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Secret to Clemson's success? Might be a 1931 loss to The Citadel

Citadel Clemson newspaper

News and Courier coverage of The Citadel's 6-0 win over Clemson in 1931. 

A list of the most consequential football games in South Carolina history has to start with Wofford's 5-1 victory over Furman on Dec. 14, 1889.

The game, played on the old Encampment Grounds in Spartanburg, was the first played in the state, and in the Deep South. 

Other important games would include Clemson's three national championship victories, over Nebraska in 1981 and Alabama in 2016 and 2018.

But the most impactful game in state history might have occurred on Oct. 16, 1931, at the old Pee Dee Fairgrounds in Florence.

As The Citadel visits No. 1 Clemson on Saturday, it's worth revisiting the events of that day 89 years ago. Without them, maybe Clemson doesn't win those three national championships.

The Citadel football team arrived by train in Florence that morning, then proceeded to defeat Clemson by 6-0 in front of 6,000 fans. The lone touchdown was scored by the Bulldogs' Ed McIntosh, a hometown boy from Florence.

After the game, the story goes, Clemson coach Jess Neely was so alarmed that he called for a meeting of team and university leaders in a car in the fairgrounds parking lot. Also in the car were assistant coach Joe Davis, alumnus Frank Jervey and Capt. Pete Heffner of the university's military staff.

Neely told the men in the car that a fund of $10,000 per year would boost the Tigers' chances of success on the field. That meeting laid the groundwork for the 1934 founding of IPTAY, the fund-raising arm of Clemson athletics.

IPTAY originally stood for "I Pay Ten a Year." In 2019, the organization donated $63.7 million to Clemson athletics.

Where would Clemson be without IPTAY?

Dabo Swinney knows.

"Probably wouldn't be here, I don't know," the Clemson coach said this week. "Probably wouldn't be in existence, or we'd be a Division III program or something like that."

It's IPTAY that pays for 85 football scholarships at $58,000 a pop. That's real money, Swinney said, that has to come from somewhere.

"I know people sometimes don't think it's real money being spent on these scholarships," he said. "I sign off on those things every year and I see $58,000 for this player, $58,000. You know, these are checks going to the university and all that's paid through IPTAY."

And it's not just scholarships that IPTAY pays for, Swinney said.

"Unbelievable academic services, to have strength and conditioning, to have the type of band that we have," he said. "You name it. IPTAY is a part of all that stuff. So I'm not sure where we would be without that structure."

Thanks to a 6-0 loss to The Citadel in 1931, Swinney won't have to find out.


• All-America running back Alex Ramsey, who transferred from VMI to The Citadel last summer, is again in the transfer portal, he announced on Twitter. Ramsey never played a down at The Citadel, having opted out of the 2020 fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

• Defensive back Torian Spencer will transfer from The Citadel to Division II Morehouse College, he announced on Twitter.  

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

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