January 2015 digital magazine
By Brian Hand Executive Editor The Gamecock Club has come a long way since being established as the BAM Club in 1940. Records show that by 1958 the then renamed Gamecock Club was bringing in $50,000 a year in contributions. Now the Gamecock Club brings in millions of dollars each year and has well over 18,000 members. Established to provide financial support to University of South Carolina student-athletes, presently the Gamecock Club supports over 500 Gamecock student-athletes. There are 62 Gamecock Club chapters around the country. The Gamecock Club is reaching record numbers year-by-year, which is the goal every year according to Executive Director Patrick McFarland. “The biggest positive right now with the Gamecock Club is that we have more renewals this year at this point than we did last year,” McFarland noted. “That’s fantastic. People are taking advantage of the 10-month payment plan. We think that is very customer and fan-friendly. We want to continue to grow the Gamecock Club. Last year, we finished over 18,000, which is higher than the previous year. It’s always our goal to be better every year because unfortunately costs continue to rise in college athletics, so we have to con-
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tinue to raise money and raise more money. Our fan support has been there and it’s continuing to grow.” The upcoming year for the Gamecock Club is very special in that is the 75th anniversary of the club. “We’re really excited about the 75th anniversary as it means it’s 75 years of Gamecock fans in general just supporting our student-athletes,” McFarland commented. “It’s amazing when you look back how it’s grown over these 75 years, starting at $1 to support student-athletes and just to get people involved. And now to see it over 18,000 members is just phenomenal. We’re going to be celebrating throughout the year. “We wouldn’t be here without the support of Gamecock Club members. We need their continued support. We understand that it takes sacrifices to be able to provide what they do to this athletic department and every coach and every administrator is extremely
thankful of what they do to make our student-athletes successes possible,” McFarland continued. With 2015 being their 75th anniversary, the Gamecock Club kicked off the month of January by having some special giveaways. “One of the new things we did this year was the 29 days of giveaways,” McFarland said. “We want to involve our donors more. We want to be able to thank them more, so this is one way to do it and this is encouraging people to get involved, but also say thank you in a creative way.” Coming up at the end of January is the Gamecock Club’s annual Renewal Day on Friday, Jan. 30. The special funfilled day is held at the Gamecock Club offices at the Rice Athletics Center. “Renewal Day used to be called Deadline Day and that kind of has a negative connotation to it and what we’ve done is we have coaches and administrators set up shop in our lobby
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and as people come in to renew the coaches and administrators are able to thank the members in person,” McFarland relayed. “Spurs & Feathers will be there live streaming the whole day and 107.5 The Game is there as well.” The annual Renewal Day fun is another way for the Gamecock Club and South Carolina coaches and administrators to show just how much they appreciate what Gamecock Club members provide for Gamecock athletics. “I think our coaches really understand that we provide the means to be successful on the playing field, court, whatever arena they are in and the classroom,” McFarland remarked. “They are extremely supportive of us. They help us a lot when we do donor thank you days. Our coaches are overall just very appreciative of what our donors do for South Carolina.” For more information on the Gamecock Club, visit www.thegamecockclub.com.
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By Brian Hand Executive Editor The special 75th anniversary Gamecock Club logo has become an instant hit. But how did it come about? The logo was designed by freelance graphic designer Jessie Kavana, who by day works as a graphic designer for the Phoenix Suns. “I’m very humbled to have had the opportunity to work with the Gamecock Club in developing a valuable piece of both their identity and that of the University of South Carolina,” Kavana stated. “Being given a clear vision, but having artistic freedom allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the creation process and led to an end result that accomplished our goals. Working with the
By Brian Hand Executive Editor Williams-Brice Stadium is already a destination visit for all Gamecock fans and now with Springs Brooks Plaza one’s mark at the stadium can be left for generations to come. In fact, Gamecock fans can literally help to lay the foundation of the new Springs Brooks Plaza by purchasing a commemorative brick. The personalized brick campaign was announced in late August of 2014. Currently the Gamecock Club has sold over 1,500 bricks and they are hoping to have 2,500 bricks around the Springs Brooks Plaza. All of the bricks will be installed in the intersection of George Rogers and Bluff Road. The brick price is $200 for Gamecock Club members (promotional code
staff was a pleasure. Communication was always clear and effective and I look forward to continuing this partnership in the future.” That clear vision and communication led to a 75th anniversary logo that embodied exactly what the Gamecock Club desired in the logo. “The main idea behind the 75th Anniversary logo was tying in the current logo and the look and feel of the Gamecock Club with its history and past representations of the organization,” Kavana said. “I really wanted to focus on merging the two in such a way where it felt cohesive and called upon the ‘throwback’ feel while relating to the current identity. That played a huge part in choosing colors and other elements. The cream color and Gamecock image
used in the commemorative logo were cornerstones of the original BAM logo and I incorporated the garnet and black and the main banner element from the current Gamecock Club logo.” Kavana incorporated the current Gamecock fonts along with the oldschool BAM fonts. “The fonts I used tied heavily to the
same idea of new school and old school working together,” Kavana relayed. “The original BAM logo from 1940 used a font called Columna so I thought that would be nice to use as the main font, while also calling upon the font used in current South Carolina marketing materials, ITC Machine for the number “75.” Gamecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland is extremely pleased with how the final product turned out. “The logo to me is really neat,” McFarland noted. “What we did is we incorporated the first Gamecock Club logo with our mission today. There are new Gamecock Club decals that say 75 years. Obviously our special commemorative 75th anniversary 2015 calendar also has the logo on it as it is a throwback calendar.”
required to receive discount). For those not in the Gamecock Club the price is $255, but the price does include a year membership at the Roost level of the Gamecock Club. The bricks are 4x8 and there are three lines of text available with 15 characters available on each line. “Only numbers, letters and/or punctuation marks found on a standard keyboard are permitted on the bricks,” Assistant Director of the Gamecock Club Jay Brown said. “Unfortunately, we do not allow twitter handles and there is no commercialization or self promotion allowed. Business names are allowed as we have a number of Gamecock Club memberships listed under businesses’ names. No political manifestos or anything that could be taken out of context will be allowed.”
The brick program has become a hit among former student-athletes with over 150 purchasing a brick already. That list includes Fred Ziegler (football), Jeff Grantz (football), Sheldon Brown (football), Meredith Taylor (women’s golf) and Branden Conrad (men’s basketball) among many others. Huge South Carolina supporters, Darius Rucker and the entire Hootie and the Blowfish band are also buying their own bricks. Some Clemson fans have even tried to go under the radar and purchase their own bricks, but South Carolina has the right tools in place to make sure this does not happen. In addition to the former student-athletes, current head coaches and administrators at South Carolina have picked up their bricks, including Steve Spurrier. South Carolina Athletics Director Ray
Tanner and his entire family have also purchased bricks. “One of the neat things about the bricks is that once they are actually installed all of the brick purchasers will receive a locator system so they’re not trying to find one brick out of 2,500,” Brown said. The bricks make great gifts with Gamecock Club members having already purchased them as Christmas gifts and many more planning to purchase as Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts. Some have also been bought in-memory, as graduation gifts and as new birth announcements. Replicas of the purchased bricks for Springs Brooks Plaza are available for an additional $100 with a special display case just $50 in addition. For more information, visit http://www. gamecocksonline.com/bricks or call 1-844-GCBRIKS.
Spurs & Feathers Executive Director Brian Hand recently talked with South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner about the 75th anniversary of the Gamecock Club along with much more.
by brian hand Executive Editor S&F: You have had the unique position of working with the Gamecock Club as a head coach and now as the Athletics Director. Talk a little bit about what the Gamecock Club has meant to you over the years. Tanner: The Gamecock Club has been around for a long time and it’s the fabric of our athletic department that supports our student athletes by providing scholarships and academic support. For our donors and our members to support the club to extent that they have over the years has enabled us to recruit at a high level and finance scholarships for our student athletes. It’s been an initiative that, as a former coach and certainly as an administrator, you never take that for granted. Our student-athletes understand and I think all of our coaches make sure that our scholarship athletes understand where the financial support comes from and that’s from our Gamecock Club members. That makes it possible for them to come to school on scholarship. S&F: In your time here at South Carolina how much have you seen the Gamecock Club grow? Tanner: It’s continued to grow and I think the popularity of all of our sports the last five years and what we’ve been able to do in football has been significant to help our brand. Women’s basketball with coach Staley is at the top of the rankings, our baseball program and Frank martin continues to show great progress with basketball. The success of our other sports - the success of our golf program being in the top-10, the equestrian program, women’s soccer.
That’s important that our Gamecock Club members have engaged in that and they understand that. Our members, in most cases have been with us a long, long time. The new members understand that the Gamecock Club is the life support of what our student-athletes go through and that it provides scholarship and academic support for their undergraduate years. S&F: When talking with your coaches at the University of South Carolina, I am sure the importance of the Gamecock Club is brought up a great deal. I know you cannot speak for all of them, but are there any key points that they bring up when talking about the Gamecock Club and how it relates to their program? Tanner: I think to have quality programs that sustain success it’s a big deal. I think that a lot of our Gamecock Club members understand that there are peaks and valleys in sports and they’ve been around for a long time and continue to support us. But, the staff of the Gamecock Club, they’ve certainly done their part to help the Gamecock Club and send a message that your support is needed and is greatly appreciated. We have a lot of wonderful coaches that engage our members and our student-athletes at numerous times throughout the year. We have opportunities where we show our appreciation and I think those things are helpful. I think that if you look back at the history of the Gamecock Club we continue to grow, but we’ve had a lot of members that have been around for a lot of years. S&F: The Gamecock Club has reached record numbers over the past few years.
What steps do you think need to be taken to sustain or even continue the increase? Tanner: I think that the consistent message that I always send - and our coaches visit with Gamecock Clubs throughout the year and engage in different meetings - it’s always a reminder that the Gamecock Club, the membership, supports what we’re trying to do with our student-athletes. I mentioned already the scholarship support and the academic initiatives that they provide for us in its entirety. Our memberships and the contributions have been 50 percent as far as financing our programs. The Gamecock Club has been able to improve memberships and their annual donations have been able to support our scholarship program in its entirety. S&F: You travel around a great deal talking with the Gamecock Club chapters. To us, that is one of the things that makes the Gamecock Club great is the chapters within the club. Your schedule is always filled up, but still you seem to make it a priority to visit these chapters when possible. How important is it for the Athletics Director at South Carolina to make these type of visits? Tanner: I do (consider it important) because the majority of our Gamecock Club members have been around for a long, long time. That’s what we’re all about: tradition and history. It’s an opportunity to say thank you for the many years of support. It’s very special for us as the administrators and coaches to engage in the membership that has been with us for a very long time. It’s a way to say thank you for your consistent support that has given
us an opportunity to compete in the Southeastern Conference. S&F: We had the pleasure of watching how hard you work on a gameday last year, but just what is a normal day for Ray Tanner? Or is there a normal day? Tanner: I don’t think there is, nor would I like for it to be; I like different things going on and different initiatives I’m involved with. Whether it’s a fundraising visit where I’m out of town or if it’s visiting with members of the Gamecock Club, coaches or members of the SEC meetings or whatever the agenda calls for that day, I’m blessed to be in a position to work in athletics at this great University and to work with so many great coaches and student athletes and with a great President like Dr. Pastides. I feel that we’re in a position academically where our collaboration is very, very special on this campus. The brand of this University is very, very important and athletics is just a unit. We’re just a unit as far as this entire University is concerned. We are the front porch, but it’s a special University to be involved with and I’m very fortunate to be in this position. S&F: From your vantage point as Athletics Director do you have any plans or have an idea of what you would like the Gamecock Club to be in the future? Tanner: The dollars that we bring in annually now they go to support our scholarships and our academic mission and those challenges continue to grow with the increase of the school and the support staff and academics continue to grow. But, this is a resource
that we invest back into our studentathletes, so it’s important that we continue to grow our membership to support our student-athletes at the highest level. S&F: Have you bought your brick yet for the Spring Brooks Plaza? Really neat opportunity for Gamecock fans in our opinion. Tanner: Yes I have. My entire family [has]. The Tanner family will be represented by a brick at the plaza. I was over there earlier this morning. I went over and went around the stadium taking a look. We had a lot of people onsite working and they’ve made a lot of progress in a short period of time. S&F: Looking back at the fall athletic campaign, what are some things that stuck out to you? Tanner: I thought it was a very good fall for us. Our men’s soccer team played in the Conference USA Championship. I was able to be at that game. Coach Berson had some tough losses at the beginning of the year, but rallied to have a strong finish to make it to the championship game for Conference USA. Women’s soccer once again had a very special year, the best year in program history making it to the final eight. I was in Tallahassee when they played Florida State who was the eventual national champion. I know that record-wise, you look at our football program and say it was a six-and-six year coming off three eleven-win seasons and now we won our bowl game so we finish up seven-and-six. But, we had some opportunities to win some other games. For me, it’s not necessarily the fact that we finished seven-and-six, but we had the opportunities to win some other games and that makes a big difference to me that we had the opportunity to win. It wasn’t the case where we couldn’t have won any more games; we just had a few bounces this year and couldn’t get them. I consider the football team a success. Perception-wise it doesn’t seem as good as 11 wins, but you look back at what they’ve done over the last four years—not only the 11 wins, but four straight bowl wins over the likes of Miami, Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. It doesn’t get much better than that. The women’s golf
program had a great fall, the men’s golf team had a great fall and we continue to excel at our olympic sports. Equestrian is ranked third in the country right now. We have five teams right now ranked in the top10: women’s basketball, women’s golf, women’s soccer finished in the top ten, men’s golf. We’re sitting in a great place right now; we have 21 sports, 12 women and nine men, and it doesn’t matter which sports you’re talking about, you want to give them an opportunity to compete at a high level. I think that we’re making great strides with that. We are going to continue to improve our facilities, we’re breaking ground in the spring with track and the tennis locker rooms are 50 percent finished. The men and women’s soccer locker rooms we’ll break ground on in the next few months. We’re continuing to try and make an im-
pact. Competing in the Southeastern Conference is a great challenge and we have to prepare our student-athletes and coaches with the resources to recruit and train and give them an opportunity to be successful. S&F: Basketball is presently in full swing and spring sports action will be back before we know it, what are you most looking forward to over the course of the rest of the athletic year? Tanner: We had a strong preseason (in men’s basketball) getting ready for conference play with wins over Oklahoma State, Clemson and Iowa State. Our women’s team is ranked No. 1. I’m excited about the growth that we’ve made in our men’s program. I know Joe Lunardi has us in the men’s field with his prognostication (as of the end of non-conference play), which is exciting. I know
coach Martin doesn’t want me to talk about that, but we haven’t been in that conversation in the last few years and we’re in that conversation now. That’s great that we’re in the dialogue. Women’s basketball with what Coach Staley’s done and the tremendous talent she has. I know baseball is around the corner and coach Holbrook will have a team that can contend for the postseason. I know that coach Smith’s softball team has made great strides and is showing improvement. They’ve been in the postseason in the previous years. And our men and women’s golf teams are among the best. I’ve said this before, but in our 21 sports, I believe that there are three or four sports that we have an opportunity to win a national championship in the next few years. If you can compete in the SEC, it means you can compete nationally and that gives you a chance to win it all. I’m excited about our teams and where we’re headed in the spring as we head into 2015. S&F: Finally, earlier this year coach Spurrier mentioned to us just how important every little bit was to building Gamecock football and Gamecock athletics. For those that have the means, as Athletics Director can you explain to someone that has never been in the Gamecock Club or is weighing their options on whether they should join just how important these contributions are to Gamecock athletics. Tanner: Regardless of the size of the investment, whether it’s the entry level membership or the Diamond Spur, every dollar that you spend in the Gamecock Club goes to the resources, scholarships and academic support for student-athletes. It’s money that’s put in the right place to enhance the opportunity to receive a degree from this University and participate in athletics. For those people who have an interest in the studentathlete and student-athlete welfare, the Gamecock Club is a tremendous vehicle to provide the resources to enhance their experiences.
