The creators of the “Cocky Cloth” — those white towels USC students waved at the Gamecocks’ final three home football games last season — have sued the university for breach of contract, claiming officials reneged on the agreed-upon split on sales of the rally towels.
Chris and John Wilder, brothers from Barnwell and lifelong USC fans, are seeking damages for lost income their attorney says would have topped $100,000 over the three years of the agreement.
The suit, filed in March in Richland County, names the university, ISP Sports, which is the Gamecocks’ media rights holder, Gamecock Sports Properties, the local division of ISP, and Barnes & Noble as the defendants.
The suit alleges the Wilders reached an agreement with Eric Stahl of Gamecock Sports Properties to give towels to students at no charge at the final three home games (LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas) and sell them for $5 throughout Williams-Brice Stadium. The brothers would receive 85 percent of the proceeds and USC would get the remainder, according to the suit.
The day before the LSU game, the Wilders claim Stahl, who now works with ISP at the University of Miami, told them they would not be able to sell the towels. The Wilders struck a deal with Barnes & Noble, which runs the souvenir concessions at the stadium, to sell the towels at the last two games, but at a less favorable split for the brothers.
Blaney Coskrey, the Wilders’ attorney, said the brothers were to receive $3 for each of the 600 towels sold through Barnes & Noble. According to Coskrey, the Wilders never were paid.
The three-page agreement between the Wilders and ISP, a copy of which was obtained by The State, states the brothers were to negotiate with Barnes & Noble on a sales percentage. The only financial terms in the agreement was the $8,000 fee the Wilders were required to pay for distribution of the towels and in-game advertising on the stadium matrix board.
Coskrey said the Wilders have not made any payments to ISP or USC. He declined further comment.
Gamecocks play-by-play announcer Todd Ellis, who is representing USC and his ISP/Gamecock Sports Properties employer, also declined comment.
John Wilder, a car salesman from Greenville, said he maxed out a credit card and took out a home equity loan to come up with $26,000 to print nearly 40,000 towels, which were inspired by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Terrible Towels.”
In an interview with The State in October, Wilder said he hoped to recoup his investment but did not view the “Cocky Cloths” as a money-making venture.
“It’s all about giving that stadium some kind of identity,” he said at the time. “People just sit on their hands in there.”