Many fans tend to associate college football tradition with the South. Death Valley in Clemson, between the hedges in Georgia and the plains in Auburn tend to cross the minds of those who reference the pageantry of the game. College football tradition and excitement also lives in the towns that are never visited by ESPN College Gameday.
One of those towns is Clinton, South Carolina, home of Presbyterian College. The 2012 season marked the first full year in the Football Championship Subdivision's Big South Conference for the Blue Hose, and this Palmetto State outpost is looking to create something memorable of its own. With an attractive stadium and a program on the rise, the future appears bright for Presbyterian.
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The concessions at Bailey Stadium will never be confused for five-star dining, but what is available will certainly suffice. Pizza slices ($2.50), hot dogs ($2), boiled or roasted peanuts ($3), popcorn ($3), candy ($1) and chicken sandwiches ($4) are available for purchase. Pepsi is the bottler serving the stadium, with 20-ounce bottled sodas and water for $2.50.
There are two points of sale serving the stadium. The main stand is on the concourse between the home seating bowl and the stadium entrance, with two separate areas for periods when the stadium is full. There is also a stand on the hill behind the end zone to serve the fans on the visiting side of the field.
Bailey Stadium is part of a beautiful and historic campus, which certainly sets the tone upon arrival. Established in 1880, five of Presbyterian's campus buildings are part of the National Register of Historic Places. This campus is located just outside downtown Clinton, which epitomizes the stereotypical southern downtown area of days past.
There is a great sense of camaraderie at Presbyterian games. Presbyterian football is very much an event, as the drive through the campus passes a number of students and locals walking down the street toward the stadium. Tailgating is also very prevalent at Presbyterian, which we will address a bit further in the Fans section of the review.
Considering the size of Clinton, you may not be surprised that most of the dining choices available near the university are chain restaurants. Many of the options are on Broad Street or Carolina Avenue, which are on opposite sides of the campus. Local upstate South Carolina chain Tony's Pizza and Subs is within a mile of the campus and is strongly recommended. Senor Garcia Mexican, Dempsey's Pizza and Parthenon are among the other popular eateries in town.
The college is several miles off South Carolina's Interstate 26, with a few additional restaurants near the highway. Greenville, Spartanburg and Columbia are all about an hour away via I-26 and/or I-385. If spending the evening in a small college town is not your speed, you may want to take the drive to one of these other larger cities.
Bailey Stadium will never draw the crowds you will see at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia or other larger facilities, but the fans you will find are a pretty entertaining bunch. As mentioned earlier, tailgating is surprisingly prevalent. Numerous groups have tents - and even vehicles - set up to welcome friends and newcomers alike.
Once inside the stadium, the fans make enough noise for a crowd ten times their size. The day I attended was extremely hot, with a temperature approaching 100 degrees. The combination of the heat, a 45-10 victory for the home team and metal bleachers everywhere still could not damper the enthusiasm of the Blue Hose fans. Cowbells rang out at key moments throughout the game, and fans showed up with - and bought - a ton of Presbyterian gear. Don't let the size of the school and the town fool you. This is a lively group.
The stadium's location at the rear of the campus provides for sufficient parking, even in a sell-out. There are a couple of concerns with the parking situation, however. First, virtually all of the parking is unpaved. This means you will be parking your vehicle on grass, which may create a problem in inclement weather. The school also charges $5 for this grass parking, which seems a bit high. It would be a nice upgrade to see a paved lot, or even gravel.
The concourse inside the stadium is very wide, and it wraps around the stadium, allowing for free and easy movement. There are multiple restroom facilities under the seating bowl on the home side, with a building on the visitors side that houses a concession area and restrooms (thankfully, in separate areas). The restrooms are clean, ample and reasonably modern. I saw no lines for any of the facilities on the day I attended.
For those inclined to spend their time complaining about the size of the crowds or facilities being smaller than those at bigger universities, the value presented by Presbyterian is more than enough to make up for any perceived inconvenience. The concession selection may be small, but the prices are more than fair. The parking costs a little more than it should, but it is workable.
Game tickets are the real value, though, as the most expensive seat in the entire place is $15. This is a drop in the proverbial bucket when compared to the ticket prices at a lot of the "bigger" schools. Reserved seats are $15 for the blue seats and $10 for reserved bench seating. General admission is an amazing $8, with youth (16 and under) only charged $5. If you imagine seeing a Division I football game with a hot dog and a drink for under $20 - parking included - it will become clear what a steal this is.
There is a LOT of metal seating in Bailey Stadium. This may not be much of a concern once the weather turns cooler, but on a day like the one on which I attended, it can be a problem. There were people outside the stadium handing out fans, which may seem to offer no real help; however, the thought was much appreciated.
After each score by the Blue Hose football team, the Army ROTC fires a cannon. This leaves absolutely no question about when the home team piles on the points, even if you are buying concessions at the time. The cadets then do push-ups in the end zone, doing one for every point on the board.
The fraternities and sororities at Presbyterian are very active in supporting the team, with numerous tents set up on the hill in the end zone opposite the field house. Numerous Greek letters are visible on the hill, joining with the tents to provide an interesting addition to the backdrop that is normally graced only by a large statue. This area is referred to as "Hoseville".
Speaking (somewhat, anyway) of statues, there is another very sizeable statue just outside the stadium entrance. This statue, named Cyrus, is a nod to the school's Scottish roots. He is shown with an extended fist and a sword, wearing a blue kilt. The Blue Hose nickname is also a reference to Scottish warriors, completing the homage.
The school is also noted for a bonus enjoyed by many places in the Carolinas. Its gameday operations staff and fans are among the nicest people you will find at a sporting event. The team also clearly appreciates its fans, as they spent lots of time in the stands talking to fans and students after the game. Great people go a long way with fans, and the small-town atmosphere where everyone is a friend is quite clear here.
The Big South Conference traditionally produces great football at the FCS level, and Presbyterian is no exception. The stadium, the team, the town and the people make the Blue Hose a tremendous addition to the conference. Most fans would never imagine this South Carolina town as a great college football destination, and they would likely just drive right by on their way to Columbia for a Gamecocks game. The detour is well worth your while, though, and you will certainly be welcomed when you get there.
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111 Jacobs Hwy
Clinton, SC 29325
107 Jacobs Hwy
Clinton, SC 29325
910 S Broad St
Clinton, SC 29325
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