Allen Sharpe has seen a lot of “next years” in the South Carolina athletics program. It’s why the period from 2010 through 2015 was so much fun for the man who has chronicled more Gamecock athletics than anyone alive.
“I don’t want to say the Golden Age, but that was the best time,” Sharpe said. “The rallying cry had always been ‘Wait till next year,’ but it was like this was next year, you didn’t have to wait anymore.”
Sharpe, 69, has seen some lean years in South Carolina sports, too. Heck, he’s seen some of everything in South Carolina sports. The Irmo native is nearing the end of his fifth decade of capturing Gamecocks athletics images. Sharpe is a fixture at almost every South Carolina sporting event, his puff of white hair sticking out from the back of a Tilly hat, and his photographic work lines many of the halls of many of the Gamecocks buildings.
“I can’t imagine in the recent time that we don’t have everything documented with the work Allen Sharpe has done,” South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said. “He’s like an extension of your team. He’s part of who we are here in Carolina athletics.”
Sharpe can remember being one of “three or four or five people” who was at the news conference the day Tanner was announced as the team’s new baseball coach in 1997. Now, he fights for space at almost every event.
“Let’s say at Carolina football games there used to might be five photographers there,” he said. “Now, I don’t know how many there are other than there are too many.”
Sharpe’s journalism career started in 1965 as a still photographer for Channel 19 in Columbia. From there, he changed to moving pictures and then to Channel 10 in 1967. In 1968, he started working on football coach Paul Dietzel’s coach’s show. He stayed with the coach’s show, eventually becoming producer, until 1989 when Sparky Woods was hired. He spent the next 10 years working with a local freelance television company that worked with the university, and then officially re-joined the Gamecocks fold in 1999.
“When Lou (Holtz) came to coach, I started doing stills for the university and Spurs and Feathers and been doing that ever since,” he said.
I can’t imagine in the recent time that we don’t have everything documented with the work Allen Sharpe has done. He’s like an extension of your team. He’s part of who we are here in Carolina athletics.
– South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner
Sharpe is most closely tied to the team’s baseball program, and his favorite Carolina memory revolves around that.
“The best memory is winning the World Series twice in a row and doing something nobody else could do by winning the last game at Rosenblatt and winning the first series at the new stadium,” he said. “That’s something that could be done again, but not in our lifetime. It’s almost unbelievable to do that.”
There are some not-so-good memories, too, like former running back Marcus Lattimore’s second knee injury.
“I knew him pretty well, and just knowing how much talent he had and how hard he had to work to get back, and then that second time, taking pictures of him being carted off the field…,” Sharpe said.
The unexpected death of former football coach Joe Morrison also was a shock. Sharpe remembers when the head coaches could be called friends or at least something close to it, before the enormity of the whole enterprise separated them from many of the people around them.
“It was different than it is now,” Sharpe said. “I understand the way it is now, but I kind of miss all that. It was nice the way it was.”
Allen Sharpe’s list of favorite Gamecocks through the years:
The Heisman Trophy winning tailback “was a good guy and he earned the Heisman without a whole lot of help.”
The 1970s USC first baseman and future Atlanta Brave “just had incredible power.”
The former USC infielder “was a different kind of a guy, a coach on the field.”
Sharpe’s timeline of events
What photographer Allen Sharpe has worked on during his career
Worked on Paul Dietzel's TV show: shoots all color 16mm film. Shot 2,500 to 3,000 feet of film and slow motion replay. Edited after the game.
Worked on the Frank McGuire show
Shot up to 5,000 feet of film. All looked at through a hand-cranked viewer to select the plays for the show. Normally showed 10-12 minutes of film on show. Everything was edited after the game.
Worked on Jim Carlen show
Worked on Richard Bell show
Worked on Joe Morrison Show: Changed from film to video cameras. 2 cameras, 1 play by play in press box and 1 on sidelines. Slow motion done in post production editing with video tape.
Became a live television camera operator for several statewide TV networks and ESPN. Several preseason games for CBS.
Started shooting still images for media relations department. 35 mm color film Normally shot 10, 36-exposure rolls, or 360 shots.
Switched to digital still cameras. 500-700 images or more.
Shooting latest digital technology. 3,000 frames (images per game) Shoots every play/pitch. Images are now tagged in camera then edited and sent electronically to Carolina Media Relations and Spurs and Feathers.