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|University||University of South Carolina|
|Related mascot(s)||The Rooster (1971); Big Spur (1974)|
Although the Gamecock has been the University of South Carolina's official symbol since 1902, there was no official mascot until 1971. Instead, during the early years, fans would dress up in their own costumes during the games. Beginning in 1971, John Nelson, an undergraduate biology student, attended games in a Gamecock costume. This mascot was known as "The Rooster". The costume included fabric feathers, a cardboard bill, and Styrofoam spurs, and was made by his mother. The Rooster attended both basketball and football games. "The Rooster" costume can be seen at USC's McKissick Museum.
Dr. John Nelson can still be found at USC. He is currently the Curator of the University of South Carolina Herbarium, and plans to retire in 2018.
The current version of Cocky made his debut, by Robert Lane, at the Homecoming game of 1980 against Cincinnati. He was portrayed as the son of Big Spur, a large, gangly barn yard rooster that had been attending games since 1978 as a mascot of the university.
Big Spur had been introduced as a fraternity pledge class project headed by student Chuck Eaton. Eaton served as the mascot from 1978 until 1980 when the role was taken over by USC students Robert Lane and John Routh. Big Spur was seen as too large and unwieldy with limited mobility.
Therefore, Cocky, Big Spur's "son", was brought in to replace Big Spur. When introduced, Cocky was originally booed off the field by students and fans who thought he was not "dignified enough". After this inauspicious beginning, the South Carolina Athletic Department determined Lane would wear the "Big Spur" costume for the remainder of the school year and John Routh would take over as "Cocky" in hopes that alumni would warm to the new mascot. Routh is credited with making "Cocky" a sensation- both at the University and nationally. A few years later "Cocky" was named America's National Champion College Mascot, the first of five such titles to date.
After spending a year as the mascot for the women's teams as a female Cocky, he gained general acceptance primarily during the baseball season, and he slowly took over for Big Spur. In 1981 and 1982 Cocky was invited to be the official mascot of the NCAA Baseball College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. He was chosen in a nationwide contest in 1986 as America's First 'National Mascot' - by the Universal Cheerleading Association, Ford Motor Company, and American Airlines. He was mascot champion in 1986 and again in 1994, and the Capital One mascot championship in 2003. Cocky, portrayed by Blake Edmunds, has picked up another national title in April '09 by winning the 2009 NCA Mascot National Title. Cocky was a member of the Capital One Bowl All-America Mascot Team in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008.
The original Cocky was John Routh, 1980-1982, who became the mascot for the University of Miami, and later became Billy the Marlin for the Florida Marlins. Charlie Fitzsimmons followed in 1983-1985. The anonymous JH had the longest tenure from 1985–1992. He redesigned Cocky from the inside-out to allow for more mobility and a kinder more adroit, cartoon-like character. He was fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), which delighted audiences. In the summer of 1985 at the Universal Cheerleading Summer Mascot Camp, he was voted by the other college mascots as the Best Of The Best, and received the Master Key to Spirit Trophy.
JH was the winner of the first National Mascot contest ever held in 1986, based on the 1985–1986 season of performances. (He held the title of "National Champion Mascot" from 1985–1987.) That year he was recognized with a Concurrent Resolution by the SC House of Representatives as "Goodwill Ambassador of the State of South Carolina". The national attention became intense...over the years he met Pope John Paul II, President Reagan, President Bush, and many other celebrities. After winning Nationals, he received a call from The Tonight Show. They wanted him to do a skit, then disrobe and talk to Johnny. JH strongly believed in anonymity and that the character should remain the focus and gain all of the attention for USC...creating a mystique surrounding the character. For these reasons, he turned down The Tonight Show request. In a 1990 survey taken of SC Residents Cocky was noted as the "most positive and easily recognizable image of the University of SC". He was hired by the University of SC in 1988 to continue representing USC and the State of SC as a Goodwill Ambassador. At that time he was one of only two college mascots in the nation that were hired as a full-time mascot.
In 1992, the university decided to move Cocky from under the umbrella of Athletics/Public Relations to Student Affairs. From that point forward Cocky was to be portrayed by a series of students. JH left USC (after seven years/1378 appearances) and at the recommendation of SC Coach Emeritus Frank McGuire he became a mascot for Shinn Enterprises (Charlotte Hornets NBA, and the Charlotte Knights AAA International League Baseball). JH, as Homer the Dragon for the Charlotte Knights, performed with his predecessor from USC, John Routh as the Florida Marlin when the teams played each other in 1996. When Charlotte was not playing, he was hired by other teams to provide entertainment in stadiums across the nation. The National Baseball Congress in Wichita, Kansas hired him as entertainer for their World Series in 1995. In 1986 he became Mascot Director for the National Cheerleading Association (NCA). He founded the "National Mascot School" for NCA, wrote a curriculum and handbook and trained a staff who traveled the United States teaching "the art of Mascot" at High School and College summer camps.
JH stated that the most important and most memorable thing he did as Cocky was to visit terminally ill children and adults across the state. There were five "last request" situations in which people wanted a visit from Cocky. He made four of those visits, but regrettably was too late for the fifth.
Tommy Donavan portrayed Cocky beginning in 1992, and later became the Carolina Panthers mascot, Sir Purr. Routh and Donovan appeared together in 1991 at the Japan Bowl in Tokyo, an all-star football game...Donovan as Cocky, and Routh as The Miami Maniac, the mascot of University of Miami baseball. Jamie Ballentine is one of the longest-serving student Cocky at four years from 2002-2006, during which he won Capitol One's Mascot Bowl. Cocky is a beloved fan favorite, chosen by many young fans as who they dress up as on Halloween.
- "University of South Carolina Official Athletic Site - Spirit". Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
- http://gamecocksonline.cstv.com/sports/c-cheer/spec-rel/041309aaa.html[dead link]
- Capital One Bowl History Archived 2008-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
- iSITE: Jamie Ballentine: Suited For the Job