The man who was the first African-American coach in the history of University of South Carolina athletics has passed away.

USC officials said Friday that Harold White died Friday at the age of 78. 

White was hired by the Gamecocks in 1971 as a graduate assistant football coach. Prior to his time at USC, he'd been a high school coach.

His job with the team was to coach the freshman team, but his role turned out to be bigger than that. At the time, USC, like many big schools in the Deep South, was just starting to integrate black player onto the team.

"I knew I was there mainly because we wanted to integrate and we wanted these black kids to have someone they could relate to," White told WLTX during an interview in 2017.

After two years of coach, he then transitioned to a job as the head of academic support for Gamecock student-athletes from 1973-89. 

"I wanted to impact the boys and girls and tell them, in spite of where they come from, they could be somebody," he told us.

He'd go back to that position in 1993. At the time of his retirement in 2007, he was the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academic Support and Student Services.

In 1993, White was awarded the prestigious Lan Hewlett Award by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) for his service in academic advising. White also had been the school's NCAA compliance officer for two years after heading up the academic office. He also served in the role as director of Carolina's Wellness Program for 11 years from 1988-99.

"The University of South Carolina Athletics Department and its student-athletes have been blessed throughout history to be impacted by so many great people and positive influences," said Athletics Director Ray Tanner. "Harold White stands at the top of that list. Former Gamecock student-athletes who have become successful owe a debt of gratitude to Harold for the mentorship and positive direction he provided them. We are better for having known him and will miss him immensely."

The Gamecock football program gives the "Harold White GPA Award" annually to team members recognized for academic achievement.

"Coach" White was recognized as a pioneer of integration during the Gamecock Athletics 50th anniversary of desegregation in November 2013, "Embracing Change. Fulfilling the Dream." At that time, White said, "The joy of my career with the University of South Carolina Athletics Department was that I had the opportunity to help so many youngsters - black, white and whatever color it may be."

White is survived by his wife, Lilly, two daughters and four grandchildren.