COLUMBIA -- In an unprecedented move in college athletics, Clemson and South Carolina officials decided Monday to decline any incoming bowl invitations as punishment for their football teams' brawl during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game in Clemson.
The presidents of both schools informed their conferences they had made their decision after consulting at length with each other in what was described as a unanimous and concerted decision.
Clemson won five of its final six games to become bowl- eligible for the sixth consecutive season; South Carolina was to make its first postseason appearance in two seasons.
"South Carolina will not accept any bowl game invitation this season, nor will Clemson," said Mike McGee, South Carolina's athletic director. "While we're committed to building championship teams, we're even more committed to seeing student-athletes develop with the finest integrity and character possible."
John Swofford, the Atlantic Coast Conference's commissioner, deemed the schools' move "extraordinary and decisive."
The Atlantic Coast Conference will not lose any money as a result of the decision, but the Southeastern Conference will because it will fall at least one team short of filling its required eight bowl slots.
Even so, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the move was an example for the country.
Although officials said the
decision was a shot in the arm for the integrity of college athletics and higher education, on the whole, players and coaches from both teams did not agree.
Clemson players were visibly upset when Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips interrupted the team's 4 p.m. meeting to bring the news.
Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said he disagreed with the decision and instructed his players to not speak with members of the media.
South Carolina's players gathered at 5 p.m. in their team meeting room to discover McGee, on television, addressing the media.
More than half the team discovered via television that there would be no postseason.
McGee then came over and, according to players, essentially delivered the same address to the group. The school told the team the miscommunication was a "matter of logistics."
"That didn't fly at all," senior Preston Thorne said.
As he heard his career coming to an end, senior Jermaine Harris said he wanted to change McGee's mind in the meeting.
"I wanted to try and make something happen," Harris said. "I would do anything instead of just walking out and giving up. It seems like that's what they did on us."
Harris went on to say he felt like the school's administration had "crumpled us like paper."
"This is bad right now. I'll tell you what it's like: i t's like a funeral," Harris said. "Everybody's got their heads down, not saying anything, packing their stuff."
Phillips said he surmised the Tigers would be irate, especially given the fact that the team started the season 1-4 and had made getting to a bowl their central goal.
"I feel horrible for this recommendation because it's more than just a football issue," he said. "In some respects, it's not fair to our team because they worked hard."
Both Phillips and McGee said the team-wide punishment was levied because "football is a team sport."
Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3219
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