Alshon Jeffery will wear a single-digit number, Sterling Sharpe’s will remain retired and South Carolina fans can put the debate to rest: Jersey-gate has been mothballed.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier ended the jersey flap with a two-paragraph release Sunday afternoon. Jeffery, the Calhoun County receiver who picked USC over Southern Cal last week, has agreed to wear No. 1 rather than No. 2, the number Jeffery wore in high school that was retired by USC following Sharpe’s senior season in 1987.
When Spurrier told Jeffery during the recruiting process that he was looking into putting the Gamecocks’ retired numbers back into circulation, he was unaware of an athletics department policy stating a retired number can be used only if the honoree provides written approval to the university.
Sharpe, who was USC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yardage until Kenny McKinley surpassed him last season, made it clear he did not want Jeffery to wear his number.
In a radio interview Thursday, Sharpe said he would go through a “mourning period” and his “guts will definitely be ripped out” if USC brought his number out of retirement.
Spurrier, who allowed his retired No. 11 at Florida to be worn after he returned as the Gators’ coach in 1990, recently discussed that possibility with Sharpe and ex-USC tailback George Rogers.
Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner whose No. 38 was retired that same year, went along with it when approached by Spurrier, but wanted to discuss the issue with athletics director Eric Hyman.
Sharpe, who denied previous requests by USC tailbacks Duce Staley and Derek Watson to wear No. 2, told Spurrier he was opposed to the idea.
“I recently learned of the athletics department policy regarding retired numbers and jerseys,” Spurrier said in the release. “The policy states that the four previously retired numbers would stay retired unless approval was granted from the player whose number was retired.
“In this instance, permission was sought to use a retired number and permission was denied. It is now a dead issue. I talked to Alshon and he is ready and excited to wear number 1 for the Carolina Gamecocks.”
Attempts to reach Jeffery on Sunday were unsuccessful.
The Gamecocks’ No. 1 became available when junior cornerback Captain Munnerlyn left early for the NFL draft.
USC’s two other retired numbers belong to Steve Wadiak (No. 37) and Mike Johnson (No. 56), both of whom were honored following their deaths.
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.