USC president Caslen took stance to keep Clemson game on schedule

©The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates after a touchdown against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina, on November 30, 2019. - Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America/TNS

After the SEC announced the South Carolina-Clemson game won’t happen in 2020 and the Gamecocks schedule will be shaken up, some of the most prominent voices in the athletics department shared their views on the news.

The school released statements for football coach Will Muschamp, athletics director Ray Tanner and school president Robert Caslen, with the president saying he took a bit of a stand when it came to the Clemson game.

“I am pleased that football will return in the fall and that we will play our SEC competitors,” Caslen said in his statement. “Throughout discussions with other SEC presidents and chancellors, I took the position that we should continue to play our in-state rival, but I support the ultimate decision to have conference-only play.

“Coach Tanner and the conference’s athletics directors have worked tirelessly on this plan, keeping the safety of our student-athletes first in their discussions and decision. As our students make their way back to campus next month, I know they return ready for the excitement and tradition of college football. I commend the hard work of our student-athletes, coaches and staff, and look forward to the start of the season.”

The conference’s presidents voted Thursday to ultimately lock in the new plan of SEC teams playing only 10 conference games.

School board of trustees member Chuck Allen told The Athletic that, as he understood it, Caslen was the only vote against the plan that dropped all non-conference games.

The primary theme from Muschamp and Tanner was being pleased a new plan was in place, but disappointment about not facing the Tigers.

“We are excited about the opportunity to play football this fall,” Muschamp said in his statement. “I appreciate the leadership of Commissioner Sankey, the SEC office and the medical experts in making the best decision for our institutions.

“It’s unfortunate that we will not be playing Clemson this season but that wasn’t our choice, it was a league decision. That’s a game that is important to our program, our institution and our state, and one that President Caslen and Coach Tanner pushed hard to make happen. I look forward to renewing the rivalry in 2021.”

Tanner echoed the sentiment about the Clemson game, but pointed to a key reason for the schedule shift.

“A conference-only schedule gives us the best opportunity to have a complete season because of the flexibility it provides with control over conference games and the ability to make adjustments, when there is a possibility of disruption,” Tanner said in his statement.

The department also announced that a social distancing plan will have to be in place for Williams-Brice to hold crowds of any real size. That plan is being put together, and traditional season tickets will not be an option, the school said.

As it relates to fans and ticketing, the school said the social distancing plan at home games “will significantly impact the number of fans that can attend these events. We will communicate these plans once they are finalized and approved by the proper authorities.

“Knowing that social distancing guidelines need to be in place for the season, fulfilling season tickets in a traditional manner cannot occur. Once a final decision has been made on the social distancing plan, we will communicate updated ticketing procedures. Information related to refund and investment option will be communicated next week. We appreciate your patience and support of our student-athletes with your ticket purchases and Gamecock Club contributions during these challenging times.”

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©2020 The State (Columbia, S.C.)