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Gamecock family makes #SpursUp Tour a huge success
2 â€˘ Spurs & Feathers
Spurs & Feathers Published by Aiken Communications, Inc.
Contact Us: 326 Rutland Drive N.W. PO Box 456 Aiken, SC, 29801 To subscribe: Please call 800-559-2311; annual subscription price is $50 Ellen Priest Publisher Aiken Communications, Inc. Brian Hand Executive Editor firstname.lastname@example.org (803) 335-1399 Ext. 506 Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor/ Advertising Account Executive email@example.com (803) 646-9807 Dee Taylor Advertising Director (803) 644-2371 Kathy Boyette Advertising Sales Manager (803) 295-3654 firstname.lastname@example.org Brooks Rogers Advertising Representative (803) 446-4022 email@example.com Reporter Kyle Heck firstname.lastname@example.org Photographers Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth Cover Design Brian Hand (photos by Brian Hand) Postal Information: SPURS & FEATHERS (USPS 12779) (ISSN 7454368X) is published 20 times annually. The frequency is monthly in January, April and July. The publication is weekly from September-November. SPURS & FEATHERS also publishes two slick-paper magazine issues â€” one in August and one in December. The annual subscription price is $50 for non Gamecock Club members. Members of the Gamecock Club receive a discounted subscription as a member benefit. Spurs & Feathers is published by Aiken Communications, Inc., 326 Rutland Drive NW, Aiken, SC, 29801-4010. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, SC Postmaster: Send changes to SPURS & FEATHERS, PO Box 456, Aiken, SC, 29802.
June 15, 2016
When to expect Spurs & Feathers in the upcoming year
Thank you so much for your continued support of Spurs & Feathers. Per our contract with the Gamecock Club, below are our edition dates for the 2016 year. Please note the digital magazine delivered via email is an added benefit courtesy of Spurs & Feathers.
Spurs & Feathers schedule July 27 newspaper (SEC Media Days) Aug. 24 magazine (preseason football) Sept. 7 newspaper
Sept. 14 newspaper
Sept. 21 newspaper Sept. 28 newspaper Oct. 5 newspaper Oct. 12 newspaper Oct. 19 bye week (no newspaper) Oct. 26 newspaper Nov. 2 newspaper Nov. 9 newspaper Nov. 16 newspaper Nov. 23 newspaper Nov. 30 newspaper Dec. 21 magazine (end of year)
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Spurs & Feathers • 3
June 15, 2016
Gamecock Club makes important changes to governing structure by brian hand Executive Editor
The Gamecock Club has recently made a very important change in their governing structure by going from 81 board members to 23. “Everybody that has represented the Gamecock Club in the past has been very beneficial, but it’s been difficult to have really meaningful conversations in our board meetings because of the size,” Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland said. The change in the governance of the Gamecock Club is also moving areas together to form now what they will call judicial districts. This is very important as well as it helps the Gamecock Club be further involved with making sure they are completely NCAA compliant in all areas. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit it is important for the Gamecock Club to have a board, and they feel bringing the judicial districts
together in this way is necessary for the future. “With us going to 23, we’re actually going to have a group that can have good discussions, have some teeth and be able to make some changes and review our current policies, and determine the best way we should move forward,” McFarland said. The first meeting of the new Gamecock Club Judicial District Representatives took place on Friday, May 20, on the 600 level at Williams-Brice Stadium. “At this meeting we looked at our chapters, reviewed our budget and put some housekeeping chores in place,” McFarland said. “It was an important meeting to get off on the right foot.” During the meeting, Kent Eddy was selected as the chair of the Judicial District Representatives, while Chris Fulmer was tabbed as the vice chair. With the new judicial districts, there are still going to be events in all of the areas
photo by brian hand
the Gamecock Club has visited before, but for example when visiting Spartanburg the event would now be tagged as visiting with the Spartanburg Gamecocks. “Our current chapter presidents are still going to have a major role as an Advisory Committee, and what they’ll be doing is they’ll be making up our standing com-
mittees, which consist of our budget, our president’s committee and our policies and procedures committee,” McFarland said. The next meeting of the Judicial District Representatives will be on Friday, Nov. 18, with the Advisory Committee scheduled to meet on Friday, Nov. 4.
