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Bob Holliday

Battle of the Carolinas recalls once-fierce rivalry

Posted August 28, 2013
Updated August 29, 2013

I’ll never forget the epiphany I experienced watching the closing credits of “Remember the Titans,” the moving story of Rocky Mount native Coach Herman Boone and his players “Blue,” “Rev” and “Sunshine,” who used football to help integrate schools in Northern Virginia in 1971. The film closed with an epilogue documenting what coach and players did after their days at T.C. Williams High School.

One line hit me like a ton of bricks. “Ronnie Sunshine Bass played football at the University of South Carolina.” RONNIE SUNSHINE BASS PLAYED FOOTBALL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA! Who knew?

Veer surprises 70s squad

Long before Hollywood told the story of his high school days, Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass totally trashed the North Carolina Tar Heels one fall night in 1974.

I actually flew to Columbia to cover that game in a Learjet with my then-boss, longtime UNC broadcaster Jim Heavner, and Chapel Hill businessman Lee Shaffer.

Shaffer played basketball at UNC under Frank McGuire, and he showed on the trip down he knew something of football too.

“Holliday,” he said, “I’m concerned about South Carolina’s veer offense.”

I noted that the Tar Heels were favorites; that South Carolina’s starting quarterback was injured. Silly me.

Ron Bass, in his first collegiate game, lit up North Carolina for more than 200 yards on the ground. And when he wasn’t running, he was passing. Underdog South Carolina outscored a team that featured Chris Kupec and one of the best offenses in North Carolina school history, 31-23.

I can still hear Shaffer’s booming baritone on the flight home after I’d filed my postgame report: “What’d I tell ya Holliday – the veer, the veer. You can’t stop it. YOU CAN’T STOP IT!"

Long after I’d taken the Lear to see the veer, I found myself paired at a golf outing with the one-time coach of the Gamecocks, Paul Dietzel. Somewhere between the fourth and fifth holes at the Mount Mitchell Golf Club, Dietzel and I began to talk about Bass’ amazing night against the Tar Heels. In fact, coach and reporter were so fixated on Bass, neither could remember the name of the injured player Bass replaced.

“I’ll think of it,” Dietzel promised. Jeff Grantz was the guy. He gained more than 5,000 yards total offense in his South Carolina career. But it’s hard to imagine him being any better than Ronnie Bass was October 26, 1974.

Friendly skies for UNC foes

Of course, the veer and the Lear are not the only links to North Carolina’s diabolical past involving air travel. Back in the 70s, Bill Dooley’s pass defenses were so porous they became known as “The Friendly Skies” (a nod to a popular airline commercial in that era). So who was the first to “Fly the Friendly Skies" of Carolina? Why the other Carolina, of course.

Students in the late 60s often dressed in their Sunday best for football games, and I recall a sultry September day in 1968 when some among the faithful whipped out flasks from their suit coat pockets to toast the Tar Heels’ rolling to a 27-3 lead over the Gamecocks. Victories were rare in Bill Dooley’s second year, but this looked like a sure thing – until Tommy Suggs (now South Carolina’s radio analyst) and the Gamecock offense turned the big Chapel Hill celebration into a wake, with 29 unanswered points, most in the fourth quarter.

Two years later the Gamecocks again “flew the friendly skies.” A guy named Jackie Young passed over, around and through Dooley’s 4-4-3 defense, for a 35-21 victory over a North Carolina team which starred Don McCauley and later played in a bowl.

Conference realignment cut short Carolinas' rivalry

That 1970 trip marked South Carolina’s last visit to Kenan Stadium as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC, uniquely, required all prospective athletes to score at least 800 on the SAT college entrance exam. The braintrust in Columbia felt the ACC rule was too restrictive and voted to leave the conference.

At the same time, it is impossible to overstate the enmity between South Carolina and its ACC rivals on the basketball court in 1970 and 1971. When John Roche, Tom Owens and enforcer John Ribock entered the hall, there was a palpable feeling of hostility, unlike anything I’ve experienced covering ACC games since.

