Media Credit: Manuel Gaetan
/ Special to The Gamecock
Shop owner Mike Safran poses
with USC President Andrew Sorensen.
Media Credit: Nick Esares /
This No. 2 jersey, hanging
in Safranīs shop, is the
last existing uniform worn
in a game by Sterling
Sharpe, USCīs receiving
The old saying goes along the lines of "Those
who don't remember their past are doomed to
That statement could easily apply to the
athletic endeavors of the Gamecocks, as little
remembrance of USC's past has been given to
players, fans and students over the years,
causing Gamecock faithful to be stuck in an
almost melancholy state of mind.
But USC sports history is something hard to run
across if you look outside of the brief section
devoted to the greats who have passed through
Columbia in a media guide.
That's where Mike Safran comes in.
Safran, a third-generation antique dealer in the
Midlands, has created what many have called the
only Gamecock museum to ever exist. Of the
warehouse-sized facility on Whaley Street that
he calls home, about one-third is enshrined in
Gamecock garb, with pieces of USC's past that
will boggle the mind.
"I started wanting to collect something," Safran
said. "I got into sports memorabilia in the
early 1980s and just starting thinking that I
would collect the Gamecocks, because there was
nobody collecting the Gamecocks."
That attitude landed Safran with a monstrous
collection of USC's past, ranging from programs
to jerseys to bowl rings. While his collection
was growing, Safran came to the realization that
all this stuff couldn't be his forever. Attempts
to set up a USC hall of fame have been
fruitless, leaving the curator of this one-man
time capsule in a position to do one thing: Sell
to those who will appreciate it.
"I'm not saving this anymore," Safran said. "I
was saving because it seemed somebody had to
save it. And I knew that there wasn't anybody
saving this. It just kind of became an obsession
because somebody had to do it."
"There was nobody I was aware of working to keep
this stuff, so I appointed me."
If you can read it in a Carolina record book or
hear older fans relive the moments, Safran
probably has it or something related to it.
Some of the highlights of his collection include
Gamecock football jerseys from stars such as
Harold Green, Clarence Williams, Robert Brooks
and Todd Ellis. His hardwood jerseys don the
names of Mike Dunleavy, Ronnie Collinsand, until
recently, the jersey given to commemorate Frank
McGuire's 500th victory. He even has a baseball
and football jersey from two-sport standout Rob
Safran also features a variety of former
Gamecocks' professional jerseys, including
Mookie Wilson, Bobby Bryant, Brian Winters and
Other items that showcase the variety in
Safran's collection include ticket stubs to
games such as USC's win against Michigan at Ann
Arbor in 1984 and the final Big Thursday
match-up between Carolina and Clemson in 1959.
Safran has also seen his share of gold come
through the door, selling rings from the 1984
Black Magic season, the 1971 ACC Basketball
Championship a ring from USC's 2001 Outback Bowl
His walls feature signed pictures from some of
USC's brightest stars, including USC's lone
Heisman winner George Rogers, Jeff Grantz, Dan
Reeves, Alex English and Grady Wallace.
But the kicker to the collection might be the
item the general public doesn't get to see.
Hanging on Safran's wall in a side room is the
only known game jersey worn by all-time leading
receiver Sterling Sharpe. The trophy case at USC
features a Sharpe jersey - only it's a recently
While his collection is enough to make a fan
speechless, Safran's pride hasn't come from what
he has gained physically. It's the knowledge he
has gained from his association with USC sports.
On any given day, you can step into Safran's
shop and have a talk with former radio announcer
Bob Fulton or one of USC's oldest living
lettermen, Dom Fusci. Collins frequently stops
in to see what is going on, while Ryan Brewer
has been known to make an appearance. A phone
call from Rogers isn't uncommon, while
1,000-point-club-member Terry Dozier recently
became a visitor to the unofficial hall of fame.
One of Safran's most treasured friendships came
from one of USC's all-time greatest graduates in
Tatum Gressette. Gressette's athletics on the
field included a drop-kick in 1920 to beat
Clemson 3-0. He was also famous for his work
throughout the state in government as well as
other athletic teams, earning spots in USC's and
the Citadel's halls of fame as well as the S.C.
Golf Hall of Fame. What's even more impressive
is that Gressette started the BAM Club (Buck A
Month) in an effort to show up Clemson's
athletic booster IPTAY (I Pay Ten A Year).
Today, the BAM is known as the Gamecock Club.
"All in one lifetime, this person was able to do
all this and squeeze in starting the athletic
program at the Citadel and hunting, fishing and
golfing with Ty Cobb," Safran said. "It's almost
Safran's collection has allowed him the
opportunity to do more than give fans a chance
to own a piece of Gamecock history - it has
allowed him to share history with fans. Over the
years, Safran has been the man behind the scenes
on events such as numerous Gamecock Galas, which
featured memorabilia from his collection tagged
with appearances from players who made the
memories. He has also been a figure behind the
South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame's yearly
banquets and even helps Rogers with his annual
"Simply by collecting this stuff has opened up
doors that have led to places you wouldn't
expect them to lead," Safran said. "You've met
people that in some cases you would have only
read about in a book or just heard legend of in
"To be able to meet these people and hear their
stories, and hear them retell the tales and to
some extent bring you into their confidence is
extremely gratifying just to hear this stuff.
You can't really put a price on it. And it all
came about by just collecting stuff."