1st Team All-SEC
Join Date: Dec 2006
Re: What It Was Like Back Then
It is hard not to talk about those days without eventually going into the sides issues.
This is an often repeated topic, but there are always new fans, younger fans that come along who are unaware of this portion of our history, at least in detail.
I look at this is as a Gamecock "Declaration of Independence".
There were many reasons why we left the ACC.
Several of these points, but not all, were featured in two books written by Bob Fulton, in several Halls of Fame for broadcasting, and did play by play for the Gamecocks for about 44 years and prior to that did a couple of decades of mostly baseball on the radio, including some MLB games with none other than the legend, Dizzy Dean. I never heard anyone say one word bad about the man. He was such a pro, he never became a "homer" on the radio and took pride in calling the games straight down the middle. He was well known by everyone in the business, including the top people in the ACC, for decades. It was well known he wrote these books, for they sold well, and if what he put down was false, they had every reason and opportunity to make him retract it. They never did.
A double standard toward USC, different than any other school, was a key element of friction. If a student-athlete's eligibility came into question, he had to stop playing until the outcome was determined. Sounds reasonable until you realize this pertained only to USC, not anyone else in the ACC. Those schools were allowed to keep playing until when and if something was discovered, in fact, wrong. This situation stemmed from the situation detailed below.
A couple of years after Frank McGuire came to USC, he recruited and signed a kid that was rated either the #1 or #2 kid in the nation, some felt Lew Alcindor was better. Little known was that Alcindor, a New York City native, had told McGuire he wanted to play for him, but McGuire told him that he didn't think the South was ready for a black player, so he went to UCLA, instead. At any rate, the recruit in question was a young man out of New Jersey, a Center named Mike Grosso. Just about everyone in the nation wanted him, including UNC and Duke, which he spurned. He enrolled at a time which Freshmen could not play for the varsity, but in scrimmages against the varsity, one time he scored over 30 points and had over 30 rebounds. Such was his talent.
When McGuire decided he did not want to stay in the NBA, he left one year and was asked by the USC President to come down to discuss an opening for the basketball job. When word got out, several ACC people, UNC, Duke, the Commissioner, came to Columbia to talk to the President and they tried to convince him not to hire McGuire, for they did not want him back in the conference. Of course, the President ignored them, as he should.
Eddie Cameron of Duke, hated McGuire with a passion. Certain ACC people got together to find a way to get rid of McGuire's prize recruit. Grosso scored a 789 on his SAT, so he had to pay his way, at first. It was discovered that his uncle paid his tuition. This same uncle ran a small bar, which had no employees, just him. The check he wrote for the tuition was on the account of the business name, not his own name. Since he owned the bar and had no employees, he cheated no one in doing this, but this was something that was jumped at for an offense, not a NCAA offense, mind you. According to information I read on an ACC board a year or two ago, I forgot which, mentioned this case. They said ACC officials barged in the Grosso home in the middle of the night to interrogate them and to try to find some hard evidence of wrongdoing. They found nothing, no money, no hidden accounts, no paper trail of illegal promises, etc. They decided the family was too poor to be able to sent their kid to school, therefore what the uncle did was wrong. Seems his family being poor was the very reason the uncle helped them out. The ACC (led by Cameron) declared Grosso could never play basketball in the ACC. Shortly before Grosso left school, he blew out his knee in a scrimmage against another school. He went to Louisville and never was the player he might have been, although with a bad knee he still managed to play in the NBA for one year and made the Louisville Hall of Fame.
Read an article a few months ago about Grosso where he never forgave the ACC for what they did to him and it caused him a lifetime of depression and many troubles trusting people and having relationships. Only recently, all these years later, has he recovered and gotten his life together.
Bobby Cremins was interviewed on the radio and said that everyone at Carolina loved Grosso. Whenever the Gamecocks played UNC or Duke, McGuire would remind the team that, "These are the guys that got rid of Mike". Cremins said, "It fired everyone up and he felt like killing them." Cremins felt this and John Roche becoming a star is what started the ACC hate against USC.
Eddie Cameron did visit with McGuire shortly before he got sick and died and some believe he apologized to him for the past, although McGuire was pleased by the visit, but did not divulge their conversation.
Another lesser known situation came about when football's Paul Dietzel found out that UNC had been allowing two football players in each class that did not meet the ACC standards and had been doing do for years. He asked for permission to do the same at USC. He refused. When he complained about UNC doing it, they agreed to stop the practice, but were never punished for violating ACC law.
USC had been trying to convince the ACC that football was the cash cow, not basketball and they needed to lower the SAT levels a little to compete with the SEC, Big Ten, other conferences and Independents stealing the best talent from their area. Dietzel recruited the best class he had in ages, including the top seven players in the state, including Freddie Solomon, who many feel is the best HS player in the history of SC football. When the ACC refused to budge he lost all of them, although their SAT met the NCAA requirements. That was the last straw for Dietzel.
Getting back to basketball, it was well known that USC had been the doormat in that and most sports. When McGuire was hired and started beating out the ACC schools for recruits and on the floor with regularity, it did not sit well and the animosity got out of hand, the worst I have ever seen.