Frank McGuire would later try to engage in revisionist history and say the school’s departure from the ACC was all because of Dietzel and football. But make no mistake, in 1971, the basketball coach and his players also wanted out. I have it on tape.

South Carolina is now, of course, happily ensconced in the Southeastern Conference, and the ACC has gone its own way, becoming a league of 14, soon to be 15, teams. And so, the battle of the Carolinas, which 45 years ago was on its way to becoming one of the ACC’s fiercest rivalries, is now reduced to a mere non-conference tilt – the emotion of the past supplanted by the modern day preoccupation with qualifying for the national championship chase.

Thursday’s contest (UNC at South Carolina, 6 p.m. ESPN) is not so much a brawl to see who is the real Carolina, as it is a tactical match-up of trendy offensive and defensive philosophies.

Most focus on Jadeveon Clowney and the physical South Carolina defense going after Bryn Renner and the up-tempo North Carolina offense. But history suggests the other side of the equation will be even more important.

As we saw last year, the "friendly skies" have not yet been completely expunged from Tarheelia (almost 3,000 yards allowed passing and 15 touchdowns). To have a chance in Columbia, UNC’s 4-2-5 defensive alignment must contain the other Carolina. Put simply, North Carolina must force South Carolina to punt – much as South Carolina punted the ACC oh so many years ago.

33 Comments

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  • VT1994Hokie Aug 30, 2013

    It's a foregone conclusion now isn't it? South Carolina looked tired early in this game. Spurrier was smart to keep it on the ground and run the clock. Those that have played and coached a little understand this.

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 29, 2013

    It looks pretty much like a battle right now. USC has let up.

  • dookiepukie Aug 29, 2013

    Mustard goes on hot dogs, not barbeque.

  • jmcdow2792 Aug 29, 2013

    View quoted thread



    He certainly lived up to the mascot's name.

  • batcave Aug 29, 2013

    Intended to say "State vs South Carolina was a big deal."

    I was a big deal, when Holz was coaching. stan fritz, ralph stringer, willie burden , the buckeys. SC lost a heart breaker in raleigh, having all but won it. fights broke out gamers were so mad.people had started leaving.good times

  • StunGunn Aug 29, 2013

    View quoted thread



    Ha ha - good one:-)

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Aug 29, 2013

    Someone at the office asked me if I was excited to watch the Panthers. I said, "Who? Oh, they play tonight?" College football has started. That's REAL football. When the NFL starts their REAL season, I'll pay attention. But have MUCH more passion for the college game. Hey, I'm a Panthers fan. That's how it works. They usually suk.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Aug 29, 2013

    View quoted thread



    Run up the score? LOL

    You better hope UN*C scores at all!

  • TB from WF Aug 29, 2013

    The love is quite strong in this article, yes. :)

  • rxhiller1 Aug 29, 2013

    A Tarheel win tonight would be stellar for the ACC! SOOOOOOOOOOO sick of the SEC stealing all the top talent!

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR
 
Final
TEX 3
CLE 12
Final
COL 6
CIN 4
Final
MIA 2
PIT 5
Final
CWS 5
TOR 3
Final
KAN 2
NYY 4
Final
BOS 4
MIN 6
Final
PHI 0
NYM 7
Final
SEA 3
TAM 0
Final
SFG 3
MIL 1
Final
DET 3
OAK 2
9th
HOU 4
BAL 5
 
8:05pm Tonight
WAS
CHC
8:15pm Tonight
ARI
STL
10:05pm Tonight
SDP
ANA
10:10pm Tonight
ATL
LOS
1:05pm Thursday
CWS
BAL
 
4:35pm Thursday
CWS
BAL
 
8:05pm Thursday
BOS
TEX
 
10:05pm Thursday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Thursday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Thursday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Thursday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Thursday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Friday
KAN
CHC
 
