What is the history of the South Carolina Gamecocks?

Carolina fielded its first football team in 1892 to play against Furman on Christmas Eve in Charleston. The football team was not sanctioned by the University and had to pay their own train fare as well as buy their own uniforms. They were nicknamed the "College Boys" by The News and Courier and their supporters wore garnet and black. The team lost the game because of their inexperience and lack of training.[1]

USC won their first game during the third season of the sport on November 2, 1895 against Columbia AA. The football team got their first head coach, W.H. "Dixie" Whaley, the following year, and the 1896 season also saw the inaugural game against archrival Clemson on November 12, which Carolina won 12-6. From 1902-03, coach C. R. Williams led the Gamecocks to an impressive 14-3 record, which included the program's first 8-win season. The Board of Trustees banned participation in football for the 1906 season after the faculty complained about the coarseness of chants yelled by the students at football games. However, the board was so harassed by petitions from the students and alumni that it voted to allow the resumption of the sport in 1907. A hastily assembled football team competed in an abbreviated season and won all three games it played.[2]

From 1928-1934, coach Billy Laval led the Gamecocks to seven consecutive winning seasons and a 39-26-6 overall record, which included a perfect 3-0 Southern Conference campaign in 1933. Under coach Rex Enright, the Gamecocks produced another undefeated Southern Conference season, going 4-0-1 in 1941. Enright left South Carolina in 1955, with the distinction of being both the winningest and losingest coach in school history (64-69-7). In 1956, Warren Giese took over as head coach and proceeded to lead the Gamecocks to a 28-21-1 overall record in his 5-year tenure. The Giese era included two 7-3 campaigns (1956 and 1958), an 18-15-1 ACC record, and a 27-21 victory over Darrell Royal's 1957 Texas squad in Austin.

Several years later, Coach Paul Dietzel led South Carolina to the 1969 ACC championship and an appearance in the Peach Bowl. As a result, Dietzel was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1969. Soon after, South Carolina left the ACC and became an Independent program. Jim Carlen took over as coach in 1975, and under his leadership the program achieved a measure of national prominence. Carlen led the Gamecocks to three bowl games, coached 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, and produced a 45-36-1 record during his tenure. The Carlen Era included consecutive 8-4 records (1979-1980) and a 17-14 victory over Bo Schembechler's 1980 Michigan squad in Ann Arbor.

Joe Morrison was hired in 1983 and quickly led the Gamecocks to a 10-2 record, #11 final AP Poll ranking, and a Gator Bowl appearance in 1984. The 1984 season included victories over Georgia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Florida State, and Clemson. In 1987, the Gamecocks posted an 8-4 record, #15 Final AP Poll ranking, and another Gator Bowl appearance. The 1987 Gamecocks were led by the vaunted "Black Death" defense, which yielded just 141 points in 12 games played. Morrison coached his last game in the 1988 Liberty Bowl, as he died on February 5, 1989 at the age of 51. Morrison ended his South Carolina tenure with a 39-28-2 overall record, three bowl games, and three seasons with 8 or more wins.

After posting just three winning seasons from 1990-1998, Lou Holtz was hired as head coach in 1999. He took over a program that had gone just 1-10 the season before and, subsequently, oversaw a winless 0-11 campaign in 1999. It didn't take long for Holtz to improve the Gamecocks' fortunes, however, as he engineered 8-4 and 9-3 records in the 2000 and 2001 seasons, respectively. In addition, South Carolina won back-to-back Outback Bowl games over Ohio State and posted the most successful two-year run in program history (17-7 overall, 10-6 SEC). The 2000 and 2001 campaigns also saw South Carolina's return to the national rankings with #19 and #13 finishes in the final AP Polls for those years. After consecutive 5-7 seasons in 2002 and 2003, Holtz ended his South Carolina tenure on a winning note with a 6-5 record in 2004.

Steve Spurrier was hired in 2005 to replace the departing Holtz, and he led the Gamecocks to a 7-5 record and Independence Bowl appearance in his first season. As a result, Spurrier was named the 2005 SEC Coach of the Year. The 2006 season saw continued success under Spurrier, as the Gamecocks posted an 8-5 record and a 44-36 shootout victory over Houston in the Liberty Bowl. South Carolina returned to postseason play in 2008, with an appearance in the Outback Bowl against Iowa. The 2009 campaign saw the fifth-straight season of bowl eligibility under Spurrier, a first for the USC program, as the Gamecocks played Connecticut in the PapaJohns.com Bowl (20-7 loss).

Former Gamecock standouts include Alex Hawkins, Dan Reeves, Rick Sanford, George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, Duce Staley, John Abraham, Sheldon Brown, Dunta Robinson, and Sidney Rice.