Unlike their cross-state rivals who rub a rock before battle, the South Carolina Gamecocks have an entrance ritual straight from the 21st century. The opening bars of 2001: A Space Odyssey ring throughout Williams-Brice Stadium as the players make their way to the field, and Cocky, the school mascot, roars from within his cage. As kickoff approaches, the electronic dance number “Sandstorm” is played, spreading school spirit like wildfire. It’s hardly a debate, but face it; the Garnet and Black own one of the coolest intros in all of college football.
The first USC gridiron squad entered the realm of competitive play in 1892, and while they were able to handle their game-day foes, university trustees were another matter entirely. The sport was prohibited for the 1906 season, but ultimately, the moratorium didn’t stick and football was back to full-fledged varsity status the following year. It was also around this time that the school’s athletics program started going by the fierce moniker used today. The nickname is meant to serve as an homage to General Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War general who was known as “The Carolina Gamecock.”
On January 1, 1946, the club tussled with Wake Forest on the Gator Bowl stage to mark the gridiron crew’s first-ever postseason appearance. Nearly 25 years later, the Gamecocks would post their second bowl game showing. Subsequent trips would take place in ‘75, ‘79 and ‘80, with the latter campaign being especially memorable: running back George Rogers was awarded the Heisman Trophy. Finally in ‘84, the incremental success came to a head when coach Joe Morrison guided the team to a record of 10-2 and a date at the Gator Bowl. Morrison received the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award for his efforts, while the rest of the country took notice that USC was emerging as a perennial force.
The “Ol’ Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier, arrived on the Columbia campus in 2005 and brought his recipe for success with him. Between ‘05 and ‘14, South Carolina would appear in nine bowl contests, thrilling supporters and impressing outsiders by defeating traditional powerhouses such as Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. In ‘12, an entire nation joined USC diehards in hollering “Clowney Coming!” every chance they got, as defensive end Jadeveon Clowney dominated the college football landscape with his uncanny mix of strength, speed and sheer determination. The consensus All-American was so good that he nearly won the Heisman (an incredibly rare feat for a defensive player); he would also be selected first overall at the 2014 NFL Draft.
Consistent excellence isn’t limited to the gridiron, as the baseball team won national championships on the diamond in ‘10 and ‘11, and Cocky has been named National Mascot of the Year three times (‘86, ‘94, ‘04.) In the school fight song, there’s a line that states, “If the going gets tough, and when it is rough, that’s when the ‘Cocks get going.” With more than 100 years of resilient play under their belt, it’s clear that Carolina won’t be throwing in the towel any time soon.