COLUMBIA — Garnet automobile flags. Rubber chickens being dragged on strings. The fixed reminders of what different sports activities did final 12 months, or what’s coming this 12 months.
The South Carolina-Clemson rivalry is among the nation’s most passionate, and the hunt to be higher than the opposite carries from the gridiron to the tennis court docket (if the NCAA sponsored bass fishing, Lake Murray and Lake Hartwell would have followers ringing the shorelines each spring). However within the age of COVID-19, this season’s rivalry, which normally options a minimum of 11 head-to-head matchups all through the college 12 months, could also be held to at least one.
Clemson opens its males’s soccer season at 7 p.m. Thursday at USC (1-1). With no rivalry soccer recreation this season, basketball nonetheless unscheduled and uncertainty looming over all different sports activities, the match may very well be the one rivalry assembly for the foreseeable future.
“That’s sort of odd how that labored out,” mentioned USC soccer coach Mark Berson, who will retire after this 12 months. “We had been excited to open the autumn athletic season so this simply finally ends up being one other thrilling occasion for us.”
Males’s soccer is sort of all the time the primary rivalry matchup of the 12 months, performed within the two weeks between the tip of August and the start of September. It’s normally adopted by ladies’s soccer, volleyball and the annual soccer recreation in late November.
Every faculty has been locked into conference-only fall seasons for girls’s soccer and volleyball, and the SEC did the identical for soccer. The ACC gave every of its soccer groups a plus-one, serving to out groups like Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Louisville so they might play their common non-conference soccer rivalries, however the SEC didn’t observe.
There’s manner an excessive amount of unknown with the pandemic to know if the basketball seasons or anything will happen as regular. The USC-Clemson baseball collection was performed simply earlier than sports activities shut down in March, however may very well be in jeopardy for 2021. So Thursday at Stone Stadium may very well be it for the 12 months’s braggin’ rights.
“It’s one other large recreation, not solely as a result of it’s Clemson,” USC senior Kyle Gurrieri mentioned. “It’s all the time been an enormous match. Everybody is aware of how necessary this recreation is.”
Clemson coach Mike Noonan and his gamers weren’t made accessible this week for interviews.
Coronavirus restrictions will apply. The 5,000-seat stadium (which has been recognized to squeeze in additional than 7,000) will probably be capped at 675 on Thursday. Soccer has its personal set of fandom and whereas it might not equal the smack-talk and festive props of soccer, figuring out this may very well be the one rivalry match of the 12 months may encourage creativity.
“Yr-in and year-out we’re one of many prime 10, if not prime 5, attended venues within the nation in males’s faculty soccer,” Berson mentioned. “Look, man, Gamecock followers are fairly loud, fairly proud … They’re going to be displaying up in drive.”
Berson mirrored on how fortunate even this recreation was to get on the schedule. He mentioned there are solely 21 Division I groups enjoying this fall with the season (i.e., the NCAA match) persevering with in spring.
“We have to thank so many individuals who’ve enabled us to have this occasion,” he mentioned. “Massive thanks must exit to (USC athletics director) Ray Tanner and the executive employees and the executive crew, our trainers and our medical personnel, our operations individuals who have made a secure atmosphere for our gamers to have the ability to prepare and develop throughout this era.”
As for the match, it’s USC-Clemson. Something can occur.
With maybe just one likelihood to see the rivalry this faculty 12 months, it’s a very good wager every little thing will occur.
Observe David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.