South Carolina is close to filling the vacant spot on its 2016 football schedule with a school from outside the Power 5 conferences, and the Gamecocks remain watchful for future major college opponents, athletics director Ray Tanner told The State.
“We are having serious conversations with an opponent,” Tanner said. “We are hoping to have it finalized soon.”
The Gamecocks are scheduled to play Clemson, East Carolina and South Carolina State in their out-of-conference games in 2016. Along with the eight SEC games, that gives South Carolina 11 opponents, one short of the 12 needed to complete the schedule.
Clemson is the only out-of-conference opponent scheduled beyond the 2016 season.
“Scheduling is not easy in college football right now,” Tanner said.
South Carolina will play North Carolina (Sept. 3), UCF (Sept. 26), The Citadel (Nov. 21) and Clemson (Nov. 28) in its out-of-conference schedule this season. The Gamecocks are paying UCF $300,000 and The Citadel $285,000 for those games. The game against the Tar Heels is a neutral site game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
The Gamecocks will look to schedule more neutral site games against Power 5 opponents (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12) in years when they play Clemson at home, Tanner said. Tanner likes the idea of “Battle of the Border” games and mentioned Wake Forest and Duke as possible future opponents.
South Carolina also has had conversations with Atlanta Sports Council president Gary Stokan about possibly playing in the season-opening Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the future. The Chick-fil-A Game will feature Auburn vs. Louisville in 2015, Georgia vs. North Carolina in 2016 and, according to the Palm Beach Post, Alabama vs. Florida State in 2017.
“(Stokan) knows we are one of those schools that would be interested in the right time, right matchup,” Tanner said. “That’s something that our fans would like.”
The Gamecocks would prefer to keep all neutral site games close to home, Tanner said.
South Carolina will always try to have at least seven home games each year. Four of the SEC games will be at home each year, meaning the Gamecocks will have to play three out-of-conference opponents in Williams-Brice each year to maintain seven home games.
“The years we play Clemson at home, that gives us the opportunity to have a neutral game if it fits,” Tanner said. “That conversation is ongoing.”
In the era of the College Football Playoff, discussions between athletic directors at high-profile schools have increased because losing the first game of the year is less detrimental to a team’s season than under the BCS format, Tanner said.
Several conference schools already have those games on their calendar. Georgia has home-and-home series with Notre Dame and UCLA in the coming years, and Tennessee is playing Oklahoma this year and has future home-and-home series scheduled against Pittsburgh and Nebraska.
The Gamecocks expect to continue playing the Football Championship Subdivision teams from the state – South Carolina State, Coastal Carolina, The Citadel, Wofford and Furman:- on a regular basis, Tanner said.
“It’s not a perfect rotation due to scheduling, but whenever we have the chance,” Tanner said.
Future SEC schedule rotations through 2025
USC’s rotating future opponents from the SEC West (the Gamecocks play Texas A&M every year)
▪ 2015 vs. LSU
▪ 2016 at Mississippi State
▪ 2017 vs. Arkansas
▪ 2018 at Ole Miss
▪ 2019 vs. Alabama
▪ 2020 at LSU
▪ 2021 vs. Auburn
▪ 2022 at Arkansas
▪ 2023 vs. Mississippi State
▪ 2024 at Alabama
▪ 2025 vs. Ole Miss
USC’s 2015 football schedule
▪ Sept. 3: at North Carolina, 6 pm (in Charlotte)
▪ Sept. 12: vs. Kentucky, 7:30 pm
▪ Sept. 19: at Georgia, 6 pm
▪ Sept. 26: vs. UCF, TBA
▪ Oct. 3: at Missouri, TBA
▪ Oct. 10: vs. LSU, TBA
▪ Oct. 17: vs. Vanderbilt, TBA
▪ Oct. 24: Open
▪ Oct. 31: at Texas A&M, TBA
▪ Nov. 7: at Tennessee, TBA
▪ Nov 14: vs. Florida, TBA
▪ Nov. 21: vs. Citadel, TBA
▪ Nov. 28: vs. Clemson, TBA