COLUMBIA — Forget Clemson, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. South Carolina has a new nemesis: Lee Corso.

According to a new video presented to Gamecocks fans Saturday night, the ESPN analyst is now Public Enemy No. 1 because he had the audacity to declare on national television that Steve Spurrier couldn't win an SEC championship at USC if he coached here for 400 years.

That, unfortunately, is what South Carolina athletic department gurus have decided is the rallying point for the future of Gamecocks football.

The 3 1/2-minute video featuring Spurrier was rolled out with some fanfare and shown on the scoreboard to fans prior to the season opener in an effort to inspire the Gamecock Nation to see better times ahead. The theme of this new era in Gamecock football is, "The Game Is On."

USC athletic director Eric Hyman explained this is an effort to "brand" the term and get Gamecock fans excited about the future. The presentation referred USC fans to a website "www.letsshowcorso.com."

"Fans will have a chance to throw footballs at Lee Corso's head," Hyman said of the interactive site where an animated Blake Mitchell (USC quarterback suspended for the opening game) throws balls at the sports network star. "You're going to see other things come out of this. This is the starting point. You'll see."

Money message

Gamecocks fans, predictably, roared with delight when they saw Spurrier on the scoreboard talking about winning championships. And they booed appropriately when the evil Mr. Corso was shown.

But what they might have missed amid their euphoria, however, was the not-so-subtle pitch for more money.

"Now, let's show Corso we can build facilities," Spurrier said on the video. "Let's show my pal Corso that we can win an SEC championship. The game is on."

Just so happens the university is in the midst of a major effort to raise $200 million for facility improvements. That game has been on for a while now.

It also precedes a much-dreaded redistribution of prime stadium seats among longtime Gamecock Club members that have already been stung by having to pay for parking that has always come free with their season tickets.

It's all a sign of the times in which big-time dollars are necessary if schools want to play big-time college football.

Seeing the future

All of this is pretty bold talk for a program that has been mired in mediocrity for more than a hundred years.

But in only his third season at USC, Spurrier said in the preseason that the Gamecocks were ready to compete for the SEC title. And maybe he's right. His teams have been to back-to-back bowl games and pulled off a few key victories over Tennessee and Florida.

No doubt, this 2007 edition of Carolina football has better players and is better coached than any in recent history. And by recent history we mean since the World War. Pick one.

They looked pretty good Saturday night as they dispatched the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, 28-14, here at Williams-Brice Stadium in the season opener.

How that translates into SEC victories will become more apparent next week when the Gamecocks travel to Athens to meet Georgia in a crucial conference match-up.

"We know what the future's going to be, but it still needs to be written," Hyman said after showing the video to the media before the game. "There's some detours out there, but we know what the desired outcome is."

That's all very optimistic and, quite honestly, there are many good reasons to be optimistic about Carolina football.

But what Lee Corso actually said was that Spurrier couldn't win consistently at South Carolina. And that remains to be seen.

Reach Ken Burger at 937-5598 or kburger@postandcourier.com..