On the Beat: past, present Clemson receivers workout partners on Folly Beach (copy)

In this photo from the 2013 game, future first-round NFL pick Mike Williams of Clemson fends off Citadel cornerback Walker Smith, a former equipment manager for the Bulldogs who walked on the football team. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said this week that he'd make sure his players are aware that it was just two years ago that The Citadel went in to Williams-Brice Stadium and beat South Carolina.

“Absolutely. We better remind them,” Swinney said of the Bulldogs' 23-22 upset of the Gamecocks in 2015. “I’ll make sure. In fact it’s in my notes ... I’ll make dang sure they know.”

Given the huge disparity in finances, facilities, resources and scholarships between Power 5 schools such as Clemson and USC and FCS programs such as The Citadel, such upsets should probably never happen.

But that disparity also makes it special when they do.

"You live for those days as a coach," said The Citadel head coach Brent Thompson, who was the Bulldogs' offensive coordinator when they beat USC in 2015.

Thompson, whose first game as a head coach against an FBS team was last season's 41-7 loss at North Carolina, said he relishes the opportunity presented by games like Saturday's at Clemson.

"I love it," Thompson said. "I love it for our players and our fans and for myself, just for the experience of it.

"I've got no problem with it," he said. "I think it's one of the best things we do, and I'd love to see it carried on. You never know when you might run into one of those days like we had at South Carolina."

Games against FBS foes are a financial necessity for FCS programs like The Citadel. With annual football expenses of about $5 million (as of 2015-16), for example, next year's $500,000 game at Alabama will provide about 10 percent of that figure.

For Clemson, a $300,000 guarantee for Saturday's game with The Citadel is a drop in the bucket for an athletics department that totaled more than $104 million in revenue in 2016 (according to USA Today).

Beyond Alabama next season, The Citadel has games set with Power 5 foes Georgia Tech in 2019 (for $400,000); Clemson in 2020 and 2024 ($450,000 and $475,000, respectively); and Ole Miss in 2025 ($500,000).

For the five-year stretch of 2016-2020, that's $2.05 million in guarantee checks from Power 5 schools.

On top of the financial boost, Power 5 games provide a recruiting boost for The Citadel.

“These kinds of games have always been a selling point for us,” Thompson said last year when the Alabama game was announced. “Our South Carolina kids like going to play at Clemson and at South Carolina, and they know they are always going to have the opportunity to play somebody like that — a school that might not have recruited you, but you get to play a game there.

“Now, we have a shot at playing in a stadium that everybody knows, and we can go out and recruit and tell the kids, we’re going to play at Alabama. You get a little bit of a different reaction when you are playing one of the best programs in the country.”

And that does make a difference, says sophomore quarterback Jordan Black.

"I always look forward to these games," Black said. "As a kid, you watch these athletes on TV on these big fields in front of thousands of fans. These games mean a lot to us guys who don't get to do that on the regular. It's exciting to play on this scale of football, so I'm going to enjoy this week."

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

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