The history of the University of South Carolina – located in Columbia, S.C. – dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. In 1801, South Carolina College was founded in hopes of reuniting the state after the American Revolution. The college enjoyed prosperity for many decades, but the Civil War eventually led to its closure in 1861. It was reopened in 1866 as the University of South Carolina, and while it had its ups and downs (including another closure), it worked to keep a foothold in the area during a time of political upheaval and change.
The college went through many changes, including integration in the 1960s, and experienced massive growth when the baby boomers reached college age. Its college football program, however, got its start much earlier than that. An early success came in 1902 when South Carolina bested the Clemson Tigers. A same-state rivalry was well on its way.
South Carolina currently plays in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), where there are plenty of awesome teams to go up against during conference play. However, one of South Carolina’s main rivals is still Clemson. Their annual meetup is officially dubbed “The Palmetto Bowl” and is eagerly anticipated by fans of both schools.
From 2005 until 2015, coach Steve Spurrier helped raise the Gamecocks as a college football powerhouse, when the team enjoyed a solid decade of winning seasons and a bevy of bowl wins.
Sideline Chicken to Cocky the Gamecock
University of South Carolina athletic teams are collectively known as the Gamecocks, named after Gen. Thomas Sumter during the Revolutionary War. He earned the nickname “The Carolina Gamecock” for his “fierce fighting tactics, regardless of his size. A British general commented that Sumter ‘fought like a gamecock.’”. Sumter went down in history as a war hero and was a natural selection for a team name at the university.
The tradition of a sideline mascot, however, didn’t get its start until the early 1970s. John Nelson spent his junior and senior year as “The Rooster” in 1971 and 1972 after he saw someone dress up like a chicken during a basketball game. He decided that a game-time mascot needed to happen regularly. Nelson talked the cheerleaders into letting him into the games and got his mom to help make a costume.
A tradition was born. The Rooster was followed by Big Spur in the late ’70s and the modern day Cocky, who was born in 1980. South Carolina players are clad in garnet and black, a tradition that dates back to the early days of the college football team. They chose this combo the first time they took the field in 1892, and it has remained the same ever since. In fact, Cocky even sports garnet and black plumes.
Gamecock fans, listen up: Fanatics.com has an awesome collection of garnet and black gear for your next tailgate or watch party.