The splitting of the “T” at Tennessee. “Enter Sandman” at Virginia Tech. “The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football” at Clemson’s Death Valley. Chief Osceola’s flaming spear in Tallahassee.
Each of these typically comes up in the discussion as the greatest team entrance in college football. But here in Gamecock country, we know that none of them hold a candle to our own entrance, affectionately known as “2001.”
Everything about the entrance works in concert to create a spectacle of pageantry that is one of the finest in all of college football: the way the crowd noise rises to a heart-pounding fever pitch, the way the Gamecocks take the field through the smoke at the perfect moment during the song’s final crescendo, the intimidation that visitors must feel as the screams of 80,000 people rain down around them. It is one of the most electrifying experiences in all of sports.
Like most great college football traditions, this one got its start innocently enough. Tommy Suggs, who quarterbacked the team to its only conference championship in 1969 as a member of the ACC and is currently the color analyst on Gamecock radio broadcasts, attended an Elvis Presley concert and was very impressed by his appearance onto the stage to the opening theme from the 1968 film classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. He suggested that the Gamecocks shamelessly copy The King’s entrance.
Spirits were low when Joe Morrison, who would become a legendary figure at South Carolina known as The Man in Black, became the coach in 1983. Sure, Morrison had led New Mexico to a 10-1 record the previous year and was considered a great hire. Sure, the stadium had recently been expanded by 18,000 seats, bringing capacity up to over 72,000 and placing it among the nation’s largest. But South Carolina had been on the decline. 1980 saw an 8-3 regular season record and a Heisman Trophy by stud running back George Rogers. 1981 saw the departure of coach Jim Carlen and a national championship by the hated Clemson Tigers. The following year became known as “The Richard Bell Experiment,” as the former USC defensive coordinator took the helm for the disastrous 1982 season, in which the Gamecocks went 4-7 and lost a home game to lowly Furman.
During his first season at the helm, Morrison started the pregame tradition of having the team run out to the song, which is more properly known as “Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang” from the tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra (translated “Introduction, or Sunrise” from Thus Spake Zarathustra) and was written by German composer Richard Strauss in 1896. The tradition began to take root in 1984, when the Gamecocks finished the season 10-2 and were ranked as highly as #2 in the country.
The entrance was introduced to a national audience in 1987. The #12 Gamecocks were squaring off against #8 Clemson at home in the final game of the season. A berth in the Gator Bowl awaited South Carolina if they could pull out a win. The game was to be televised on ESPN. Due to time constraints, network representatives told Joe Morrison that the Gamecocks would have to skip their traditional entrance. Morrison responded that if they weren’t allowed to run onto the field to “2001,” they wouldn’t play on television. Stunned by his answer, ESPN chose to televise the entrance, and the nation was introduced to the best runout in college football. South Carolina went on to win the game 20-7, sealing the victory with this late pick-six.
In the years since, the legend surrounding “2001,” as well as the crowd noise and excitement during it, has continued to grow. It’s the thing, other than the game itself, that Gamecock fans look forward to the most about their trip to Williams-Brice Stadium. It’s no wonder that The Sporting News named it “the most exciting pregame entry” in all of college football.
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