By Brian Hand Executive Editor South Carolina head baseball coach Chad Holbrook vividly remembers in 2010 the emotions on the field and in the stands at Rosenblatt Stadium when the Gamecocks won their first baseball national championship on June 29, 2010. It’s something the then Gamecock associate head coach will obviously never forget. When asked what the Gamecock Club means to him as the organization enters its 75th anniversary in 2015 that is the exact thought that came to his mind. “I don’t know if there is a group of people that care more about their University and their athletic department than the group of people associated with the Gamecock Club,” Holbrook noted. “I’ve worked at other places and I’ve seen from afar other institutions, but I don’t know if anyone cares more about their team and their programs than the core group of Gamecock Club members. I can still think about running through the stands in Omaha and seeing 65 and 70-yearold men crying after we won a national championship. I don’t know if that happens at other places, but it happens here because people care so much.” South Carolina head men’s and women’s swimming coach McGee Moody agrees with Holbrook’s thoughts. “The Gamecock Club is a group of people that truly care about our athletes, our athletic department and our University,” Moody remarked. “They want to see us succeed on every level, not only in the pool or on the field or on the court, they also want to see us succeed the classroom. Their generous donations have made us who we are today. Their loyalty to our athletic department and the University will secure our success in the future.” South Carolina head volleyball coach Scott Swanson realizes his program would not be able to grow the way that it has in his tenure without the support of the Gamecock Club. “After being here at South Carolina
four seasons, I have truly appreciated all that the Gamecock Club means to our athletic department, our programs and especially the coaches and athletes that are so lucky to be a part of Gamecock athletics,” Swanson said. “Without the Gamecock Club we would not have the amazing facilities or support that we are so fortunate enough to enjoy. We are thankful to every loyal member that so generously provides us with the opportunity to compete at the highest level both in the SEC and nationally.” South Carolina head men’s golf coach Bill McDonald has taken his program to new heights over the past few years and he readily understands that is not possible without the Gamecock Club. “The Gamecock Club is the lifeblood of our athletic department and my family and I are extremely proud to be one of its members,” McDonald commented. “As a coach, I am forever grateful for the relationships our Gamecock Club Staff cultivates with our boosters and the business community and also for the tremendous support the Gamecock Club provides for our student-athletes.” The head coach of the newest sport at South Carolina, sand volleyball head coach Moritz Moritz particularly knows just how important the Gamecock Club is to South Carolina athletics. “The Gamecock Club is an integral component to our success on and off the sand,” Moritz relayed. “We are grateful to be able to have the opportunities that we do and for the major impact that the Gamecock Club has to allow us those opportunities.”
South Carolina men’s soccer head coach Mark Berson just completed his 37th season. He has seen the Gamecock Club grow immensely during his illustrious career. “The Gamecock Club provides a complete support system for our studentathletes from the first day they get to campus until well after they graduate and move on in their lives after leaving campus,” Berson said. “They are by our side supporting our student-athletes as they compete for Carolina and they close the loop after graduation with a support network that insures that our student athletes know that they are ‘Gamecocks for Life.’” South Carolina softball head coach Beverly Smith and her team play in one of the top softball facilities in all of the country in Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field. The Gamecocks have made the last two NCAA Tournaments and the future gets brighter every day for Gamecock softball and Smith realizes the Gamecock Club plays a big part in their success. “The Gamecock Club epitomizes passion and support,” Smith stated. “In my experience I have seen the passion and pride that pours out of all the various county clubs; from Tigerburns to hosting a meal for the athletes, the mission is to always support the Gamecocks. I am so appreciative of all the things the Gamecock Club continues to do for softball.” South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier has guided the Gamecocks to a school-record four straight bowl victories. The Gamecocks have picked up 40 wins over the last four years and
he knows without the hard work of the Gamecock Club staff that success might not be possible. “(Gamecock Club executive director) Patrick McFarland and his group do an excellent job,” Spurrier said. South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin has been working incredibly hard to change the culture of his program and he cannot be more proud of the efforts of the Gamecock Club to help with the process. “It’s phenomenal,” Martin mused. “One thing that is great about this school is how much people care. The Gamecock Club is strong with people continuing to give of themselves to be a part of this University that has meant so much to them. Just this year we’ve been able to re-do this whole area back here (at the Colonial Life Arena) where our players are at - not where the fans see, but where nobody sees other than our players - because of the Gamecock Club. That’s the kind of impact that they have on our programs. I know that folks that are members of our Gamecock Club care and all I ever ask is that people care. If they care, they’ve got me hook, line and sinker.” The head coach of the No. 1 team in all of women’s college basketball, Hall of Famer Dawn Staley realizes that for some the Gamecock Club not only gives means to success during a student-athletes time at South Carolina, but also can change generations. “(The Gamecock Club) gives our student-athletes an opportunity to play, to get a scholarship, to get a student-athlete experience like none other,” Staley said. “I think what they’ve done is they’ve changed generations for some of our kids. Some of our kids will be first-generation college graduates like some of our former players. It gives life beyond the current. I don’t think people understand that part of it. I was a first-generation college graduate, so when you are able to affect a young life in that manner it’s a beautiful thing for them to support us in this way.” For more information on the Gamecock Club, visit www.thegamecockclub.com.
By Kyle Heck Reporter
ead coach Shelley Smith and the South Carolina women’s soccer team had a 2014 season fit for the record books. After falling to College Cup participant Texas A&M in the SEC tournament semifinals, the Gamecocks defeated rival Clemson in penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA tournament to jumpstart a historic run. A week later in Chapel Hill, N.C., South Carolina worked its penalty kick magic again, this time against Seattle to earn the program’s second berth in the Sweet 16. The Gamecocks weren’t done there, however. An underdog against the host team, No. 8 North Carolina, South Carolina got an early 23rd minute goal from junior Raina Johnson. The excellent Gamecock defense shut down the Tar Heel offense en route to a 1-0 upset win and South Carolina’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Elite Eight. The run ended in Florida where the Gamecocks lost to eventual national champion Florida State. “Obviously, I’m really pleased by their performance and the run they had and I thought they were a team that deserved to go that far,” Smith said. “I really thought this team was a special group with a lot of talent. There were things in place for us to make a good run and battle for an SEC championship again and all that.” One of those things in place was a brilliant group of seniors who were the glue to this team. They included the program’s first two-time first-team All-American in goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, first-team All-SEC defender Taylor Leach, defender Christa Neary and defender/midfielder Andie Romness. “They’re a special group,” Smith said of her seniors. “I’m just glad they can leave a mark on USC that no other team had done. I’m more pleased for them in the end.”
All four players played a big role in the Gamecocks’ top-notch defense that posted 13 shutouts in 25 matches played. The 13 goals scored against D’Angelo were the fewest of any goalkeeper in the SEC. Unfortunately, the thrilling win against Clemson in the NCAA tournament in which she made two penalty-kick saves would be the last time she played in a Gamecock uniform due to injury. However, freshman goalkeeper Abbey Crider filled in nicely, posting two shutouts in her three matches started in the tournament. The fantastic end to the season came after several frustrating moments during the regular-season. While the Gamecocks played well enough to win every game, they sometimes could not catch a break when it came to scoring goals. South Carolina suffered 1-0 losses in four of its six defeats this season. “The frustration that was throughout the season was our lack of goal-scoring, which is hard to come by in our sport,” Smith said. “But I felt we were always in games and that was the frustration, that we would outplay the team but we couldn’t find the back of the net.” However, the team never gave up, still believing that they could have a special year. “They have a great camaraderie,” Smith said. “They fought for each other. They wanted to do well and they took a lot of pride in their play. In a lot of those frustrating games, I was never upset with the team with their performance as far as their workrate. It’s one thing to work, it’s another to execute. We never had a problem in fighting for things and
being competitors and wanting to do well.” That attitude started to pay off when it mattered most. While they were still unable to score goals in the first couple of matches of the NCAA tournament, the Gamecocks forgot about that when it came to penalty kicks and outscored Clemson and Seattle in consecutive PK shootouts. South Carolina was able to learn from
its struggles in the regular-season and thrived off of the pressure of must-win situations in the NCAA tournament all the way to unchartered territory. “When they got to NCAA time they were very battle-tested,” Smith said. “They knew there was no reason to not play to your best ability. It doesn’t matter who you’re facing. It was a do or die situation and they wanted to keep going.”
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By Collyn Taylor Reporter For Ted Girardeau, the Gamecocks are a family affair. Ted’s father played football at South Carolina from 1911-14 and when Ted was around eight he began taking him to games. That sparked a childhoodlong love for the garnet and black that continued into his high school years. And, when it came time to choose a college, he chose the Gamecocks. “He directed me toward the University, but when it came time for me to make a decision, he said he’d leave it up to me,” Girardeau said. “I thought about going elsewhere. At one point, I considered going to Clemson, which didn’t make him happy, but in the long run I came back to my good senses and chose the University.” He went to Carolina on a full scholarship to play football in the late 1950s. He said that his favorite memory was getting to run out onto the field for the first time and that it was “the thrill of a lifetime.” After his time at South Carolina he felt like it was still important to give back to the University that he loved so much and that had given him so much. “I went on a full scholarship and I felt that the fact that the football program and the University paid my way through school that I really owed them something,” Girardeau said. “A lot of people don’t feel that way. Yes, we worked hard and there were a lot of blood, sweat and tears out there on the practice field, but at the same time I felt that I needed to pay back and I hope that I have through these years.” Girardeau starting working for the Gamecock Club in 1966 when former Gamecock Club Director Ed Pitts asked him to take over the Aiken County chapter of the club. When he took over, the chapter had about 25 members. But, after he ran a promotion offering two free season tickets
to football games, he received almost 200 more members. He served as the president for that chapter until 1983 before taking a short hiatus. But, his love for the University pulled him back and in 1996, he took over as a member of the Gamecock Club’s Executive Board. He’s been with them since then, serving 18 years and is the longestserving board member today. He loves what he does and he has made some great memories in the Gamecock Club, like traveling to Tennessee and to other bowl games as well as the recent football success. To him, there was also not much better than winning back-to-back national baseball championships. “I think my participation with the Gamecock Club can be described as a labor of love,” he said. “I love the University and the athletic programs through the years have been very special to me and they always will be.” Current Gamecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland is extremely appreciative for Girardeau’s labor of love to South Carolina. “Being the longest-serving board member he is great because he brings a lot of historical background
with him, but the biggest advantage of having Ted and what he’s done for the Gamecock Club board is he is able to take himself out of any discussion and he always puts the Gamecock Club and athletics department first,” McFarland said. “Sometimes we have some conversations that are difficult, but he always puts what is going to help the program the most first.” Time is a precious commodity and McFarland is incredibly appreciative of his efforts toward the Gamecock Club. “He’s only compensated by thank you’s, but I think he also sees some of the decisions we’ve made with the Gamecock Club have allowed us to be successful,” McFarland said. “The time he spends coming up here for meetings, for conference calls, it’s invaluable. He’s a big part of what we do. He’s a former student-athlete that played football here and during his time we’ve grown tremendously and he’s been a big part of the growth.” While working for the Gamecock Club, Girardeau has worked in real estate and in mortgages, lending money to families and helping finance nursing homes and assisted living complexes.
Along with bleeding garnet and black, he worked with youth sports, serving as a coach for youth baseball and football. “I am very fortunate to be working with people who were supportive of me working with not only the University and the Gamecock Club, but with youth sports,” he said. “I spent a lot of time doing that with young people’s football and baseball.” Ted was not the last Girardeau to go to South Carolina. His four children all went and now he has nine grandchildren preparing for their turn through the University. If he has his way, there will be a Girardeau at Carolina for many years to come. “We’ve got four children and all four graduated from the University,” he said. “All four are very supportive of athletics in general and we have nine grandchildren: one has already graduated, one is going to graduate next year and one is in her sophomore year. I have two that will be freshmen next year. We still have some that are too young to go, but they’re all very, very excited about the University. We’re all very proud of them and proud of the fact that they love the University like we do.”
That number means a great deal to South Carolina right now as the Gamecocks have now won a school-record four consecutive bowl games after their 24-21 win over Miami in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. The four straight bowl wins makes South Carolina the only school in the SEC with four bowl wins over the past four seasons. That’s why South Carolina 10th-year head football coach Steve Spurrier emphatically stated after the Gamecock bowl win over the Hurricanes that “this one felt as good as the last three bowl games.”
