To: Robert Caslen, President, University of South Carolina
From: A concerned citizen
Re: Operation “Beat Clemson”
As a former West Point superintendent and retired Army general who spent 43 years in the military, you might appreciate the foundation of the South Carolina-Clemson football rivalry. Probably more than most new university presidents that have survived a divisive hiring process roughly coinciding with the start of preseason practice.
It goes back to 1896. But it took root immediately following the 1902 game. That’s when Clemson cadets became enraged after getting mocked during a parade that celebrated a 12-6 loss to the Gamecocks in Columbia.
So the Clemson folks marched on the South Carolina campus armed with fixed bayonets and swords, only to be turned back by students guarding the Sumter Street entrance with rifles and handguns.
By the way, you deflating formality at your introductory Columbia news conference and insisting that we all call you Bob? Shrewd introductory strategy.
But this is serious stuff, Bob.
Your first take on the South Carolina-Clemson thing — “Whatever team that beats Clemson, whether it is the debate team, whether it is a club team or whether it is the football team, they are invited to my house for ice cream sundaes” — does not pass inspection.
First off, Bob, this is all about football. South Carolina has defeated Clemson in something called the Palmetto Series (head-to-head athletic events not including debate competitions) four years in a row. But few people off campus even know about that because the Tigers have won five football games in a row.
Almost any Gamecock fan with a credible garnet wardrobe would easily trade Palmetto Series braggin’ rights for a football win. And throw in two favorite off-campus bars and a wealthy donor to be named later.
Secondly, it takes more than just a team to take down Clemson. It takes an entire Gamecock Nation pulling together to defeat the top college football program in the world, a Dabo Swinney-led powerhouse that won’t go away if Trevor Lawrence gets a military-issue haircut or joins the Cincinnati Bengals.
So insist on inclusive incentives.
And get creative.
Tiki bar, student debt
Save the sundaes, Bob.
Pick one the following five “if we beat Clemson in football” promises sure to inspire players, coaches — and, most importantly, fans — to rally for the cause:
- Turn the Williams-Brice Stadium student section into a multi-level tiki bar, complete with tables, TVs, free appetizers and phone-charging stations. The stadium shrinkage trend is coming, so why not get ahead of the curve?
- Student debt forgiveness, with percentages tied to the margin of victory and including all USC students present and past.
- This is a really cool idea: installation of the best stadium misting system in the world. Because Columbia is infamously hot, particularly for those afternoon kickoffs.
- Break ground on an elevated Cockaboose bullet train designed to take students to and from the action at Williams-Brice Stadium, Colonial Life Arena and Founders Park.
- Free shrimp and grits for all football season tickets holders. Better than ice cream.
Army, Navy, Spurrier
There is positive history here. Bob. The last time South Carolina tapped a well-known leader with a West Point background was when Army’s Paul Dietzel became the Gamecocks’ head football coach.
Dietzel didn’t win a national title in Columbia as he did at Louisiana State University.
But he did lead South Carolina to its only conference title, winning the ACC in 1969.
All of the head coaches at South Carolina would benefit from having you talk to their teams, offering motivation and perspective that only a distinguished 43-year Army veteran can give. Thank you for your service.
But just because Army snapped a 14-game losing streak to Navy during your tenure in charge at West Point doesn’t mean Clemson is surrendering.
Which means when you say “We’re going to start learning how to beat Clemson” you must realize Steve Spurrier, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Shell, Bruce Ellington and A.J. Cann are not walking through that door.
Your new fan base isn’t expecting another five-game win streak over Clemson as delivered by The Head Ball Coach and Co.
For now, an upset will do.
You’re right, Bob, if you think some of the incentives mentioned above will eat up most of your $650,000 salary.
But that’s where sponsors come in.
At least one of those major donors that protested your hiring will likely come around, get with your Gamecock Nation vision and kick in a few bucks.
Because nothing in Columbia unites people more than a football victory over Clemson.