home to about 135,000 people, with a metropolitan area of a little under a million. (It's neck-and-neck with Charleston as the largest city in the State.) Street addresses increase eastward and westward from the Congaree River, and increase northward. The University of South Carolina -- and nobody outside the State calls it either "Carolina" or "USC," but people inside the State do -- was founded in 1801.
Clemson the city has only about 14,000 permanent residents, while Clemson the University, founded in 1899 and known until 1964 as Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina, has about 23,000 students. And, of course, a sellout at Memorial Stadium has a population of about 81,000.
Both the city and the University were founded by Thomas Green Clemson IV, a mining engineer from Philadelphia who had studied at the Sorbonne (the University of Paris). He had married Anna Maria Calhoun, daughter of John C. Calhoun, the leading Southern politician of the 1st half of the 19th Century, and the staunchest defender slavery and States' Rights ever had. When Calhoun died in 1850, Clemson inherited his Fort Hill plantation in what was then part of the town of Pendleton, and built his university around it.
The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority, a.k.a. The Comet, runs buses in the Columbia area, with a single fare of $1.50. Clemson Area Transit (CAT) runs free buses around town, and to Anderson. ZIP Codes in South Carolina start with the digits 29. For the Columbia area, it's 290, 291 and 292; for the Clemson-Greenville-Spartanburg area, 296. The Area Code for Columbia is 803, and for Clemson 864. The State has no sales tax.
It was expanded again to 72,400 in 1982, and to the present 80,250 in 1996. It s a horseshoe pointing northwest. The field is aligned northwest-to-southeast, and was switched to artificial turn in 1970, and back to natural grass in 1984. The stadium has also hosted rock concerts, and a 1987 visit by Pope John Paul II.
Not only is Clemson more successful in football than South Carolina, but it has the honor of having the only venue in the entire State to have hosted a regular-season major league sporting event. When the NFL granted a franchise to Charlotte for the 1995 season, to be named the Carolina Panthers, it was determined that the stadium being built in downtown Charlotte wouldn't be ready until 1996, so the Panthers played their 1st season at Clemson.
Team History Displays. South Carolina has one of the lamest histories of any Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I-A) schools. It's not quite Rutgers bad, but bad enough. They went undefeated in the Southern Conference in 1933, but still lost the title to Duke who played 1 more conference game.
In 1969, they won the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Then they made the mistake of leaving the ACC in 1972, and this independent status hurt them. In 1984, their "Black Magic" team (so named for their all-black uniforms) won their 1st 9 games and rose to as high as Number 2 in the polls, but a loss away to Navy and another to Oklahoma State in the Gator Bowl dropped them to 10-2 and Number 11 in the final poll.
In 1992, they joined the Southeastern Conference. It took them until 2010 to win the SEC East Division and advance to the SEC Championship Game -- and Auburbn slaughtered them.
They reached their 1st bowl game on New Year's Day 1946, losing the Gator Bowl to Wake Forest. They lost their 1st 8 bowl appearances, a record. Finally, on January 2, 1995, they won the Carquest Bowl at whatever the Miami Dolphins' stadium was named that year. Since then, they've won the 2001, 2002 and 2013 Outback Bowls; the 2006 Liberty Bowl, the 2012 and 2014 Capital One Bowls, and the 2014 Independence Bowl. But they've still never appeared in one of the big bowls that were traditionally played on New Year's Day: The Rose, the Orange, the Sugar, the Cotton, or the Fiesta.
Only 2 Gamecock players are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Running back George Rogers won the 1980 Heisman Trophy, and that's why the street on the north side of Williams-Brice Stadium is named for him. Receiver Sterling Sharpe played for them from 1983 to 1987. (His brother Shannon Sharpe went to Savannah State in Georgia.)
The Gamecocks retired Rogers' Number 38 and Sharpe's Number 2, as well as the 37 of 1951 running back Steve Wadiak and the 56 of 1964 center Mike Johnson. Rogers was a Pro Bowler for the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins, and was a member of the 'Skins team that won Super Bowl XXII. There is now a movement to get a statue for him, for outside the stadium.
Hopefully, they'll choose a pose less awkward than this one.
Clemson is far more successful, and not just recently. They had undefeated seasons in 1900, 1906, 1948 and 1950. They surprised people by winning the National Championship in 1981 -- and then surprising no one by getting busted for recruiting violations the next season.
In 2015, they got all the way to the National Championship Game, but lost a thriller to Alabama. In 2016, they got back, and this time, they won a thriller over Ohio State, for their 2nd National Championship.
But Clemson only has 3 players in the College Football Hall of Fame: 1939 halfback Banks McFadden, 1981 linebacker Jeff Davis, and 1982 safety Terry Kinard. The last 2 both played on the 1981 title team. They've got more head coaches in the Hall: John Heisman (yes, the man for whom the Trophy was named, he coached there 1900-03), Jess Neely (1931-39), Frank Howard (1940-69), and, newly-elected, Danny Ford (1978-89).
Actually, the most famous Clemson football personality may be a defensive tackle who followed them: William Perry, a man so big and full of food he was nicknamed The Refrigerator. As a rookie in the 1985 season, his tackling, and his running with the ball and blocking in close-to-the-goal situations helped the Chicago Bears win the Super Bowl, and made him a national folk hero, and not just for fat people. His brother Michael Dean Perry also played for Clemson, and had a decent career with the Cleveland Browns.
South Carolina, as you might guess, has rivalries with neighboring North Carolina and Georgia. Clemson has rivalries with North Carolina State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Florida State. But their biggest rivalries are with each other. They've played each other since 1896, and every year since 1909. Clemson leads 68-42-4, having won the last 3, although South Carolina won the 5 before that.
Starting in 1980, they played for the Hardee's Trophy, named for the Carolina-based burger chain. In 2015, it was replaced with the Palmetto Trophy.
In 2009, Fritz P. Hamer and John Daye published A History of College Football in South Carolina: Glory on the Gridiron. It's easily the best volume covering either school, although it doesn't have Clemson's more recent title.
During the Game. I've been to South Carolina, and most people there, black and white alike, are reasonably friendly. But I haven't been to a football game there. As usual, the best advice I can give you is stick with whichever is the home team.
South Carolina had a tradition of cockfighting going back to colonial times, and so the University's teams are called the Gamecocks. Of course, this has led to the word "COCKS" being posted on caps, shirts, bumper stickers, etc. A dormant railroad track near the stadium has had cabooses set up in garnet and white, and is known as the Cockaboose Railroad. One side of the stadium will shout, "GAME!" and then the other, "COCKS!" and repeat.
Since 1969, what's known as the Fighting Gamecock Logo has graced their helmets, with a rooster inside a block C. Sometimes, the helmet is black; sometimes, white; sometimes, garnet red. Sometimes, the jerseys have "CAROLINA" above the front uniform numbers; sometimes, "GAMECOCKS."
Sir Big Spur, the live Gamecock mascot
Since 1983, the players have entered to the tune of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" -- known to some of you as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and to some of you as the song that began every Elvis Presley concert from 1969 to 1977. This was a tradition started by Joe Morrison, the 1959-72 Giants running back who became South Carolina head coach in 1983, and died in office in 1989. There are 2 mascots: A costumed mascot named Cocky, and a live mascot named Sir Big Spur.
Anybody that fat shouldn't be so cocky.
He's almost as fat as Refrigerator Perry.
When South Carolina score, a rooster's crow is played over the loudspeakers. The Mighty Sound of the Southeast band plays the fight songs "Go Carolina" and "USC Fight Song." When the band plays "Louie, Louie," the fans jump up and down. Shock absorbers were put in, so that the upper deck can sway but not collapse. Still, Joe Morrison said, "If it ain't swayin', we ain't playin'." That became a bumper sticker slogan that is still seen all over the State. At the end of every game, win or lose, the band plays the Alma Mater and "Amazing Grace."
In 1939, Clemson head coach Jess Neely and athletic director Rupert Fike founded the IPTAY Scholarship Fund, to help fund the football program. "IPTAY" stood for "I Pay Ten A Year," meaning $10 -- about $175 in today's money. The IPTAY Center, the team training facility, now stands in the northwest corner of Memorial Stadium. However, after the 1981 National Championship dissolved into the 1982 scandal, it was joked that IPTAY stood for "I Pay Ten Athletes Yearly."
In 1966, Samuel C. Jones, a Clemson graduate, Class of 1919, had a gift for coach Frank Howard, saying, "Here's a rock from Death Valley, California to Death Valley, South Carolina." At first, Howard didn't think it was a big deal, and used it as a doorstop. Soon, he told IPTAY executive director Gene Willimon, "Take this rock and throw it over the fence, or out in the ditch, do something with it, but get it out of my office!"
