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Wofford, Presbyterian Renew Old Rivalry
Bentley brings Blue Hose to visit Terriers for 1st time since Gibbs Stadium opened.
The first game in Gibbs Stadium was the last in an 82-year football rivalry between Wofford and Presbyterian. It’s back tonight.
Under the lights of the new facility in 1996, the Terriers’ 34-7 victory marked a separation between these similar schools located just 35 miles apart. Wofford had recently risen from Division II to I-AA and would join the prestigious Southern Conference the following season.
“We went our way, they went their way,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. “And it’s worked out to where we are able to play each other again.”
The Terriers, defending league champions and ranked No. 13 in the country, welcome Presbyterian back to Gibbs Stadium for a 7 p.m. game as both teams kick off their seasons.
“From our standpoint, it’s huge. From their standpoint, it’s huge,” Ayers said.
“It’s a great game as far as the excitement generated between Presbyterian and Wofford.”
Renewing a relationship with the second-longest rival (Wofford-Furman was the state’s first college football game in 1889) was possible because Presbyterian climbed to I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) and is on the verge of full membership in the Big South Conference.
The teams have a three-year contract with the next game to be played in 2011 in Clinton.
Presbyterian’s pick to guide the football program into the new era was Bobby Bentley, who played there and then coached Byrnes High School to four straight championships. Last year in the debut of Division I and Bentley, the Blue Hose went 6-5 and beat league power Coastal Carolina.
“Anything Wofford does is definitely a model because they’ve done such a great job,” Bentley said.
“It’s a sister school. It’s very similar academically. It’s also one of the smallest schools (Wofford has 1,350 students; PC has 1,200) in Division I. Just think if we had done this when Wofford did. Just think where we’d be. We’re just that far behind. We have to catch up.”
Bentley was a star quarterback for Byrnes in 1986 and recruited by Ayers, who was the head coach at East Tennessee State at the time.
“I’ve known him forever,” Ayers said. “He’s a hard worker and passionate about the game. He loves coaching. His deal is building a great program. He definitely knows X’s and O’s. He surrounds himself with good people, hard workers, guys who are committed.
“It was a great move for Presbyterian to get him. Most of them are saying, ‘We’ve got the greatest coach.’ Some of them might be saying, ‘Can he do it in college?’ Well, a ball coach is a ball coach. He’s proven himself. He’s already done a great job. I know what his goal is. His goal is to win the national championship.”
Byrnes had not yet turned the corner toward its winning ways, Bentley said, when he asked Ayers to talk to the team.
“He helped us get people to buy into our program. That’s what I asked him to speak about,” Bentley said. “He’s an intense guy. He’s a great friend. And I really appreciate what he has done for Wofford and the Spartanburg community. Hopefully, we can follow their success.”
Wofford, Presbyterian renew old rivalry
By Todd Shanesy, The Spartanburg Herald Journal (SC)
Photo Credit: Tim Kimzey, The Spartanburg Herald Journal