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Williams-Brice Stadium
"The Cockpit"
Williams-BriceStadium-1998.JPEG
1998 photo
Former names Columbia Municipal Stadium (1934-1940)
Carolina Stadium (1941-1972)
Location 1174 George Rogers Blvd, Columbia, SC 29201
Coordinates 33°58′23″N 81°1′9″W / 33.97306°N 81.01917°W / 33.97306; -81.01917Coordinates: 33°58′23″N 81°1′9″W / 33.97306°N 81.01917°W / 33.97306; -81.01917
Opened September 23, 1934
Owner University of South Carolina
Operator University of South Carolina
Surface Grass (1934-1969, 1983-present)
AstroTurf (1970-1982)
Capacity 80,250 (record: 85,000)
Tenants
South Carolina Gamecocks (NCAA) (1934-present)

Williams-Brice Stadium is the home football stadium for the South Carolina Gamecocks, the college football team representing the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. It is located on the corner of George Rogers Boulevard and Bluff Road adjacent to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds and State Farmers Market.

Carolina football teams consistently attract standing-room-only crowds to Williams-Brice Stadium. The atmosphere on game days has been voted "the best" by SECsports.com (See 9/15/05 and 9/17/07 at [1].) In addition to serving as the home of the Gamecocks, the stadium has been the site of many concerts, state high school football championships, and various other events. It hosted the annual Palmetto Capital City Classic between Benedict College and Johnson C. Smith University until the last game in 2005.

Williams-Brice Stadium is currently the 20th largest college football stadium in the NCAA and 7th largest stadium among the 12-member Southeastern Conference. Plans for future expansion include adding an upper deck in the north end zone, which would increase capacity to approximately 88,000 seats and would require the video scoreboard to be relocated and the building behind the north end zone containing the football offices to be demolished.

The stadium is nicknamed "The Cockpit" among Gamecock fans and local media, and the name has been commonly used by these groups since at least the early 1970s when the university held a fund-raising campaign to raise money for an AstroTurf playing surface, called "Carpet the Cockpit".[1]

Contents

History

The stadium was originally built in 1934 with help of federal Works Progress Administration funds as Columbia Municipal Stadium. It originally seated 17,600 people. In 1941, the stadium was deeded to USC and renamed Carolina Stadium.

One end of the stadium was filled in during the 1940s, turning it into a horseshoe. Capacity was almost doubled, to 34,000. More than a decade later, the other end was filled in, turning the stadium into a bowl. Capacity increased to 43,000.

The stadium's first major renovation began in 1970, when the grass surface was replaced with AstroTurf. From 1971 to 1972, the west grandstand was completely rebuilt, with the addition of an upper deck. Capacity increased to 54,000. 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.

In 1982, the east grandstands were finally double-decked, increasing capacity to 72,400. However, unlike the west grandstand, the east grandstand was never rebuilt, and is the only remaining portion of the original 1934 structure. During the 1982–83 offseason, at the urging of new coach Joe Morrison, the university removed the AstroTurf and replaced it with natural grass.

The new east upper deck created some controversy during the 1983 season. Fans reported it was noticeably swaying--as much as a foot by some accounts. The swaying was especially pronounced during a game in which the Gamecocks routed Southern Cal 38–14. Joe Morrison was subsequently quoted as saying, "If it ain't swayin', we ain't playin'"--a phrase that eventually made it onto bumper stickers and other items, and is still a popular saying today. Giant shock absorbers were installed under the east upper deck for the 1987 season, however, during the 1988 season, many spectators reported seeing a ripple effect across the east upper deck when the marching band played the song "Louie Louie." The university indicated that the sway or ripple was safe. To this day, the east upper deck still sways when fans jump up and down. A similar effect has been noticed at Texas A&M's Kyle Field. In addition, several parts of the stadium have been known to vibrate due to the decibel levels generated during a typical game.

The Gamecocks won their first game at the stadium in 1934, beating Erskine 25–0, and have compiled an overall record at the stadium of 256–177–16 (including a homecoming record of 45–29) through the 2009 college football season. Some of the biggest wins for the Gamecock football program occurred at the stadium, including:

Williams-Brice Stadium at night.
  • 11/22/1975 - Carolina beat Clemson 56–20 to set a team record for most points scored in a game against Clemson (Carolina's in-state rival).
  • 9/13/1980 - Carolina beat Wichita State 73–0 to set a team record for largest margin of victory.
  • 10/1/1983 - USC beat Southern California 38–14 to win its first game ever against the Trojans (the second and last meeting of these teams).
  • 11/10/1984 - #5 Carolina beat #11 Florida State 38–26 to win its ninth game of the season, remain undefeated, and move up to #2 in the college football polls (which is the highest ranking ever achieved by the Gamecock football program).
  • 11/21/1987 - #12 Carolina beat #8 Clemson 20–7 to win on national television with the highest combined rankings of the two programs entering the game.
  • 10/31/1992 - Carolina beat #16 Tennessee 24–23 to win its first game ever against the Volunteers.
  • 10/7/1995 - Carolina beat Kent State 77–14 to set a team record for most points scored in a game against any opponent.
  • 9/9/2000 - Carolina beat #10 Georgia 21–10 to snap an 18-game losing streak in the SEC.
  • 9/29/2001 - #15 Carolina beat Alabama 37–36 to win its first game ever against the Crimson Tide.
  • 11/12/2005 - Carolina beat #12 Florida 30–22 to win its first game against the Gators since joining the SEC.
  • 9/24/2009 - Carolina beat #4 Ole Miss 16-10 on a Thursday night nationally televised ESPN game, winning its first game over a top 5 team at Williams-Brice. (USC beat #3 North Carolina 31-13 in Chapel Hill, NC on 10/24/1981.)
  • 11/28/2009 - Carolina beat #15 Clemson 34-17 on ESPN; the Tigers went on to lose the ACC Championship against Georgia Tech the following week, 34-39.

