The SEC has approved a 10-game, conference-only football schedule that effectively halts the South Carolina-Clemson football rivalry for the first time since 1908. The South Carolina-Clemson Game is the second-longest consecutively played rivalry behind Minnesota-Wisconsin (113), and the longest running rivalry between non-conference opponents.
Heading into today’s meeting of SEC presidents and chancellors, there was still hope the Gamecocks and Tigers could keep the streak alive. The ACC’s modified schedule for 2020 allowed for a single non-conference opponent, provided that opponent resided in the same state. It was widely speculated the ACC was leaving the door open for important in-state rivalry games involving Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia-Tech, Kentucky-Louisville, and, of course, South Carolina-Clemson. But those hopes were dashed after the SEC announced it was following the Big Ten model of conference-only contests.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey’s release reads, in part:
“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. 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.”
The SEC’s plan also pushes the start of the regular season back to Sept. 26th, what would have been Week 4 of the season in the original schedule. The SEC Championship in Atlanta has been pushed back to Dec. 19th, two weeks later than originally planned. The modified schedule allows for one midseason bye for each team and an open week between the end of the regular season and the SEC Championship.
Gamecocks head football coach Will Muschamp lamented losing the opportunity to play the Tigers, “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.”
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner reacted similarly, “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. The pandemic has created many challenges and forced us to make adjustments.”
The University of South Carolina also released additional information on what to expect this season in terms of stadium capacity and ticket sales: A social distancing plan must be in place for Williams-Brice Stadium to have a capacity of more than 250 people for home football games, based on an executive order from the South Carolina Governor’s Office. School officials are developing a plan to account for social distancing at home football games, which will significantly impact the number of fans that can attend these events. Knowing that social distancing guidelines need to be in place for the season, fulfilling season tickets in a traditional manner cannot occur.
The full schedule will be released at a later date, but it has been widely reported that each SEC team will take on the next two cross-division opponents that were set to rotate onto their schedule. In the case of the Gamecocks, that means adding Auburn and Arkansas.