Spurrier came to South Carolina to change a culture. The Gamecocks entered the 2014 season coming off back-to-back-toback 11-win seasons and bowl wins over traditional powers Nebraska (2012 Capital One Bowl), Michigan (2013 Outback Bowl) and Wisconsin (2014 Capital One Bowl). The Gamecocks were expected to have a season akin to the past three in the 2014 season, but it just did not pan out that way. A 7-6 2014 season does not mean that the culture of Gamecock football has not changed though. Earlier this year during South Carolina’s game against Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 27 at Williams-Brice Stadium, Spurrier and the Gamecocks honored South Carolina’s first-ever bowl-winning team. That win came just 20 short years ago when quarterback Steve Taneyhill and South Carolina knocked off West Virginia, 24-21, in the 1995 Carquest Bowl at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami on Jan. 2, 1995. At the time, Spurrier noted that honoring the past is the key to the present and future of Gamecock football. “That’s what successful schools
do,” Spurrier said. “If you have tradition, you honor the players that have really played well there and accomplished whatever. We don’t have a whole bunch to talk about right now as far as championships. We’ve got the 1969 ACC champion team with Tommy Suggs and all his teammates and the (SEC) Eastern Division of 2010 … but for big championships, we’re still hunting them, still looking out for them, searching for them. Hopefully it will happen real soon.” The Gamecock win in the Carquest Bowl snapped an eight-game losing streak in bowl games dating back to the 1946 Gator Bowl where the Gamecocks fell, 26-14, to Wake Forest.
become in football.” History aside, much more will expected from the Gamecocks next year and going forward, but that is what changing culture is all about. Spurrier is keenly aware. That’s what he signed up for in November of 2004. A bowl win over a national program like Miami may just go a long way to setting the tone for a successful 2015. “It’s a boost,” Spurrier said after the bowl win. “It’s a shot in the arm; energy. I told our guys that offseason workouts are now going to have a little more pep to them, a little more fire, a little more ‘let’s get after it.’ I told them we’ve got to be a more physical, faster team next year. We’re not a real fast team overall. We’re not as physical as we need to be, so we’ll try to do that. If we can do that next year we’ll hopefully have a little bit better chance.”
knowing that the culture has changed for Gamecock football. “Winning is everything,” Taneyhill mentioned. “Anybody can win a bit, but three years in a row to win 11 games is impressive. That’s going to generate a lot of enthusiasm, that’s going to generate a lot of money for the Things have definitely changed school and you need all those things since that bowl win 20 years ago to build it. I’m happy and I think we all with Gamecock fans - and rightfully so are to see what the Gamecocks have - frustrated with a 7-6 season. That’s culture change and South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner summed it up best recently when talking to media prior to the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. “Anytime there is a disappointment from your fans it’s a compliment,” Tanner noted. That disappointment comes just the Let us cater 20 years after the Carquest Bowl win your event: where Gamecock fans were so excited HOME OR AWAY that there was a huge crowd waiting at the airport to congratulate the firstever South Carolina bowl winners. The Gamecocks also finished with seven wins that season. South Carolina’s seven wins in the Voted Best Brunch three times by 2014 season leave them with their Free Times, Columbia Metropolitan, and school-record seventh straight winThe State Newspaper! ning season.
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The victory in the 2014 Duck Commander Independence Bowl also allowed South Carolina to collect its school-record 11th straight non-losing season. All of these numbers mean a great deal, especially to Gamecock pioneers like Taneyhill who take great pride in
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By Brian Hand Executive Editor
this program. They were all looking to give back. They just needed a vehicle,” Weir elaborated. Weir then formed that idea of his into Sometimes being a manager for a col- a full committee of 13 former South lege team may be a thankless job. But Carolina men’s basketball managers almost always the managers are thank- and student-athletes helping to make ful for the opportunity they were given. this dream a reality. Ron Weir is a perfect example. Cur“They have welcomed us with open rently working in Greensboro, N.C. for arms,” Weir said of South Carolina. “That IPS PACKAGING, Weir graduated from welcome came from Coach Martin and South Carolina in 2001, but his love for his staff and they really showed us that his school and for his time as a student they need the managers for all the things manager under former Gamecock men’s that they do behind the scenes for the basketball head coach Eddie Fogler has basketball program. If you go through never wavered. college basketball, the coaches, the staff This passion led to him formulating a members and the players really appreciplan to develop a fund for men’s bas- ate the managers and if they didn’t you ketball on top of the existing monies al- wouldn’t find managers willing to do ready available for the men’s basketball what they’re doing for the program. It student manager scholarships. is indeed a mutual respect. In addition “I’d been a manager for the Univer- to that, coach Martin’s staff has really sity under coach Fogler and I was very opened up a lot of opportunities for us grateful for that opportunity,” Weir said. to make this thing successful.” “During school, back then, they didn’t The fundraising effort has already behave a half-scholarship available for the gun with the goal being to reach partial senior managers, but being a Gamecock endowment status by Sept. 2015 with fan and wanting to give back to the Uni- the goal of $25,000 in mind. Presently, versity, I thought this would be a great they are already 10 percent of the way opportunity to give something back there with $2,500 raised to date. that was near and dear to my heart. Once they reach partial endowment “I had been thinking about this for a status, the goal is to take it even further long period of time, but I wanted to run by naming the fund the “Mac Credille it by coach Folger for his valued input Scholarship Fund” in honor of longtime before any decision was made. After we equipment manager Mac Credille. spoke, he had discussions with (South “Every one of the managers has been Carolina Chief Operating Officer/Men’s on board with this idea,” Weir said. “Our Basketball Sport Administrator Kevin goal is to get this program started and (O’Connell) and (South Carolina Assis- make it successful in order to honor Mac tant Director of Athletics Development) Credille. There’s nobody that has done Elaine Arnold through (South Carolina more in mine or other people’s eyes for Men’s Basketball Director of Operations) this University’s athletic department Andy (Assaley) and head coach (Frank) and the men’s basketball team, volMartin and everybody thought it was a leyball team and women’s basketball wonderful idea. After that input, Drew team than Mac Credille. Mac has worked Cawood (also a former manager and around the clock for these teams and owner of Event Partthat sports complex ners Inc.) and I needed to make it the best to get a committee tothat it can be and we gether and a decision think it’s an awesome was made to call on opportunity to help former managers behis legacy.” cause we thought that Weir’s drive for this they would be essencause also includes tial if this program was this group of former to get off the ground. All Gamecock basketball managers working toGuys that were there coverage sponsored by gether to be mentors before me, guys that for the current and Yesterdays were there with me future crop of Gameand guys that folcock men’s basketball lowed behind me were called. I didn’t managers. have one guy that said no. Everybody “We want to work on another thing thought it was an exciting idea and they besides supplying a scholarship to the felt a strong desire to help implement managers and that is to be mentors to
By Brian Hand Executive Editor
12 • SPURS & FEATHERS
these kids coming up and at the same time be professional references for them,” Weir said. “We are going to work and develop this behind the scenes so they can work to get jobs after they graduate. Whether it is coaching high school basketball or obtaining a job in a professional position.” Weir himself originally wanted to be a basketball coach, but being a manager for South Carolina allowed him to realize that he wanted to pursue other opportunities professionally. Nevertheless, many decide to try and work their way up the coaching ranks this way. Weir fully believes his time as a manager at South Carolina prepared him for the professional world. “It’s a big commitment being a manager, but it’s a rewarding deal too,” Weir said. “You get to travel with the team first class and you get to see parts of the Southeastern Conference that nobody else has access to and you get to network professionally. A lot of these guys want to be college coaches. I did at the time too. It took me four years being around it to realize that that wasn’t the career path I wanted, but it helped me
out tremendously from a professional standpoint. If you can do that and work, you prepare yourself for anything from a work ethic standpoint. “You look at some of the coaches around the SEC; Bruce Pearl is a former manager. There’s a lot of guys and that’s their way to crack into the coaching ranks. Obviously, it’s harder to do because you’re working without any real notoriety and you really have to do more blue collar work to get your foot in the door, but it’s a great opportunity,” Weir continued. None of this would be possible as noted without the efforts of Martin and his staff agreeing to help the cause. Weir is incredibly appreciative and like so many others he is excited for the present and future of Gamecock basketball under Martin. “I appreciate Coach Martin’s staff giving us the opportunity to make this something special,” Weir concluded. “We couldn’t do it without that.” For more information, please contact Elaine Arnold in the Athletics Development Office at (803) 777-5451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Brad Muller South Carolina Director of Content South Carolina student-athletes are in the spirit of giving, or more appropriately, giving back. The Gamecocks took time off from athletics activities to volunteer in several community service project throughout the city of Columbia during the first part of December as part of South Carolina’s annual Week of Giving. “It’s always nice to be able to give back,” said Weber Pike, a redshirt sophomore on the baseball team while volunteering at Harvest Hope Food Bank. “It makes you feel good to be able to help people out.” Activities include serving meals to the homeless at Transitions, packing food at Harvest Hope Food Bank, decorating and various clean-up work at the Ronald McDonald House, packing and delivering meals to the elderly with Meals on Wheels, providing clinics and roundtable discussions for children at area schools and spending time with local Boy Scouts. “It’s important to give back to the community,” said Sabrina D’Angelo, a senior on the women’s soccer team
while helping to prepare meals at Meals on Wheels. “They give so much to us by supporting us at our games and it’s time for us to give back to them. It easy for all of us to do it. Nobody hesitates to sign up. We like it.” More than 100 student-athletes, representing all of South Carolina’s varsity sports were represented in the 21 service opportunities according to Erica Nelson, Director of Life Skills and Community Outreach. “It is a busy time for the student-athletes, but most of the projects are no
longer than two hours, so they make time to participate,” Nelson said. “With opportunities spanning from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., this flexibility has increased volunteer participation.” Kevin Stahlberger, who is the Service Manager for Senior Resources which runs Meals on Wheels and other similar programs, said the organizations are always glad to get the extra help, and those being served by the organizations are appreciative, as well. “We do about 200 meals from one site and 50 from another site each day,”
Stahlberger said. “We’re always looking for volunteers and individuals who receive the meals love seeing the student-athletes. They appreciate it and they just enjoy seeing young people take time to help too.” Student-athletes volunteer for community service activities throughout the year and many look forward to the next opportunity, such as junior Alyanie Page from the softball team, who made a return trip to assist at the Ronald McDonald House. “It’s really something that touches my heart every time I think about it,” Page said. “Every time I come here I think about that woman I met the last time I was here. It’s just really humbling to know that we’re helping somebody.” The student-athletes were able to keep some perspective about the importance of being involved with the community. “It’s nice to help people have a nice holiday and to give back,” said Jordan Gore, a sophomore on the baseball team who volunteered at Harvest Hope. “It makes you feel good, and you’re helping people get some food and other things they need.”
By Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor
ootball is a way of life in the south. We celebrate every win and sweat over every loss. The importance of the University of South Carolina football team is hard to measure, but for one former player, the opportunity and the relationships developed mean everything to him. Ken Wheat grew up in Milledgeville, Ga. and attended Georgia Military High School, graduating in 1968. His senior year he received a letter from South Carolina that would change his life. “South Carolina was the first to offer
14 • SPURS & FEATHERS
me a scholarship,” Wheat remembered. “Later Georgia and Georgia Tech among others offered, but I chose Carolina. Lou Holtz was the chief recruiter. Weems Baskins and Jackie Powers both recruited me. Paul Dietzel was the head coach.” There were no recruiting trips in those days. You received a letter and made your decision. The first time the freshmen ever met was at the 1968 spring game. Wheat was one of a hundred freshmen that would report to the fall camp. “I was fourth team center on the freshman team my first day. That’s how far down the totem pole I was,” recalled
Wheat. “I went along with that for a couple of days and I went up to the coach and said, ‘coach I’m not a center. I’m a defensive tackle.’ he said, ‘OK, stud we’ll try you over there.’ And that’s how it worked in those days.” By the time he was a senior in 1971, the numbers had dwindled. “We had 16 left that played,” Wheat said. Wheat graduated with a degree in Journalism, but dreamed of playing professionally and was invited to try out for the Birmingham team in the old World Football League. After going through rookie camp, he was invited back, but never made it.
“I was cutting pulp wood with my uncle and cut my big toe off, so that was the end of that as the healing process was so long,” he recounted. “I came back to Columbia and got a resident managers job at River Ridge Apartments because I had no place to live. My wife saw an ad and I answered it and we got a free apartment and I was the only male who applied so they hired me. The rest is history.” Later Wheat would join the Keenan Company and met Donny Boyd. According to him, this was one of three life changing events in Wheat’s life. “The first one was getting a scholarship to Carolina. The second was marry-
ing my high school sweetheart. Cheryl and I met when we were 15, hung in there through college and got married 43 years ago,” Wheat reminisced. “The third was meeting Donny Boyd and him giving me an opportunity to be a partner. Not only in the company but in (real estate) deals and that was over 30 years ago.” Today he is President and Broker of Boyd Management, Inc. in Columbia. The company builds, owns and manages residential apartment complexes with 15,000 units in five states. Wheat has been a Silver Spur in the Gamecock Club for 30 years and feels that it is important for him to give back to the University for the opportunity it afforded him. “That’s why I’m here,” stated Wheat matter-of-factly. “I wouldn’t be here if not for that scholarship. Here were my choices in 1968: if I hadn’t gotten a football scholarship, it’s Vietnam. My family didn’t have the money for me to go to college. I was months away from being drafted and going to Vietnam rather than college.” The War in Vietnam strikes closely to home for the former defensive and offensive lineman. “My brother went to Vietnam, lost his legs in a direct hit by a mortar, and he eventually died and he wasn’t lucky enough to get a football scholarship,” Wheat said. “1968-69 was the height of the Vietnam War. Thank God some coach saw me playing football on a Friday night and gave me a chance.” Wheat made a donation to Georgia Military in honor of his brother Larry and the lobby of the Ruark Athletic Center is named in his brother’s memory. In 1969, the University of South Carolina went 6-0 in the ACC and won its only football conference championship. A year later, the Gamecocks left the conference and the championship was tucked away and not talked about for many years. In 2005, Steve Spurrier looked around and thought it should be embraced. Wheat, a sophomore on the 1969 team, was glad to see it. “There was a time where you didn’t hear much about the ACC Championship, but coach Spurrier came here and started recognizing the team often,” Wheat said. The team’s accomplishment was displayed prominently at Williams-Brice
Stadium. “It brought us back to life. We had a big reunion at 40 years with 60 to 70 guys that came back,” recalled the 1972 USC graduate. Wheat was moved to do something more. The indoor practice facility currently being built near the stadium gave him the opportunity to recognize the whole team again. The indoor field will be named in honor of the 1969 team. “This whole deal is 45 years ago we won the ACC championship … that’s amazing. 45 years ago,” Wheat said shaking his head. “A lot of my buddies are no longer with us. Jimmy Nash, Jim Poston, Danny Dyches, all these great guys and we lost Bill Boyte and Jim Cleckler this year. I was thinking about things and I’m at that point in life where it’s time to give back. The kids are grown, the house gets paid for, and when you start losing your friends it’s an eye opener and you start thinking about the end. My goal is to get this done this year so we can have as many of the team there as possible. Not that I’m thinking anymore are going to die, but the sooner the better,” Wheat said. “It’s been 45 years. It’s a long time. And I’m glad we haven’t lost more than we
have.” As for former teammates, Wheat
mentioned Warren Muir, Dickie Harris, Tommy Suggs, Jimmy Mitchell, Tyler Hellams, Jim Nash, Freddie Zeigler, Rudy Holloman, Tommy Simmons, Billy Ray Rice and Bo Davies. “The main thing is not really football. Its relationships and we went through all this together,” Wheat remarked. “The whole team will be invited back and the whole team made this possible. This is a legacy so my grandkids and their grandkids can say my grandpa played on this team and leave our team somewhere out there at that stadium.” Wheat has pledged $500,000 to the cause and many of his associates and fellow teammates have chipped in to the cause as well. Others, if so moved, can contribute as well by contacting Jack Wilson with the athletics department at 803-777-0701. They can also email Wilson at email@example.com. “I’m not a rich guy, but I’ve been lucky and reached a time in life that I am able to do this,” Wheat humbly expressed. “I would not be sitting here today if I had not gotten that football scholarship.” And the University is better for Ken Wheat deciding to leave the state of Georgia and make South Carolina his home.
