State senator pushes USC, Clemson to add S.C.?s I-AA teams to their schedules
By JOSEPH PERSON
Nothing against Florida Atlantic, but Chip Limehouse can name six schools in the state of South Carolina that USC and Clemson ought to be playing instead of the Howard Schnellenberger-coached team from Boca Raton, Fla.
Limehouse, a state senator from Charleston, wrote letters last month to Clemson President James Barker and USC President Andrew Sorensen encouraging them to consider adding the state?s Division I-AA programs to future football schedules.
Limehouse was moved to action after reading that both of the state?s flagship schools had scheduled Florida Atlantic in 2006, when Division I-A schools move to a 12-game slate.
?Why can?t some of our local schools fill these slots? When Carolina plays Florida or Clemson plays Florida State, that?s big-time football,? Limehouse said Monday. ?When you?re scheduling a lesser-known team, why not (let) it be one of our own lesser-known teams rather than a generic, lesser-known team??
Clemson and USC have more incentive to schedule Wofford, Furman or The Citadel now than in years past. In conjunction with the 12-game schedule, the NCAA also will allow I-A teams to count victories against I-AA opponents toward bowl eligibility every season. Before, teams could count I-AA wins once every three years.
?Before I could understand the rationale because in order to win enough games, you had to play those (mid-level I-A) teams,? Limehouse said. ?But now with the (I-AA) games counting, I think it?s logical that we should play these in-state teams.?
Limehouse, a Republican who graduated from USC, said scheduling the in-state schools would create natural rivalries and make good financial sense, cutting travel costs for the visiting teams.
It also would help Clemson and USC save money. Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips said guarantees for I-AA schools would cost around $250,000. By comparison, Clemson is paying Florida Atlantic and Louisiana Tech $500,000 apiece in 2006, while USC is giving FAU a $600,000 guarantee.
The I-AA programs generally do not demand a return game, allowing schools from the BCS conferences to maintain schedules with as many as eight home games.
Both Phillips and USC athletics director Eric Hyman said they are open to scheduling the state?s I-AA schools. Clemson has had preliminary talks with Furman, Wofford and The Citadel, with a tentative date set with the Paladins, according to Furman AD Gary Clark.
Phillips said his hope is to play two in-state I-AA schools over a six-year period.
?We realize that some of our fans would rather us to play four very strong programs each year,? Phillips said earlier this month on the school?s Web site. ?While you will read about some marquee matchups in the coming months ? like our game with Texas A&M this year ? few schools play more than two difficult non-conference games in a season and most play just one.?
Hyman, a former Furman assistant coach, said there is a place for the I-AA schools on a balanced schedule.
?The way the dynamics work today when you?re playing 12 games and playing different schools that people aren?t familiar with as opposed to a school with local identity,? Hyman said, ?my preference would be to play the schools within the state.?
USC has a vacancy on its ?06 schedule, but Hyman said that ?07 would be the earliest that USC could add Wofford or Furman. The Citadel athletics director Les Robinson said he is talking to both schools.
Clemson traditionally has played many more of the state?s smaller schools than USC. The Tigers have played The Citadel, Wofford and Furman a total of nine times in the past 20 years.
USC has met two in-state I-AA opponents during that time, losing to The Citadel in 1990 and beating Wofford in 2001. The only reason the Wofford game happened was because Bowling Green and USC were unable to reschedule their game that was canceled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Gamecocks first-year coach Steve Spurrier would prefer to play more competitive teams than the I-AA variety. He continues to push for a battle of the Carolinas between USC and North Carolina.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said he has no problem with scheduling a I-AA foe, noting that Auburn beat The Citadel in 2004 during the Tigers? 13-0 season.
?There?s not a whole lot of people unhappy in Auburn, Alabama, right now,? Bowden said during the spring. ?They had The Citadel and I think two directional schools. And (Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville) got a million-dollar raise, lifetime contract? He?s doing pretty good.?
For their part, most of the I-AA programs have shown a willingness to play their big-school brethren. Furman lost at Pittsburgh in 2004 and has North Carolina and Virginia Tech on future schedules. Wofford travels to West Virginia this year, while The Citadel has dates with Florida State and Mississippi this fall.
Robinson, who also is talking to schools from the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East conferences, said he is willing to take less of a guarantee to play an in-state school.
Coaches at S.C. State and Coastal Carolina also have said they would like to face I-A teams occasionally. Division I-AA teams must average 60 scholarships during a three-year period to face the bigger schools.
?Our kids, they want to play Carolina and Clemson or anybody else at D-I,? said Furman coach Bobby Lamb, ?because they want to prove they can play with them.?
?All these years later, it's still neat to say you played the big state schools," Wofford athletics director Richard Johnson added. ?It?s a really big deal for our fans. But I also understand scheduling is a business, and everybody has to do what's right for them.?
Staff writers Jon Solomon and Pat Obley contributed to this report. Reach Person at (803) 771-8496 or [email protected]
And who was called USC first? Cause it keeps driving me crazy!!!! Only one school gets to be called USC!
This guys priorities should be:
1. politics - shows how much work that really happens in D.C.
2. Use your influence to fix the BCS
3. Fix the polls
4. Use his influence for an eight team playoff for the natl champ
5. worry about the other competition.
BTW, I like Spurrier's idea of a Battle of the Carolina's. He's great watching when he gets all riled up for a rivalry.
Playing FAU has a bigger upside than a Wofford,Citadel or Furman. As a politician, he should know that already.