Ray Tanner stood in front of nearly 550 South Carolina fans in a dimly lit ballroom at Seawell's during an alumni fall sports preview event.
The Gamecocks athletics director wanted to make sure that each person knew how special Thursday night was.
"This is a historical, exciting night," Tanner told the crowd. "Let's make a lot of noise for Shannon Spake and the SEC Network!"
The fans erupted into a loud cheer as Tanner pointed to Spake and her crew who were on hand to launch the new channel devoted to all things related to the Southeastern Conference.
"It's so special," Tanner said. "It is a historic night. You can feel the energy in this room and there's plenty of that from just being Gamecocks and having Coach Spurrier here tonight to launch the SEC Network and to go live from Columbia. It's great. We're in such a wonderful place. Now with the SEC Network and what it's going to do for all the member institutions and the University of South Carolina, it's a special time for all of us to be a part of."
Since finding out about the creation of the network, fans wondered if they would have access to it. Over the last few months, the SEC Network has reached agreements with several cable and satellite companies to broadcast their programming to fans across the country. Now, fans will have yet another way to see how the Gamecocks fare against their conference foes.
"I think it's been needed for a long time," USC alum Francis Tubolino said. "We have a great fan base. It's always been needed."
According to officials, the SEC Network will air over 1,000 live events including at least 45 exclusive SEC football games, more than 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games, 75 baseball games and 50 softball games. The network also has plans to broadcast Olympic sports providing exposure to athletes and sports that may not usually be nationally televised.
"We understand that you're going to have a lot of football exposure (with) 45 more games on Saturday," Tanner said. "Basketball, men's and women's, is going to get exposure. There are going to be more baseball games. But you're going to get a chance to see volleyball. You're going to get a chance to see men's and women's soccer. So, the coverage is incredible."
"We've made a decision, as a university and athletic department, that we'd invest a million dollars and our commitment to have great production in the quality whether it be digital or if it's linear. So, it's a very special time and we're in a good place with the technology that we have on this campus."
Fans have always made their way to Williams-Brice Stadium by the thousands to support Gamecock football. When they haven't been able to make it, some have listened in to radio broadcasts or found a restaurant to watch the game.
With the season opener against Texas A&M sold out, tickets may be hard to come by, but fans like Tubolino won't have far to go to see their beloved Gamecocks.
"I'll do my best to see it on the SEC Network," Tubolino said.
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