SPURS & FEATHERS •
By John Whittle Contributing Writer The highly-anticipated renovations around Williams-Brice Stadium have started. Ground was broken for the Springs Brooks Plaza in December as crews began to rip up the asphalt in the area surrounding the 80,250-seat stadium. Crews will work six days a week to ensure that everything is ready for the kickoff of the 2015 season. Construction crews have finished demolishing the ETV building on the east side of the stadium and that will enlarge the footprint that the South Carolina athletics department has to work with for the $14.5 million project. Speaking on “Inside The Roost” on 107.5 The Game on
Monday, Dec. 15, South Carolina chief operating officer Kevin O’Connell said the focal point of the area will be the northwest corner of the stadium where the flashing marquee currently stands. The statue of Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers will highlight the area. “That will be the focal point,” O’Connell said. “That’s the part across the street from Gamecock Park where the current marquee is. That’s where we envision the statue going. Well over 200 trees on the plaza, over $800,000 in landscaping – trees, sod, shrubs – it’s going to be spectacular.” Working clockwise, at the northeast corner, there will be what is currently being called the “Game Day Building,” which will house the ticket office, emergency personnel and the Barnes
& Nobles bookstore, which is currently in the Floyd Building. O’Connell pointed out that all three of those functions at the stadium tend to cause lines and congestion and moving them off of the immediate footprint of Williams-Brice will allow for more space to move. “All three of those functions create lines,” O’Connell said. “You move that and it makes it so much nicer. Once they go inside the gates, they won’t have to navigate those lines.” The building is approximately 12,000 square feet and the new Game Day Building will house a bookstore that is approximately three or four times the space as the current building. There will be some parking for a few donors and emergency vehicles behind the new facility.
The southeast corner is another place where visitors can enjoy green space instead of asphalt and parking places. “The southeast corner is going to be beautiful,” O’Connell said. “There’s a walkway down there, a miniature version of the Garnet Way, with the scarlet oaks treelined. All four corners are beautiful in each respect.” The southwest corner will take on a new look as well. While there will still be plenty of green space and a lot of beautification happening in the area, it will also be the spot for the television trucks, which currently reside nearer the northwest corner. The good news is, all of the cables that currently are above ground, will now be buried so fans don’t have to hurdle wires
and platforms outside of the stadium. The early phases of the work includes ripping up the asphalt and burying cables on the southern side of the stadium. Once the south end has been completed, work will then start on the north side. O’Connell added that there were around 100 vehicles on the tarmac last year and this coming season, “it will be down to almost nil.” “It will be spectacular,” O’Connell said. “It’s all geared to opening day and they’re full steam ahead.” John Whittle is a Senior Writer/Managing Editor for TheBigSpur.com. To learn more about TheBigSpur.com, visit southcarolina.247sports.com.
Other facilities notes • The indoor practice facility is scheduled to be finished this summer and ready in time for the start of practice in August. There will also be a small training room at the facility. In addition, the outdoor practice fields are ready and can be used whenever head coach Steve Spurrier is ready to move. If Spurrier wanted to, the team could use the fields for spring practice. “It will be a spectacular enhancement,” O’Connell said. “It will really enhance our ability to help our student-athletes. When we start football in August, there will be two new football fields and a state of the art indoor facility.”
• Construction on the outdoor track will begin in February while renovations on the current indoor football facility for the indoor track will begin this summer. Added together, the athletics department is spending $15 million on track and field. The outdoor practice facility will be finished in January 2016. The new soccer building, which costs $3 million, is on the same February 2015 to January 2016 timeline. • There are also some changes happening for both men’s and women’s basketball. The teams share offices on the second floor of the indoor practice facility, which also doubles as the volleyball venue. Men’s basketball
is moving out and over to Frank McGuire Arena, so the women’s coaches will have the second floor offices to themselves. There will be $940,000 in renovations, which will begin in April 2015 and finish in December of the same year. The offices for the men’s team will move next door to Frank McGuire Arena, which is the new basketball practice facility. A new weight room and training room is being built there as well so, when all added together, renovations will cost approximately $4 million at Frank McGuire Arena. The new additions will benefit both basketball programs as well as volleyball.
By Brian Hand Executive Editor There is one thing that drives South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley and that is winning a national championship. Staley spends long hours watching film, preparing her team for each and every game and she makes sure prior to each outing that her squad understands how important it is to pay attention to even the tiniest little details. Staley’s drive to be the best permeates in everything that the program does. Prior to the start of the 2014-15 season, Staley, her coaching staff and her student-athletes made it no secret that winning the national championship was the goal this year for the Gamecocks. In fact, the team undertook the motto of “one” this year. The motto was not meant to say that being No. 1 at the end was the goal, but rather that they were one team and one family despite so much talent on the squad. “We knew coming in that we had everybody coming back and we brought in a pretty good recruiting class,” Staley said after South Carolina’s lopsided 100-25 exhibition victory over Coker on Sunday, Nov. 2 at the Colonial Life Arena. “We knew expectations would be high and there isn’t anything higher than winning a national championship, so we’re just starting off saying that that’s what we’re going to do.” At the same press conference after the Coker exhibition win, South Carolina sophomore center Alaina Coates relayed they still have a ways to go before moving on to the Final Four in Tampa, Fla. at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on April 5 and 7, 2015. “It’s easy for anyone to have a chip on their shoulder, but we know it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” Coates said. “We can’t just go out there and think we’re going to beat everybody without putting in the time and the effort. We’re pretty determined there, but we still have a lot more work to
do.” Talking about it prior to the season and actually going out and performing at the level necessary to be in line for a shot at the title are two totally different things. So far the Gamecocks have lived up to expectations as they are currently the No. 1 team in the nation and off to their best start ever. South Carolina is mostly done with non-conference play (at No. 2 UCONN on Feb. 9). Staley always likes to talk about checking things off their list and being off to the best start in history adds a check to another one that came when the Gamecocks moved up to No. 1 for the first time in school history. The Gamecocks have also won two games in the Bahamas, including a come-from-behind win over then No. 22 Syracuse, and two games in Minnesota. They have rode a bus en route to a road win at Hampton and they downed then No. 9 Duke, 51-50, in the hallowed arena that is Cameron Indoor Stadium. These Gamecocks are battle-tested, but that is just the beginning though for this team as they obviously want to try and defend their league regular-season title and capture the SEC Tournament title before heading into NCAA Tournament action. If they are able to check these things off their list they will more than likely host an NCAA Regional and be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. There is lots of basketball still left on the docket for the Gamecocks in the 2014-15 regular-season, but so far this year’s Gamecocks have embraced the team motto of “one” and they are truly at this point in time the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country.
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By Andy Demetra Contributing Writer
he man who aspires to pitch in the Major Leagues this year is busy. He has umbrellas to set up and paddleboards to run out. After all, he’s on the clock. Michael Roth – former Gamecock AllAmerican and current Major League Baseball lefthander – decided to make his home this winter in Honolulu, Hawaii, renting an apartment with his girlfriend, former USC cheerleader Rachel Sanna, four blocks from Fort DeRussy Beach. They started talking over the summer about places to live in the offseason, and figured why not. On one of his first trips to the beach, Roth made another spur-of-the-moment decision. “Did I tell you I worked at a beach stand?” he asks. You read that right. The man who threw 12 innings for the AL West-champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last year spent part of his winter as the newest employee of Koa Beach Service. “I was thinking it’d kind of be fun to mess around at the beach and get a job,” Roth explained. “So I walked up to one of the stands and I was like, ‘Hey, are y’all hiring?’ They said yeah, so I filled out an application. Thirty minutes after I left, they were like, ‘Can you work tomorrow?’ “I said, ‘Yeah, I guess I don’t have anything to do.’” According to its website, Koa Beach Service takes pride in providing guests “with top quality customer care, striving to help them have a very memorable experience in Hawaii.” In addition to surf lessons, they offer rentals of kayaks, aqua cycles, snorkels, and other beach-going gear. So for three days a week, 8:45 in the morning until 5:15 in the afternoon, Roth played a different kind of reliever, lugging around lounge chairs and collecting surfboards from worn-out Waikiki beachcombers. Hey, tourist: the guy who schlepped your paddleboard back from the water? He was in the bullpen when the Angels clinched the American League
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West pennant. He has recorded outs of Jose Altuve, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, and Nelson Cruz. Tip him well – he may have helped your fantasy team. Roth said he took the job to meet people and have fun, not to make money (starting pay: $10 an hour). His coworkers – Koa-workers? – weren’t awestruck by his day job. “I’m sure they were probably like,
In late November, Roth’s island life was interrupted by a cold dose of reality. After spending parts of two seasons with Los Angeles, the team that drafted him in 2012, the Angels put Roth on waivers November 25. Since it was his second time clearing waivers with the Angels, he opted to become a free agent. In 22 career appearances with Los Angeles, Roth posted a 2-1 record with a 7.79 ERA
what’s this guy doing? But they all accepted me in and were pretty chill. It was pretty cool,” he said. Still, even the most devout Gamecock fan may have had trouble recognizing him. Roth hasn’t had a haircut since June. The man who once shaved his head bald at USC has gone full beach bum, with thick, untamed tendrils of black hair sprouting in every direction. “I’m probably about a good monthand-a-half from getting a ponytail,” Roth said, chuckling. Alas, Roth ended his time at Koa Beach Service after six weeks. The job started to encroach on his real reason for being in Hawaii. Roth had to find a new job in Major League Baseball.
over 32 1/3 innings. Roth knew the move was a possibility. “I didn’t have a great September. I think what the Angels thought of me changed that month. I didn’t perform well. I don’t think I was put in the best situations to perform well, either. But that’s part of the fight in your career, fighting through certain opportunities,” he said. A partial playoff bonus from the Angels, which he received around the same time, helped soften the blow. Roth took the news in stride: on the day he became a free agent, he tweeted a picture of himself on a mountain hike, posing like Washington crossing the Delaware, with the caption “#Unemployed.” But a month-and-a-half later, at the height of Major League Baseball’s hot stove season, the 24 year-old re-
mained without a club for 2015. Michael Roth was in paradise. Michael Roth was in purgatory. “You really want to find out what’s going on. You want to know that somebody wants you, that you’re going to sign with a team, because in the back of your mind there’s always that possibility you don’t get a job,” Roth said of his mindset. “It’s kind of a mix between ‘I want to hurry up and sign’ and ‘Let this play out, so I can find a team that fits me best.’” The process of finding a new team began the week after Thanksgiving, when Roth and his New Jersey-based agent, David Pepe, drew up a list of 10-12 clubs that might be a fit for him. They narrowed their search based on pitching philosophy, how many lefties a team had on its roster, and other factors. “When you prioritize what Mike is in the market, he’ll be [part of] that second wave of free-agent guys. He’s not Jon Lester. He’s not a six-year Major League free agent. Those guys take a bulk of the attention and the early interest,” explained Pepe, who also represented former USC pitcher Jon Coutlangus. While Pepe works the phones, Roth continues to get ready. His training, like his lifestyle, is uncluttered. He works out by himself. He rides the bus to the gym (neither he nor Sanna have a car in Hawaii). A trainer from Columbia, Josh Ortegon of Athlete’s Arena, e-mails him workouts. He just started throwing again recently; until then, Roth hadn’t touched a baseball since a bullpen session in Seattle the final weekend of the regular season. When he hits the gym, only a pair of team-issued Angels shorts, which he wears occasionally, hints at his occupation. Like the beach stand, it took awhile for the regulars to know he was a major league baseball player.
He likes to catch up on reading during the offseason, an unsurprising pastime for someone who graduated with a 3.83 GPA in international business and won the 2012 H. Boyd McWhorter Award as the SEC’s top male student-athlete.
Roth is currently on a run of personal had no idea what he was going to throw development titles. “Outwitting the next. The hitter knew that Michael was Devil.” “The Richest Man in Babylon.” comfortable throwing all his pitches, no He’s eager to start “642 Things to Write matter the count, no matter the situation. About,” a collection of writing prompts And that makes it awfully difficult,” said meant to spark the creative juices. He’s USC head coach Chad Holbrook. in the process of revamping his website, His starts in Omaha were both legion mtrothenterprises.com, with more of an and legendary. “The greatest pitcher in emphasis on blogging. College World Series history? Not going Roth thumbed through the pages over to get any argument here,” crowed an the phone, looking for an example. ESPN.com countdown of the top 25 big “Name an object that describes you. leaguers who had an impact on the ColDescribe that object.” lege World Series. Roth would like to change the way MaInstead, Roth was caught between two jor League teams describe him. When he worlds in Los Angeles. In the minors, 46 was taken in the ninth round of the 2012 of his 50 career appearances were starts. MLB Draft, Roth said the Angels drafted In 22 appearances with the Angels, Roth him as a starter. They had good reason only started once, in 2013. - in two seasons as South Carolina’s ace, The result was a kind of statistical dishe went 23-4 with sonance. Roth finished a 1.72 ERA, baffling 2014 with an 11-7 record hitters with a variety at Double-A Arkansas, of arm slots and a earning a trip to the Texas knack for making inLeague All-Star Game. His game adjustments. 2.62 ERA was the secondHe made up for a lowest in the league lack of velocity with All Gamecock baseball among pitchers who coverage sponsored by guile and command, threw enough innings to DiPrato’s content to let batters qualify. Yet in the majors, get themselves out. while Los Angeles cruised to an Ameri“He was one of those pitchers who can League-best 98-64 record, Roth commanded all his pitches so the hitter struggled. In seven relief appearances
totaling 12 1/3 innings, he finished with an ungainly 8.76 ERA, walking as many
batters as he struck out. Los Angeles left him off its postseason roster.
