The University of South Carolina was founded in 1801, with one campus in Columbia. But as college education expanded in the 20th century, the USC system would expand to keep up. The first campus outside Columbia was created in 1957 in Florence, with campuses in Beaufort, Lancaster, and Conway established in 1959. Today USC has eight campuses under three different designations. The flagship, or research campus, is in Columbia and is the school known as South Carolina. Senior (four-year) campuses exist in Aiken, Beaufort, and Spartanburg (known as Upstate). Regional (two year) campuses exist in Allendale/Walterboro (Salkehatchie), Lancaster, and Sumter.
The challenge for the senior and regional campuses is to create their own separate school and identity from the flagship campus in Columbia. This past fall, I did my internship at USC Sumter, where my mom also teaches. The regional campuses are fairly tightly controlled by the main campus in Columbia. On a day-to-day basis, USC Columbia does not interfere, but the campus deans answer to the Regional Campus Office in Columbia from where they get their direction. At the regional campuses, students are only on campus for two years,, and to get a bachelor's degree will have to transfer to either the flagship campus or one of the senior campuses, where their acceptance is guaranteed upon successful academic completion at the regional campus. USC Columbia often sends its weaker students to the regional campus to prepare them for their more rigorous curriculum. This arrangement is not entirely satisfactory, and some want the regional campuses to change. Some state leaders want the regional campuses to merge with the technical schools. What some of the regional campuses wish for is to become a senior campus, where they can grant four-year degrees and have a degree of autonomy from Columbia. But USC and state leaders have decided after Beaufort became a senior campus that they do not wish to fund any more four-year schools. This leaves communities like Sumter left behind in trying to obtain higher education.
The campus in Spartanburg was one of the luckier ones. USC Spartanburg was the most recently established USC campus, having not been created until 1967. The school quickly gained popular support, and in 1974 became the second USC senior campus. The school would start a sports program known as the Rifles, and by 1982 the Rifles would become NAIA champions in basketball. Spartanburg would then join the NCAA Division II Peach Belt Conference in 1990. In 2004, the school decided to market themselves differently by renaming themselves USC Upstate to cover the entire region, and changed the mascot from the politically incorrect Rifles to the Spartans to keep the reference to their home city alive. In 2007, Upstate moved up to Division I.
While senior campus status does give USC Upstate more separation from the school in Columbia, they still do not have complete autonomy. Upstate has to use the USC alma mater "We Hail Thee Carolina," for example. When I graduated with a master's degree a few weeks ago, Upstate graduates were in attendance because USC only allows for one system-wide commencement in December. The senior campuses have pushed for having their own fall commencement, but Columbia will not allow for it. This is not like the University of North Carolina system, where the UNC system is basically a branch of the state government as regard to four-year schools, and every campus is independent from each other. I have seen Charlotte fans complain about their school name when people think there is a connection between them and the school in Chapel Hill, which they are completely independent from. But Upstate, despite now being Division I, does have some direct ties remaining to USC Columbia. The school administrators do not receive any direct instructions like the regional campuses, but are responsible to the same university president and board of trustees. This deal has made some campuses want to break away. The first USC satellite campus in Florence chose to break away from the USC system when they achieved four-year status in 1970 and became Francis Marion University. USC's Coastal Carolina campus in Conway became independent in 1993, which deeply angered some on the USC Board of Trustees. To this day, the Board of Trustees discourages USC from scheduling the Chanticleers in any sport because of this nasty divorce from the USC system.
But since the Spartans joined Division I four years ago, the Gamecocks have been very willing to give their little brother guarantee games. It is kind of an interesting experience to see two schools from the same university play each other. Just like Southern Illinois fans worried about a potential loss to SIUE, a Gamecock loss to the Spartans could be potentially the most embarrassing Red Line Upset. And with USC Columbia falling and USC Upstate rising, such an upset seemed possible. Upstate has actually dominated their big sibling on the softball field in recent years, and today looked to do the same on the court.
So this did not look like it would be just another guarantee game. This was on New Year's Eve, held at noon so as not to interfere with anybody's evening plans. But most fans did not bother showing up anyway. There were officially 6,800 fans at the Colonial Life Arena, although in reality only about half that showed up in the cavernous 18,000-seat arena. The Gamecocks slowly began to appear to pull away, leading by 12 late in the first half. This prompted Upstate to call timeout, where coach Eddie Payne shouted at his Spartans, who looked a bit careless early. Upstate then closed the gap to nine by halftime, and pushed hard to briefly lead midway through the second half. The Gamecocks quickly retook the lead, but with leading scorer Bruce Ellington off to play in the school's football bowl game, they could not outrun Upstate's press by too much. USC Columbia managed to grind out a 72-66 win over their little brother.
Hopefully Upstate managed to gain some respect. They aren't usually called by their locally known names in the national media, which uses "South Carolina Upstate" to differentiate the entire university from the evil big-money school in Los Angeles. The Spartans were labeled on ESPN.com's ticker as "SCUS" when they played at Ohio State, a confusing abbreviation I have never seen before for them. And like too many of our schools below the Red Line, some of their students more closely follow USC Columbia sports rather than their own. This is especially true with a largely commuter student population. Hopefully the strong effort of the Spartans who came up just short will show the state that the University of South Carolina has eight different campuses, not just the big one in Columbia.
at SOUTH CAROLINA 72, SOUTH CAROLINA-UPSTATE 66 12/31/2011
SOUTH CAROLINA-UPSTATE 8-6 (2-0) -- K. Page 8-21 0-0 21; T. Greene 4-10 0-0 11; T. Craig 7-13 2-3 20; M. Blessing 3-7 2-2 9; R. Glenn 3-11 1-4 7; J. Maxey 4-10 1-1 9; A. Rodgers 3-6 1-3 7; B. Olumuyiwa 0-3 0-0 0; C. Rogers 1-2 1-2 3; F. Miller 0-1 0-0 0; C. Cook 0-0 0-0 0; R. Elam 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-63 8-15 66. SOUTH CAROLINA 7-6 (0-0) -- M. Cooke 8-15 8-11 24; D. Harris 1-4 0-0 2; R. Slawson 4-5 1-2 10; A. Gill 3-7 2-4 8; B. Williams 1-6 8-8 11; E. Smith 2-4 1-1 5; B. Richardson 2-2 0-0 6; L. Jackson 1-1 1-4 3; D. Leonard 0-0 1-2 1; C. Geathers 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-45 22-32 72.
Three-point goals: SCU 8-20 (R. Glenn 0-1; T. Craig 4-8; T. Greene 3-8; M. Blessing 1-3), SC 4-11 (M. Cooke 0-2; B. Richardson 2-2; R. Slawson 1-2; E. Smith 0-1; A. Gill 0-1; B. Williams 1-3); Rebounds: SCU 28 (R. Glenn 8), SC 32 (M. Cooke 10); Assists: SCU 12 (R. Glenn 3), SC 9 (M. Cooke 3); Total Fouls -- SCU 24, SC 18; Fouled Out: SCU-J. Maxey; SC-E. Smith.