USC to build life-sized, $85,000 Cocky statue

USC President Harris Pastides discusses the life-sized Cocky statue coming to campus in fall 2017

USC President Harris Pastides discusses the life-sized Cocky statue coming to campus next fall.
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USC President Harris Pastides discusses the life-sized Cocky statue coming to campus next fall.

A bronze, life-sized Cocky statue is coming soon to a park bench on the University of South Carolina’s downtown Columbia campus.

USC trustees Friday gave early approval to an $85,000 project that would place a model of the school’s popular mascot on a bench near the Melton Observatory on Greene Street.

The bench will become an iconic spot where prospective students will want to have their photos taken on campus tours, USC vice president of student affairs Dennis Pruitt told the board. “For us, it’s really part of the admissions process.”

Other colleges already have such locations, Pruitt said, citing the arch at the University of Georgia or the columns at the University of Missouri.

Pruitt said USC hopes to install the up-to-400-pound bird mascot before next fall. The sculpture, to be created by USC alum Robert Allison, features Cocky sitting next to a stack of books while his right hand makes the “spur” hand signal seen at USC sporting events.

“It’s going to be pretty neat,” Pruitt said. “Kids (will) flock to it.”

USC says it will pay for the sculpture entirely with gifts. The state’s flagship university has raised about $25,000 for the project by selling smaller versions of the statue and plans to sell more, Pruitt said.

The school will pay for the rest of the statue’s cost with gifts from USC’s parents’ association, he said.

Cocky will not be the first bird USC has decided to immortalize in bronze.

In September, USC trustees approved spending nearly $1 million on a 15- to 18-foot-tall Gamecock sculpture to be erected on the Springs-Brooks Plaza outside the school’s football stadium.

USC expects the Gamecock sculpture to be finished before the 2017 football season.

Cocky has graced USC’s campus and sidelines for 36 years, and is one of the country’s most recognizable mascots. It helps that only one other school – Alabama’s Jacksonville State University – calls its football team the Gamecocks.

The rooster has won several national mascot of the year honors and also has gained acclaim for promoting childhood literacy.

Cocky and USC student volunteers visit S.C. elementary schools, reading to students and handing out books, encouraging them to read on their own.

To date, the Cocky’s Reading Express program has given 107,515 books to S.C. children.

The Cocky-statue project has been in the works since USC Visitors Center director Denise Wellman and a group of student tour guides pitched it eight years ago, Pruitt said.

The area near Melton Observatory was chosen as the statue’s home because its trees and red-brick pathways offer a scenic backdrop for photos, USC architect Derek Gruner said.

“We wanted him to be somewhere a lot of our students would interact with him … and with a beautiful backdrop for photos we know students would want to take,” Gruner said.

The project still needs the approval of USC’s full board of trustees. But its unanimous approval by the trustees’ buildings and grounds committee signals that will not be a problem.

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

Cocky’s highlights

1980 — Cocky is “born”

1981, 1982 — Is official mascot of the College World Series

1986 — Wins the first national mascot contest ever held

1990 — A survey of S.C. residents notes Cocky is the “most positive and easily recognizable image of the University of S.C.”

1994, 2004 — Wins national mascot of the year contest

2012 — Finishes second in national mascot of the year contest, behind Texas Tech’s Raider Red

Trustees review possible site plans for new med school campus

USC trustees Friday voiced their preference to build the new USC School of Medicine on a contiguous, 16-acre Bull Street tract along Harden Street – rather than along Colonial Drive.

Greenville developer Bob Hughes will donate 16 acres of the Bull Street property to USC for the new medical school. But Hughes and USC have not yet agreed on how to carve 16 acres out of the former state Mental Health Department property.

USC trustees Friday supported building the proposed $200 million complex’s three buildings all on one piece of land near Harden Street. But no votes were taken.

Option B was to split the 16 acres into 10- and 6-acre lots along Colonial Drive, separated by greenspace and a waterway.

USC School of Medicine dean Les Hall joined trustees in supporting the first option. Keeping the buildings together would encourage collaboration between researchers and medical experts, rather than making them “walk four blocks on a hundred-degree summer day” to work together, he said.

USC president Harris Pastides said he wanted more information as to how each of the proposals would work. A decision could come at the board’s December meeting, he said.

“I was sitting here thinking to myself, ‘This cannot come to a vote,’ ” Pastides said. “We need to weigh things, topographically, thinking about what the future development around both of those things would be, traffic patterns on Harden vs. Colonial (Drive).”

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