Various points of interest in this area. McGuire hated, by UNC, did not like them (administrators) for "he knew how they operated". McGuire got in trouble at UNC in recruiting Billy Cunningham. Turns out that McGuire knew the Cunningham family for many years as they lived next door to McGuire's sister in Brooklyn. Billy's father told his son where he was going to school. The NCAA said that the recruiting/entertainment bills were not properly accounted for, which McGuire and UNC denied as wrong doing, but misinterpretation of the accounting guidelines. That eventually led to McGuire leaving Chapel Hill.
At the height of the ill feeling, I would day think of the hate between USC-Clempson (I believe the second most intense rivalry behind only Alabama-Auburn) and if you multiplied it by three or four, you would reach what we felt toward the ACC and them to us.
John Roche won the ACC Player of the Year in his Sophomore and Junior years. UNC claimed he won it one year instead of Charlie Scott due to racism. He should have won it his Senior year, too, but the hatred toward him and USC was so great, that a number of ACC media people around the ACC refused to vote for him at all, making it impossible to win. This came on the heals of a very unflattering Sports Illustrated article on Roche and his teammates published in January of 1971. The writer just happened to be a UNC graduate. Coincidence? Riiight.
The famous fight with Maryland? I was at that game as I was for every home game during the Roche-McGuire era and a few years beyond. It had it roots from the Maryland players throwing elbows all game long and the refs or the Maryland coaches doing nothing to stop it. With five minutes left in the contest, we were near 100 points and leading by 25 points. Our fine Forward, Rick Aydlett, caught a long lead pass and had a good path for a layup (no dunking back then). There was a Maryland player that came from an angle toward him as he was in the air, about to score. The Maryland player did not attempt a normal foul to contest the shot, instead threw a wicked elbow, catching Adylett in the side of the head, knocking him down. That was it, and our guys had enough and went after them for payback. In the melee, our big Forward, John Ribock, 6'8" 240 lbs. felt someone tug him from behind and twirled and struck out in one motion. He caught Maryland's coach, Lefty Driesell under the eye. He and the Terps got what the deserved for dirty basketball and not stopping it when they had the chance. There was no reason for us to fight them otherwise. The game was a blowout and it was almost over, yet as always, the ACC decided we were the villains. McGuire's UNC squads often got into altercations and fights, but that is conveniently forgotten.
I do recall two incidents from a game against UNC in Columbia which blew out of proportion the ACC view in this regard. Chasing after a long rebound, John Ribock got to the ball first. He was holding the ball out in front of his chest, arms out from the body. Charlie Scott got their a tad late and got up behind Ribock, reaching around him, grabbing the ball, too, both trying to pull the ball away from the other. There was no whistle, so this lasted fro several seconds. With Scott still partially grabbing the ball with the USC player, Ribock made one more last, strong pull of the ball, twisting his body as he did. Scott did not let go of the ball and the result of the last pulling twist by his opponent, sailed past him, over his shoulder, like a rag doll and landed a few feet away. Ribock did nothing wrong, but the UNC bench exploded.
In the same game, Roche was away from the basket and was called for a very rare Charge. Nothing wrong with that, but the UNC player lay on the floor, spread eagle, for about four or five seconds, with no signs of getting up. He was not hurt, but was milking it. Roche got a little peeved at this and kicked the bottom of the shoe on one of the UNC player's tennis show. Not hard, not soft, but a firm type like, "Get up, your trying to show me up, you jerk." It was stupid, but not a vicious thing. Of course he was given a technical foul, but once more, the UNC bench jumped up, enraged, acting if they were about to rush the floor. One again, a big deal made of a minor thing.
When our team and fans went on road ACC games, they were routinely and heavily cursed with profanity and threats were made, Roche was hung in effigy, trash and water and heated coins were thrown at them, as was gum in their hair. Roche had an avalanche of hate mail sent to him. Some of it even by a UNC Guard, George Karl.
When our team went to Clempson, twice McGuire had to be restrained from going into the crowd after cruel taunts were made about his son, Frankie, Jr. Frankie was born with a severe case of Cerebral Palsy, having the mental capacity of perhaps a two year old, but remained with a sweet, childlike loving nature who was loved by the team and fans, alike. After each post game radio interview, McGuire would end by saying over the air to Frankie, to go to sleep and that Daddy loved him and would be home soon.
One year, McGuire and Cameron got into a heated argument about preferential treatment for the ACC members except USC and was critical of the league to allow it. Cameron was a longtime head f the ACC basketball committee did not like it and it was ruled Duke did not have to play USC that year and it was optional if other ACC did not want to. Only Duke refused to play.
Soon after the Maryland fight, Lefty refused to promise the safety for USC when they played there and after the season ended said they would no longer play the school as long as McGuire was the coach. One or two other ACC school muttered possible similar threats.
When USC beat UNC in the 1971 Tourney 52-51 on a last second goal by Tom Owens when 6'3" Kevin Joyce won a jump ball over UNC's 6'10" Lee Dedmon. Dedmon claimed he won the tip, but there was a defensive alignment error causing the ball to go to Owens. If you look at the clip and freeze frame it, it is clear Joyce won the tip, but such were things then. In fact, there were Co-MVPs announced after the game. There was only one trophy there, but instead of giving it to Roche, off the winning team, it was given to Dedmond. Roche was interviewed decades later and asked about it. He said he never got his trophy, but it was OK because he never displayed anything from his career. About 10 seconds after Owens hit the winning shot, the TV plug was pulled so the Carolina fans at home could not see the celebration or award ceremony. Odd that that is the only time that has happened at an ACC Tourney final. You can bet your butt if UNC had won that game you would have seen everything and every interview right down to the guy who locked the building up at night.
One last John Roche tidbit. He had a photographic memory about all his games, starting in basketball and practices. He kept detailed notes on every shot he took, the results, and the circumstances of the shot, the score, the team he played against. He did the same at USC and when talking about his early career, he still can relate details. Of his Senior year, filled with hate directed at him and his teammates? A total blank.
It was impossible to stay in the ACC and become dangerous for our people.
In addition, it had gotten to the point that whenever USC sponsored a proposal for the conference, they were voted down by all seven other members, time after time after time. A suspicious person might think that goes against pure happenstance. We were tired of being treated like the proverbial redheaded stepchild.
When USC was having its great surge in basketball, many Clempson fans began to pull for us as their own teams were still poor and they did not much like the ACC either right then.
USC finally came to the conclusion they had to get out of the conference as the Tobacco Road schools had an iron grip on the power and the schools outside that state were afraid to stand up for themselves, especially seeing how USC's dissents were being treated. Then USC made a bad, tactical error. They trusted their ancient arch rival. Clempson was informed of our intention to leave the ACC on the following day and wanted to see if Clempson wanted out, too. They agreed. USC wanted a joint press conference, but Clempson told USC to hold one in the morning and they would follow in the afternoon. Word got out to the ACC, which sent officials to Columbia to meet at the Presidents house for discussions and dinner. The atmosphere was so icy, they stayed less than 30 minutes and left without eating. Students booed them off campus. Other ACC officials went to Clempson. They were told to stay in the ACC or the NCAA would be informed of the latest round of recruiting violations in football. Clempson not only bowed out, they did not have the decency to inform USC they were backing out, so they stabbed them in the back as a going away present.
The day we left, there was citywide celebrations. It felt like a heavy weight had been lifted from our shoulders. Freedom!
Few remember that a year or two after leaving the conference and before Georgia Tech took our old spot, we approached the conference about returning, thinking enough time had passed and tempers may have cooled.
The SAT levels for the ACC had dropped a couple of months after we left, so that was a good start in the right direction.
The ACC agreed to let us back in, if we agreed to the following:
Readmission fee (fair enough)
Ineligible for any ACC title for at least three years (spite)
Pay the ACC what would have been their cut of gates, TV money, etc. from the moment we left the conference as if we had never gone and the ACC did nothing to earn the money. That probably would have added a couple million dollars to pay out which was big money back then (greed/extortion)
We had to hold a public apology to the ACC for leaving and admit we were wrong in doing so (humiliation)
Promise to never leave the ACC, again (removal of our last right of protest)
All of this was printed in either The State newspaper or Columbia Record. I remember reading it as if it were yesterday. That was proof nothing had changed and we were still going to be treated like garbage. Thank God our people had the sense to tell the ACC to stick it in their collective ears.
Our fight came at a severe price. Our basketball team has never come close to recovering, excepting for a good year or so between long gaps of struggle. We became an Independent and later a member of a modest Metro Conference. Those twenty years or so were like wandering in the desert and cost us untold amounts of money. The good thing is that we did the right thing and stood up for ourselves when we had no friends and through a huge stroke of good fortune, the SEC allowed us in to their conference where we continued to struggle for several years, in many sports and the competition was greatly increased. We had to rebuild our facilities, in large part, or be left far beyond. There is great satisfaction that if Clempson had the guts to leave with us all those years ago, the SEC probably would have taken them instead of us as their checkered football history was more successful. They will never admit it, but they would kill to be in our place as they consider themselves to be at a SEC level. Nice karma kickback there.
From day one, the SEC has treated us as full equals and with due friendship. That is a debt we can never repay them and we take great pride and loyalty to its members. Those were the simple things we always sought in the ACC, equality, a balanced field, and common decency. For those continual slights and the extreme costs put upon us, I for one, never want to play any of their teams, again, even Clempson, for they do not deserve any favor from us, however little. Some day, if the ACC admits their bitter acts and apologizes to us in public, bygones are possible, but we all know that isn't going to happen, ever.
The second best day in our sports history was the day we left the ACC. That had to happen for us to get into the SEC, which was our best.
"When I was young I looked like Al Capone, but I lacked his compassion." - Oscar Levant
Last edited by brat; 01-22-2014 at 08:13 AM..
Reason: Additional Info & Improved Text