BY MICHAEL LEESE
Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina is home to the South Carolina Gamecocks, and one of the best gameday atmospheres in the nation, Tailgating is a favorite pastime for fans attending games at Williams-Brice, and the area around the stadium, including the State Fairgrounds, provides plenty of real estate for tailgating. Many clubs have also bought private property in the area, and erected tailgating shelters. Four condominium developments were recently built around the stadium that cater primarily to Carolina football fans. Since arriving in 1990, a unique form of tailgating has taken place in Columbia called the Cockaboose Railroad. Twenty-two stationary cabooses line an unused railroad track behind the south end of the stadium. Each Cockaboose provides private party space and cable television. The original cost to buy one of these cabooses in 1990 was $45,000, and in 48 hours, 20 of the 22 were sold. In 2002, 17 more cabooses were added.
As fate would have it, last Friday night I was at a high school football game in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when I met a great bunch of fans. This group happened to be both Clemson Tiger and South Carolina Gamecocks fans. By the time the game had ended, we had shared many laughs and I was extended an invitation to attend a Cockaboose tailgate party the next day prior to the Kentucky vs. South Carolina game. I was excited because I had heard so much about the caboose parties.
Upon arriving I was met by Linda and Wayne Vereen, owners of one of these popular cabooses. I was immediately given a complete tour of the car, which featured a full bar inside and outdoor seating area on the top of the car. Linda and Wayne have been proud owners of the caboose since 2002. They purchased the caboose in the Midwest and it arrived on adjacent train tracks, where it was lifted and placed in the spot it now occupies. The Vereen’s promptly remodeled the entire caboose to their liking, which features all kinds of Gamecock memorabilia! Once the tour was completed I dined on great food which featured a clam bake and other scrumptious food and drink.
GAMEDAY TRADITIONS AT SOUTH CAROLINA
When the Gamecocks run onto the field at the start of every game, they band plays the “Dawn” section of Also sprach Zarathustra, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sporting News called it “the most exciting pregame entry” in college football.
The playing of the Darude song “Sandstorm” before the opening kickoff and after Gamecock touchdowns, leading the crowd into a frenzy, even causing the press box to noticeably shake.
Nationally recognized mascot, Cocky, roaming around the stadium throughout games with his trademark spirit and attitude. Cocky’s “Magic Box” entrance at Williams-Brice Stadium is one of the many things that Cocky does to fire up the fans. Cocky won the UCA (Universal Cheerleading Association) Mascot Championship in 1986 and 1994. Cocky was also selected as the Capital One National Mascot of the Year for 2003.
The fireworks from the scoreboard and “rooster crow” played over the loudspeakers when the Gamecocks score.
The band, known as “The Mighty Sound of the Southeast” plays “Amazing Grace” at the end of every football game and it is the last song to be played in Williams-Brice until the next game.
THE STADIUM……..The Gamecocks began playing football in the current stadium in 1934. The stadium underwent a massive expansion and upgrades in 1972. The renovation was funded by the estate of Martha Williams-Brice, who left most of her estate to USC for stadium renovation and expansion. Her late husband, Thomas H. Brice, played football for the Gamecocks from 1922 to 1924. In her honor, the expanded stadium was officially renamed Williams-Brice Stadium on September 8, 1972. Today, it is one of only two stadiums in Division I FBS named solely for a woman, with the other being Joan C. Edwards Stadium at Marshall University.
A LITTLE HISTORY……..The Gamecocks last won a conference title back in 1969 when they played in the ACC. George Rogers won the Heisman Trophy in 1980 and now has a street outside the stadium in his honor. In 1993 Williams-Brice stadium was featured in the movie “The Program”, a movie about college football starring James Caan and Halle Berry.
THE GAME……….It took just over a minute for the Gamecocks to hit pay dirt. Connor Shaw found Damiere Byrd streaking down the sideline and hit him with a prefect strike on a 62-yard touchdown. Tailback Mike Davis added a 22-yard scoring run on the next possession giving the Gamecocks an early 14-0 lead. South Carolina led 24-7 at the half and cruised to an eventual 35-28 win. Kentucky did make it close with a 21-point fourth quarter. Mike Davis finished the day with 106 yards and two scores, and is fast becoming one of the premier backs in the SEC.
MANY THANKS……..I want to thank both Linda and Wayne Vereen, Robert Calliham, Ed Bonham, and Jim Cranford for making my stay in Columbia a memorable time! Thank you!
ALL ABOARD TO THE NEXT STOP . . . . . VIRGINIA TECH