“Football isn’t life or death: it’s much more important than that.” This quote from Bill Shankley, former manager of the Liverpool Football Club, could be an accurate assessment of the opinions of many South Carolinians. And it doesn’t even matter that Mr. Shankley, an Englishman, was referring to what we Americans call soccer.
Just in time for the 2008 season, the excitement, drama, history and fun of American football will explode into the South Carolina State Museum’s 401 Gallery Aug. 1 when the Museum opens the exciting new exhibit Mud, Sweat and Cheers: Palmetto State Football, 1889-2000.
North Greenville University will have several artifacts on display in the exhibit, including a 2006 Victory Bowl ring, a helmet, jersey, cheerleading uniform, and several photographs.
“This exhibition will examine the history of the game in the Palmetto State,” said Fritz Hamer, chief curator of history. “It will look at how the rules have changed over the 20th century and examine how football expanded from being largely a collegiate sport in the first half of the century into the huge spectator sport it has become since the 1960s.”
The exhibit is sponsored by J E Wilson Advisors, Inc. and includes both high school and college football, as well as Carolina players who have gone on to the professional game. It contains a wealth of artifacts, including uniforms of both players and band members, plaques, photographs, posters, game balls and much more.
Many interesting promotional and other items as well can be seen, such as 1907 Clemson postcards and 1906 paper weights; a 1948 Carolina “Little Red Book,” the teams’ media guide; a peanut roaster reputedly used in the 1930s outside the Carolina stadium; a framed victory pennant from the 1916 Wofford-Furman game; and a plethora of high school team photos from teams such as Mullins, Great Falls, Columbia, St. John’s (in Darlington), and even the Epworth Children’s Home in Columbia.
Film clips include the 1946 Pecan Bowl, featuring S.C. State vs. Johnson C. Smith; the 1950 Shrine Cigar Bowl, in which Florida State narrowly defeated Wofford; and a 1925 Notre Dame practice which includes player Rex Enright, future USC coach.
“Some of the more unusual items include a Gamecock player statuette that Carolina Coach Paul Dietzel would award his players from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s and a “Victory Bowl” ring won by the North Greenville University Crusaders which identified them as the top Christian college football team in America,” Hamer said.
The curator said he hopes people will see football not as a static sport, but as a constantly evolving game which was born of both soccer and rugby, the rules of which have been changing from the start, “and they’re still changing to this day.”
Mud, Sweat and Cheers: Palmetto State Football, 1889-2000 will continue in the 401 Gallery through Feb. 8, 2009.