One of the most familiar faces of South Carolina athletics will soon have another representation of it on campus.
USC will proceed with plans for a statue of Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers in the new plaza at Williams-Brice Stadium, sources have confirmed to The State.
“Since (Rogers’) mural came down off Booker T. Washington, we lost a significant piece of our iconography,” said Board of Trustees member and former football captain Chuck Allen, who first presented the idea. “That mural was a big deal for the university, commemorating that he won the Heisman Trophy. It’s been my hope for a long time that we could do something that was commensurate with the level of the achievement.”
The mural, on the side of the old Booker T. Washington High School gym near the corner of Blossom and Pickens streets, was demolished years ago and replaced by East Quad dormitory. Allen sent a letter to USC in 2011 requesting another permanent monument to Rogers.
That process has taken its first steps toward completion. Preliminary plans have been drawn for a bronze statue of Rogers in the northwest corner of the new plaza, overlooking the street that bears his name.
The plaza will be started in December, following the completion of the 2014 home season, and is expected to be ready for the start of the 2015 season. The statue is part of it.
The actual sculpture has yet to be finalized. The process will involve soliciting resumes from potential sculptors, then settling on a design.
A cost of the statue hasn’t been confirmed by USC, but similar statues around the SEC have cost $100,000-$300,000. It will fit in with a growing trend of USC recognizing its former athletes, such as record-holders’ names on the ramps at Williams-Brice and refurbished banners of retired numbers of basketball stars at Colonial Life Arena.
“The university hasn’t always done a real, real good job of preserving the accomplishments of its past,” Allen said. “That was something that interested me and this fits right into that concern. We’re doing a much better job of doing that.”
The statue will make USC the eighth SEC school to have a likeness of a former player or coach on stadium grounds. Alabama tops the list with five statues of national championship-winning coaches, followed by Florida and Auburn with three each of their Heisman winners.
Allen first presented the idea to USC Buildings and Grounds chairman Mark Buyck in July 2011. A letter, copied to the board, school president Harris Pastides, then-athletics director Eric Hyman and football coach Steve Spurrier, presented the idea of a “Heisman Plaza” with a life-size statue of Rogers.
“I am sure that Gamecock Nation would take a tremendous amount of pride in seeing a physical display and commemoration of one of the greatest achievements by any Gamecock athlete in the history of our University,” Allen wrote then.
Allen also respectfully requested that there be room left in the plaza for statues of any future Heisman winners.
Rogers is one of the most popular and revered figures in USC’s athletic history. Still the Gamecocks’ all-time leading rusher (nobody has come within 2,000 yards of the 5,204 yards he posted from 1977-80), Rogers has become the standard for all USC running backs. When Mike Davis collected 1,183 rushing yards last season, it was only the 10th time a Gamecock had rushed for at least 1,000 yards. Rogers has three of those 10.
Allen was Rogers’ teammate from 1977-80 and was the team’s defensive captain in 1980, when Rogers was offensive captain. Rogers led the country with 1,894 yards rushing that year to win the Heisman and was a No. 1 NFL draft pick, the 1981 NFL Rookie of the Year and a Super Bowl champion with the 1988 Washington Redskins.
Rogers said last month that he had heard the idea of a statue floating around and was pleased that USC was thinking of doing something like that.
“I’ve heard a little bit talked about it,” Rogers said. “Whatever they want to do, the university’s been good to me.”