And so, just as Charles Darwin was not a Social Darwinist, and Karl Marx has been said to not be a Marxist, Howard's Rock was something that Frank Howard wanted nothing to do with. But Willimon put it on a pedestal at the top of the hill that the team ran down in the east end zone to enter the field. on September 24, 1966, they opened the season by touching the rock on the way down, and beat the University of Virginia.
A tradition was accidentally born. Howard told the players, "Give me 110 percent, or keep your filthy hands off my rock!" The players touched the rock before every game through 2012, and then ran down the hill while the band plays "Tiger Rag" (a.k.a. "Hold That Tiger"!) in what Brent Musberger called "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football."
"Running Down the Hill" in all orange.
It's not even an orange that matches the entryway.
In 1988, Florida State, then ranked Number 10, traveled to Number 3 Clemson, and came away with a victory in Death Valley, on a trick play that Bobby Bowden drew up, called the "puntrooskie." As is tradition with Florida State, they then cut out a piece of the field, and took it back to their practice field's "Sod Cemetery," where other pieces of field from road upsets are "buried."
Clemson coach Danny Ford didn't like that, so when Clemson returned the favor the next season, beating the Seminoles in Tallahassee, he cut a piece of Doak Campbell Stadium sod out, and started Clemson's Victory Graveyard at their practice facility, one-upping FSU by having actual headstones instead of just plaques to mark the "graves."
Apparently, neutral-site wins count, too.
If your visit to South Carolina is during the European soccer season, your choices are limited. In Columbia, it's the British Bulldog Pub. At Clemson, you'd have to go to Spartanburg, to Mother's.
Sidelights. Aside from the Gamecocks and the Tigers, the most popular sports in South Carolina are NASCAR (it's the home of Darlington Raceway) and golf (especially when you get to the Atlantic Coast, with Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island).
The Charlotte Knights began playing Class AAA baseball in Fort Mill, South Carolina in 1989, before moving to downtown Charlotte in 2014. Now, there are 4 minor-league baseball teams in the State, all in Class A: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina League, and 3 teams in the South Atlantic League, the Columbia Fireflies, the Charleston RiverDogs and the Greenville Drive.
There's also 2 minor-league hockey teams, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and the North Charleston-based South Carolina Stingrays. The Charleston Battery are one of the best-supported teams in minor-league soccer.
As you might guess, the most popular NFL team in South Carolina is the Carolina Panthers, whose Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte is just 12 miles from the State Line. But, probably due to TV exposure in the 1970s and '80s, and to the Carolinas not having a team until 1995, there's a lot of Dallas Cowboy, Pittsburgh Steeler and Washington Redskin fans in the State, and a little spillover of Atlanta Falcon fans from Georgia.
The Atlanta Braves dominate baseball fandom, although the fact that both the Yankees and the Mets have had farm teams in the State has led to their having a presence in Palmetto State baseball fandom. The Raleigh-based Carolina Hurricanes are easily the most popular NHL team. And once you get away from the Charlotte area, there aren't many Hornets fans in the State. Neither Columbia nor Clemson is close enough to have many Hornets fans or many Atlanta Hawks fans. It's pretty much the Los Angeles Lakers, and whatever team LeBron James is playing for now.
The State's favorite son in sports was Joseph Jefferson Jackson, a.k.a. Shoeless Joe. He is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park in his hometown of Greenville.
Historic sites in the State include the State House, the South Carolina Military Museum, and pretty much the entire City of Charleston, including Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.
South Carolina may have produced a President: Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaw region that straddles the Carolina State Line, but no one is really sure on which side, as there is no birth record. If he was born on the South side, then that's 1 for South Carolina, 2 for North Carolina; otherwise, he joins James Polk and Andrew Johnson as Tar Heel-born Presidents.
Jackson's political teammate, then rival, John C. Calhoun remains the defining politician in the State's history, even more than Strom Thurmond. His house on the former Fort Hill Plantation, with his son-in-law Thomas Clemson's university built around it, is now the John C. Calhoun Mansion and Library -- one of the few Vice Presidents to have anything like a "Presidential Library."
While the bench scene from Forrest Gump was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, most of the movie was filmed in Beaufort, South Carolina. The 1993 college football film The Program was filmed on the South Carolina campus, including at Williams-Brice Stadium. A scene from the 1998 college football-themed film The Waterboy was also filmed there.
South Carolina is a State with issues. One is that it's "a drinking State with a football problem." That problem will get settled, at least until next Fall, when the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers clash this Saturday night.