SPURS & FEATHERS •
Roth doesn’t hold any ill will against the Angels; he knows a team’s needs can change by the week. But he thinks the whiplash between roles affected him. “I went from pitching once every five days and throwing 100 pitches during that time period to throwing once every five days, 20 pitches [per outing]. I think I didn’t adjust as quickly as I needed to,” Roth said. “Ultimately, you have to trust your stuff,” he continued. “What I’ve been able to do in Double-A, I need to continue doing in the big leagues. Sometimes you get up there, it’s easy to doubt yourself whether you want to throw a pitch over the plate.” He may also be caught up in an evolutionary trend that’s changing the way Major League teams build their bullpens. According to the PITCHf/x tracking system, the mean velocity of a four-seam fastball for MLB relievers with at least 10 innings of work in 2014 was 92 miles per hour. Strikeouts rates have reached alltime highs. By contrast, Roth’s fastball averaged 86 miles per hour according to PITCHf/x. He barely recorded a strikeout every two innings in Double-A. “I wouldn’t say that’s me at all,” he acknowledges. That makes him something of a throwback: a soft-tossing, multiple-arm angle craftsman who lacks true swing-andmiss stuff. As pitching staffs become more velocity and strikeout-driven, does Roth worry about becoming a relic, someone whose skills are incompatible in the modern MLB bullpen? “Maybe the way the game has evolved, the type of pitcher I am isn’t as valued anymore. I guess that’s something that we’ll see over the course of these next few weeks,” Roth said. He hopes his small sample size in Los Angeles won’t affect teams’ perception of him. He also knows he won’t be given the same margin for error as his peers. Roth is light on “projectables”: he doesn’t have the power arm, intriguing frame or juicy hammer pitch that makes scouts’ hearts flutter. That may give him less leeway than other lefties on the freeagent market. “The Major League advance scouts, you catch him on the wrong day, he’s a low-velocity guy who struggled with command at times in the big leagues,” explained Pepe. “If you catch him on the right day, he has pinpoint command;
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battler, smart, aggressive, knows how to pitch. So now you’re almost relying on talking to the right team that saw him on the right day.” But Roth sees the upside. His lack of success as a reliever, combined with the philosophical change in MLB bullpens, may convince teams to take a closer look at him as a starter. He racked up most of his minor-league stats there, and earned his greatest acclaim at USC as a starter. “I think I can be a starter in the big leagues. I really do. I think I have the ability to throw 180, 200 innings a year. Heck, I threw 140 for South Carolina in a short amount of time. I think my body can handle that and withstand it,” Roth said. He points to players like former Yankee Andy Pettitte and current Toronto Blue Jay Mark Buehrle, starters who carved out long careers with an approach similar to his. Like them, Roth mixes and matches pitches, changes eye levels, and keeps batters off-balance without an overpowering fastball. He can be harder to figure out as the game goes on, a trait that rarely reveals itself in short relief. “As a starter you have to vary the way you attack hitters from plate appearance to plate appearance. I feel like I have the ability to recognize those adjustments in hitters,” he said. Then, of course, there’s the mental makeup. “I’m a competitor. You know every time that I go out to the mound you’re going to get 100% effort. I’m going to battle whether I have my best stuff or my worst stuff. I plan on getting through at the minimum 6 [innings],” Roth said. “That stuff is never, and will never, be an issue for Mike,” added Pepe. Roth and Pepe hope to use that competitiveness to their advantage. They’d like to find a team that has an open competition for a fourth or fifth starting spot - Roth doesn’t mind joining a Spring Training derby with several other free agents. If a team wants him as a LOOGY – baseball argot for “lefty one-out guy”
– he’d still be willing, despite his up-anddown experiences with the Angels. If a team wants him to go Triple-A and show results before getting called up, he’d consider that, too. Worst-case scenario, he could continue his career in Japan or Europe. Roth is given his own prompt, free to fill in as he pleased. Would he prefer to be a reliever or a starter? He thinks for a moment. “I would prefer to be in the big leagues.”
Koa Beach Service was fun. Certainly it gave him his fair share of stories. But what’s the point of living in Hawaii if you don’t take advantage of your surroundings? Roth and Sanna have checked off an impressive list of adventures during their Hawaiian offseason. They’ve surfed (he’s not very good). They’ve kayaked to the Mokolua Islands. They’ve swam with dolphins and checked out the giant, thundering waves of Waimea Bay. Roth still has a few more activities to tick off before he leaves. Two of them are an almost too-obvious metaphor for his winter of free agency: he’d like to skydive and swim with sharks. “They drop you in a cage. I think that would be really cool,” Roth said, almost too matter-of-factly. Pepe, Roth’s agent, made progress at baseball’s Winter Meetings, but left without a bite. They know a few more lefties may need to come off the board before interest trickles down to Roth. “I guess things are a little bit slow for the type of free agent that I am. They’re still feeling some things out. I guess we’ll see what happens,” Roth said. As he waits, he has found plenty of Aloha spirit. He met a coach in the Pirates’ organization, Keoni De Renne, a onetime Braves farmhand in Roth’s hometown of Greenville, S.C., who promised to help him with his baseball training. Athletic
Director Ray Tanner has offered to hook him up with the coaches at the University of Hawaii so he can use their facilities. His parents, David and Deborah, flew in from Greenville last month to spend the holidays. When Roth began his first throwing program the week before Christmas – 60 feet, no mound - he enlisted his Dad as his throwing partner. “I haven’t thrown with him in years. That’ll be fun, something that brings me back to my childhood,” Roth said. He has stayed upbeat in spite of the uncertainty, riding that wave peculiar to free agents: more options, but fewer guarantees. The unease of not having a team hasn’t affected his intensity or training habits. Roth heads back to Columbia in late January, where he’ll continue preparing for Spring Training. He may even have a ponytail by then. “I don’t think my numbers in the big leagues accurately reflect my ability and what my potential is. But I understand people are going to say the numbers don’t lie. That’s okay. It’s a small sample size, the amount of innings and the amount of opportunities. Being as young as I am, I still think I have time to prove people wrong. I just need to get back to playing baseball again,” he said. In the meantime, Roth will peer out from his 21st-floor apartment, the Pacific visible from his porch, staring at a horizon that looks both unending and tantalizingly within reach. He is asked if living in Hawaii has taught him anything. “It’s such a laid-back culture. I do love that aspect. But also sometimes, when I want to get stuff done or I want to go somewhere, being laid-back – I’m pretty impatient at times. It kind of upsets me,” he said. “That’s what I’ve learned out here a little bit: to take it in as much as possible and relax.” On the week of New Year’s, his parents still in town, Roth received a call. The Cleveland Indians, the team that first drafted him in the 31st round of the 2011 MLB draft, offered him a one-year free-agent contract and a chance to make their roster out of Spring Training. They’ve left it fluid whether he’ll compete as a starter or reliever. “That’s exactly what I wanted. That’s exactly what we were looking for,” Roth said. He and his family celebrated by going to the beach.
By Brian Hand Executive Editor
exander have become friends over the past three years and Martin even spoke at USC Aiken’s annual tip-off banquet Prior to South Carolina’s easy win over before the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. rival Clemson on Friday, Dec. 19 at the CoAt the 2013-14 banquet Martin noted, lonial Life Arena the Gamecocks unveiled “I love being around people that love the new warmup shirts. game of basketball and Vince and his staff On the front of the slick new warmup love the game and have done an incredshirts was the Palmetto State with a bas- ible job here. They’ve created a culture ket at the bottom of the state outline. of winning at Aiken, which is something The warmup shirt was symbolic in that if we’re trying to build at Carolina.” you chose to believe that it was meant to At an event that Martin was attendsay to Clemson that this was a Gamecock ing over the summer of 2014, University state so be it, but even more than that of South Carolina executive assistant to the warmups could also be interpreted the president for equal opportunity proas meaning the Palmetto State is indeed grams Bobby Gist mentioned to Martin a state that loves college basketball. that South Carolina and Benedict had This is something third-year South Caro- never played. lina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin’s response was pretty much one Martin talks about all the time. of disbelief, noting to Gist, ‘you’ve got to He prides himself in articulating to the be kidding me?’” massess that, yes, football is big in the Gist, a 1969 graduate of Benedict, was state of South Carolina, but there is also not and after Martin did some research a huge following for the game of basket- of his own he took it upon himself to call ball. Never was that more evident than Benedict associate athletic director/men’s the evening of South Carolina’s 68-45 win basketball head coach Fred Watson to inover Clemson. Even with school out there quire about an exhibition. was a huge crowd in attendance. The two friends then agreed that it On the year, South Carolina is averaging made “absolutely zero sense” that it had almost 11,000 fans per game inside the never happened before and the rest is hisColonial Life Arena. That speaks volumes tory as the two Columbia institutions tanto Martin’s assertion that the game is big gled on the hardwood for the first time in the Palmetto State. ever in an exhibition on Oct. 26, 2014 with Martin also knows that the game is not the Gamecocks besting the Tigers, 92-47. just big among the NCAA Division I proIn addition to facing off against Benegrams in the state, but also among the dict of the NCAA Division II SIAC, Martin mid-major NCAA Division I schools and also scheduled a regualar-season matchthe NCAA Division II and NAIA schools. up for the Gamecocks against Coker of This is why Martin has made it a priority the South Atlantic Conference on Sunday, to play games against lower-level teams Dec. 21. Since NCAA Division I and II have in the Palmetto State along with obvi- different rules it was just an exhibition ously playing rival Clemson every year. game for the Cobras. Martin inherited the 2012-13 Gamecock Nevertheless, the matchup against schedule, but nevertheless the Game- Coker was just the continued efforts of cocks had contests against in-state foes Martin of continuing to promote the Presbyterian and South Carolina State. game in the state. In the 2013-14 season, South Carolina Before the game, Coker 28th-year head faced off against USC Upstate and South coach Dan Schmotzer was so thrilled to Carolina State as well just have the opas opened the year portunity that he with an exhibition even introduced against eventual Martin to his wife NCAA Division II Final and three kids, inFour participant USC cluding his daughAiken. ter Raegan, who All Gamecock basketball Martin and Pacer is on the dance coverage sponsored by head coach Vince Alteam of the NBA DYesterdays
League’s Texas Legends and had flown into Columbia just for the game. “I’ve got more respect than ever for Frank Martin and the Gamecocks,” Schmotzer said after the game, which was a 78-52 Gamecock win. “Frank is very genuine and he doesn’t know how much he has done for our school. I even got him a Christmas present today. Just to be able to schedule us at this part of the season means so much to our school. I can’t thank him enough for allowing us to do that.” And these thoughts are coming from a man that has done a tremendous amount for the game of basketball himself in the state with his 28 years of service to Coker and also has a twin brother, Dave, that
has done the same for baseball and is the baseball head coach at Coker. In addition, Dan Schmotzer’s own son, Jerome, played college basketball for Larry Epperly at Limestone. Kindred spirits, Dan Schmotzer may have been the one that gave the present to Martin, but it is the state of South Carolina that is getting the real gift and reaping the benefits as this determination to make basketball thrive could have huge benefits down the road. “All of us coach universities in this state,” Martin told me prior to the USC Aiken exhibition last year. “If we make our grassroots better then we make our basketball better in this state. The better our state grassroots basketball is, the better all our programs will be. The more interest there is, the better our fanbases will be. The only way we can create unbelievable interest is if all our schools are good. If all schools in this state win and have success then basketball becomes very good. Whether you’re Division I, II, III, NAIA, it doesn’t matter to me. We’re all in this to try and impact people in a positive way.”
SPURS & FEATHERS •
By Brian Hand Executive Editor
from the Barclays Center. His in-laws also live in the area and during South Carolina’s trip to Brooklyn two of his hose of you that have fol- children (Amalia and Christian) joined lowed us know that there is Martin and his wife, Anya, on the trip a lifetime of Gamecock bas- that kicked off on New Year’s Day. ketball in New York City,” South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Mar- Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015 tin told a grouping of people prior to the Gamecocks huge non-conference The Gamecocks closed out the home win over No. 9 Iowa State at the Barclays portion of their non-conference schedCenter in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Jan. 3, 2015. ule with a dominating 91-54 win over Martin believes that continuing this North Carolina A&T on Tuesday, Dec. 30. tradition along with allowing some of South Carolina as Martin said had his players the chance to play closer to “earned” some time off before the home is really important to Gamecock North Carolina A&T game as the Gamemen’s basketball. cocks were off for a few days after their Martin treats his student-athletes and 78-52 win over Coker on Sunday, Dec. those involved with his team just like 21. family and the other reason schedulThe Gamecocks returned to practice ing games in the New York City area is right before the North Carolina A&T so important to Martin is that it allows game looking to continue the mohis own family the chance to be closer. mentum that had helped them win In fact, Martin’s sister owns a restau- five straight games, which rant just a few short blocks away
included easy wins over Oklahoma State (75-49 on Dec. 6) of the Big 12 and rival Clemson (68-45 on Dec. 19) of the ACC. South Carolina was obviously able to continue its winning ways and pick up its sixth straight win against a vastly overmatched North Carolina A&T team on Dec. 30, but competition was about to get amped up considerably with another Big 12 foe on the docket in nationally ninth-ranked Iowa State on Saturday, Jan. 3, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Martin scheduled the opportunity against the Cyclones knowing that it would provide the Gamecocks a truly tough test before the grind that is SEC play began on Wednesday, Jan. 7, against Florida. “We’re going to win regardless of the score,” Martin said prior to the Gamecocks eventual vic-
tory over Iowa State. South Carolina’s journey to victory in the Empire State over No. 9 Iowa State actually started well before the season even began, but their sole attention to the Cyclones officially started pretty much after the final whistle of the win over the Aggies on Dec. 30.
Departure for Brooklyn on New Year’s Day The three-day adventure to New York City officially started on New Year’s Day with the Gamecocks kicking off the day with a practice at 10 a.m. at the Carolina Coliseum. Immediately after the practice at roughly around 12:45 p.m. the Gamecock equipment managers started putting in all of the equipment and luggage
from student-athletes, administrators and others that would be traveling with the Gamecocks to Brooklyn into the South Carolina shuttle buses that would be transporting the Gamecocks to Eagle Aviation on the Columbia Metropolitan Airport grounds. Once they dropped off their stuff, the Gamecock student-athletes made quick trips to pick up some fast food before getting on the shuttle buses. Everyone that would be traveling to Brooklyn was told that they had to be at the airport by 2 p.m. Most started arriving around 1:30 p.m. and upon their arrival South Carolina Director of Basketball Operations Andy Assaley handed everyone an itinerary that they could keep with them. Assaley had emailed this itinerary the day before departure, but the itinerary is given in this form so they know where to be throughout the trip. After going through normal airport security checks, the travel party made their way on to the chartered flight that took off at 2:45 p.m. for the Teterboro Airport, which is in the Bergen County, N.J. borough of Teterboro, N.J. As one would expect, everybody was in a good mood at the time of takeoff. It was a business trip, but the Gamecocks had all the confidence in the world at the start of the trip and it was readily evident.