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4 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Gamecock family makes #SpursUp Tour an overwhelming success by brian hand Executive Editor
For just over a month the Gamecock Club visited 18 cities with nine different South Carolina coaches making stops along the way. Over the course of the impressive stretch during the inaugural #SpursUp Tour and during the annual spring meetings, a total of approximately 3,500 fans were reached with the Gamecock Club traveling right at about 3,250 miles. Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland considered the stretch an overwhelming success. “This is the most spring events that we’ve done since 2004, and it was great to get out and meet with Gamecocks all over the state and region,” McFarland said. “Everywhere we went for the #SpursUp Tour it was sold out, and that’s just a testament to the passion of Gamecock fans.” Not only were the Gamecock fans excited, but the nine coaches who visited with the different Gamecock Club judicial districts were happy to give of their time to connect with the passionate Gamecock fans. “We’re appreciative of the time of our coaches,” McFarland said. “They already spend a lot of time on the road, and we are extremely thankful for their time and efforts.” South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner personally attended numerous stops on the #SpursUp Tour along with head football coach Will Muschamp. Tanner knew the kind of man that he was getting when he hired Muschamp, and it did not surprise him one bit how excited he was to visit with Gamecocks all across the state as part of the #SpursUp Tour. “When he was first hired we had a car wash with all of the different units in our department one afternoon so that everybody would get a chance to talk with him about the role that he would play in their department, and I suggested to do his very best to work out five or six of stops on this tour and he ended up saying he would do nine or 10, and that just says a lot about who he is and how important it is to him to have our fans supported and to embrace what he’s trying to bring to our football program,” Tanner said. Muschamp, in fact, did end up making 10 stops as in addition to the nine stops on the inaugural #SpursUp Tour he also
photo of muschamp with dodie anderson by brian hand
visited with the Dorchester Gamecocks on Monday, May 23, in Summerville, South Carolina. He also visited with the Charlotte Gamecocks earlier in the year for a Signing Day Recruiting Roundup on Thursday, Feb. 4. Just before the start of the #SpursUp Tour, the special branded “Boom Bus” was unveiled. The “Boom Bus” was a huge hit with fans at every stop taking the time to take pictures beside the bus. Many more over the course of the tour honked whenever they passed the “Boom Bus” on the roads of the Palmetto State. The “Boom Bus” according to Muschamp at the conclusion of the event was just another great way to get out in front of the “most loyal fan base in the coun-
try.” In general, Muschamp knows the whole experience of the #SpursUp Tour was very special. “It’s been very, very positive,” Muschamp said. “Everybody has been genuine and welcoming both to myself, my staff and our families. It’s been really awesome. I’ve been overly impressed.” Greenwood Gamecocks vice president Ray Lewis II thinks the success of the #SpursUp Tour and the annual spring meetings are just a testament to the family atmosphere at South Carolina. “It’s about family, and it’s about a tradition that you can’t deny,” Lewis said. South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin knows that family
atmosphere among the fans and within South Carolina’s own athletics department is unique, and that is one of the main reasons he is so proud to be a Gamecock and that he personally took the time to make several stops on the #SpursUp Tour. “Our athletic department is run like a family,” Martin said. “It’s unbelievable, and I think that was something that was in place and coach Tanner has kind of taken that to another level. He’s a leader of people. That’s why his teams were successful when he coached, and I think he’s doing the same thing now as our director of athletics. There is a unity and an unbelievable amount of respect for each other. It’s unique and it’s special. It’s a whole lot of fun to be around.”
Spurs & Feathers â€˘ 5
June 15, 2016
Atlanta Dream, INNERSOLE team up for great event by kyle heck Reporter
on Sunday, May 29, in Atlanta. Staley and several of her assistant coaches and players traveled to Philips Arena in Atlanta to watch the Atlanta There are a lot of people and organizations Dream host the Indiana Fever. Former South across the state of South Carolina that support Carolina star Tiffany Mitchell is in her rookie Dawn Staley and INNERSOLE, an organization season with the Fever, and her former coaches that provides children that are homeless and/or in and teammates, along with several hundred need with new sneakers. Gamecock fans, came out to support Mitchell in The idea is to change the negative impact of what will be her closest visit to Columbia. poverty on chilWhile there, Staley and INNERSOLE set up a dren all across table prior to the game where people could come the world. With and donate shoes for the cause. With the help of Staley being the the Dream, the event was a great success. Atlanhead coach of taâ€™s WNBA team helping out INNERSOLE is the South Caronothing new, however, as Staley said the Dream lina womenâ€™s have supported her organization for a while. basketball team, Their help allowed Staley and INNERSOLE the All Gamecock basketball opportunity to provide hundreds of more underINNERSOLE, coverage sponsored by privileged children with sneakers. which she is a Yesterdays co-founder and â€œWe got a lot of shoes,â€? Staley told Spurs & president of, has Feathers. â€œThe Atlanta Dream for years has had a particularly us out and done some events with INNERSOLE. strong foothold across the state as the organizaTheyâ€™ve actually come to Colonial Life Arena tion makes appearances all over South Carolina. and theyâ€™ve done one of our chalk talks. They â€œI always seem to get what I need at any given reach out (and) they get into the community. time,â€? Staley previously noted at an event in the Thatâ€™s why people show up to their games and state in the fall of 2015. â€œWhether itâ€™s through support them in this way.â€? coaching or now just with my organization.â€? To learn more about INNERSOLE, please visit However, there are also great partners outside http://www.innersole.org. You can also follow the Palmetto State, and that was clearly evident INNERSOLE on Twitter at @innersoleorg
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6 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Three years already? Thanks so much for your support of S&F by brian hand Executive Editor
likes. We are incredibly blessed to say the least. One of the things that Tim and I made sure to set as a priority when we first took over Spurs & Social media has so many purposes, but with Feathers was to visit with as many Gamecock Facebook, I think my favorite thing they do is Club chapters as we could, while also writing your memories section from what happened that stories of all of the great things happening with day on your account over the years that you have the chapters and now judicial districts. This was had an account. obviously done on top of the daily coverage of all For me, it is a constant reminder that life is awe- things Gamecock on campus. some and such a blessing. It also allows me to see It is one thing for us to feel like we have continphotos of my two children from the past each and ued to grow in these three years, but it’s another every day without having to dive through photos to hear individuals at Gamecock Club events on my phone or even printed out. thank us. On Friday, June 10, 2016, it reminded me For example, last summer when I was speaking though that it is my third anniversary of joining at a Gamecock Club event in Darlington, area Aiken Communications as the executive editor of president Curtis Tyner made it a point in front of Spurs & Feathers. everyone to thank us in the best way we consider This job is definitely a gift. possible. I am just one piece in making Spurs & Feathers Tyner in front of the close to a hundred individhappen, but I am so thankful that we were given uals in attendance said what we hear all the time, the opportunity by the Gamecock Club to make which is that they did not know if we would be this publication happen daily. able to get the job done because it was so beloved To me, that is what I am the most proud of is the before our arrival. Hearing Tyner then say that we change in culture with Spurs & Feathers to focus have is incredibly special to us. not only just on our newspapers and magazine Recently, we received a compliment that most editions, but also the daily coverage of South would consider maybe not all that nice, but it is Carolina athletics. all we want to hear. It’s not about us. It’s about the Earlier this year, former Spurs & Feathers gen- product. eral manager Tim O’Briant moved to a new posi“I expected you guys (Spurs & Feathers) to fail tion as the general manager and executive editor when you took over,” the individual said. “You of The Brunswick News in Brunswick, Georgia, didn’t. Keep