Originally created 04/02/04

Athletic director wants church to alter TV spots



COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina athletic director Mike McGee asked a local church to change television commercials it filmed inside Williams-Brice Stadium because they violate university policy.

In one, Pastor Det Bowers, a founding member of Christ Church of the Carolinas, is standing on the field with one of the stadium's spiral ramps visible in the background. Also seen are some letters of "Carolina" printed in the end zone.

A second spot has Bowers in the stadium's silver bleachers, asking "Are you a player?"

The commercials close by showing the Web address, www.BeingTransformed.org.

The Web site is part of the ministry of Christ Church of the Carolinas, located in Irmo.

South Carolina athletic department spokesman Kerry Tharp said the church received permission to film inside the stadium as long as the site could not be identified as the Gamecocks' football home.

University spokesman Russ McKinney said the school lets charities or nonprofit groups use campus sites under similar guidelines.

Even though the school is supported by state funds, such filming is occasionally allowed, Tharp said.

"There can't be any mention of the school or logos shown," Tharp said.

Just because a charity or group uses a campus site as a backdrop, that does not mean the university or athletic department endorses it, Tharp said.

Christ Church Administrator Joshua Espinosa said McGee called Bowers earlier this week about stopping or changing the commercials. Espinosa, who is in charge of the spots, said he was viewing the ads Thursday to see what must be corrected.

Espinosa wasn't sure the ramp needed to be edited out, but he said the shot included the end zone, where the "O-L-I-N-A" of Carolina could be seen. Espinosa expects he can "green out" the letters to make the commercial conform.

He did not think the other spot, called The Spectator in The Stands had to be altered.

The spots, part of six commercials that all end with the Web address, have run periodically in the Columbia market since February. Espinosa said they recently began running in the Greenville area.

Tharp and McKinney say there have been no questions from South Carolina officials or fans about the TV spots.

McGee referred all questions to Tharp.

Espinosa was not sure how long it would take to get the commercials fixed and on the air.

He said The Spectator In The Stands has elicited the most response of the two from people requesting audio sermons.

When Bowers closes with "Are you a player?" he's asking viewers whether they are a Christian, Espinosa said.

Christ Church of the Carolinas, according to its Web site, believes the Bible is the "infallible, inspired Word of God."

The site's media page says "the shallowness of Christian man has made him a theological dwarf. He is compromising where he should never compromise thereby failing to boldly proclaim God's glory."

Tharp, who hadn't seen the ads, doesn't expect the athletic department's policy regarding such matters to change.