Arrival on New Year’s Day The Gamecocks arrived at Landmark aviation on the grounds of Teterboro Airport at 4:10 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Upon arrival, South Carolina made its way to its Peter Pan Bus Company bus that was helmed by Anibal (Andy) Vazquez. While waiting for the equipment to be loaded on to the bus most watched on their phones, iPads or over others shoulders the dramatic conclusion of the Cotton Bowl where former
with South Carolina Director of Men’s Basketball Video Services David Kiefer having clips of each Cyclone available so Evans could describe strengths and weaknesses of each while the team had a look at each player. The scouting breakdown by Evans was the final part of a long New Year’s workday for the Gamecocks, who then went to bed at 11 p.m. to get some shuteye before another long day of preparations on Friday, Jan. 2.
Friday, Jan. 2, 2015 Gamecock football player and current Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and the seventh-ranked Spartans came from behind to best No. 4 Baylor, 42-41, in the final seconds. It was only 18.3 miles from the Teterboro Airport – in the well-known Meadowlands area of N.J. – to South Carolina’s hotel in Brooklyn, which was the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. The bus departed for Brooklyn at 4:52 p.m. The short drive took a lot longer than 18.3 miles in Columbia would take due to having to go through the heart of Manhattan and Chinatown, but since it was New Year’s Day the traffic was uncharacteristically slow for the area with it taking just 45 or so minutes to get there. “The way we went to get here would have taken two to two and a half hours normally,” Martin told a grouping of people upon South Carolina’s arrival at the hotel at 6:12 p.m. The luggage, equipment and everything else on the bus was taken up by the team managers and the bellhops at the hotel. A meal in the Jackie Gleason room of the hotel was waiting for the Gamecocks right when they arrived. The
buffet-style dinner consisted of salad, pasta, hamburgers, fish and chicken fingers. “I could eat all of these,” Martin joked about the chicken fingers to his players after a long day of practice and travel. After the meal, some Gamecocks went down to Chinatown and Times Square, but they had to be back for an Iowa State scouting meeting at 9:30 p.m. South Carolina Associate AD/Marketing Eric Nichols and Director of Marketing Josh Waters took the time to go to Mason Jar NYC, which is the official home of the NYC Gamecocks. South Carolina Assistant AD/Compliance Services DJ Brown and South Carolina Director of Apparel Operations Kyle Lipsey visited the World Trade Center. Every Gamecock foe is obviously scouted with different assistant coaches taking turns breaking down all of the information. This type of delegation is normal throughout college basketball and the Iowa State breakdown was done by assistant coach Lamont Evans. The breakdown included Evans talking about each Iowa State player
The Gamecocks woke at 8:55 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 2, ready to start their first full day of preparation in Brooklyn. After the team had breakfast the Gamecocks then made the short walk to practice, which was being held at the Generoso Pope Athletic Complex – affectionately known as The Pope – on the campus of St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. The multi-purpose complex has an aquatics center to go along with the Daniel Lynch Gymnasium where the Gamecocks practiced. Peter Aquilone Court at the Daniel Lynch Gymnasium has a seating capacity of 1,200 for St. Francis Brooklyn men’s basketball. The Terriers compete in the Northeast Conference (NEC) and despite hitting the court immediately for their own practice after South Carolina they “stepped up and offered their services,” according to Assaley. The practice and most of the trip was set up by Assaley, who takes care of all of this so Martin and the rest of his coaching staff can focus on the Gamecocks winning basketball games. He along with the managers also make
sure that all the equipment arrives and everything goes as smoothly as possible. This trip they even had to bring basketballs as the Gamecocks would be playing with adidas basketballs for their game against Iowa State at the Barclays Center. South Carolina wanted to make sure they had a feel for the adidas basketballs before the neutral site game against the Cyclones. “Whatever the guys need to play,” Assaley said during South Carolina’s practice at St. Francis College. “Uniforms, bags, shoes, water and gatorade; everything and also video equipment. Kiefer will take a video projector for Frank’s room. That way he can hook it up to his TV and his computer or iPad, so he can watch film for the scout (of opponent). We’ll get with him (Martin) and go over everything.” Assaley generally has everything set up for Gamecock road games right when the schedule comes out. The Brooklyn trip for the Gamecocks had a total of 52 people included in the travel party. South Carolina needed 29 hotel rooms in total. Martin and the Gamecocks used the time at St. Francis College to continue to prepare for Iowa State and go through the different sets and schemes of the Cyclones. “Let’s talk about this,” Martin remarked about one of the tougher offensive schemes run by the Cyclones that the Gamecocks were trying to fully understand. “It’s going to happen whether you’re ready or not.” After the practice and ensuing walk back the Gamecocks once again had a meal at the hotel before having a little free time before having the treat of going to the New York Knicks-Detroit Pistons game at the self-proclaimed “world’s most-famous arena” in the Madison Square Garden. Before the free time, South Carolina sophomore guard Duane Notice caught up with his mother, Suzette Carr, who could not contain her thrill for her son playing for South Carolina despite the family being from Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, which is just north of Toronto in Southern Ontario. She especially appreciates the fact that Martin goes out of his way to try and get his players closer to home
24 • SPURS & FEATHERS
for games. In addition to Notice being close to home, South Carolina freshman guard Shamiek Sheppard was able to play in his hometown of Brooklyn and senior guard Ty Johnson had the chance to play close to his hometown of Plainfield, N.J. “It’s good,” Carr commented. “It gives us an opportunity to come see him play in person, which is amazing. We would not miss this for the world.” As a mother, Carr is extremely appreciative of the family atmosphere created by Martin and she believes Notice has a second family in the Gamecocks. “He’s adopted some of the other moms,” Carr said. “Him not being a local kid, I think it’s important for them to look after them as well, especially around the holiday times. He went to Frank’s place for Thanksgiving and I think that’s really nice.” Just prior to leaving for Madison Square Garden the Gamecocks ran into Iowa State as they were staying at the same hotel and they had just arrived. The trip to Madison Square Garden was a special one for former South Carolina men’s basketball studentathlete and current radio analyst Casey Manning, who scored his first career points as a Gamecock at MSG. South Carolina watched the game at Madison Square Garden from a loge area. As one would expect, the student-athletes were really into the game with each Gamecock talk-
ing about their favorite players and different things the teams were doing. South Carolina freshman guard TeMarcus Blanton was so into the action he even waved his arms during a timeout in hopes of getting a free t-shirt. On a night when Phil Collins and many other celebrities were in attendance there was even a marriage proposal at the game. Around 9:20 p.m. during the halfway point of the third quarter, South Carolina left to head back to the hotel where they would meet once more to talk over what Iowa State was going to do before heading to bed at 11 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015 - Gameday Early morning/shootaround The Gamecocks woke up once again just before 9 a.m. on gameday. After breakfast, South Carolina departed for shootaround at the Barclays Center. It was cold and cloudy when the Gamecocks arrived at the Barclays Center, but luckily the arena has one of the most unique amenities for teams playing there in all of sports. When the bus arrives it drives into an elevator that through hydraulics lifts you into an area where you can drive straight into the arena’s underground without getting out of the
bus. Once in this area the bus parks in a special circle area that after the game rotates automatically to turn you around and face you back to the elevator that goes through the same motions again before you hit the road. “This is the coolest thing about the arena,” South Carolina Associate Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Matt Figger said when the Gamecocks arrived for shootaround. The Gamecocks had about an hour and 15 minutes for shootaround before Iowa State would have their shootaround. While the Gamecocks were going through shootaround, South Carolina Associate Director of Media Relations/ Men’s Basketball Emily Feeney talked with the talent and producers for the CBS Sports Network broadcast of the game that evening. Andrew Catalon provided play-by-play for the game, while former Villanova head coach Steve Lappas was the analyst. During this time the managers also got their bearings at the arena, while the Barclays Center operations staff set up the arena for the 6 p.m. tipoff that evening. During this same time, South Carolina Director of Broadcast/ Voice of the Gamecocks Andy Demetra, Manning and Broadcast Radio Engineer/Producer Carroll Senn set up their equipment and made sure they had everything they needed. It was a normal shootaround for South Carolina with the team go-
ing through final on-court thoughts before the showdown with the No. 9 Cyclones. Per normal, Martin and the coaching staff made sure the studentathletes had everything they needed and applauded the players when things went well. “Yo, I like it. I like it, Ty,” Martin said to Johnson when he captured exactly what Martin was looking for during one point in the shootaround. The cold had turned to snow by the time South Carolina was done with its shootaround with the Gamecocks emerging from the Barclay Center bus elevator to snow dotting the Brooklyn sky. The Gamecocks had their final pregame meal at 2 p.m. and they then had some free time to rest before departing from their hotel for the 6 p.m. tipoff at 4:30 p.m.
really there to support Martin as the two have a relationship dating back to Martin’s time as an assistant at the Boston school from 2000-04. “I’m a Frank Martin fan,” Brodsky said. It was not just NYC Gamecocks who had taken the time to come to McMahon’s and hear from Martin before attending the game as Gamecock fans
and Gamecock Club members from Boston, Philadelphia, Deleware and even St. Louis had made the trip. Among the group was also former Gamecock wide receiver Fred Zeigler. The South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame member, who was on South Carolina’s 1969 ACC Championship team, is a lawyer in New York City. A 2010 graduate of South Carolina, Jay Austin, who is in outside sales in St. Louis, came up to visit 2009 South Carolina graduate and beer distributor Kevin Buchanan of Brooklyn during the New Year’s holiday. He made it a point to stay and support Martin and the Gamecocks and for his efforts he received a Martin signed Gamecock basketball from NYC Gamecock Club chapter President J.R. Buzzelli. After Martin talked with the group, Buzzelli asked what they could do to further the Gamecock cause in the northeast. Martin stated simply “keep doing what you’re doing. I want to be around people that care and you ob-
their minds ready and the final pregame talk, South Carolina took the court against Iowa State and raced out to a 15-4 lead. The Gamecocks would lead by as many as 12 points in the first half before entering the halftime break with a one-point lead at 36-35. Iowa State would garner its first lead of the game with 8:28 to play, but South Carolina would not be deterred with sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell – who would earn SEC Player of the Week laurels two days later – leading the Gamecock charge down the stretch in South Carolina’s eventual 64-60 win over the ninth-ranked Cyclones. It was the seventh consecutive win for the Gamecocks. The win over Iowa State was South Carolina’s first win over a top-10 team since beating then No. 1 Kentucky on Jan. 26, 2010. The win over No. 9 Iowa State marked the first Gamecock win over a top10 team away from Columbia since
South Carolina-Iowa State After talking with the group, Martin departed for the Gamecocks’ locker room where he would collect his thoughts and wait for his team to arrive. After about an hour of getting
Martin with the NYC Gamecocks The NYC Gamecocks/NYC Gamecock Club are some of the most active Gamecocks in all of the country. Martin knows this and even with such a big game later that day against No. 9 Iowa State the Gamecock head mentor made sure to take time out of his busy schedule to talk with the Big Apple Gamecocks. The special “Chalk Talk” with Martin in the interview room at the Barclays Center took place at around 3:45 p.m. Prior to the talk with Martin the NYC Gamecocks met up at McMahon’s Public House on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn at 2 p.m. Ironically, Iowa State also held their booster gathering at McMahon’s Public House. The friendly affair even included the Cyclones and Gamecocks in attendance taking a picture together. One of those in attendance to support the Gamecocks was Northeastern booster Mike Brodsky, who was
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South Carolina bested No. 6 Florida on Feb. 8, 2006. The win was also South Carolina’s first neutral-site victory over a ranked opponent since downing then No. 14 Tennessee in the SEC Tournament on March 10, 2006.
Postgame The neutral-site win over No. 9 Iowa State at the Barclays Center had the feel of an NCAA Tournament game. “We just feel like we have a chance to make it (into the NCAA Tournament),” Thornwell said after the game. “That’s our goal, really, to just try and make the tournament and be playing in March.” Thornwell, Notice and Martin represented the Gamecocks at the postgame presser and after their media obligations they went and grabbed some pizza or pasta and hopped on the bus to head to the Teterboro Airport. After all the equipment was loaded on the bus, the Gamecocks were circled around toward the Barclays Center bus elevator and they were then headed on their way towards their flight home. Each Gamecock thanked ther bus driver Andy for his efforts on the trip and they then went through the normal airport checks at Landmark Aviation on the grounds of the Teterboro Airport before the plane took off at 11 p.m. The Gamecocks landed back in Columbia at 12:52 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 4 and after picking up their luggage they were on the shuttles ready to head back to campus as winners. The players just like their head coach know this is just the beginning. It’s just January. “Real good win for us,” Martin commented. “Like I said in the locker room, these are the moments as a coach you have to be careful. It’s a heck of a win for our program and our players and you want them to embrace it. At the same time, we have Florida (next). We can’t get overjoyed in January because we have 18 conference games left. One right after the other.” On to the next one. SPURS & FEATHERS •
By Kyle Heck Reporter
The South Carolina men’s golf team recorded yet another successful fall season in 2014. Of the four events the team played in, they finished in the top-five in three of them and garnered two tournament wins. The first win came in the Carpet Capital Collegiate, the second event of the season. In seventh place entering the final day of the tournament, the Gamecocks caught fire, shooting 12-under par to capture the title. Then, in the Camden Collegiate Invitational, the last event of the season, South Carolina carded a final round 275 (-5) to erase a seven-stroke deficit to claim first place. Mixed in between those tournaments was a 3-1 victory over Virginia in match play at the DICK’s Collegiate Challenge Cup in September. Head coach Bill McDonald’s team finished the fall ranked No. 9 in the Golfstat relative rankings. Senior Will Murphy was recently named the 2014 South Carolina Golf Association Player of the Year, the first Gamecock to win the award since 2009. South Carolina starts its spring season on Feb. 20, 2015 at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships in Humble, Texas.
The cross country team started off strong, claiming four first place finishes in its first six events. However, a slew of injuries slowed down the Gamecocks during the SEC and NCAA regional championships. South Carolina finished 13th at the SEC Championships and claimed an 18th place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional. Still, assistant track coach for distance and cross country Andrew Allden was happy with the way his young players stepped up for the injured players in the regionals. The Gamecocks have no seniors on the roster and 15 of the 27 runners are freshmen. Overall, six of the top seven runners will return for South Carolina in 2015, so the future is bright. One of the highlights of the 2014 fall season was ju-
nior Anna Todd. She was the Gamecocks’ top finisher in all six of the meets she appeared in and placed 36th and 39th in the SEC Championships and NCAA Regional, respectively.