up the good work.” but it always must be said that he was the masterWe produced over 70 publications under Tim’s mind originally when we took over in 2013. guidance, while also incorporating video through It’s been a wild ride, but under his leadership avenues like our “Off the Field” videos with Steve originally, I feel like we have taken Spurs & Spurrier and our Gamecock Club Renewal Day Feathers to the level requested of us when we videos. were given the opportunity to bring it to Aiken Like I said before, I am but just one small piece Communications by the Gamecock Club. in making this happen, and we definitely would The biggest things asked of us were to provide not be anywhere without those who have helped daily coverage through the first-ever Spurs & us over the last three years. Feathers website, incorporate social media into For example, Spurs & Feathers would be nothour daily coverage and still continue the quality ing without the phenomenal photography of Alwork done over the years with the newspaper, len Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth. while also changing the overall look and feel of Without the efforts of Kathy Boyette, Ed Githe newspaper, but keeping with its strong tradirardeau, Dee Taylor, Brooks Rogers, DiAnn Bell tion. In addition, we have incorporated quarterly and so many others over the years, the publicamagazines that have been a welcomed addition tions could not happen as their hard work with by Gamecock Club members and our subscribadvertising and everything that surrounds that ers. makes each edition a possibility. SpursandFeathers.com has become a huge hit There are so many that have contributed to over the last couple of years particularly as our Spurs & Feathers over the last three years, but numbers right now are more than we ever could without Mike Kucharski during the first year as have imagined in what will now start year No. reporter and now Kyle Heck we definitely would 4. In regards to social media, we are consistently not be able to provide our unique content. I tell overwhelmed by where we are as right now our them thank you after each edition, but I can never Twitter handle @SpursFeathers has over 17,000 say thank you enough to our contributors over the followers. On Facebook, we have over 19,000 years in Bart Wright, Andy Demetra, Girardeau,
Glenn Snyder, Juan Blas, Bill Gunter, Collyn Taylor and Langston Moore. Matt Socha and Mary Watson have also each helped to shape the look of Spurs & Feathers through their graphic expertise. Tami Burke’s expertise with web design and so much more helped us get the first-ever Spurs & Feathers website off the ground as well. I am sure I am leaving somebody out that has contributed at some point to Spurs & Feathers, but that’s just how blessed we have been as so many have stepped up to make what we do a reality. We are forever grateful to former Aiken Communications publisher and president Scott B. Hunter for giving us a shot to make this a possibility, and now we are blessed to have the chance to work under the guidance of Ellen Priest as publisher and president. She truly believes in our product. The same goes for Patrick McFarland and the Gamecock Club. We could not ask for better partners to make Spurs & Feathers happen. The South Carolina athletics development office under the guidance of Jeff Crane is filled with
unbelievable people and they treat us like family, and that’s all we can ask. The same can be said for Ray Tanner and South Carolina athletics, particularly Charles Bloom, Eric Nichols, Steve Fink and everyone in charge of the external efforts of South Carolina athletics. They work with us daily to make sure we can be successful for which we are incredibly thankful. Fink and the South Carolina Athletics Media Relations staff are an especially important piece to helping us do what we do here at Spurs & Feathers. The next edition of Spurs & Feathers will be the 75th edition that we have produced on a 20 publication a year contract. I mention this to note in addition to our daily efforts, we have also tried to produce more publications each year because we want to try and provide Gamecock Club members and our subscribers as much as we possibly can within reason. Thanks so much to all of you for your support of Spurs & Feathers. We can’t wait to see what the future holds. You know we’ll be there to cover all of the action with Gamecock athletics and the Gamecock Club.
Spurs & Feathers • 7
June 15, 2016
Home attendance for men’s basketball on the rise nationally and in the SEC by brad muller South Carolina Director of Content
“People want to see a winning product,” Waters said. “In marketing, we can’t just count on winning. Men’s basketball under Frank Martin has done a really good job of being involved in the community, whether it’s with ‘8K in 8 Days’
or our school events throughout the year. They are always willing to get out into the community. That has been a huge part of the increase in attendance the last few years. We have the greatest fans, no doubt.”
