Bill Dooley grew up in Ohio, graduated from the University of California and moved to South Carolina in 1996.

Pick a side, he was told. Clemson or South Carolina?

"We just kind of gravitated to the Gamecocks," says Dooley, a longtime teacher in Charleston County schools. "They were kind of like the Chicago Cubs, you know? They didn't win enough that you had to dislike them."

Folks who grow up in the Palmetto State figure out early on — or are told at a young age — which side they are going to be on in the great football debate, which has been raging since the Tigers and Gamecocks first faced off in 1896 and continues Saturday when the rivals meet for the 117th time.

Just this week, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, who grew up in Alabama, joked that you can't leave the hospital when you are born in that state until you are stamped: Auburn or Alabama.

It's much the same in South Carolina, where blood runneth orange or garnet for life for natives of a state once described as "too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."

But what about folks from "off"? There are people who move here with no idea of what Steve Taneyhill did at Death Valley in 1992, or that a Clemson fan strangled a live chicken on the field at halftime in 1946.

These newbies want to get in on the fun, too, but don't already have a closet full of orange overalls or a picture of a rooster in the living room. That's why their allegiances can be fluid, to say the least.

Youth pastor Jonathon Welch, for example, moved to Mount Pleasant in March after growing up on the West Coast, graduating from Cal State-Fullerton and rooting for UCLA football. He's already sort of flip-flopped on the whole thing.

Jonathon Welch

Jonathon Welch finds Clemson's steady stream of blowout victories a little boring. Provided 

No sooner had he and wife Ellie settled in their new home than Clemson and USC fans started their propaganda campaigns.

"People have been trying to persuade me from day one," said Welch, who grew up in Orange County and moved here from Seattle without any idea that Clemson University was in South Carolina.

"I've always liked and respected Dabo from afar, but I had no clue that Clemson was in South Carolina," Welch said. "So when we moved here, I was shocked. West Coast Jonathon does not like rooting for the favorite or the team on top at all, because my Bruins were always the underdog."

Having grown up on Pac 12 football, however, Welch couldn't stomach the idea of cheering on a Southeastern Conference team such as South Carolina.

"I hated the SEC with a passion, so the thought of pulling for the Gamecocks made me feel a little dirty inside," he said.

Welch, 32, eventually decided to hop on the Clemson bandwagon, before discovering that the view from the orange-tinted window was always the same.

"I kind of discovered that Clemson bores the daylights out of me because you know they are going to win every week in a blowout," he said. "So I find myself watching the Gamecock games more than the Clemson games because they've been more interesting and exciting than winning 52-10 every week."

Sophie Levenson, a sophomore at Charleston's Porter-Gaud School, found herself in much the same situation when her family moved to Charleston six years ago. Her father graduated from Duke; her mom was from England, where she went to Manchester University.

Bill Dooley Jesse Dooley

Ohio native Bill Dooley (right) found himself rooting for South Carolina — until his daughter Jesse transferred to Clemson. Provided 

"Everyone seems to have a side, and you do kind of have to lean one way or the other," Sophie said. "Originally, we leaned toward USC, I think because Clemson is in the ACC and we'd always been Duke fans.

"And, honestly, I think USC seemed a little less pretentious, maybe."

For newer fans, however, things can change.

The Dooleys, for example, were big enough USC fans to make road trips to LSU and Tennessee to watch the Gamecocks play. But when daughter Jesse, a soccer standout at Academic Magnet, transferred to Clemson, some adjustments were necessary.

"It did change things," Bill said. "I wanted to see my daughter experience a national championship, so the last couple of years we've rooted for Clemson. And since South Carolina is my home now — I've lived here longer than anywhere else — I root for whichever team has the most on the line."

The Levenson family may face a similar dilemma, if Sophie's older brother ends up going to Clemson.

"Then, we'd have to be Clemson fans, I guess," she said.

Welch obviously put a lot of thought into his choice.

"It was a complex little decision," he said. "I'll never give up my UCLA fandom, but I've got to have a local team to root for."

And for those who just can't pick a side — there's always The Citadel.

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Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC