EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story was published on Nov. 21, 2004
The USC and Clemson rivalry erupted into an on-field melee during Saturday's game, with players trading punches and slaps for 10 minutes as coaches, police and security officers tried to break it up.
The fight extended across 60 yards of the field at Memorial Stadium as stunned fans looked on.
The free-for-all drew national attention, coming on the heels of an ugly brawl in a NBA game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers on Friday night. "NBC Nightly News" showed the brawls back-to-back on its Saturday night telecast.
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Clemson student Andrew Gibbons said the fans around him "were, really, kind of in shock."
"It got real quiet," Gibbons said. "Then it kept going, and the cops came on the field, and there were not enough to break it up, and it got kind of scary."
When order was restored, officials assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both teams and played the final five to six minutes without incident.
Officials at the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences are reviewing the fight on film today and could hand out suspensions to players involved.
Coaches and officials at both schools also will review the film and decide whether disciplinary action should be taken.
The fight overshadowed Clemson's 29-7 victory and put a black eye on USC coach Lou Holtz's final game in the state of South Carolina.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden blamed the aggressions on the brawl between the Pistons and Pacers.
"For 24 hours, they've watched that basketball fiasco on TV. That's all they've watched," Bowden said. "On every major news (broadcast) that thing was covered, and they sat there and watched it and watched it and watched it."
The bad blood between the state rivals began to boil before kickoff. Gamecocks tailback Demetris Summers and several other players drew the Tigers' ire by waiting for Clemson as the team made its traditional run down the Death Valley Hill in the east end zone. A lot of pushing and posturing ensued, serving as a precursor of what was to come.
"They didn't want to play football. They wanted to fight," Clemson linebacker David Dunham said.
During the first three quarters, the SEC officiating crew several times chose not to throw flags on plays that could have involved personal fouls.
Everything came to a head following an incomplete pass on fourth-and-11, when Tigers defensive end Bobby Williamson hit USC quarterback Syvelle Newton and stayed on top of Newton for a few extra seconds.
Gamecocks guard Chris White pushed Williamson, prompting several linemen from both teams to get involved as players and coaches left the sidelines and rushed the field.
Holtz was one of the first to arrive, doing his best to pull his linemen back to the sideline.
By then, however, skirmishes were breaking out all over the field. USC receiver Matthew Thomas and Clemson cornerback Justin Miller traded blows. Gamecocks defensive end Charles Silas broke free from a law enforcement officer, ran into the end zone and punched Clemson's Anthony Waters.
A few yards away, USC tailback Daccus Turman cold-cocked Duane Coleman in the back of the neck, dropping the Tigers' tailback. Several players lost their helmets, including USC defensive end Moe Thompson.
Tigers tailback Yusef Kelly ran toward the bleachers with a Gamecocks helmet held aloft, then flung it into the crowd. Afterward, Kelly was anything but remorseful.
"I know diehard Clemson fans are going to love that," Kelly said. "I left an impression. They'll have something to remember me by."
When the game was over, players were instructed to head directly toward their respective locker rooms, skipping postgame handshakes and midfield prayers.
Several Clemson students were yelling at USC players as they left the field until Tigers quarterback-turned-peacemaker Charlie Whitehurst angrily told the students to back off.
The 67-year-old Holtz, who is retiring after USC's bowl game, had his 150-pound frame jostled between 300-pound linemen as he tried to break up the fight.
The 33-year coaching vet, who is turning over the USC program to former Florida coach Steve Spurrier, came away unscathed. But he was frustrated with USC's players.
"It's nonsense. You go play the game," Holtz said. "The only people that want to do all those other extracurricular activities is usually the team that's not winning. You have to learn to handle that."
Clemson fan Gibbons said in a rivalry game like USC-Clemson, "you expect fans to act like idiots toward each other, but you usually don't see the players doing that" because many were friends in high school.
In Columbia's Five Points Saturday night, the game - and the fight -- were the main topic of conversation.
Steve Moon, 44, said he was disappointed in both teams. "I don't think any of them got up this morning wanting to be national news," he said.
Moon, who followed the game by radio, said it seemed that the brawl "was brewing the whole game."
Jim Bass, 51, a USC graduate, saw the brawl on TV. "I think it's a lot of frustration," he said. The incident, he said, overshadowed Holtz's last regular season game at USC. "I hate to see that."
Bass' wife, Mary Phelan-Bass, 47 and a Clemson graduate, said: "I'm just glad we won. You never know what Clemson-Carolina is going to do."