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The history of Clemson and Alabama’s growing rivalry

Toby Corriston
Clemson guard Chase Hunter has impressed in March Madness, leading the Tigers with 59 points through three games.

With Clemson set to compete in its second Elite Eight in program history, the Tigers will face a familiar foe in the Alabama Crimson Tide. The schools have faced each other multiple times in recent history and have had their athletic legacies intertwined. Here is the timeline of the quiet rivalry between Clemson and Alabama:

Clemson borrows Auburn’s jerseys, 1896

In 1896, Walter Riggs left Auburn University with the plan to help Clemson create a football team. While creating the program, he used old Auburn practice jerseys for the team. Due to the condition of the jerseys, the colors faded, and the navy color turned to purple, creating Clemson’s purple and orange colors.

As Clemson used these jerseys, the school quickly began to be compared to Auburn. With Auburn being the main rival of Alabama and Clemson’s close connection with Auburn, the seeds for a future rivalry with Alabama were planted.

Dabo Swinney named Clemson head coach, 2008

In 2008, Dabo Swinney was named Clemson’s head football coach, years after he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Alabama in 1993. Swinney played for the Crimson Tide as a wide receiver from 1990-1992, with his playing career being highlighted by a national championship in 1992. In 2003, he joined Clemson as the wide receivers coach and worked his way up, eventually becoming the Tigers’ head coach.

Swinney’s time at Clemson has shown tremendous success for the Tigers, holding a 170-43 record at the helm. He has also brought two national championships to Clemson and eight ACC championships.

The playoff rivalry, 2010s

Clemson and Alabama faced off for the first time in the College Football Playoff era when the teams competed for the national championship in 2016. The matchup saw a battle between two high-powered offenses that ended with Alabama on top, defeating the Tigers 45-40.

The next year saw a rematch in another national championship game, ending with a different outcome than the previous one. Clemson got its revenge, defeating Alabama 35-31 in the game, giving the program its second national championship. The game has become infamous in college football, as it ended with a bang when Hunter Renfrow caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson with one second left on the clock.

A year later, the Tigers and the Crimson Tide faced off again, but this time, they competed in the Sugar Bowl, with the winner going to the national championship. This game saw Alabama take complete control, as it beat Clemson 24-6 and punched its ticket to the national championship, which the Tide went on to win against Georgia.

The most recent matchup between Clemson and Alabama took place in 2019 and ended in a drastically different result than the year before. This was the third national championship game between the teams in four years, and the Tigers cruised to a 44-16 victory, winning their third national championship.

The rivalry moves to basketball, 2023:

Clemson and Alabama faced off in the ACC/SEC Men’s Challenge early in this year’s basketball season. The Tigers headed into Tuscaloosa with a chip on their shoulder. Clemson won the game by a score of 85-77, which bolstered its non-conference record. The game saw an impressive performance from Clemson’s center PJ Hall, who scored 21 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked four shots.

With Clemson set to face Alabama in the Elite Eight, the Tigers look to continue their impressive run through the NCAA Tournament. Clemson’s success has been determined by guard Chase Hunter, who led the Tigers in scoring in the NCAA Tournament with 59 total points through the team’s wins against New Mexico, Baylor and Arizona. Brad Brownell’s team has gained momentum throughout the tournament as it has been an underdog in its NCAA Tournament games and will be an underdog against the Crimson Tide.

Clemson will face Alabama on Saturday in Los Angeles at 8:49 p.m. ET to determine who will head to the Final Four.

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About the Contributors
Luke Beard
Luke Beard, Asst. Sports Editor
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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