Can you think of a better time to be a fan of Gamecock athletics? You really don’t have to think about it very hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re 2 years old or 82 years old, odds are you can’t come up with a time where there has been so much success in a short period of time at USC. It’s not even close.
In football the legitimacy Steve Spurrier has brought the program cannot be denied. We’ve been perpetually mired in the middle to bottom half of the SEC standings since 1992, but in the last two years have an SEC East title, an 11-win season, and two straight wins over our neighbors to the north (to make it three total). Plus we have top recruits that genuinely want to play for us and give hope that we can be a contender for years to come. USC will no doubt be a Top 10 program heading into the 2012 season, and I dare say given a few good bounces could be a BCS team come January.
In baseball we have back-to-back national titles, a current top 3 ranking (depending on the poll, one has us at #1), and a better than average shot at getting back to Omaha for a third consecutive year.
In basketball…uh, ok, you got me, the hoopsters have sucked for a couple of years now. But a guy named Frank Martin saw something at USC that both challenged and encouraged him, and he has the fan base as excited about basketball as we’ve been in a while. And on the women’s side, Dawn Staley could have her team contending for a Final Four birth in the not-too-distant future.
The non-revenue sports aren’t setting the world on fire, but we appear to be competitive in just about every sport these days (with the exception of softball, I have no idea what’s happened there). And with the promise of increased revenues (thank you SEC) and improved facilities across the board, the future has never been brighter for Carolina athletics.
And as we contrast our recent success with what’s going on with our neighbors to the north, it makes things that much sweeter.
The Clemson (aka CTU) football team is coming off an ACC Championship, and two championship appearances in three years. Yes, congratulations on that guys, nice work. But I would be remiss if I did not mention a couple of other things that have happened…
Like a third straight blowout loss to the University of South Carolina. CTU fans love to throw out the all-time record (yawn) and state that we “won’t catch them in this lifetime”. Well, at this rate, I’m beggining to wonder. I’m pretty old, but maybe if I live long enough…
There was also one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of bowl games. You just cannot wash the stench of 70-33 off of you in one offseason.
Then, recently, there was the arrest of All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the face of the CTU program. Weed and a couple of pills should, and I believe will, get him suspended for at least one game, probably the opener against Auburn. The questions about his character and off-field decision making will continue beyond September 1 (we promise).
And last night we found out that five-star phenom running back Mike Bellamy had been dismissed from the Tiger football team due to academics. This was not a shock to anyone who has followed the brief career of Bellamy, a rumored malcontent with a rumored fondness for green, leafy substances.
Want to talk about coaching? I have one word for you – Dabo.
Underneath all this is apparently a crumbling athletic foundation called the Atlantic Coast Conference. After adding a couple of basketball semi-powers (Pittsburgh, Syracuse) the ACC leadership was hoodwinked into about as crappy a television contract as can be imagined with ESPN. This led the chairman of Florida State’s Board of Trustees to openly, and forcefully, declare an interest in joining the Big XII. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher then lightly broached the subject, stating the university needed to do “what’s in its best interests”, before the FSU President had to step in and pledge allegiance to the ACC.
The storm this creates is that, if FSU leaves for the Big XII, then surely another ACC school will follow so the conference can have the championship game it needs to be fully legitimized. This would lead to a mad scramble among Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson and possibly Georgia Tech or NC State depending on which blogger you believe.
The problem with CTU is that the only people mentioning them are…well, them. Oh, and this guy, who makes a solid case that CTU to the Big XII is already a done deal. (Spoiler alert: he makes no case at all. “West Virginia blogger” pretty much kills his credibility from the outset.)
Meanwhile, most CTU fans are dying, DYING, to get out of the ACC into a conference that values football above all. Unfortunately for them, it ain’t going to happen, and soon they’ll have to start spinning why the ACC is the best place for them (The Carrier Dome is so beautiful in the fall!).
This is so much fun, folks. We’re in an uber-enviable position in the SEC, and it’s driving our rivals up a wall. They don’t know how this can be happening, and they don’t know how to change it.
If you are a big fan of the Gamecocks (and a big fan of schadenfreude), then soak it all in.
We are indeed in the midst of the Golden Age of Gamecock athletics.