Photo: Courtesy of the Ramsey family

Parent Column: No USC Experience like the USC parent experience

I’ve been blessed to have just about every Carolina experience one can have.

But there is no Carolina experience like the Carolina parent experience.

My first Carolina experience came when I was barely past being a toddler, and my cousin who had just graduated from Carolina gave me a “I’m a Little Fighting Gamecock” sweatshirt. I would cry when I had to take a break from wearing it because my mother had to wash and dry it.

The earliest experiences I can consciously recall of my Fighting Gamecocks are of the legendary Coach Frank McGuire’s basketball teams led by Bobby Cremins and John Roche, beating UNC and Duke regularly while dominating the Atlantic Coast Conference and routinely finishing in the Top 5 in the nation.

My first in-person experience of the Carolina-Clemson rivalry was as a 15-year-old watching Jeff Grantz quarterback the Gamecocks to a 56-20 victory over the Tigers at Williams-Brice in our biggest margin of victory ever by us in the rivalry.

I fell in love with the unparalleled beauty of the Carolina campus when I experienced the Horseshoe for the first time as a high school junior visiting Columbia in the spring of 1976.

Courtesy of the Ramsey family

I experienced the thrill of receiving a letter (no emails back then!) from Dr. Peter Sederberg telling me I was accepted into the first class of the USC Honors College.

I experienced the (then) state-of-the-art Bates House dormitory as a first-year student at Carolina, learned the joys of cafeteria food, juggled keg parties with 8 a.m. classes and did my own laundry for the first time.

As a student at Carolina, I experienced making friendships that have now lasted over 40 years and are as strong as they were when I was an undergrad.

In the classrooms at Carolina, I experienced brilliant mentors like Dr. William Morgenroth, Dr. Thom Terrill, Professor Mary Caldwell and Dean Ada Thomas who opened my mind to a whole other world of knowledge and discovery.

I sat in the lobby of Columbia Hall and experienced the announcement on TV that my classmate George Rogers had won the 1980 Heisman Trophy.

With my family watching proudly, I experienced receiving my diploma along with thousands of my closest friends on the floor of the Coliseum, the building where I began my time as a Carolina student four years prior in the days when registration was done by hand, on paper, multitudes of students walking in unison from station to station from the Elephant Room to the concourse to the floor where the basketball team once played.

As a young graduate, I experienced driving the streets of Columbia in the heat of a Columbia summer with no air conditioning in my car as I sold ads for the Carolina athletic department, trying to make ends meet and have a little left over for beer money.

I experienced journeying to South Bend, Indiana, in 1984 to watch my Gamecocks beat Notre Dame on the football field in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus, and made the short trip to Charlotte in 1990 to see my Gamecocks upset North Carolina on the basketball court in the first meeting in almost 20 years between the two once bitter rivals.

I experienced my wedding at Rutledge Chapel as, in true Carolina fashion, my old classmates staged an impromptu tailgate party under the oaks on the Horseshoe before the vows.

I experienced the once-hated Steve Spurrier don his visor on the home sideline of Williams-Brice and lead my Gamecocks to an SEC East title and five-straight wins over Clemson.

I experienced ESPN bring into my home not one but two-straight College World Series titles under Ray Tanner, and Dawn Staley’s basketball team make it to a Final Four.

But there is no Carolina experience like the Carolina parent experience.

Now I’ve watched my daughter, who as a tiny little girl wore her Carolina cheerleading uniform to tailgate parties in the Fairgrounds parking lot, see the Horseshoe for herself through the eyes of a prospective student, as I whispered to her the secret story of the magic of the Maxcy Monument known only to true Gamecocks, showed her where Coach McGuire’s office was located all those years ago, the sites of the long-gone Big Bird and Winners Circle where I survived for four years on $2 hot dog specials and meat and three vegetable meals served by the Leventis family.

And there is no Carolina experience like the Carolina parent experience.

I’ve experienced the soaring pride of her telling me breathlessly of her receiving her acceptance letter to Carolina.

I’ve brushed the tears away and experienced my baby leaving home for the first time and moving into South Tower after giving me the subtle message, “I’ve got this Dad. You head on home now.”

I experience her stories of the current generation of Gamecocks with whom she is now forming lasting friendships as I did decades ago. The stories of studying at Thomas Cooper during exams, sharing communal bathrooms, road trips with her classmates, Chick-fil-a at Russell House (again) and watching what turned out to be Steve Spurrier’s final game as head coach at Williams-Brice.

I experienced the wonderful news that she is News Editor of the Daily Gamecock and has made the President’s List again.

I experience the bursting pride from her name on the masthead of TDG and her many bylines each week.

And I feel it coming already, as the time flies by much too quickly, the experience of the day when she will don her own cap and gown and walk across the stage of the Colonial Life Arena at her commencement as I try oh, so unsuccessfully to hide my boundless tears of joy.

My daughter and I will toast together and experience singing as alums “since pilgrims of learning we entered thy walls, and found dearest comrades in thy classic halls,” and understand exactly what Prof. George Wauchope meant over a century ago when he wrote “We Hail Thee Carolina.”

And there will be no Carolina experience like the Carolina parent experience.



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