COLUMBIA — South Carolina is throwing it back.

The Gamecocks announced Tuesday that they will wear 1980s “throwback” football uniforms this season.

A USC spokesperson confirmed the uniforms will be worn for at least one game, with other games to be determined. But the Gamecocks are fully invested in the tribute to their 1980s glory days.

The school’s social media team posted a player in a black Under Armour jersey, complete with mesh number in front and back and “Gamecocks” across the chest instead of “Carolina.” There are also numbers on the shoulder pads (sleeves were longer in the 1980s, so numbers were worn on the sleeves then). The sleeves also feature garnet and white stripes.

The Gamecocks will have their “classic” garnet helmet with the block C logo inside a white circle and white pants with garnet and black stripes down the legs. USC had worn white helmets since 1999, save for the 2004 season, but switched to garnet, black or white helmets under Coach Will Muschamp.

The logo inside the circle was done away with in favor of just the logo on the garnet background, and the Gamecocks tweaked that last year by adding a script “Carolina” instead of the logo on the garnet helmets.

Throwback jersey

Under Armour is already marketing South Carolina's throwback 1980s jersey on its website. File/Under Armour

The black jersey channels the Gamecocks’ most successful decade (prior to Steve Spurrier’s run from 2010-13) when Todd Ellis, Sterling Sharpe, Harold Green, Robert Brooks and their teammates employed a dizzying Run ‘n’ Shoot offense that blew out scoreboard lights. Taking a cue from their head coach, the late Joe Morrison, who dressed in all-black on the sidelines, USC often wore black jerseys as their fans adopted slogans such as “Black Magic” and “Black Death.”

The former became tied to Morrison and the team during its best season before Spurrier. The 1984 team sprinted to a 9-0 start and No. 2 national ranking before its shot at a national championship disappeared after a shocking loss at Navy.

The team wore versions of the uniforms several times through 1987 and 1988, when USC posted back-to-back eight-win seasons. Ellis, the quarterback of those teams, fondly recalled those days.

“I’ve always loved the black-white combo. It was always my favorite uniform, which we used a lot during the early- to mid-80s,” Ellis said. “I think it’s really important that we have ‘Carolina’ as our mainstay mark, but ‘Gamecocks’ on the front of that jersey is another way to set ourselves apart from others that are out there in the garnet, maroon, red, crimson, scarlet colors.”

The “Carolina” logo USC adopted for much of its merchandise and team gear also reflected Morrison, who wore it on his signature black ballcap during games. Muschamp also always wears black on game days, joking last year that it makes him look thinner.

The throwback jersey was mistakenly placed in USC’s bookstore a month ahead of time, leading to somebody posting a picture online and USC’s marketing team frustratedly confirming it. Under Armour also began selling the jerseys online Tuesday.


The Gamecocks will wear uniforms resembling those worn by Sterling Sharpe and his teammates in the 1980s. File/USC

The new jerseys are very similar to the old ones but they aren’t an exact match. There may only be a few of the originals left, although Ellis knows where one is.

“My brother Mark gave me my framed Gator Bowl jersey from 1987 and my daughter has it in New York,” Ellis said. “So she’s got the only black No. 9 jersey with ‘Ellis’ on the back.”

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.

From Rock Hill, S.C., David Cloninger covers Gamecock sports. He will not rest until he owns every great film and song ever recorded.

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