COLUMBIA — As the Gamecocks become more popular nationwide with a highly ranked football team and championship baseball squads, South Carolinas flagship university has a bit of an identity crisis.
Outside of the states borders, a pair of common nicknames for the University of South Carolina often are confused with other colleges. Say Carolina and fans outside the state think of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Say USC and that conjures up the University of Southern California.
A top university leader thinks it may be time for the school to adopt a nickname that avoids confusion South Carolina and debut licensed products with the new moniker in 2014.
If adopted, the nickname would be a step back to get the future. For much of its history, USC was known as South Carolina or SC, a school archivist said.
Its a no-brainer that when people leave the state, they say theyre from South Carolina, said Luanne Lawrence, the University of South Carolinas vice president for communications. When people talk about the flagship school, they use the name of the state.
Lawrence, who launched a major branding campaign for the school last month, said she does not want to get rid of cheers of USC and Carolina, engrained with longtime fans.
Its part of our history, she said.
But traditions are hard to change.
After Lawrence mentioned the potential nickname change at a USC trustees meeting this month, board chairman Gene Warr said he noticed broadcasters calling the Gamecocks Carolina during a televised game.
I dont think its going to change, Warr said. I dont think its necessary.
Don Barton, an author who was the schools sports information director in the 1950s, said he thinks adopting South Carolina would make the schools name clear from Charleston to Colorado.
Americans have to shorten everything, Barton said. I think people will be OK with (South Carolina), if they think suffering through two words would be worth it.
But the Gamecock faithful will need to buy in.
Fans run this school, said Michael Roth, who pitched South Carolina to College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011.
Lawrence said she has seen the influence of making sure a schools name stands out. She helped Oregon State develop a new athletics brand swapping the acronym OSU, often associated with Ohio State, for an interlocking OS.
The change boosted Oregon States sales of licensed hat, shirts and other souvenirs. The school jumped six places to 38th among top-selling colleges the first year of the new OS logo, according to rankings compiled by the Collegiate Licensing Co. Licensing revenues go toward scholarships.
Lawrence said she had conversations about changing USCs nickname with then-athletics director Eric Hyman before he left for Texas A&M this summer. He had no concerns about the South Carolina name but decided against developing a stylized Gamecocks logo something like the Texas Longhorns steer, Lawrence said.
Lawrence has not spoken with new USC athletics director Ray Tanner about the name.
Ray has never said anything about this being a hot-button for him, deputy athletics director Charles Waddell said.
Lawrence said she wants to survey what South Carolina alumni who live outside the state call the school, especially in California, home of that other USC. More fans are gathering to watch the Gamecocks in places outside South Carolina, and she wants to give them a way to identify themselves that does not conflict with other schools.
We want to create a new set of traditions, she said.
Always South Carolina
University archivist Elizabeth Cassidy West said one common thread runs through USCs history. The school has gone through seven name changes in 211 years from South Carolina College to the South Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts to the University of South Carolina.
But, she added, It was always South Carolina in some way.
The USC abbreviation took off under then-president Jim Holderman in the late 1970s and 1980s, West said. Holderman then called the school, The USC, in an attempt to build its national presence. It also was a tweak at the University of Southern California, which is in a state that joined the Union 49 years after the University of South Carolina opened.
It was silly, said West of The USC nickname, adding that she prefers South Carolina or SC because they are more distinctive.
South Carolina lost a trademark battle with Southern California in 2010 over the old-fashioned interlocking SC logo used by the Gamecocks baseball team, in part, because the school had abandoned SC for USC, West said. South Carolina still can use the SC logo but cant trademark it.
Roth, the former pitcher, said anything is better than how TV networks now abbreviate the schools name to avoid any USC/Carolina confusion. ESPN, for example, abbreviates South Carolinas name as SCAR.
When I see SCAR, I think of The Lion King, Roth said, referring to the name of the villain in the Disney animated movie.
Weve been pretty successful in sports lately, he said. Maybe, well get better than the other USC, and then well be seen as the real USC.