The South Carolina men’s soccer team went through an up and down season, but it ended on a high note. The Gamecocks got an upset win over UAB in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament to make it to the final against host Old Dominion. It was their third finals appearance in just 10 years in the league. However, South Carolina fell short against Old Dominion, losing by a 2-1 score. The Gamecocks finished with a 10-10 record on the season and while head coach Mark Berson was disappointed his team couldn’t win a conference championship he was happy with the way his team stepped up its play at the end of the year. South Carolina also registered a big come-from-behind win over rival Clemson early in the year, defeating the Tigers 2-1 in double-overtime. Redshirt freshman Mikkel Knudsen had a fantastic season and it earned him two prestigious awards. Knudsen won the CUSA Golden Boot and was also named the league’s freshman of the year. He was also tabbed a first-team freshman AllAmerican. Senior defenders Mahamoudou Kaba and Braeden Troyer wrapped up excellent careers as both were named to the All-Conference USA second-team.
After the two-time defending SEC champions lost their first two meets of the 2014 fall season, the prospects of going for a three peat looked dim. However, a lot has changed since then. The Gamecocks reeled off four straight wins to end 2014 on a high note and keep their championship aspirations well-intact. More impressive is the fact that three of those wins came on the road, something that is extremely hard to do in equestrian. After dropping their SEC opener against Georgia, the Gamecocks defeated Auburn on the road
and registered a win over Texas A&M in Blythewood on Halloween. South Carolina heads into the winter break ranked No. 3 in the nation, making the Gamecocks the highest ranked team in the SEC. Head coach Boo Major was proud of the way her team bounced back from the rough start and was particularly pleased with the road results. South Carolina played four of its six meets on the road. That is a good sign, as things won’t get much better in the spring, with just three of the final six meets in Blythewood. Senior Layla Choate racked up the awards in November, claiming both the SEC Rider of the Month and the NCEA National Rider of the Month. Choate has a perfect 6-0 record for the Gamecocks going into the break. South Carolina kicks off its spring season on Jan. 31, 2015 with a home meet against SMU.
top-three Georgia on January 3. Both the Gamecocks’ men’s and women’s team fell to the Bulldogs.
The South Carolina women’s golf team had one of the most brilliant fall seasons of any athletic team on campus. The Gamecocks recorded at least a third place finish in each of their four events during the fall and won two of them, the ANNIKA Intercollegiate and the Mercedes-Benz collegiate championship. The ANNIKA Intercollegiate, which the Gamecocks won by seven strokes, was one of the toughest events South Carolina will compete in all year, as 11 of the 12 teams were ranked in the Golfweek preseason poll. The results on the course led the Gamecocks to the No. 1 ranking in the country, the first time in school history that has happened. To make things even more impressive, South Carolina recorded all of its success despite playing tournaments in three Both the men and women’s swimming consecutive weeks. Head coach Kalen and diving teams combined to lose just Harris said her team will probably never two meets during the fall season. The men do that again, but was proud of the way started the season off strong with a road her team fought and still won throughout win at Kentucky. The women’s team fell the adversity. The Gamecocks kick off action in 2015 short against the Wildcats, but that proved to be their only loss in 2014, as they reeled with the Florida State Match-up that beoff five straight wins beginning with a vic- gins on February 13. tory at Georgia Tech. Both teams looked impressive in the final event of the season, the Virginia Tech InviThe fall for South Carolina men’s tentational. The Gamecocks had three players nis was a lot different than other sports place in the top ten of the 1650 freestyles because of the fact that the events the while both the men and women’s teams Gamecocks played did not count toward claimed third-place finishes in the invita- the team’s overall record tional. Instead, head coach Josh Goffi and his Redshirt sophomore Kevin Leithold and team focused on getting the freshmen freshman Nils Wich-Glasen set school re- adjusted to the college game while also cords in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, re- preparing them and the rest of the team spectively. Those weren’t the only notable for the all-important spring season. performances this fall, as South Carolina Goffi was pleased with the way South had a combined 34 top-10 times in school Carolina performed in its four fall events. history. Several Gamecocks ended the fall on winThe Gamecock men ended 2014 with ning streaks, including senior Thiago Pina 3-1 record and are ranked No. 18 in the heiro, who won his last four matches of country. Meanwhile, the women boast an 2014. Pinheiro kept up his success on the impressive 5-1 record. Swimming and Div- world stage, as he won a spot with Brazil ing got off to a quick start in 2015, hosting in the World University Games.
Swimming and Diving
The strong fall performances helped the Gamecocks to their No. 27 national ranking heading into 2015. Pinheiro and fellow senior Kyle Koch, who ended the fall on a three-match winning streak, will be counted on to lead the team during the spring. Goffi is hoping that his team can avoid the slow January start that plagued the Gamecocks last season. He’ll find out soon enough, as South Carolina begins spring play with matches against Elon and Furman on January 17.
The South Carolina women’s soccer team fought their way to history in the 2014 season. Coming into the year with high expectations, the Gamecocks’ offense struggled at times and the team lost some games that head coach Shelley Smith was frustrated with. However, she was far from disappointed with the results in the postseason. After losing to Texas A&M in the SEC semifinals, South Carolina began the NCAA tournament with a win against rival Clemson in penalty kicks. The team then traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C. where the Gamecocks knocked off Seattle in penalty kicks yet again and recorded a monumental 1-0 upset over host North Carolina to earn the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Elite Eight, where their run ended with a loss to eventual national champion Florida State. So while the regular-season didn’t go as well as Smith would’ve liked, South Carolina (14-6-5) still recorded a program first. She was particularly happy for the talented group of seniors that included goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, who became the first Gamecock to earn two first-team All-America awards, and Taylor Leach, who was a first-team AllSEC defender.
Like men’s tennis, the fall events for the South Carolina women’s tennis team did not count toward the team’s overall record. However, it was still a very important three months for head coach Kevin Epley. The Gamecocks ended 2014 on a high note, winning four matches on the final day of the Kitty Harrison Invitational, the final event of the fall. Epley said he spent the fall giving freshmen opportunities to show what they can do in match play. It was good preparation for the spring, where the freshmen and the returning players will face tough competition week in and week out. Overall, Epley was pleased with how his team performed in the fall and is hoping the Gamecocks can make the NCAA tournament for a remarkable 21st straight year. South Carolina begins 2015 ranked No. 23 nationally and opens the spring schedule in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Michigan Invitational on Jan. 17.
The 2014 football season consisted of a series of up and downs for South Carolina. The Gamecocks began the season ranked ninth in the country, but lost a home game to Texas A&M to begin the year. The team bounced back from that loss to win three games in a row, including yet another win against rival Georgia, who was ranked No. 6 at the time, at WilliamsBrice stadium. However, South Carolina struggled during the middle of the season, losing four out of five games to put in doubt the chances of going to a bowl game. The Gamecocks responded with back-toback wins, including just the program’s second ever win in The Swamp at Florida, to clinch a bowl bid. South Carolina held on for a 24-21 victory against Miami in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl to record its fourth straight bowl victory and end the season on a high note. Head coach Steve Spurrier was happy with how the Gamecocks tacked on another bowl win and is also excited about the 2015 season. This year’s impressive recruiting class includes a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball, an area that the Gamecocks struggled in during most of 2014.
The 2014 South Carolina volleyball team saw a vast improvement from the year before. The Gamecocks went 17-14 overall and 7-11 in the SEC. In 2013, South Carolina recorded just 12 overall wins and just three in the SEC. What’s even more impressive is that the Gamecocks improved tremendously despite losing one of the best players in school history in Juliette Thevenin. This years’ team was a relatively young team, meaning that head coach Scott Swanson and his club should continue to get better next season. South Carolina will lose a valuable contributor over the last four years in libero Mikaela Christiaansen, who recorded a school-record 535 digs in 2014. Swanson was happy with the way his team battled all year and that the results started to reflect how hard his players have been working. Young players like freshman Taylr McNeil and sophomore KoKo Atoa-Williams, who both had fantastic 2014 seasons, are a major reason why Swanson is so happy about the future.
Under the direction of Beverly Smith, the South Carolina softball team finished up its 2014 fall schedule with an impressive 7-1 record. The contests obviously do not count towards South Carolina’s 2015 record, but they allowed the team the chance to get prepared for the upcoming 2015 season. Coming off of a 36-22, 11-13 SEC season a year ago, South Carolina is trying to replace some of its best hitters from that
campaign. However, this upcoming season will give players a chance to step up and fill the shoes of the departed players. Pitching is one area that South Carolina does not have to worry about replacing experience and leadership. Fifth-year senior Julie Sarratt will once again anchor the pitching staff in 2015 after winning 17 games last year. Sophomore Nickie Blue won 18 games as a freshman and also posted seven saves, which led the nation. Overall, Smith liked what she saw this fall and hopes her team can continue to improve before the start of the 2015 season that kicks off with the East Carolina Pirate Classic in Greenville, N.C. on Feb. 6.
Even with a couple of months to see his team scrimmage this past fall, South Carolina baseball head coach Chad Holbrook still has a lot of difficult decisions to make regarding his team. Perhaps the toughest one will be seeing who makes the final roster for the season. The Gamecocks also have to find a third weekend starter, a closer and figure out who will start at every infield spot, excluding first base which will be manned by Kyle Martin. Sophomore Jordan Gore was called by Holbrook as probably the MVP of the fall. Another position that is up for grabs is catcher. With the loss of three-year starter Grayson Greiner, there is a void at one of the most important positions on the field. There will be a lot of talented players vying for a limited amount of spots in the pitching rotation and bullpen. Junior Jack Wynkoop and sophomore Wil Crowe are a given at the top of the weekend rotation as of right now, but that is the only thing certain. South Carolina opens its 2015 season with a marquee three-game series against College of Charleston Feb. 13-15 at Carolina Stadium.
South Carolina sand volleyball head coach Moritz Moritz is confident that for many reasons his sand volleyball program will be among the elite in a very short time. Nevertheless, the Gamecocks are just in their second year as a program and it takes time to build a program. South Carolina recently concluded its second fall season in the program’s history and for the most part Moritz was pleased with the fall campaign for the Gamecocks. South Carolina was able to participate in one event during the fall per NCAA rules and the Gamecocks won 20 sets at the Collegiate Sand Clash hosted by Rally Volleyball at the LakePoint Sports Complex in Emerson, Ga. on Nov. 15. Moritz really enjoyed the opportunity his team had to compete in at least one event during the fall, particularly one that features pairs from top-notch programs such as Florida State, Georgia State, LSU and UAB.
South Carolina sand volleyball will kick off its second season by hosting Mercer and ULM at the Carolina Classic March 7 and March 8.
Track and Field
The South Carolina men’s and women’s track and field teams helmed by Curtis Frye spent the fall of 2014 preparing for what is sure to be a tough indoor and outdoor season in 2015. For the most part due to construction on their own new facilities, South Carolina will be on the road a great deal of the season with the Gamecocks hosting just a pair of events. The indoor season commences on Jan. 10 with South Carolina competing in Clemson’s Orange and Purple Classic. South Carolina’s first home event - the USC Open - will be Feb. 7. South Carolina will start the outdoor season on March 19 at the Shamrock Invitational in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
There is one thing that drives South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley and that is winning a national championship. Staley spends long hours watching film, preparing her team for each and every game and she makes sure prior to each outing that her squad understands how important it is to pay attention to even the tiniest little details. Prior to the start of the 2014-15 season, Staley, her coaching staff and her studentathletes made it no secret that winning the national championship was the goal this year for the Gamecocks. During the first part of the 2014-15 season the Gamecocks lived up to expecations as they closed out 2014 as the No. 1 team in the nation and in the midst of their best start to a season ever. South Carolina started its campaign for its second consecutive SEC regular-season championship on Jan. 2 with a 77-58 victory over Auburn before a crowd of 16,465 at the Colonial Life Arena.
The 2014-15 South Carolina men’s basketball team entered the 2014-15 season looking to continue its strong end to the 2013-14 season. And they did just during the first couple of months of the 2014-15 season with the Gamecocks going 8-3 in the early going of the year, including a perfect 5-0 during the month of December. Frank Martin’s Gamecocks also picked up easy wins over rival Clemson and Big 12 power Oklahoma State. South Carolina concluded the 2014 portion of the 2014-15 schedule in the midst of a six-game winning streak. After picking up its seventh straight win in a strong non-conference win over No. 9 Iowa State on Jan. 3, South Carolina kicked off SEC play on Jan. 7 against Florida.
By Brian Hand Executive Editor The iconic rap group Kid ‘N’ Play changed Dawn Staley’s life in the early 1990s. Despite being the national Player of the Year in women’s college basketball in 1991 and 1992, Staley was cut from the 1992 United States women’s basketball olympic team because they told her she was too short and did not have enough international experience. The 5-foot-6 Staley could not do anything about her height, but she could go get international experience at the professional level after her storied playing career at Virginia was over. She did just that and while playing basketball in Europe, Staley decided to watch the “House Party” trilogy movies starring Kid ‘N’ Play one night. Staley started watching the films obviously not really looking for wisdom to come her way out of the cult classics, but she found just that from Kid’s workstudy boss in the film Mr. Lee, who told Kid these simple words: “sometimes you’ve got to do what you don’t want to do to get what you want.” Staley internalized the words of Mr. Lee (played by Tony Burton of “Rocky” movies fame) by taking it upon herself to work harder than anyone in the game, particularly at her point guard position. The rest is history as the seventh-year South Carolina’s women’s basketball head coach would go on to win three olympic gold medals as a player and eventually become enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Not even 24 hours after she had guided her national No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team to a thrilling 51-50 victory over No. 9 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. on Sunday, Dec. 7, Staley was telling this story to students at Charles Pinckney Elementary in Mount Pleasant, S.C. She was utilizing the story as a way to tell the students just how hard it is to get to where you want to be in life. And it all starts with taking care of business in school first with the Philadelphia native commenting that out of
all the things she has done the fact that she is a first-generation college graduate is one of the things in which she is most proud. Staley’s appearance at Pinckney Elementary on Monday, Dec. 8 was part of a three-way agreement between Staley, her charity INNERSOLE and renowned women’s college basketball expert Debbie Antonelli. “Coach Staley asked me if I would be interested in doing the digital network (SEC Network+) games at South Carolina and, of course, I’m always looking
the game was,” Antonelli remarked. “It just makes it even more special that they’re the No. 1 team. This is a place where it’s 50/50 South Carolina, Clemson fans, but I thought the Clemson fans in the audience today were very well behaved in letting coach Staley talk about her success at South Carolina. “It’s great because win or lose, Dawn is one of the best combinations of competition, competitiveness and winning that we could find in women’s basketball and she didn’t even talk about her
to do any games and grow our sport,” Antonelli said. “When she asked if I would do the games, I asked her if it would be okay if I could defer compensation to INNERSOLE so she could come to Pinckney and do this program with these fifth graders and the students here at this school. “The reason why Pinckney is because my three boys went to school here and my middle son, Frankie, has down syndrome and Leanne Sheppard the principal of the school here changed the culture of the school to allow my son to have an incredible foundation and platform to be able to be successful. This place is really special to our family … this was my choice because of what this school did for my family.” Antonelli knows what type of person Staley is and it did not surprise her at all that she was willing to come to the Charleston, S.C. area at 9:30 a.m. the next day after a huge victory. “I knew Dawn that after she made her commitment she was going to come here no matter what the outcome of
Naismith Hall of Fame background. She talked about how she grew up and she talked about what things she experienced in her life in being able to be in a position to be the No. 1 team in the country. When you start counting all her accolades we could be here all day trying to list the things she’s done in our game, but I think it’s really great that she cares about people and she cares about her community and was willing to come to Mount Pleasant today to be a part of this event,” Antonelli elaborated. After concluding her talk with the students in attendance, Staley and INNERSOLE handed out sneakers. She was joined by Anton Brown, who was representing charity partner WellCare of South Carolina. Brown gave a special gift to those receiving the shoes as well. “I think community service is one that is an everyday thing ... kids all over the state need to be loved on and if myself, our organization, Debbie Antonelli can join hands to make that possible, I think it’s a beautiful thing,” Staley noted.
