Why an attempt to move Clemson-South Carolina to Black Friday made it into a legal filing (2024)

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  • By Jon Blaujblau@postandcourier.com

    Jon Blau

    Jon Blau has covered Clemson athletics for The Post and Courier since 2021. A native of South Jersey, he grew up on Rocky marathons and hoagies. To get the latest Clemson sports news, straight to your inbox, subscribe to his newsletter, The Tiger Take.

Why an attempt to move Clemson-South Carolina to Black Friday made it into a legal filing (3)

CLEMSON— College football traditionalists let out a collective gasp as a court filing in Pickens County revealed the ACC tried to move Clemson's rivalry game withSouth Carolina from Saturday, Nov. 30, to Black Fridayon Nov. 29.

Even if Saturday is a sacred day for college football fans, it might seem odd that such a detail found its way into a legal proceeding.

The context has roots in Clemson's effort to have itscase against the ACC heard in a South Carolina court rather than North Carolina.

An email from the ACC office concerning the 2024 Clemson-South Carolina game at Memorial Stadium was included as part of a sworn affidavit from Clemson athletic directorGraham Neff, which details how theACC conducts substantial business in South Carolina and therefore is under the court's purview.

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One of the ways the ACC exerts control over Clemson, according to Neff's affidavit, is the conference "injects itself into scheduling the time and date on which certain games are played— sometimes after the schedule has already been established."

"Clemson’s allegations and the affidavit of Graham Neff establish ... this Court’s specific jurisdiction over the ACC, because they detail multiple claim-related contacts made by the ACC with (the state of) South Carolina," Clemson lawyers wrote in a July 1 court filing.

The ACC's grant of rights theoretically ties schools' broadcast rights to the conference for the length of the ESPN deal, which could run until 2036. Clemson wants a South Carolina court to rule the grant of rights only applies to games played in the ACC, allowing Clemson to control its rights if it joins a new league.

The email dated May 7 fromthe ACC's commissioner for football,Michael Strickland, lays out several "concessions" the ACC secured from ESPN in exchange for Clemson playing South Carolina on Friday rather than Saturday.

For one, ESPN would have scheduled the Tigers' game leading into rivalry week, Nov. 23 versusThe Citadel, as a noon kickoff. Clemson wouldn't have had more than two ACC road games played in prime time in 2024, either.

Along with easing the travel burden this coming season, ESPN was also willing to switch a 2027 Labor Day game at N.C. State— played on a Monday, a la the Tigers' 2022 opener against Georgia Tech— to a Clemson home game.

All things would have been equal between South Carolina and Clemson, according to Strickland, because the Gameco*cks — members of another ESPN-partnered league, the SEC— would have agreed to host a future Black Friday game at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Strickland wrote that ESPN was also willing to guarantee Clemson's 2024 home game with South Carolina would be in "prime time."

"Despite having secured these concessions, and despite other ACC teams having agreed to play on 'Black Friday' in previous instances," Strickland wrote, listing multiple other Friday matchups, "Clemson University remains unwilling to do so.

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"As has been indicated to you during this process, the Conference Office is disappointed in Clemson University’s lack of cooperation on this matter. As all ACC members know, it is incumbent upon the ACC and its institutions to work in good faith with ESPN on football scheduling issues."

Strickland went on to say cooperation "maximizes the value of our relationship with our media partner and strengthens our collective future," calling Clemson's refusal to move the game "harmful toward that goal."

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has never been a fan of Friday games, which he made clear when the Tigers played at Boston College on a Friday in 2016.

"I don’t like it. I want to be watching my son on Fridays," Swinney said. "I don’t like the fact that it takes away from the high schools on Friday nights."

Strickland's email to Neff— with ACC commissioner Jim Phillipscc'd—came a month and a half after Clemson sued the ACC in South Carolina on March 19 and the conference countersued the university in North Carolina on March 20.

Currently, both sides are trying to have cases that aren't in their home state dismissed.

Lawyers for Clemson argued on July 2in Mecklenburg County to dismiss or stay the ACC's case in North Carolina, butthey also authored a July 1memorandum in opposition to ACC's motion to dismiss the Pickens County proceedings.

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The memorandum cited Neff's affidavit, which laid out all of the ways the ACC and ESPN benefit from access to the university's facilities in South Carolina.

The list included home football games but also ACC championships in various sports that have been held at Clemson. The affidavit also noted that ESPN uses studio space on Clemson's campus — which the university built at an estimated cost of more than $7 million — to produce content.

These details are meant to strengthen Clemson's claim that a South Carolina court has jurisdiction over the ACC, along with the university's suit having priority because it was filed first. In Florida State's case, Leon County judge John C. Cooper found the ACC operates "significant business" in Florida, which allowed that case to go forward despite the ACC filing first in North Carolina.

The ACC argues the court in Mecklenburg County should have jurisdiction over both the FSU and Clemson cases because the ESPN agreements were negotiated and signed in North Carolina.

Clemson's first hearing in Pickens County, before Judge Perry H. Gravely, is scheduled for July 12. Louis A. Bledsoe, the judge in Mecklenburg County, has said he will issue an opinion on Clemson's motion to dismiss the North Carolina case in the days leading up to the South Carolina hearing.

Follow Jon Blau on X @Jon_Blau. Plus, receive the latest updates on Clemson athletics, straight to your inbox, by subscribing to The Tiger Take.

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Jon Blau

Jon Blau has covered Clemson athletics for The Post and Courier since 2021. A native of South Jersey, he grew up on Rocky marathons and hoagies. To get the latest Clemson sports news, straight to your inbox, subscribe to his newsletter, The Tiger Take.

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Why an attempt to move Clemson-South Carolina to Black Friday made it into a legal filing (2024)
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