Longtime USC sports info fixture Tom Price dies at 81

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina athletics lost its foremost ambassador Friday when sports information director emeritus Tom Price died.

He was 81.

Price, who was associated with the Gamecocks' athletic department for more than 50 years, died of complications from a recent stroke. His life ended the same day as USC's baseball team, for which he was official scorer and a color radio analyst, officially began team practice for the 2008 season.

"I thought about not practicing, but I know Tom wouldn't have that," an emotional coach Ray Tanner said. "Maybe it will be a great year for us."

Price graduated from USC in 1951 and worked for United Press International for 11 years. After covering the Gamecocks for UPI off and on, he returned to USC as sports information director.

He served in that capacity for 30 years, earning an induction into the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame in 1981. CoSIDA honored Price with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992 and the Arch Ward Award in 1993, presented to a CoSIDA member who has made outstanding contributions to college sports information and has brought dignity and prestige to the profession.

He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

Price retired in 1992, but remained on board at USC, serving as historian and continuing to assist the baseball team. He became an automatic source for sportswriters covering the Gamecocks, known for his extensive knowledge of players past and present and the timeline of each of the Gamecocks' teams.

"I don't think there was anybody on the face of the earth who had more knowledge or insight into Carolina athletics, as far as the history of it," said Kerry Tharp, who succeeded Price as USC's SID from 1992 to 2005 before taking his current position as NASCAR's head of public relations. "One of Tom's greatest passions was the Gamecocks. He said to me one time, 'KT, do you know what my two favorite words in the English language are?' I said, 'No.'

"He said, 'Cocks win.'"

Price also wrote several books about USC, including one on the 1984 football season -- "The '84 Gamecocks: Fire Ants and Black Magic," about the Gamecocks' lone 10-win campaign -- and "Tales From the Gamecocks' Roost," detailing stories Price recalled about many of the teams and standout athletes at USC.

Price is recalled in much the same way as former Clemson SID Bob Bradley, who died in 2000. Like Bradley, Price was known as not only a walking encyclopedia of the university's teams but someone who was a passionate defender of the school.

"He was a very loyal Gamecock fan," said Mike McGuire, Winthrop's assistant head baseball coach who played at USC in 1992 and 1993. "He could tell you stuff from guys that played there before I was born. I remember him on bus trips, just talking baseball. He was a baseball guy."

USC and Clemson present awards named after Price and Bradley to the team MVPs of their baseball series each year.

Bradley was inducted into Clemson's Ring of Honor and has his name and a small typewriter etched on the facade of Clemson's football stadium. To honor Price in such a way, Tharp said, would be fitting.

"I certainly think something would be done," Tharp said. "At the football stadium or what have you. It would be meaningful and go on forever."

Two possibilities would be to name the press box at Williams-Brice Stadium after Price or to honor him at USC's new baseball stadium. Price, a fixture in the press box at Sarge Frye Field, will never get to see the new stadium, which finally began construction in December.

"He's been a part of this program for longer than any of us," said Tanner, entering his 12th year at USC. "He's certainly been along my side since I've been here. He's going to be missed."

Price is survived by his wife, Margaret, and children Tom Jr., Melissa and Rick. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be released by USC when they are finalized.