Always a champion: Ex-USC player recalls ACC title season in book

nwhite@thestate.comDecember 4, 2013 

  • How to buy

    The book “The Championship” by David Henry Lucas is available for purchase online at www.thechampionship.biz

David Henry Lucas and other Gamecocks fans will have to wait another year for a chance to win an SEC championship.

There’s nothing the former defensive end would like more than to see the Gamecocks accomplish something they’ve done once in the program’s history — win a conference title. Lucas played on the one team to reach the pinnacle back in 1969, when USC claimed the ACC championship, and he still feels so strongly about the experience that he wrote a book.

“It means just as much for us now as it meant for us then,” Lucas said.

Published earlier this fall, “The Championship” details the time Lucas spent on the football team during the early years of coach Paul Dietzel — a period that culminated with the title in his senior season — as well as his life on the USC campus during a tumultuous period in American history. The Bishopville native acknowledges that it’s as much a memoir as it is a re-telling of athletics achievement.

“I’m so proud of the school. It did so much for me,” said Lucas, who received a degree in international studies before going on to careers in real estate, savings and loan, home building, resort development, lecture-circuit speaking, movie production, recycling entrepreneurship and book writing.

“The university gave a great exposure to life and a great experience,” he added.

Lucas, who might be most well-known for successfully pursuing a private-property rights lawsuit against the S.C. Coastal Council that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1992 and later made him a national expert on the issue, believes the timing to be perfect for the book. It coincides with USC coach Steve Spurrier leading the Gamecocks to four of the most successful seasons (2010-13) in the history of the program.

Lucas appreciates that Spurrier continues to recognize the 1969 players and their achievement when the coach discusses his own quest to add another championship.

“Coach Spurrier has put together some incredible teams,” Lucas said.

He was convinced USC was entering a long golden age at the end of his college career, when the football team won its title, the basketball teams of coach Frank McGuire were in their heyday as a national power, and Bobby Richardson had come along to run the baseball program.

“We thought we were building a dynasty. We thought we were off and running,” he said. “But we haven’t quite put it all together.”

Lucas noted the USC basketball team went undefeated in the ACC to win the regular-season title in 1969-70 as the football team did by defeating Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Maryland, Wake Forest and Clemson to go 6-0 in the conference that season.

Tommy Suggs, the quarterback from 1968-70, backs up his old teammate on the meaningfulness of that championship season.

“It was very special back then because it was the first,” said Suggs, the longtime color analyst on USC radio broadcasts. “Clearly, we’d like the school to have another championship. It means a lot to us. Our team still gets together, we’re still good friends, we do business together. That championship is a common bond.”

Lucas remembers the 27-13 victory against the rival Tigers to cap the run and his collegiate career, a win that was part of a three-game winning streak against Clemson from 1968-70.

But Lucas likes to note that his college days weren’t confined to the playing field. He writes in the book of his hard-partying fraternity days — “If you enjoyed (the movie) ‘Animal House,’ you’ll like this book” — as well as campus life that included hippies, the anti-war movement and the feminist movement.

“They were burning flags and bras,” he said.

Lucas, who also wistfully recounts in the book his summer job during college as a temporary game warden in Alaska, loves that those times continue to live on. He was happy to chronicle them, most especially that lone USC title.

“We’re still remembered 45 years later,” he said.

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