Josh Kendall

Harold White, longtime USC leader and school’s first black football coach, has died

Harold White
Harold White

Harold White, the first African-American football coach in South Carolina history, has died.

White, 78, who was hired by Paul Dietzel as a graduate assistant in 1971, was inducted into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.

“Coach Dietzel took me to lunch,” White told the university’s official website in 2016. “He felt like South Carolina needed a black coach. You had Freddie Solomon coming out of Sumter High School around that time, along with several other high profile black athletes who were coming out of some of the (South Carolina) high schools. A lot of the black guys around then went to schools in the Big 10. Solomon ended up at Tampa and then played with the 49ers in the NFL, but there were going to be more black athletes at South Carolina now. Coach Dietzel offered me a position in 1971, and I took it. I think there were six black athletes that came to South Carolina (football) that year. The next year it really took off.”

In 1973, White moved into administration at the athletic department, working with athlete’s academics and eventually becoming senior associate athletics director for academic support and student services. He retired from USC in 2007. The Gamecocks football team still awards the “Harold White GPA Award” each year.

“The University of South Carolina Athletics Department and its student-athletes have been blessed throughout history to be impacted by so many great people and positive influences,” USC athletics director Ray Tanner said in a statement released by the school. “Harold White stands at the top of that list. Former Gamecock student-athletes who have become successful owe a debt of gratitude to Harold for the mentorship and positive direction he provided them. We are better for having known him and will miss him immensely.”

White was a graduate of C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia and South Carolina State University. He was inducted into the Richland County School District 1 Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Harold was a pioneer as well as a mentor and father-type figure to many Gamecock student-athletes, across all sports,” said Charles Waddell, USC’s deputy athletics director. “His impact on USC Athletics is tremendous.”

The university held a moment of silence for White before Friday’s season-opening baseball game.

White is survived by his wife, Lilly, two daughters and four grandchildren. Services have not been set.

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Josh Kendall has covered SEC football for almost 20 years. He has covered the Gamecocks since the 2010 season. Have a question? Shoot him an email or find him on Twitter, and he’ll be happy to respond.