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There is no doubt that winning attracts fans, and fans can also help a team win. Both of those scenarios are holding true for the South Carolina men’s basketball program. The Gamecocks not only tied a school record with 25 wins last season, but with the final attendance figures being released from the NCAA, South Carolina also ranked fifth in the SEC and 31st nationally in average home attendance, and also ranked third in the SEC and 22nd nationally in total attendance. “It’s funny how it works,” said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. “We actually cracked into the top 25 in the national rankings this year and stayed there for a little while. Now we’ve cracked into the top 25 in attendance. Those are things that can go hand in hand. You have to have a good team to have fans excited about watching you play, and the more fans come, the people in the stands, it’s deflating,” Martin said. better your team gets.” “When the opposing team comes on to an op“Winning helps create a little more of a buzz,” posing court and there is no life in the building, it said Josh Waters, Assistant Athletics Director for makes them braver. Conversely, when we come Marketing. “That’s the best part because people out of the tunnel and see 18,000 people in the are talking more about basketball during the Colonial Life Arena, we get braver. We get more summer than they have been in the past. Winexcited. We feel more indebted and responsible ning and the fact that we are out in the commufor how many people support us that we play betnity so much more really helps.” ter. When the opposing team comes out, and they South Carolina averaged 11,995 fans per home feel the electricity that’s there for the home team, game in the 19 contests played in the Colonial it makes them create some doubt in themselves. Life Arena, which includes the two NIT games. That creates a home court environment.” This is the highest average attendance for South Now that the groundwork has been laid for a Carolina since the 2009-10 season when the successful program, the support in creating a Gamecocks ranked 30th nationally. South Caro- home court advantage and exciting atmosphere lina averaged 13,088 fans at home games during is critical in continuing to move the program the regular season in 2015-16. forward. “I’m ecstatic,” Martin said. “Gamecock fans “You can’t run a successful basketball program support every program at this university. The one unless your athletics administration is completely team that was kind of struggling in attendance on board,” Martin said. “Over the last four years, was ours. Our guys have played really hard over the sports information department, marketing, the last four years to grow. We’ve been patient our schedule, our players, and our recruiting have in growing the team, and our fans are starting to all started to come together. It’s everyone workshow that support.” ing hand in hand. It’s not just a player or a coach “We had hoped to average 13,000 fans durthat makes a program work. It’s a united effort by ing the regular season, and we did that,” Waters everyone involved. ” said. “We want to keep moving up the national Martin praised South Carolina’s marketing leaderboard. We were in the 50s department for coming up with in terms of national attendance creative ways to engage more when Frank first arrived, and now fans and help create an atmowe are climbing.” sphere which creates a home The fan support is paying off. court advantage, and the folks The Gamecocks posted a 16-3 rebehind the scenes know that the cord at home last year, including best recipe for getting fans to a 7-2 mark in SEC play inside the come back over and over is the Colonial Life Arena. combination of success on the All Gamecock basketball court, a good marketing plan, and “When a team comes out of coverage sponsored by being consistently active within the tunnel to play a home game, Yesterdays and there are only three thousand the community.