7:05pm Friday
COL
PHI
 
7:05pm Friday
TAM
BAL
 
7:10pm Friday
MIA
NYM
 
7:10pm Friday
WAS
CIN
 
8:05pm Friday
BOS
TEX
 
8:10pm Friday
ARI
MIL
 
8:10pm Friday
CWS
HOU
 
8:10pm Friday
TOR
MIN
 
8:15pm Friday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Friday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Friday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Friday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Friday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Friday
ATL
SFG
 
2:10pm Saturday
TOR
MIN
 
3:05pm Saturday
COL
PHI
 
4:05pm Saturday
TAM
BAL
 
4:10pm Saturday
ARI
MIL
 
4:10pm Saturday
CWS
HOU
 
4:10pm Saturday
MIA
NYM
 
4:10pm Saturday
WAS
CIN
 
7:15pm Saturday
BOS
TEX
 
7:15pm Saturday
KAN
CHC
 
7:15pm Saturday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Saturday
ATL
SFG
 
10:05pm Saturday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Saturday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Saturday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Saturday
PIT
SDP
 
1:10pm Sunday
MIA
NYM
 
1:10pm Sunday
WAS
CIN
 
1:35pm Sunday
COL
PHI
 
1:35pm Sunday
TAM
BAL
 
2:10pm Sunday
ARI
MIL
 
2:10pm Sunday
CWS
HOU
 
2:10pm Sunday
TOR
MIN
 
2:15pm Sunday
LOS
STL
 
2:20pm Sunday
KAN
CHC
 
3:05pm Sunday
BOS
TEX
 
4:05pm Sunday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Sunday
NYY
OAK
 
4:10pm Sunday
CLE
SEA
 
8:05pm Sunday
DET
ANA
 
9:10pm Sunday
PIT
SDP
 
9:00pm Tonight
HOU
GSW
9:00pm Friday
GSW
HOU
 
9:00pm Sunday
HOU
GSW
 
8:00pm Tonight
ANA
CHI
8:00pm Friday
TAM
NYR
 
8:00pm Saturday
CHI
ANA
 
12:00pm Friday
AUBURN
CHARLESTON
 
1:00pm Friday
CALIFORNIA
CCAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
COLUMBIA
ECAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
ORALROBRTS
ARKANSAS
 
1:00pm Friday
OREGON
IOWA
 
1:00pm Friday
SFLORIDA
FAU
 
1:00pm Friday
WRIGHTST
NOTREDAME
 
2:00pm Friday
MICHIGAN
BRADLEY
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
2:30pm Friday
TEXAS
OREGONST
 
3:00pm Friday
INDIANA
RADFORD
 
3:30pm Friday
ULLAFAYETE
RICE
 
4:00pm Friday
LEHIGH
LSU
 
6:00pm Friday
CANISIUS
SWMISSOURI
 
6:00pm Friday
CLEMSON
ARIZONAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MERCER
FLORIDAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MOREHEADST
LOUISVILLE
 
6:00pm Friday
VIRGINIA
USC
 
7:00pm Friday
FIU
MIAFLA
 
7:00pm Friday
FLAAM
FLORIDA
 
7:00pm Friday
MARYLAND
MISS
 
7:00pm Friday
SACREDHART
TCU
 
7:00pm Friday
STJOHNS
OKLAHOMAST
 
7:00pm Friday
TSOUTHERN
TEXASAM
 
7:00pm Friday
VCU
DALLASBAPT
 
8:00pm Friday
HSTNBAPT
HOUSTON
 
8:00pm Friday
LIPSCOMB
VANDERBILT
 
8:00pm Friday
OHIO
ILLINOIS
 
8:00pm Friday
TULANE
NWILMINGTN
 
10:00pm Friday
PEPPERDINE
FULLERTON
 
10:00pm Friday
SANDIEGOST
CSANTABAR
 
11:00pm Friday
CSBAKER
UCLA
 
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR