It’s been a wild couple days in the world of college football, with the ACC and SEC releasing their tentative plans for the 2020 season. We’ll start with the good news: as of now, there will be a college football season this year.
The ACC released their plans on Wednesday afternoon to proceed with a 10 game conference slate + 1 out of conference game. For Clemson, this meant that they would get Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Virginia at home and Florida State, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest away. The ACC then specifically added the out of conference game to maintain traditional non-conference rivalries. Notre Dame will act as a full member of the ACC for the season, including being able to compete in the conference championship and claim ACC bowl berths. The Irish will also share earnings from their contract with NBC with other conference schools. So far, so good.
Thursday evening, however, the SEC voted in favor of a 10 game conference-only schedule. This means that for the first time since 1908, the Palmetto Bowl will not be played this year. South Carolina is expected to keep their SEC opponents that were already scheduled: home games against Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Georgia; away games against Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, and LSU. The two remaining conference opponents for each school are still being determined.
So there you have it. From all accounts I’ve read, the Gamecock administration supported a plus one model to keep Clemson on the schedule but they were outvoted 13-1 by the other conference members. I know the decision comes down to more than distance, but it seems absurd that Boston College can travel to Clemson (approximately 912 miles) and Texas A&M can make the trip to Columbia, SC (nearly 1,040 miles) but the Gamecocks can’t make the short 130 mile trek to the Upstate. Props to the South Carolina administration for putting up the good fight to keep the rivalry game on the schedule, even when you have to imagine they would have been a heavy underdog versus the Tigers again this season. There is this article that mentions that the SC state legislation might get involved, but that feels like a bit of a Hail Mary attempt.
Some quotes of interest:
“Throughout discussions with other SEC presidents and chancellors, I took the position that we should continue to play our in-state rival, but I support the ultimate decision to have conference-only play”
_ Bob Caslen, President of the University of South Carolina
“I am disappointed that we will not play our in-state rival this year. The pandemic has created many challenges and forced us to make adjustments. I look forward to renewing the rivalry in 2021.”
_ USC Athletic Director Ray Tanner
“It’s unfortunate that we will not be playing Clemson this season, but that wasn’t our choice, it was a league decision. That’s a game that is important to our program, our institution and our state, and one that President Caslen and coach Tanner pushed hard to make happen. I look forward to renewing the rivalry in 2021.”
_ Gamecocks Head Coach Will Muschamp
“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. 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. We will work to fill the opening on our schedule immediately.”
_ Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich
This move also means that Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, and Kentucky-Louisville rivalry games are cancelled for the 2020 season. I suppose we should be grateful that there’s a college football season at all, but I can’t help feeling like losing these rivalry games is bad for the sport. If there’s any kind of college football season at all, Clemson and South Carolina should play one another.