Sunday, February 05, 2006

Clemson Looks To Add Chapel Hill High School To Schedule

On Saturday, North Carolina defeated Clemson 76-61 in the Dean Smith Center. The setback was par for the course for the Tigers, who amazingly have never won in Chapel Hill. However, the school plans to take a step to change that statistic. Clemson is close to adding a road game at Chapel Hill High School to its schedule.

Clearly things have not been working against the Tar Heels. Saturday's defeat was the Tigers' 52nd consecutive in their trips to Chapel Hill. The streak ties the Division 1 record for the most consecutive road losses to an opponent. Brown dropped the same number in a row at Princeton before breaking through with a victory in February 2003. The defeat infuriated Princeton alumnus Donald Rumsfeld, leading to the following month's invasion of Iraq.

UNC has generally had the better team in the matchups, but Clemson has fizzled even when it seemingly has had a decent chance. In 1990, the Dale Davis and Elden Campbell-led Tigers finished first in the ACC standings, but they fell 83-60 at the Smith Center. In 1997, a Sweet 16-bound Clemson squad faced a Tar Heel team that entered with a 2-4 ACC record, but UNC emerged with a 61-48 triumph. The Tigers could not even capitalize on a development that should have guaranteed them a victory in Chapel Hill - the coaching tenure of Matt Doherty. Clemson players do not even bother trying to pick up Carolina girls while they are in town, since they clearly have been unable to score or get lucky in Chapel Hill.

Exasperated by this grim history in that city, Clemson is desperate to change things. The Tigers have an eight-day layoff before the Wake Forest game on February 22 in Winston-Salem. Clemson could fill that void without much additional travel by making a trip to Chapel Hill on the 20th. Chapel Hill High's season will be over by then, so scheduling conflicts are not an issue. Critics charge that a high school team could not possibly compete with an ACC program. Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell countered, "Have you seen how we play in that town?"

The teams share the same nickname, so fans could look forward to seeing "Tigers vs. Tigers." Chapel Hill High is 3-19 after Friday's 59-38 loss to Durham Riverside. Therefore, they would only be a three-point favorite against Clemson. Purnell is confident that his team can break through and finally win in Chapel Hill. A victory may not impress the NCAA tournament selection committee, but it could earn Clemson an invitation to the North Carolina high school state playoffs.

Clemson is eagerly anticipating this possible matchup and the tremendous relief a victory would bring. In the meantime, the expansion of the ACC has brought more good news for the Tigers. Next season, they don't have to play at UNC.