The University of South Carolina has many traditions, but one of the staples of Gamecock football is the team entrance to “2001: A Space Odyssey." Ranked as one of the best entrances in college football by sources such as Sports Illustrated, USA Today and Bleacher Report, this tradition is unlike any other.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” former wide receiver Tori Gurley said in an interview with "The Steve Spurrier Show" in 2009.
Tens of thousands of Gamecock fans partake in this tradition every home game, but few might know its origin.
The story starts in the '70s with Elvis Presley concerts and Tommy Suggs, a former Gamecock quarterback and current Gamecock radio commentator.
Suggs was once the president of the Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, and with this role sat on an advisory board for the Carolina Coliseum. Due to his role, he scored excellent seats to all the different entertainers that came through the Coliseum, Suggs said.
One of these shows happened to be with The King, Elvis Presley, himself. What was most notable about this concert was Presley’s entrance onto the stage set to Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra," more commonly known as the theme song for "2001: A Space Odyssey," directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Later that year, Suggs attended another Presley concert, this time at LSU, and witnessed Presley’s amazing entrance, once again, to “2001.”
“That is a powerful song,” Suggs said he remembered telling his friend, who he attended the second Presley concert with.
After this second concert, Suggs said he decided to bring the idea of the Gamecocks entering the field to “2001” to Jim Carlen, then the athletic director and head football coach.
“We’ve got to have that,” Suggs said as he sat in Carlen’s office playing “2001.”
The idea was a hit with Carlen, but he had one condition — the band must play "2001." Suggs said he wanted it to be played over the loud sound system, as it would only be successful that way.
Suggs was right in his idea that playing “2001” on the sound system was the only way to go. The band played “2001” for about six games in the 1981 season under Carlen, but it had no effect on the fans.
After Carlen’s final season in 1981, Suggs brought the idea to the new athletic director, Bob Marcum, who liked Carlen's idea. Still, there was another obstacle in Suggs' path: The speaker system in the stadium was so bad that it would not be possible to play “2001” through it. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The following season, Williams-Brice Stadium would have a new sound system.
Finally, in the season of 1983, Gamecocks hired a new head coach, Joe Morrison. Along with a new coach, there was also a new sound system. Finally, at the opening game of the season, Suggs could play "2001."
“It was so emotional for me to sit there and watch people react to it in the stands,” Suggs said.
As the “2001” entrance became a new normal for the Gamecocks in the '80s, ESPN was not helping in getting the entrance national attention. According to Suggs, ESPN told Morrison the broadcast did not have enough time to show “2001.”
At this point, Suggs said Morrison told ESPN: “'If you don’t play it, we're not playing.'”
Since that opening game in the 1983 season, “2001” has become a lasting tradition at South Carolina.
“Surreal” is the main word second-year international business and accounting student Laney Quickel used when describing her experience with “2001.”
In the nearly 40 years since, students have been able to witness the evolution of the tradition. Today, flames roar as the team runs out, along with the complement of "Sandstorm" that is played following the entrance.
“2001,” Suggs said, has had an important impact for people on Gamecock game days, from players, recruits, fans, students and even opposing teams.
“There is nothing that is as good as ours,” Suggs said.