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New Book Highlights South Carolina's Era Between ACC and SEC Membership

by Brad Muller

Love sports? Love history? Then plan to check out the forthcoming book, A Gamecock Odyssey: University of South Carolina Sports in the Independent Era. Written by alumnus Alan Piercy and published through USC Press, the book highlights South Carolina’s departure from the ACC, entrance into the SEC and everything in between.

“The book is about USC sports and that twenty-year period between membership in the ACC and membership in the SEC,” Piercy said. “It’s a lost era in some ways. There were a lot of things going on in that twenty-year period. We were following the civil rights movement when black athletes were on scholarship for the first time, and you have the evolution of women’s sports leading up to Title IX. Women’s sports went from basically club level to varsity status during that time.

“You had conference realignment, which is obviously something that is still a big topic today. The first chapter addresses why Carolina left the ACC, and the final chapter is about how we got into the SEC. You also have TV money coming in. There was a lot going on during this time in college sports and in higher education, and it’s all told through the lens of USC Athletics.”

The book focuses primarily on football and basketball, with other chapters dedicated to baseball and women’s sports as well. Piercy is a Columbia native who grew up going to games starting in the early 1980s.

“I remember these times,” Piercy said. “I was very fortunate that in my first year going to games, George Rogers won the Heisman Trophy, Zam Fredrick led the nation in scoring in basketball, and Carolina baseball went to Omaha for the College World Series. That was a pretty good introduction to Carolina Athletics! I’ve been a fan since then and graduated from there in 1995.”

The book took nearly six years to write and required a lot of research.

“In the fall of 2017, I decided I wanted to start working on this project,” Piercy said. “I had gone down to the South Caroliniana Library to start doing some research. I was going through old microfiche reels, when a very kind woman there told me that it was all digitized now, so I used the database through the Richland County Library to access all The State and Columbia Record (newspaper) archives from that period. There were also a number of books that I leaned into as well.

“I was also able to connect with a lot of former athletes and coaches, including Coach (Bobby) Richardson and Coach (June) Raines from baseball. I had a chance to meet with Jimmy Foster from basketball and a number of other athletes. That was a massive help to get that first-person perspective from them.”

Whether or not you lived through any part of the era where South Carolina played as an independent in football and in the Metro Conference for other sports, the book offers a unique and nostalgic look back at an important part of Gamecock history.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia about the 1980s,” Piercy said. “For the people that didn’t live through it, I think it will be really interesting for them to see where Gamecock Athletics came from and how we got to where we are now. It was a strange and unique time in the history of our university. We’re so fortunate to be in the SEC now, and that’s a really interesting story in how that developed.

“When I was growing up and getting into USC sports in the 1980s, I heard a lot of stories about how we got out of the ACC and why. There were a lot of theories and urban legends about it. We’re a half century removed from that now, and there’s still an interest in those stories. It’s especially relevant now with what’s going on with conference realignment.

“There’s a lot about the evolution of logos, fight songs, and mascots, too. There are a lot of cool stories about that.”

A Gamecock Odyssey: University of South Carolina Sports in the Independent Era is available for pre-order now through USC Press as well as traditional outlets such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble and will be released on November 14.

You can enjoy a 30% discount through USC Press if you preorder now by using the code JPIERCY30.