'100 Things' a bucket-list book for Gamecocks fans

eshaw@islandpacket.comNovember 21, 2013 

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It's hard to talk about University of South Carolina football without talking about Steve Spurrier, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney or "The Hit."

But what about South Carolina's other coaches and legacies? The time Williams-Brice used to sway under the weight of its fans? The legend of the Chicken Curse? The history of Big Thursday and the Carolina-Clemson rivalry?

Longtime SEC sports journalist Josh Kendall reveals the most critical moments and important facts about Gamecock football in his book, "100 Things South Carolina Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die."

Kendall has written about SEC football for 15 years and has covered the Gamecocks for The State newspaper in Columbia for the past four.

"South Carolina's rise is one of the most unforeseen stories," said Kendall, who was asked by publisher Triumph Books to compile the list. Triumph has more than 70 "100 Things" books. Auburn, Alabama and Florida are the only other SEC schools to have one.

"It's a milestone of sorts for South Carolina's program that they've reached the level of consciousness in the last few years that a publisher like Triumph is interested in doing a book about them," Kendall said. "That's another indication of the program's growing relevance."

Going back in time, the Gamecocks were more irrelevant than anything in the early years. There were, of course, intermittent bright spots, like George Rogers' 1980 Heisman trophy-winning season. And the 1984 team that started 9-0 and was nicknamed "Black Magic" as a nod to coach Jim Morrison's all black attire and his habit of "wiggling out of trouble with a win." And don't forget when the Gamecocks won the 1969 ACC title, the team's first and still only overall conference championship.

Then there have been stretches that made it tough to be a Carolina fan. A steroid scandal, the embarrassing Black Magic-ending loss to Navy and the dry spell from 1998 to 2000, when the Gamecocks lost 21 games in a row.

"For a century it seemed nobody could win at South Carolina no matter what league they were in," Kendall said. "Certainly when they joined the SEC, for 15 to 18 years it seemed like they would never be able to compete in the SEC. The fact that they are competing regularly and have done so for four years in a row ... that shouldn't be overlooked as a really good SEC story."

Kendall devotes a whole chapter to South Carolina's turnaround, something he attributed to Steve Spurrier's coaching and his ability to attract top-tier players like Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney. With Spurrier at the helm, the Gamecocks have had two record 11-win seasons in 2011 and 2012. For current USC students, that means only knowing a team that has beaten rival Clemson four years in a row and has toppled formidable adversaries like No. 1 Alabama in 2010.

"It's weird to think that there's a coming generation of Carolina fans that don't know the history of the program and what it meant to be a Carolina fan for so long, which meant loving this team and not getting much payback," Kendall said.

New fans definitely stand to learn a lot from the book, he added. Like how "2001" became the Gamecocks' now-famous entrance song and how before the modern, lovable Cocky, the mascot was a tough-looking rooster with a 5-foot tail that knocked over cheerleaders.

Even fans who have been with the program for a long time will find something new to enjoy, Kendall said.

"For the die-hards of the program, you hope that you refresh their memories and give them insight to teach them a few things, and for a brand new fan, you can pick it up at any pace you want to and learn a ton about the program."

Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.

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