When a reporter asked Dabo Swinney about the Palmetto Bowl, he couldn’t help but smile. On Tuesday, the Clemson head coach revealed what’s so special about his program’s annual rivalry game against South Carolina.
“What makes it unique is the same thing that makes Alabama-Auburn unique and that is, there’s no pro sports in this state,” Swinney said. “You’re not going to be able to live in [this state] long without going, ‘OK, what’s going on around here? These people are crazy.’
“You’re gonna get sucked into it one way or the other. You’re gonna have to or, otherwise, you’re gonna lose some friends. You’re gonna have to make a decision. They’re not gonna let you ride the fence. Even if you’re a fan of another team, you’re gonna have to get invested in one way or another. It just means a lot to this state.”
The Palmetto Bowl is the pinnacle of football mania in South Carolina. The rivalry game first occurred in 1896 and happened every year from 1909 to 2019. The two storied programs did not meet in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, snapping a streak of 111 years.
Starting from scratch, the teams have played back-to-back years. In 2021, Clemson dominated South Carolina 30-0. However, the Gamecocks struck back in 2022, squeezing out a narrow 31-30 victory.
Clemson has respect for the rivalry
After defeating two ranked opponents in its last three games, Clemson will look to exact revenge on South Carolina. Of course, Swinney knows the other side will want a victory just as bad.
“When I first came to Clemson, I didn’t know what to expect,” Swinney said. “I’d never lived anywhere else. I remember going out on the road to recruit in the Pee Dee area and it was crazy because people don’t know you but they judge you instantly when you walk in the school with that logo and they hate you. It’s really personal in this state.”
Swinney isn’t alone in his appreciate for the historic rivalry. On Tuesday, Clemson Athletics Director Graham Neff made it clear the Palmetto Bowl is here to stay.
Neff and South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner are in agreement that the game needs to continue to take place every year, no matter what is happening elsewhere in college football.
“Yea, it’s just a non-negotiable,” Neff said. “Ray and I have talked about it. We have and will continue to play that game. Period. However the landscape continues to change, no conversations otherwise, no mindset otherwise.”
On Saturday, Clemson and South Carolina will go head-to-head at 7:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.