What’s in a name? 7 years later, ‘Palmetto Bowl’ seems to be catching on for rivalry

Clemson Athletics

While Lou Demarino are Brian Wieber are both natives of the North, it didn’t take long for the two to pick a side in the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry.

They both attended Clemson, graduated in 1995 and married South Carolina natives. When it came to referencing the rivalry contest, though, “Palmetto Bowl” wasn’t what they used.

“We just called it, ‘Beat the chickens,’ ” Demarino laughed.

The Palmetto Bowl name was adopted for the Carolina-Clemson game on Nov. 26, 2014, an established agreement between the two schools that went into effect for the 2015 game.

“There has been so much history and tradition to this rivalry, with the first game played 125 years ago with ‘Big Thursday,’ ” South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said in 2014 in announcing the new name. “When developing ‘The Palmetto Bowl’ brand, we wanted to give the rivalry an identity that highlights the state of South Carolina and the accomplishments of these two outstanding institutions.”

In the first year where the name was adopted, the Tigers beat the Gamecocks 37-32 and were awarded a palmetto tree-shaped trophy. Seven years later, the name is still one that people are getting used to but appear to accept.

Out of 15 Clemson fans and alumni The State surveyed prior to the Tigers’ game against Wake Forest over the weekend, 14 were OK with the name.

“Really, I’d like to have it be the Clemson bowl,” said Regina Young, who has been attending Clemson games for over 50 years and whose sons attended the university. “No, I think the Palmetto Bowl is probably the best name for it since it’s Clemson and South Carolina. I think that’s probably the most appropriate name.”

“It’s better than the Egg Bowl,” chimed in Mark Abell, who graduated from Clemson in 1985. “It works.”

Scott Cobb, who is a North Carolina native and has a child at Clemson as a freshman this year, had heard about the rivalry growing up. The name, however, wasn’t his favorite part of the matchup.

“Personally, I think they could probably change it, but I know with the Palmetto State, they have to have a name for something,” he said. “I think it could probably use a little updating right now. I don’t know what the name should be, but it does seem a little archaic in the name right now.”

Through more than the first half of the 1900s, the game was called “Big Thursday” because it coincided with the State Fair in Columbia and was played on a Thursday in October. The Big Thursday contest was played in Columbia 57 times with the Tigers holding a 33-21-3 advantage over the Gamecocks in that stretch. Between 1903 and 1909, the game wasn’t played after a near riot broke out in Columbia after the Gamecocks beat the Tigers 12-6 in 1902.

Fifty-eight years after the incident, Clemson added the west end zone to Memorial Stadium to accommodate a larger crowd size and thus began the home-and-home series that today’s fans are accustomed to.

“I do remember (former sports information director Bob Bradley) telling me everybody was so excited about that,” former Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret said of the 1960 contest at Death Valley. “The game ended 12-2 and he said it was an absolute dud of a game, but Clemson did win it.”

Once the game was moved from Thursday, the series was without a name. Most referred to it as the Carolina-Clemson game or the Clemson-Carolina game — depending on which fandom you represented. Hardee’s sponsored the game for 15 years with the winner of the rivalry taking home the Hardee’s Trophy, but the actual contest was still without an official title.

Former Tigers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who beat the Gamecocks four years in a row, doesn’t remember the rivalry having an official name. He just knew that week, the Tigers’ practices were a little more intense in preparation for “the guys from in the state.”

“I don’t remember in my game notes or anything,” Bourret added. “I might have, in the opening of the release, said for the championship of the Palmetto State or something like that, but I don’t remember referring to the Palmetto Bowl that much until recently. It probably became more popular to call it something because of these other rivalry games that have nicknames or whatever you want to call them.”

Five games have been played since the Palmetto Bowl became the official name for the contest, and the feedback has been mostly positive. Giving the game a name allows it to be branded in a way that’s similar to the Iron Bowl or the Red River Rivalry.

“You’ve got tons of big rivalries out there that are called something,” said Clemson Class of 1996 graduate Timothy Long, “so to be able to have something tie to it instead of just the game makes it adds little more significance to it.”

This story was originally published November 25, 2021 5:00 AM.

Alexis Cubit serves primarily as the Clemson sports reporter for The (Columbia) State newspaper. Before moving to South Carolina in 2021, she covered high school sports for six years and received a first-place award in the sports feature category from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors in 2019. The California native earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University in 2014.

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