In college football people tend to classify schools as the have's and the have nots. South Carolina was a have not for quite some time, but have never been considered a have. The closest was when Joe Morrison had the 1984 Gamecocks finish at #13 in the AP poll.
The Gamecocks suffered a 21 game losing streak in 1998 and 1999 and were as low as a team could possibly get. Lou Holtz finally turned them in around in 2000 and 2001 and got them to back to back Outback Bowl wins against Ohio State with eight and nine wins respectively in the regular season.
Nine wins is a good season by almost any standards, but the question I want to ask, as the title eludes to is when is mediocrity not enough? Since Steve Spurrier came to South Carolina in 2005, the Gamecocks are 35-28. The highest win total was eight in 2006. Seven wins are the most common with a six win season as well.
Those aren't great numbers. They're passable of course and some schools would be thrilled with that. Since South Carolina plays in the SEC, many consider those numbers respectable. Truth is, those numbers are mediocre, no matter where you are.
While many consider the Gamecocks to finally be true contenders, it's the Gamecock fans that are questioning that logic. Is it because they don't want to get their hopes up and feel disappointment again? Anything above .500 shouldn't be acceptable, but in Columbia it seems to be just that in some instances.
There is something to be said for that. It could lead to comfort and complacency for a coach, or near outrage for some fans. It's amazing that some of the most loyal fans out there can still be split down the middle. 80,000 fans on average per game during that 21 game losing streak.
South Carolina should have higher expectations than they do. They are the state university, but sometimes in their own state are treated like second class citizens. They have one of the biggest rivalries in the southeast, but aren't on the better end of that rivalry. So, maybe that has something to do with it.
It's almost time to make a decision for Gamecock fans. Steve Spurrier likely isn't going anywhere until he's good and ready. Problem is, the Head Ball Coach isn't a young man anymore and could retire whenever he wants to. He has said he will honor this contract and hang up the visor, but that's never a guarantee.
When the Spurrier era comes to an end some fans will be happy with eight wins a season. Some will be unhappy if an SEC Championship game isn't reached or won. Some will even be disappointed with no National Championship or appearance.
Whatever the end result of the Spurrier era the man who follows him as head coach may or may not walk into a job with mediocre expectations. Schools who are powerhouses in one sport have a less than stellar reputation in another can be a "dream job" for a coach in one of the sports with lower expectations.
South Carolina isn't a powerhouse in any sport, but have a fairly good reputation in baseball. They just won a National Championship in baseball so the baseball team is hot right now. That in turn has gotten some talk going about the football team.
The fact that expectations nationwide are higher than they are in Columbia speaks to who the coach is. There may be a higher opinion of Spurrier outside of South Carolina or as I said, some in South Carolina have resigned themselves to being happy with mediocrity.