COLUMBIA — The whispers were in the air when South Carolina announced that as a university, it was switching its brand. Instead of the “Block C” logo that is stamped around campus and has adorned the Gamecocks’ football helmets in some form since 1975, USC was going to a script “Carolina” as its primary logo.
That will include on its biggest stage — when the Gamecocks start their football season Saturday. The “Carolina” script will be etched onto USC’s helmets, just the second time since 1974 the Gamecocks have switched logos.
USC announced the change Tuesday, a week after the school announced the brand change and encouraged all fans to wear merchandise featuring the script “Carolina” to the game. The Gamecocks have switched helmet logos once before, going to one emphasizing the tail feathers of the bird during a game against Florida in 2015 (USC lost 24-14, part of a 3-9 season that saw coach Steve Spurrier quit midseason), but otherwise remained with the standard logo.
The “Carolina” logo will not be permanent. It will only be for garnet helmets. USC’s white and black helmets will still feature the “Block C” logo.
The new logo draws memories of the 1980s, when coach Joe Morrison sported it on his ballcaps from 1983-88 but his team wore garnet helmets with the “Block C” in a white circle. Morrison, a successful but controversial coach, died in February 1989 among allegations of a program run amok, including a tell-all Sports Illustrated story from USC lineman Tommy Chaikin, who claimed many Gamecocks (including himself) were using steroids.
The fallout from the scandal led to USC distancing itself from the renegade “Man in Black” image Morrison promoted.
“The ‘Script Carolina Collection’ brings a renewed take on a beloved mark for Gamecocks that want to show their Carolina pride every day,” director of trademarks and licensing Matthew Bridges said in a statement announcing the brand switch. The announcement also mentioned the brand was first made popular in the 1980s, without mentioning Morrison.
The “Block C” had chrome added to it, the “C” lengthened or shortened and placed in or out of a circle. The logo was stamped on garnet, black and white helmets from 1975-2005, when Spurrier made the white helmet a staple.
Spurrier’s abhorrence to changing uniforms week-by-week was made clear during a radio show when he replied, “You like winning or wearing funny uniforms?” He made a practice of wearing garnet jerseys with white pants at home, or white jerseys with garnet pants on the road, with a uniform of all-garnet (“Big Game Garnet”) for games of great importance.
The white helmet and the “Block C” logo never changed, and outside of some promotions meant to help the Wounded Warrior project, USC stayed away from specialty uniforms. The Gamecocks also notoriously lost almost every time they tried a “gimmick,” such as the “Blackout” game in 2001, when they asked fans to wear black for a night home game against Spurrier’s Florida Gators — and lost, 54-17.
Will Muschamp has let his seniors decide on uniforms and has constantly switched combinations. He has been seen at practice this year wearing visors and T-shirts with the new script “Carolina” logo.