Getting blown out by your in-state rival isn’t much fun. That’s what USC is dealing with today after being on the wrong end of Saturday nights 56-7 dismantling in Death Valley. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to vow “This will never happen again!” and use it as motivation. But when you start hurling around accusations of racism, claims you were somehow disrespected, and pull the “classless” card you don’t make it better. It’s one thing to have pride and defend yourself, it’s another to sound like a sore loser. It’s the latter right now for the Gamecocks.
First, the racism charge. This is a serious thing to insinuate and as of this writing Clemson has not had a chance to respond to the accusations made by a few USC players.*** I’m not going to say, “nothing happened”, because I don’t know. I don’t understand how a player could hurl a racial slur at an opponent and not offend his own teammates. If you are going to make such a serious accusation, you should be able to specifically name the person or the number of the person who said it. If not, it’s probably best to keep it in house and deal with it accordingly. Once you go public with a hay-maker like that, you need to have evidence or explicit details as to what was said, when it was said and who said it. If racial slurs were being used that is deplorable and should be dealt with accordingly. However, throwing out blanket accusations doesn’t accomplish anything.
Then there was tight end Hayden Hurst and defensive back D.J. Smith. They said they felt disrespected by Clemson. Wide receiver Terry Googer called Clemson classless. What are these claims based on? That’s not clear. Is there a respectful way to beat a team by 49 points? Should Clemson have taken a knee on every possesion in the second half? Would that have been better? Maybe they should have let USC score? Yeah, Clemson called a few late timeouts. That was to recognize the guys playing their final game in Death Valley, not to insult the Gamecocks.
It’s been said 1,000 times in sports, but it bears repeating: If you don’t like what your opponent is doing, stop them. Don’t like the touchdown celebrations? Don’t let them score. Don’t like what they are saying? Make a play and shut them up. Don’t like the fans taunting you? Win the game. That will shut them up pretty fast.
The fact is, USC isn’t good enough to do those things right now and they are frustrated. They need help that only recruiting will fix. The only thing they can do now is keep their mouth shut. Name calling and accusations aren’t going to make things better. Clemson has the bragging rights. Enjoying a win at the expense of your rival isn’t classless. That is exactly why you play the game. To the victor go the spoils.
It’s fine for the fans to go back and forth. That’s what the fans are supposed to do in a rivalry. The player’s need to take their medicine and vow to get better. Getting blown out by your rival doesn’t mean they are classless and disrespectful. It means they are better than you. Talking won’t fix it for you. The best statement you can make is on the scoreboard.
***UPDATE: Dabo Swinney denied his players made any racial slurs.