Clemson and Auburn quickly agreed to renew their 115-year old football rivalry for the 2016 and 2017 seasons once the ACC and SEC settled on eight-game league schedules for the near future.
Clemson is scheduled to visit Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 3, 2016, and Auburn repays the visit Sept. 9, 2017. The schools’ teams have played 49 times since 1899, last in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta.
“We had been talking with Auburn for a while,” Clemson athletics director Dan Radakovich said Tuesday during a media briefing. “We had some discussions about starting the 2016 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, but as we looked at both teams’ schedules, playing a home-and-home in 2016 and ’17 was the most beneficial to both parties.”
Openings in the 2018 and 2019 seasons could lead to an agreement with a comparable non-conference opponent, but Radakovich explained it’s tricky finding one whose needs match Clemson’s. The traditional home-and-home series with South Carolina necessitates scheduling a seventh home game during odd-numbered years when the team plays in Columbia. South Carolina visits Clemson this season on Nov. 29.
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Compounding logistics is the ACC’s flirtation with Notre Dame, which this year begins playing five conference games annually. Notre Dame comes to Clemson in 2015 and Clemson visits South Bend in 2020.
“So, we have a gap there. We want another quality opponent to fill that (2018-19) slot,” Radakovich said. “We’re looking throughout the entire country, any team in the big five conferences.”
From a practical standpoint, and with fans in mind, the intent is to secure an opponent within reasonable reach, which is what makes most SEC schools appealing. Radakovich wouldn’t rule out the Big 12 and Big Ten, which has its own scheduling issues with nine conferences games.
“It’s not as attractive to go to the West Coast as opposed to finding someone who’s a little closer,” he said. “It boils down to whether or not you need a game in that particular year, and if you can play at home or on the road, and does that match up with our needs. Auburn certainly fit in ’16 and ’17, and we’re on the hunt right now for someone in ’18 and ’19.”
Radakovich said organizers in several cities have approached Clemson about playing season-opening games at a neutral site like the Atlanta game. The preference is to schedule a seventh home game to accommodate local businesses that rely on football Saturdays.
“I think Atlanta makes more sense given the geography, though Charlotte is on the table as well, as they get more into this type of game,” he said. “We would much prefer, if at all possible, to have a high-quality, high-caliber opponent in a home-and-home series so we could bring them here to Death Valley.”
On other topics, the Clemson AD said:
• Clemson remained on solid financial ground with $71 million budgeted for operations during 2014-15. Across-the-board IPTAY donor increases, the first in nearly a decade, should generate an additional $1 million. Radakovich also said IPTAY contributions would be huge in planned facility upgrades.
• Upgrades at Doug Kingsmore Stadium had a hiccup, pushing back the start to late August, which could be inconvenient next spring. Littlejohn Coliseum’s makeover might require doing the work in stages. Radakovich said the basketball teams would play their 2015-16 home games in Greenville.