Pride, heritage and camaraderie were in hearty supply before kickoff of the Palmetto Capital City Classic – as were ribs, chicken, hotdogs and all the fixin’s, of course.
When the Benedict College Tigers and S.C. State University Bulldogs came together outside the Benedict stadium in Columbia before their football teams took the field Saturday, it was all about family, fans said.
Check out the snapshots from the 2014 Palmetto City Classic
“Lots of food, fun and fellowship,” said Jackie Mozie, whose husband is a graduate of S.C. State and whose son is a graduate and professor at the Orangeburg school. She and her husband have been traveling with the school’s booster club to support the team for more than 30 years.
“When you meet everyone, it’s family,” she said. “Whether it’s a stranger or old acquaintance, we all feel like we’re family. We enjoy each other’s company. And food.”
For alumni, being at the game was not just a show of support for the men in helmets, but for the schools that played a role in shaping their futures, said Mae Jones, a 1979 Benedict graduate who now works as a librarian at her alma mater.
“There are things in my life that I would not have now if I had not attended Benedict College,” said Jones, who lives in Irmo. “I get to support and work at the place that gave me my start.”
A strong sense of identity comes with being a graduate of either school, which are two of the state’s historically black colleges and universities.
“It means an awful lot to be a Bulldog,” said Joyce Grant, a 1972 S.C. State graduate who lives in Columbia. “There’s a proud heritage that we all hearken back to. We know that we have had some hard times of late, but we are confident that we can get past the current state and get back to that heritage.”
As for Clinton Grier, his identity is split.
A 1974 graduate of Benedict who also has a master’s degree from S.C. State, Grier said his heart belongs to both schools.
He fired up ribs, hotdogs and fish – his signature tailgate item – hours before kickoff. His wife, Jackie, who said she loves to decorate, had prepared an elaborate purple-and-yellow-themed setup beneath their tailgating tents, complete with flower bouquets atop purple tablecloths.
Beside the Benedict spread, a lone red-and-blue-garbed table honored Grier’s second loyalty.
The couple, who live in Hopkins, tailgate with family and friends before every Benedict home game, welcoming anyone of any fan affiliation who wants to join them.
Grier was looking forward to the evening game, hoping to see the teams at least keep the score close.
“When State isn’t playing Benedict, I’m rooting for them, and when Benedict’s not playing State, I’m rooting for them. But I think, being a small school like Benedict is, to win this Classic would be more important to them,” he said. “I love both schools.”