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A Gamecock Odyssey: University of South Carolina Sports in the Independent Era

A Gamecock Odyssey: University of South Carolina Sports in the Independent Era

By Alan PiercyPublisher: University of South Carolina PressISBN: 978-1-64336-448-3Genre: South Carolina history and culture; sportsPrice: $28.99

The summer of 1971 was especially hot in Columbia and not just because of the weather. It was that year that a long-simmering conflict between the University of South Carolina and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) reached the point of boiling over. Frustrations over the ACC's recruiting and admission standards, and growing pressure from influential athletics director and head football coach Paul Dietzel, led the board of trustees to cast a vote in favor of leaving the conference that USC had helped to found eighteen years earlier. This vote would mark the beginning of a new independent era of Gamecock athletics, but few at the time could have imagined the resulting twenty-year odyssey.

In A Gamecock Odyssey: University of South Carolina Sports in the Independent Era, Alan Piercy chronicles the significant events and describes the larger-than-life characters of the years following the university's departure from the ACC. The University of South Carolina experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows in its athletics history. Tales of interpersonal clashes between football head coach Paul Dietzel and men's basketball head coach Frank McGuire; the rise and fall of women's basketball coach Pam Parsons; George Rogers and his magical Heisman Trophy-winning season; the birth of USC's beloved mascot, Cocky; and other USC sports stories converge, stirring feelings of amusement, nostalgia, and pride.

With colorful storytelling and Gamecock pride, Piercy gives college sports fans a behind-the-scenes tour of these raucous decades. He explains how South Carolina's independent era tells the broader story of NCAA sports conference realignment, Title IX, the impact of the civil rights movement on college athletics, the evolution of college sports media coverage, and the development of college sports into a multi-billion-dollar business sustained by TV broadcast and licensing rights.

A Gamecock Odyssey captures the spirit of the time and shows the reader how those years influenced today's Gamecock culture and national obsession with college athletics.

Alan Piercy is a freelance writer who currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. Piercy is a Columbia, South Carolina, native; a 1995 graduate of the University of South Carolina; and lifelong Gamecock fan. He hosts a collection of his general interest writings online at Yellow Dog Journal, and his South by Southeast: A Gamecock History online newsletter features stories spanning decades of Gamecock athletics.


Alan Piercy captures with a historian’s detail and a devoted fan’s passion probably the most exciting yet traumatic era of Gamecocks athletics. I know because I was there for all of it. For Gamecocks fans or sports buffs, A Gamecock Odyssey will be a historical must-read.


Bob Gillespie, former senior sportswriter/columnist with The State Media and coauthor of South Carolina Golf

Alan Piercy displays a landscape of Gamecock athletics that teaches me history is more complicated than just pointing out wins and losses. Written with a passion that is surely bleeding garnet and black, but with the journalistic integrity our programs deserve, A Gamecock Odyssey is a must-read for Gamecock fans of any generation.


Jim Sonefeld, former student athlete and drummer, Hootie & the Blowfish

The University of South Carolina’s two decades as an independent competitor might have been a “long wilderness path” in Alan Piercy’s words, but Piercy’s thorough and entertaining retelling of that period reminds us why so many engaging stories happen in the wilderness. With meticulous research and the perspective of countless people who were there through the rise and fall of the Gamecocks’ fortunes between ACC and SEC membership, Piercy shines through as a born storyteller and a lifelong USC fan, determined to give everything from the rise of women’s sports to the scandals of those years to the possibility of a “chicken curse” their just due.


Bethany Bradsher, author of The Classic: How Everett Case and His Tournament Brought Big-Time Basketball to the South and Bones McKinney: Basketball's Unforgettable Showman