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Cheerleaders run across a football field holding flags spelling out Carolina.

Carolina vs. Clemson

A rivalry for the ages

November is a very spirit-packed month this year with USC hosting four home football games to close out the 2023 season, including the annual Carolina vs. Clemson showdown. For over 100 years, the rivalry has been heated and every year a new piece gets added to the colorful history. 

How it started — 1889

During the late 1800s, tension arose in the South Carolina state government over the state’s flagship university. Some state politicians viewed USC as elitist and founded Clemson Agricultural College as an alternative. As the two colleges vied for students and funding, a rivalry was born.

Tall wooden tiger on fire in front of Williams-Brice Stadium.

First Carolina-Clemson football game

The first time this historic matchup came together was in 1896, when Carolina hosted the Tigers at the former fairgrounds on Elmwood Avenue. About 2,000 fans paid 25 cents to watch the Carolina Jaguars beat Clemson 12-6. The game became an annual event, traditionally coinciding with the State Fair in Columbia. After 1959, the games alternated between Clemson’s campus in the Upstate and Columbia.


After a 12-6 win and upset of favorite Clemson at the annual matchup in 1902, Carolina students paraded around with a poster of a new mascot — a gamecock — standing on top of a beaten tiger. The image so outraged Clemson fans, they threatened violence if students carried it in the parade the next day. USC students marched with the poster in the parade, Clemson’s cadets — it was an agricultural and military college — marched onto campus to seize the drawing and USC students, including future university president J. Rion McKissick, armed themselves in anticipation of a fight. Fortunately police and the cooler heads of university administrators were able to stop the battle before any shots were fired. The offending poster was burned to appease the cadets and thus began the tradition of Tigerburn. This also solidified the gamecock as the USC mascot. The annual game, however, was suspended for seven years out of concern for future violence. Today, USC engineering students construct a 30-foot-tall tiger that is set ablaze to kick off rivalry week.

Cocky high fives a woman while sitting in a chair waiting to give blood.

Carolina-Clemson Blood Drive

Started in 1984, the annual Carolina-Clemson Blood Battle is held in partnership with the American Red Cross and The Blood Connection. Last year, 5,567 pints were donated by both schools for people in need. This year’s blood drive was held Nov. 13-17 at several locations around campus.

Palmetto Bowl

The game was dubbed the Palmetto Bowl in 2014, and marked the longest streak of play in a non-conference rivalry in the country. The schools had played 111 straight seasons until 2020 when COVID-19 limited teams to conference play only. 

Palmetto Series

The Palmetto Series initiated a point system that involved every athletic team the universities offered. The school with the most total points at the end of the academic year was recognized as the winner. The series is now partnered with the South Carolina Education Lottery and includes three point opportunities that are not sports related. The Gamecocks lead the Palmetto Series 5-0. 

This year

USC is looking for its first at home win against Clemson since 2013. The latest overall win was in 2022 when USC topped Clemson 31-30 in Death Valley. In addition to ending a Gamecocks losing streak against the Tigers, last year’s win also ended a home-game winning streak for Clemson at 40.