The Gamecocks have toppled numerous college football powerhouses over the years at Williams-Brice including Southern Cal, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Florida State, among many others.

Banners inside Williams-Brice Stadium honor Gamecock greats, including the 1969 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, 1984 National Coach of the Year Joe Morrison, and 1986–87 All-American Sterling Sharpe.

In 1987, Pope John Paul II, during a Papal visit to Columbia, spoke in front of 60,000 people at the stadium. [2]

In August 1990, the Chicago Bears beat the Buffalo Bills 35–7 in an NFL preseason game.

On September 7, 1992, two American Heavy metal bands, Metallica and Guns 'n' Roses performed at Williams-Brice Stadium on their GN'R-Metallica Stadium Tour.

On September 23, 1992, Irish rock band U2 performed at Williams-Brice Stadium on the third leg of their Zoo TV Tour. [3]

On May 7, 1993, Paul McCartney and his band performed at Williams-Brice Stadium on the North American leg of The New World Tour.

In 1993, the stadium was the setting for The Program, a college football movie starring James Caan, Halle Berry, Omar Epps, Craig Sheffer, and Kristy Swanson.

On September 25, 1994, British rock legends The Rolling Stones performed at Williams-Brice Stadium during the first leg of their Voodoo Lounge Tour.

In 1995, the Carolina Panthers of the NFL proposed Williams-Brice Stadium as their original home while their permanent stadium was under construction in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, athletic director Mike McGee nixed the idea when he noted that the Gamecocks should be the only major football team in town. Despite the overwhelmingly negative public reaction to his comments, McGee maintained that he was acting in the best interest of the Gamecocks.

In December 2007 Barack Obama attracted approximately 29,000 attendees to a presidential primary campaign stop. Also present was his wife Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

Carolina takes the field to Also sprach Zarathustra at Williams-Brice Stadium, rated the best entrance in college football by The Sporting News.

Over the last 10 years, nearly $30 million of renovations and improvements have taken place at Williams-Brice Stadium, bringing the official capacity to 80,250. The addition of the upper deck in the south end zone includes "The Zone," which is an 11,000-square-foot (1,000 m2) banquet facility with a great view of the field. The box seats, executive suites, and athletic training facilities at the stadium have also been upgraded and are among the best in college football. Just prior to the 2008 football season the stadium underwent a complete upgrade to their main sound system, equipping it with one of the best audio systems in Collegiate or Professional sports (an EAW KF900 based design). During this upgrade the school purposely added a large array of subwoofers under the scoreboard to enhance the "feel" of their entrance music (the theme song to "2001: A Space Odyssey). Design and installation of this system was done by local Columbia company ACS Sound and Lighting.

Williams-Brice Stadium was sold out prior to the start of each of the last seven college football seasons and consistently ranks in the top 20 in average attendance and the top 15 in total attendance. For the 2008 season, the stadium was 17th in average attendance and 13th in total attendance.[4]

On November 17, 2001, the stadium's single game attendance record was set when 85,000 fans watched the Gamecocks beat Clemson by the score of 20–15.

Williams-Brice Stadium is considered one of the loudest venues in the country. During a game against Florida in 2001, ESPN announcers indicated that they had to shout to hear each other's comments inside the pressbox.

ESPN's GameDay crew has broadcast its show three times (2001, 2004, 2006) from the State Fairgrounds across the street from the stadium. ESPN also used a photo of the stadium in its advertising to promote its GameDay show throughout the 2005 college football season.

Top Five Crowds at Williams-Brice Stadium

Year Opponent Attendance
2001 Clemson 85,000
2001 Florida 84,900
2002 Georgia 84,277
2000 Tennessee 84,200
2003 Clemson 83,987

Traditions

Popular gameday traditions include:

  • The playing of the "Dawn" section of Also sprach Zarathustra, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the Gamecocks run onto the field at the start of every game, which Sporting News called "the most exciting pregame entry" in college football.
  • 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. [5] Cocky was also selected as the Capital One National Mascot of the Year for 2003. [6]
  • Fans joining in on many cheers and chants, including the popular "GAME" (shouted by the west side of the stadium) and then "COCKS" (shouted by the east side).
  • Fans singing and dancing to "Go Carolina," "USC Fight Song," various renditions of "2001," and many other songs played by The University of South Carolina Marching Band. As one of the most well-known college bands in the country, the 300-member "Mighty Sound of the Southeast" continually performs fun and exciting music featuring exceptional guard, percussion, and dance units.
  • The fireworks from the scoreboard and "rooster crow" played over the loudspeakers when the Gamecocks score.
  • Tailgating is a favorite pastime for fans attending games at Williams-Brice, and many tailgaters consider pre-games at the stadium as one of the best atmospheres in the nation. The grounds around the stadium, including the State Fairgrounds and State Farmers Market, provide plenty of real estate for tailgating. Many clubs have also bought private property in the area and erected tailgating shelters. In 1990, a unique form of tailgating called the Cockaboose Railroad arrived in Columbia. Twenty-two immovable cabooses line an unused railroad track behind the south end of the stadium, and each Cockaboose provides private party space and cable television. Four condominium developments recently built around the stadium also cater primarily to Carolina football fans.

Footnotes

External links

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