Game day with University of South Carolina’s Sir Big Spur

Published: Oct. 11, 2020 at 4:20 PM EDT
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EDGEFIELD, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Sir Big Spur, the live mascot for the University of South Carolina, has been to every football game for nearly 15 years. But this year, like so many of us, he’s being forced to watch the games at home because of COVID-19.

That means that unmistakable crow won’t be heard on the sidelines this year.

“The SEC banned live mascots,” said Mary Snelling, Sir Big Spur’s owner.

The story of Sir Big Spur begins with Snelling back in 1998.

“My father gave me a gamecock,” said Snelling, a USC grad in 1976 and 1979. “I said to [my husband], ‘What do I do with this thing?’ I mean I knew nothing about chickens.”

Mary and her husband, Ron Albertelli, started bringing the chicken to baseball games. They originally named the bird Cocka-doodle-Lou after then-head football coach Lou Holtz. They won a raffle with then-new baseball coach Ray Tanner.

“We ask him at the dinner, ‘We have this chicken. Is it okay if we bring him to the baseball games and put it on top of the dugout?'” Snelling said. “And he says, ‘As long as it’s not between the white lines, I don’t really care what you do.'"

The legend of Sir Big Spur was born.

For the last 20 years, Ron and Mary have brought the bird to football games, baseball games, softball games, parades, and even a golf match against Clemson at Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken.

“Which was a fun day because of the frustrations we created for the Clemson team,” said Albertelli. “You’re supposed to be quiet at a golf match, but Sir Big Spur knew nothing about that protocol.”

The journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Ron and Mary have a seemingly endless line of stories of people who were not on board with the bird.

“We were at Vanderbilt one time,” Snelling recalls. “Some guy knocked on our door about 6:30 with a frying pan in his hand and said, ‘Where is it?’ and I said, ‘You can’t touch it.'"

After traveling to every home, away, and bowl game for the past 15 years, it’s time for Ron and Mary to pass the torch.

“We’re getting up in years and we’ve done our duty to God and country and university and chickens. We’ve decided we need to start looking to the future," said Albertelli.

They’ve moved Sir Big Spur from their home in Aiken to Van and Beth Clark’s home in Edgefield. The Clarks are both USC grads, and are also life-long Gamecocks fans.

“We take a tremendous amount of pride because that’s our university,” said Van. “The University of South Carolina means the world to me.”

The Clarks joined Ron and Mary at the games in 2019. They were supposed to take over this season, but have to wait because of the pandemic. They’re hoping to get that unmistakable crow back on the field soon.

This is Sir Big Spur V. The lifespan for his species, the Old English black-breasted red gamecock, is nine to 12 years. Sir Big Spur is seven, and Van said they’ll begin the breeding process for him soon.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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