Is South Carolina Football a Hopeless Endeavor?
Last year, the South Carolina Gamecocks led 7-0 in the first quarter against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Steve Spurrier's team was ranked No. 24 at the time and had just scored a touchdown by completing a pass to Kenny McKinley, a receiver who will likely break every Gamecock record held by Sterling Sharpe and Sidney Rice.
However, at the end of 60 minutes of play, it was the Commodores leading 24-17 and on the way to their first win over a ranked team at home since 1992.
In 2007, the Gamecocks got out to a 6-1 start and a No. 6 ranking in the country before collapsing against Vanderbilt. At the time many believed it was a fluke. One of those crazy games against Vanderbilt when the 'better' team was simply not ready to play.
It's happened before against better teams than the Gamecocks and it will likely happen again. As most know, South Carolina skidded to the end of their season and subsequently replaced their defensive coordinator and special teams coach.
Against Vanderbilt this year, South Carolina allowed 24 points, seven more than the previous upset; fumbled and lost two punt returns, had a field goal blocked, and the starting quarterback, coached by Steve Spurrier, threw two interceptions.
A win against Vanderbilt would have made South Carolina an all-time .500 team. Instead, they will continue to reach. In Year Four of the "Head Ball Coach's" tenure, the Gamecocks have lost back to-back games against the underdog Commodores while ranked and this confirms the belief of many college football fans that you cannot win at South Carolina.
Steve Spurrier cannot coach his quarterbacks to avoid costly interceptions. His hires of Ray Rychleski and Ellis Johnson yielded the same results, which are poor special teams play and not quite enough defense.
Lou Holtz managed to get the Gamecocks in back-to-back Outback Bowls against Ohio State and won both. He did these mostly with smoke and mirrors. The house of cards that he built on junior college transfers and overmatched recruits collapsed and the Gamecocks were back to square one.
Some believed that while Lou Holtz did not achieve what he did at Notre Dame he at least established South Carolina as a program fit for another coaching legend that could get them over the top.
Steve Spurrier entered the picture and took the talent recruited by Lou Holtz and brought the Gamecocks to their first bowl game in four years. Up until the final week of SEC play in 2005, the Gamecocks were still vying for the SEC East title.
However, like the times before when South Carolina has had success, it has been created out of nothing. Steve Spurrier used smoke and mirrors.
The Gamecocks will likely get a bowl berth this year. They were bowl-eligible last year at 6-6 but there were not enough bowls to go around.
This year more bowls have been introduced, and 6-6 for an SEC team should be good enough. The Gamecocks have had four straight seasons of bowl eligibility (forfeiting their opportunity in 2004 and missing a bowl in 2007), and this could be year No. 5.
Maybe that's a good thing for Gamecocks' fans, but it is not what they expected at $1.75 million per year for Spurrier. It is certainly not what Spurrier expected after a mediocre stint in the NFL.
The problem is not recruiting, as the Gamecocks have boasted many top 25 classes over the last 10 years, and many were top 10 classes. The problem is not easily identifiable.
The coaches have proved at other locations to be successful. The players have proved successful at times and successful in high school and some later on in the NFL.
An easy excuse to use would be the same one Boston Red Sox fans used for 86 years: "cursed." The problem with that logic is the idea that someone could break the curse. If it exists, it cannot be broken.
The Gamecocks will never be the Trojans; they will never be the Buckeyes. It may be blasphemy, but they will never be the Clemson Tigers either. They are the Gamecocks.
They are a team that will beat Georgia every once in a while and they are a team that will beat Florida every seven decades.
The team is forever picked to finish No. 4 in the SEC East and forever watching the SEC championship game in wonderful high-definition television. Home games are fun for fans. They can tailgate, drink, and be merry.
The "2001" theme song, better known as 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' will continue to give fans chills up their spines every time it is played when the Gamecocks enter the field.
But it should be known that any hope for the program is futile. Any success is temporary and will likely be deemed a fluke.
South Carolina is a school that can boast Outback Bowls, NIT championships, and appearances in Omaha for the World Series of Baseball...oh yeah, and the Gamecocks are really good at Equestrian.
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