INNERSOLE is a charity that is becoming nationally known, but it is important to Staley to keep the foundation rooted in the Palmetto State. “INNERSOLE is a national organization, but we want a charity that begins at home here in the state of South Carolina,” Staley stated. “We feel like that if we could make every kid that is in need feel important and feel special that is our job to do, that is our mission to do it, so to come here to Charleston, a place where we really haven’t been, I think it’s a beautiful thing. For Debbie Antonelli to provide this platform to share INNERSOLE with other people in the state, I think again it’s a beautiful thing.” Having the chance to see the smiling faces of the children receiving the sneakers is something Staley will always remember. “It’s wonderful,” Staley said. “The smiles on their faces. I don’t even think they realized they were getting the shoes. I think it was a great gesture by the school to pick out the students that could benefit from INNERSOLE and getting a new pair of sneakers. I think the real prize will be when they are able to open the box up and know that they’ve got a new pair of sneakers and where it came from. Hopefully as they get older they’ll appreciate this moment and just pay it forward.” Staley and the rest of INNERSOLE have been working hard for quite some time to build up the charity, but the grassroots “sole movement” was giving out sneakers for the first time on Monday, Dec. 8 with Staley at the helm of the No. 1 team in the nation. “It really is a cool thing because being the No. 1 team in the country your platform is a little bit bigger than what it was,” Staley said. “For us, we want people to join in this exciting time for our team and also understand South Carolina is a great place to be from an academic standpoint, from an athletic standpoint. We’ve got the best of both worlds with all the sports we have at our school.” To learn more about INNERSOLE, please visit www.innersole.org. You can follow INNERSOLE on Twitter at @ innersoleorg. You can like also like the charity on Facebook.
approach and discipline. A lot of times young hitters don’t have that, but he seemed to have a knack for understanding what he wants to do each at-bat and he’s strong enough By Brian Hand to mis-hit a ball Executive Editor and stilldo some damage. Everybody’s not blessed with that trait, so I think he can purs & Feathers Executive Editor Brian help our team. Hand recently caught up with South We’ve still got a lot of areas where we Carolina baseball head coach Chad need to improve. Our catching situation Holbrook to talk about the upcoming Game- is a little bit up in the air. We have three cock baseball season and much more. or four guys back there battling it out. All S&F: You’ve had a little time to re- of them are capable, but all of them are flect on your fall practices now. Think- unproven so to speak, so we’ll have to see ing back, what surprised you the most kind of how the dust settles on that posiabout the fall for your team? tion as we get closer to opening day. All-inHolbrook: I think the thing that kind of all it was a good fall and we stayed healthy stands out to me is we have a very deep for the most part. I think it was productive middle infield; we have a deep infield. I and our staff learned a little bit about our have a number of guys that I could put team as we went through the fall then we out there and feel really good about. I’m knew prior to starting (the fall). wrestling with the fact of different comS&F: What impressed you the most? binations, what we’re going to do as we Holbrook: I think we’re very versatile. head into the spring. The guys are going It’s a versatile group. I think that’s going to have to be very versatile. I’m going to to bode well for us, meaning Jordan Gore have move some guys around. Some guys can play a number of positions, DC Arenare going to have to be very patient. You’re das can play a number of positions. I think going to have to be a group of team-first another thing that kind of stood out to me guys because I can’t put them all in there is that I think the middle of our lineup has at the same time. a chance to be very formidable. If Max So the depth of our infield kind of stood Schrock stays healthy and Kyle Martin out to me. I was very pleased with the way continues to do what Kyle’s done and you our pitchers threw, especially with having throw in Alex Destino, guys like that can do not seen some of our young guys like the some damage, so the middle of our lineup Clarke Schmidts of the world, the Tyler – you can throw Taylor Widener in there Johnsons. Those kind of guys really sur- and (Collin) Steagall in there – those guys prised me; Brandon Murray, so it was good have a chance to hit more than just sinto see those guys throw gles, have some extraagainst college hitters base hits, maybe some for the first time. home runs; (they are) The older guys I kind big, strong and powerof know what we have. I ful guys. I like the way know what Wil Crowe’s the middle of our lineup capable of and Jack kind of shakes out from Wynkoop and even an RBI standpoint and a Cody Mincey. I know All Gamecock baseball home run threat. That what our returners are coverage sponsored by was good to see. capable of, so it was a DiPrato’s I think we’ve got a little fall for me and our staff bit of fire. I think we’ve to get familiar with our got some motivation and determination new guys. I think Alex Destino jumped out in the group. Jordan Gore was extremely to me with the way he swung the bat. I impressive in that he played the game evknew he was big and he was strong, but I ery single day with something to prove. He was very encouraged by his plate kind of won over his teammates. He won
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over his coaches with the fire and enthusiasm that he played the game with. Both Jordan and Gene Cone have vastly improved from a year ago and they’re going to factor in to some important roles this year probably, so those kind of things kind of stood out to me. All-in-all, again, it was a productive fall for us. You try not to get your hopes too high because we’re playing each other. When you hit good one weekend you wonder if it’s because your hitters are good or if your pitching is bad and when you pitch good one weekend you wonder if your pitching is good or if your hitters are bad. You’ve got to kind of keep it in perspective, but I do like the makeup of our team. They came here to work each and every day. They worked really hard in the weight room and they practiced hard every day, so I’m liking the makeup and the chemistry thus far, but in reality you can’t really judge a team’s chemistry until the season starts. S&F: When we talked last July about the prospects of the coming year your enthusiasm could not be contained. Your enthusiasm and energy was obviously still very apparent during the fall. Does your team’s makeup drive that enthusiasm? Holbrook: We’ve got three great examples that we got to witness in ‘10, ‘11 and ‘12 of what made those teams click and I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough to coach for a long time and all the successful teams stand out from a makeup standpoint and a passion standpoint; toughness. All those things you have to be elite in toughness, passion, enthusiasm, want-to. All of those have to stand out above even talent. They’re all talented. We’re a talented team, but those things I just mentioned might make the difference between a great year and a good year and I think we’ve got some tough, nasty, competitive guys and that’s encouraging for me. S&F: When you have a program as successful as South Carolina that means you’re going to have a ton of strong student-athletes on your roster capable of starting. This year, you have a lot of decisions to make. In your mind, will you even have a “normal” starting
lineup come the season opener on Feb. 13 or will you more than likely just have a core grouping of individuals that will compete day in and day out for the select spots? Holbrook: I’m going to come the ballpark every day and put who I think gives us the best chance to win that day. There may be some mixing and matching going on for facing a lefty or a righty. There are different combinations I can put in there, but I don’t think you can go through a whole baseball season and continue to platoon a number of positions. At some point in time your lineup has to become stable. Now, early in the year, there is going to be some juggling going on and we’re going to give some kids some opportunities because to be honest with you, I have more than 10 guys that deserve to play and from a talent standpoint that can help us win. The only problem is that you can’t play more than that each and every game, so we’re going to continue to put them in competitive situations both in practice and in games. I can see us the first three weeks, four weeks of the year playing 12, 13, 14 guys and then as we get closer to SEC play you’ve kind of got to lock in. For the most part on the majority of your lineup you’re going to have to lock in and kind of become more consistent and stable. There might be a couple positions here and there that we can platoon, but you can’t platoon the whole lineup. S&F: Baseball America ranked this past year’s recruiting class one of the top-5 classes in the country. What makes this group so special? Holbrook: From a pitching standpoint we have some arm strength and then you throw a Brandon Murray out there and Clarke Schmidt and Alex Destino (who was) ranked very, very highly. Hunter Taylor was a kid that got a lot of draft attention and has a chance to be very good player for us as does Clark Scolamiero. Those guys have the talent and ability to play kind of early. Anytime you get half or more than half of your class that can contribute right away it has a chance to be a highly-ranked class. I hope they’re ranked in the top-5 after their junior year. Ultimately, I think that’s how recruiting classes should be ranked. (For example) with (Michael) Roth and
(Matt) Price, when those guys came to school here they weren’t even ranked in the top-25 and when Baseball America reranked them they were ranked No. 1 and rightfully so. I tend to reserve judgement until those kids go out there and play and perform. But they (current class) do have a skillset, they do have some talent and ability and hopefully they’ll perform the way they’re capable of during their career here. S&F: Last year there were a bunch of injuries that showed why having so much depth is so important. You changed some things up with strength and conditioning and how you approach practice this year because of that. With the new season about to start have you seen the dividends you expected from the change? Holbrook: When you talk about strength two people really stand out as far as how important they are to our team and need to get stronger and that is Jordan Gore and Gene Cone. Those kids needed to develop some strength and the ball is coming off their bat a lot different this year than it was a year ago. Some of that is their strength and conditioning and some of that is the new ball, but I think that they can provide a little bit more juice, a little bit more pop and they can sustain their energy a little bit longer. It takes strength, both mental and physical strength, to have your gas tank full in June because it’s a long year. With kids going to class, traveling and going to bed late at night, eating fast food, a lot can take a toll on your body, so those guys need to be strong both physically and mentally for that stretch run and it looks like they’ve really worked hard and not just those two. I think Max Schrock’s in the best shape of his life. Kyle Martin’s worked extremely hard in the weight room, but strength’s never really been an issue with him. Connor Bright’s continued to put on some weight and a number of other guys. We’ve had a good fall in the weight room. (Director of Sports Performance) Billy’s (Anderson) been extremely pleased with them. I don’t think it’s a group that throws up the most weight, but they might throw up the most weight per pound I guess from how much the kids weigh. They work extremely hard and Billy does such a great job with them. I don’t even worry about them in the weight room because I know they are in such great hands with Billy, but we’re going to need to be in great shape as we sit
and look and what did and didn’t happen last year. We want to be playing our best baseball in June and we didn’t do that last year, so we want to make sure this year we prepare accordingly and give us the best chance. Having a great fall in the weight room doesn’t guarantee you’re going to play great in June, but it gives you a better chance and I think our guys have covered that part of it. S&F: There are not too many teams in the country who have put together the type of schedule you guys have. You seem to have a you have to play the best to be the best kind of approach to scheduling. What are the things you are looking for when putting together a non-conference schedule? Holbrook: You’re obviously going to have the Clemson series each and every year and then we wanted to have the College of Charleston series. (Former South Carolina assistant and current College of Charleston head coach) Monte (Lee) and I talked about it back and forth and we feel like it’s important to play each other. They have a great program and we’ve played them for a number of years. They’re coming off a great season. They’ve got a number of great players back. I think it gets the college baseball season up and running right away when two maybe top-25 teams crank up the year opening weekend.It lets everybody throughout the state know right away college baseball is back.
It’ll be neat. It’ll be neat to play those guys. It’s not going to make or break our season by any stretch, but it’s certainly not going to hurt our strength of schedule and I don’t think it’s going to hurt Monte’s schedule by playing each other. I think it’s great for our program, I think it’s great for Monte’s program and I think it’s great for baseball in the state of South Carolina. S&F: A lot of the games obviously will take place at Carolina Stadium. This past year, Carolina Stadium was noted as the best park in college baseball by StadiumJourney.com. What is it in your eyes that makes Carolina Stadium such a fantastic atmosphere for college baseball? Holbrook: I think the fans sitting in the seats is what makes it special. I don’t think our stadium is ranked No. 1 without people sitting in the seats. I don’t think there is a stadium that’s ranked No. 1 with an empty fanbase. You can have as nice and as polished with all the bells and whistles you want, if there are not people there it doesn’t have the reputation of being a great ballpark. Our reputation of having a great ballpark is consistent – yes, we have a great facility, yes, we have incredible bells and whistles, hitting cages, locker rooms and sight lines, all of those things – but I think at the end of the day the most important thing that we have is a passionate fanbase that stands and are with us every pitch. I think that is what makes Carolina Stadium
No. 1 S&F: Finally, the Board of Trustees recently approved a two-year extension for you that will now run your contract through 2019. It has to mean a great deal to you to have the full support of the institution over the next few years. Holbrook: I’m blessed to be around incredible leaders and to work not only for President (Harris) Pastides, but I’m around (Athletics Director) coach (Ray) Tanner every day. No one understands what it’s like to be a coach, the highs and the lows, how difficult it is, how challenging it is better than coach Tanner. All our coaches on our campus are blessed to work for a guy like him. A former coach who understands what we go through on a daily basis and rewards those that he feels have done a good job, whether or not you achieve your ultimate goal or whether you are being consistent – your players are being taught, your players are getting coached, they’re doing the right things off the field, competing in the SEC – coach Tanner knows all that stuff and I couldn’t work at a better University, I couldn’t work for a better man and I couldn’t be surrounded by better leadership than I am at this place. I’m humbled and honored that they think we’re on the right path and we’re on a good path. It’s a really, really neat honor to be the head baseball coach at South Carolina and to think my superiors think I’m doing a good job. It’s truly humbling.
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