The University of South Carolina is the only NCAA Division I university in America with the gamecock as a mascot.
Folklore and legend surrounding the gamecock are found throughout the world.The Ancient Syrians worshiped the fighting cock as one of their deities.In China, the gamecock is considered the herald of mortal existence and a symbol of honor, merit, and the west.In ancient Greece, the gamecock was the announcer of the sun and was considered sacred because of its magnanimity, courage, skill, and constancy.In Germany and Hungary, the gamecock is still considered a weather prophet.
The proving ground for the gamecock's heroic attributes was "gamecocking."Now illegal throughout the U.S., this sport originated with the Greeks, who called the cock the "Persian bird."The Greeks spread the sport to Asia Minor and Sicily, and eventually the Romans adopted gamecocking too.From Rome, before Caesar's time, gamecocking reached England.From there, it presumably came to America with the English immigrants.
One reason cultures have admired the gamecock was the nature of warfare.Their military struggles hinged upon soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat.Personal courage and indifference to pain were highly esteemed.In the brutal sport of "gamecocking," the gamecock repeatedly demonstrated the necessary ferocity and tenacity by fighting to its last gasp.
Some familiar phrases derive from the gamecock.A common way of saying people are fit for battle is to say that they are "cut out" for it.This phrase refers to preparing a gamecock for battle by clipping its wings, making it "cut out" to fight.Similarly, because English royalty, beginning with Henry VIII and including James I, William III, George I, and, notably, Queen Anne, enjoyed gamecocking, it became known as the "royal diversion."The final combat between the last two fighting birds was therefore called the "battle royal."
Over the centuries, such noble attributes have been associated with the gamecock as alertness, diligence, energy, exultation, wakefulness, defiance, and vigilance.
The reasons USC athletic teams originally chose their colors and the moniker "Gamecocks" are obscure.Garnet and black have always been USC's athletic colors.The "Gamecock" name appears to have taken hold in 1902.That year, USC upset Clemson, and Carolina students paraded through the streets near campus carrying a transparency that had been hanging in a local tobacco store window.The transparency had been drawn by USC mathematics Professor F. Horton Colcock.Clemson fans could not help noticing that the transparency featured the image of a gamecock standing over a fallen tiger.Violence nearly ensued before calm was restored and the crowds dispersed.Two weeks later, the State newspaper began referring to the team as the "Game Cocks."By 1904, the two words had been joined and the name had stuck.
One possible source for the first link between the University of South Carolina and the gamecock mascot lies with a nickname of one of South Carolina's storied military figures, Thomas Sumter.During the War of Independence, Sumter energized South Carolina in its fight against the British.Perhaps his nickname inspired Professor Colcock to create the transparency cited elsewhere on this page.In his preferred hat, coat, and epaulettes, Sumter donned the colors of the gamecock, and he was well-known for his fearlessness in battle.British officers commonly scorned Sumter as the "South Carolina Game Cock."But the people of South Carolina were proud of Sumter's daunting spirit.Letters and other records indicate that by the 1840s, South Carolinians were praising Sumter as the "South Carolina Game Cock."