COLUMBIA — It seemed good graduation fodder, what’s known in wrestling as a “pop” to get the audience to applaud. But South Carolina President Harris Pastides has always been passionate about USC’s athletics, so it was known that there was serious intent behind his words.
The Campus Art Advisory Committee made that intent official Wednesday. Pending final Board of Trustees approval once a design is created, there will be a sculpture of former USC basketball player A’ja Wilson outside Colonial Life Arena one day.
“It’s moving,” athletics director Ray Tanner said. “We’re going to do it as soon as possible.”
The committee approved a permanent reminder of the school’s most decorated athlete and easily the best women’s basketball player. A consensus National Player of the Year, the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick and the unanimous WNBA Rookie of the Year, Wilson’s 6-foot-5 visage — hopefully including her wide smile and ever-present string of pearls — would be the latest sculpture at USC.
A $275,000 statue of 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers was unveiled at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2015. A $995,000 giant Gamecock was supposed to be placed nearby before the 2017 football season, but will not be installed until after this season ends (the artist is taking his time). An $85,000 statue of school mascot Cocky was constructed on campus a year ago.
There is no firm date for the Wilson statue’s completion or placement, as there are still several avenues to cross. But it is in motion, and would likely be built between the front entrance to CLA and the fountain at the street corner.
Tanner projected an unveiling before the 2020-21 basketball season. The sculpture is expected to come with a price tag of around $300,000.
Coach Dawn Staley offered to pay $100,000 toward the statue when Pastides first brought it up, during Wilson’s graduation ceremony in May. Tanner said that the pledge brought forth other givers, which will pay for the near majority of the total cost.
“We accepted her offer,” he said of Staley's donation. “I think that her leadership in doing this initiative created an opportunity to get two additional large donors very quickly.”
USC has to pick an artist to design the monument and then get Wilson to pose for it. Immediate timing for the pose may be difficult, as Wilson is currently in the Canary Islands with Staley and the rest of Team USA preparing for the FIBA Women’s World Cup.
Wilson made the team and will participate in the World Cup from Sept. 22-30. Then she is set to join her professional team in China the first week of October.
Williams-Brice Stadium projects
Once the Long Family Football Operations Center is complete in December, USC’s football coaches will move from the Floyd Football Building at the north end of Williams-Brice Stadium into the new building. The BOT also approved Phase I renovations to parts of Williams-Brice and Phase II renovations to the Floyd building on Wednesday.
The Floyd building will be turned into a gameday club with windows stretching around the building, allowing fans to watch the game in an air-conditioned lounge with beverages and concessions available for purchase. The cost is $750,000 and the area is expected to be finished by the 2019 season.
Williams-Brice will refurbish existing club levels and add new ones, including a 152-seat loge level at the southwest corner of the stadium. The existing Crews building, housing USC’s weight room and football meeting rooms, will be converted into a recruiting lounge area.
The loge will have seats directly above a “2001 Club,” meant for luxury guests who can watch the Gamecocks enter the field. The Phase I approval, for architectural plans and design, will cost $420,000. All of the new features are expected in time for the 2020 season.