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Community service and a riot: The legacy of the Palmetto Bowl

Matt Mynes
A Clemson helmet sits on the turf of Mercedes-Benz stadium, where the Tigers defeated Georgia Tech, 41-10, on Sept. 5, 2022.

Since 1896, the Clemson Tigers and the South Carolina Gamecocks have gone head to head in what is considered to be the state’s ugliest football rivalry.

Originally dubbed “Big Thursday” because it was played on a Thursday during South Carolina’s State Fair, the rivalry has only grown in intensity with each passing year, with traditions surrounding the game beginning even weeks in advance.

To outsiders, it may not make sense. But fans and students know the weight it carries — even beyond the game.

One of the most interesting traditions of the rivalry is the Blood Bowl. In partnership with the American Red Cross and The Blood Connection, the two schools square off to see which campus can donate the most blood.

Starting in 1984, the Blood Bowl has become quite popular. Students proudly sport their Blood Bowl sweatshirts year-round, showing off evidence of their contribution to the competition. With the Blood Bowl, it’s not just about winning on the field — it’s about saving lives.

One of the most beloved traditions is Cocky’s Funeral. During the burning of the bird, Clemson students gather to watch a massive replica of the inferior school’s mascot go up in flames.

Held for over 100 years by the Alumni Association, Cocky’s funeral is Clemson’s way of saluting the enemy before watching him turn to ashes. Cocky is even given a eulogy, and in years prior, members of the Tiger Platoon would carry a coffin of Cocky’s ashes.

But it has not always been in good fun. Notably, there have been a few years in which the game did not take place. This was caused by the infamous Carolina-Clemson riot of 1902, which broke out over a sign made by South Carolina Students.

After a rare Clemson loss, South Carolina students mocked them by parading with a sign depicting a gamecock standing over a tiger. The enraged students fought each other, resulting in police having to intervene and the game not being played for the next six years.

In modern years, the rivalry is of a less violent nature, though the occasional brawl is not unheard of. Fans from both sides continue to make signs and celebrate their victories, and traditions are carried on to pay homage to this great rivalry of the Palmetto State.

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Mercedes Dubberly
Mercedes Dubberly, Associate Editor
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