A lot will be at stake when South Carolina and Clemson meet Saturday night at Death Valley, but Tigers coach Dabo Swinney and USC coach Will Muschamp believe head-to-head success on the recruiting trail will not.
Swinney said the programs rarely battle against each other in recruiting as most kids in the state grow up rooting for USC or Clemson, and a game isn’t going to change their minds.
Muschamp agreed, adding that if one game is going to make a player’s decision for him, then South Carolina probably doesn’t want that player anyway.
“I don’t think one game ever does anything as far as the recruiting process is concerned. It’s about seasons. It’s about opportunity. It’s about comfort, feel … all of those things. I’ve never felt like one game ever determined anyone’s decision making on signing day,” Muschamp said.
“There are some places you walk in, and I don’t care if you won the national championship, they ain’t happy to see you. Some places you walk in and you’ve won five games and they’re happy to see you,” Swinney said. “That’s just the way it is because of the state and the culture that we have here.”
Swinney remembers instances when he recruited kids as hard as possible to come to Clemson, but felt he never had a serious shot because a prospect grew up a South Carolina fan.
“That’s just hard to overcome,” Swinney said. “Or they grew up Clemson and it’s just hard to overcome, unless you’ve just got bad people involved. ... They’ve got a bunch of good folks up there and Will (Muschamp’s) got a good staff.”
Another reason South Carolina and Clemson are usually not the last two schools a prospect comes down to is because the schools are so different, according to Swinney.
Clemson is a small college town, while Columbia is a bigger city. The Tigers play in the ACC, while USC is in the SEC.
“You couldn’t have more differences in the programs, in the locations, in the environments, in the conferences. … We’re very, very different in that regard,” Swinney said.
In some situations, a kid grows up a Clemson fan but is only offered in-state by the Gamecocks, or a recruit grows up a South Carolina fan but is only offered in-state by Clemson.
Swinney said when that occurs, he would prefer the prospect stay in-state.
“At the end of the day, it’s great to see the kids in our state have an opportunity to stay home and play for a really good program in front of their family and friends. That’s a positive,” Swinney said. “As far as winning a game and that makes somebody’s decision, I don’t think that’s as big a deal as a lot of people think.”
The states where the USC and Clemson players are from:
South Carolina: 41
North Carolina: 9
South Carolina: 42
North Carolina: 19
USC (6-5) vs. Clemson (10-1)
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. | Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
TV: ESPN | Line: Clemson by 24