8 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Enthusiastic Gamecocks impress Muschamp in Charleston by brian hand Executive Editor Will Muschamp knew it at the start of the tour, but as he made his final of nine stops on the #SpursUp tour in the Charleston area on Tuesday, May 24, he said the tour has more than reinforced his opinion. “Our fans are enthusiastic,” Muschamp said. “I can tell you that.” The final of the nine #SpursUp tour stops was held on a picturesque evening at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. As always on the #SpursUp tour, the evening commenced with Muschamp taking the time to sign posters for all in attendance while everyone there was also being treated to a buffet spread by Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ. Former South Carolina two-sport student-athlete Caroline Cann served as the emcee on the evening, detailing all of the great things happening with the Gamecock Club and South Carolina athletics before turning things over to Muschamp, who then spoke before ending the evening with a question and answer session. Charleston Gamecocks president Jen Skoy Krizan was ecstatic that Muschamp was able to conclude the inaugural #SpursUp tour in Charleston. “I think it’s really special for the people of Charleston,” Krizan said. “Everybody here is always hungry for more football. The venue in Charleston here is beautiful. I wish we could have packed even more people in here tonight.” As all nine stops on the #SpursUp tour have been, the Charleston event was a sellout, and Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland was impressed by the passion of Gamecocks everywhere during the #SpursUp tour. “Every single venue we have been to has been sold out,” McFarland said. “It speaks to the enthusiasm for coach Muschamp and Gamecock football. You can’t find a more beautiful venue than this though tonight in Charleston.” A local product out of James Island High School, Gamecock football legend Langston Moore was there along with Lowcountry native and fellow Gamecock great Preston Thorne. The two were there as they have been at numerous other
photo by brian hand
#SpursUp tour stops to sign copies of their world-renowned children’s book, #JustaChicken. Moore did not expect anything less, but he overall was incredibly impressed with the passion of the Charleston Gamecocks on the evening. He also loved Muschamp having the opportunity to see the passion
from the area Gamecocks first-hand. “It’s awesome for him to pay the homage to come out here and see the place where so many great Gamecocks came out of,” Moore said. “It’s always special to be at this venue and see James Island out the window. It’s always awesome to come back home, and I’m really excited for him
to experience the excitement here.” Muschamp knows the whole experience of the #SpursUp tour has been special. “It’s been very, very positive,” Muschamp said. “Everybody has been genuine and welcoming both to myself, my staff and our families. It’s been really awesome. I’ve been overly impressed.”
Spurs & Feathers • 9
June 15, 2016
Gamecocks were very much ‘better than good’ in 2016 season by brian hand Executive Editor
photo by allen sharpe
cocks wanted badly to be in Omaha, but that does not take away from what they were able to accomplish over the course of a season that saw them win the SEC East and win four straight out of the loser’s bracket to emerge victorious in the NCAA Columbia Regional at Founders Park. “They played at a little bit higher level than I thought they could play at all year long,” Holbrook said of the 2016 South Carolina baseball team (46-18, 20-9 SEC). “That’s one of the reasons that I’m proud of them. There is a number of reasons, but that’s one of them. I knew we had a good team, but that being said we played better than good. And you’re better than good when you win 20 in our league.” For Holbrook and the Gamecocks it is a tough pill to swallow to miss on Omaha, which is why even with his team departing for the summer he knows great things are still ahead for the elite South Carolina baseball program in the years to come. “I certainly love my team that is coming back next year, but you don’t accomplish anything with what’s going to be on paper,” Holbrook said. “We’re certainly going to have a talented team, and I wish we could start tomorrow.”
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South Carolina baseball head coach Chad Holbrook knows the toughest day of the year. It always is because any time a grouping of individuals with the same goal does not get to be around one another All Gamecock baseball each and coverage sponsored by every day DiPrato’s it makes it tough. Unfortunately for Holbrook and South Carolina baseball that toughest day of the year was on Monday, June 13, as the 2016 Gamecock baseball season ended with a 3-1 loss to Oklahoma State in the Super Regional on Sunday, June 12, at Founders Park in Columbia. That does not mean Holbrook and South Carolina baseball should not necessarily keep their heads up. Quite the opposite in fact because the 2016 Gamecocks made sure to ascend the program back to the levels expected just one short year after missing the NCAA Tournament. Holbrook said numerous times that they were going to change things around, and that the 2016 season would be completely different, pointing out “South Carolina will be back” after the conclusion of the 2015 season. “I know the expectations of South Carolina baseball,” Holbrook said in his press conference prior to South Carolina’s 2016 season-opening series against Albany. “I understand it. Our players do. And we’re expecting to perform at a high level. That’s why we coach here, that’s why our players come here, and it’s my intent that we’re going to play at a high level this year. I think I have team that can do that.” The Gamecocks did indeed, advancing to the Super Regionals for an SEC record-tying 12th time and the second time in Holbrook’s four years in charge of the program. Make no mistake about it, the Game-
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10 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Muschamp makes special stop to visit with Dorchester Gamecocks by brian Hand Executive Editor South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp knows you can learn a great deal from legends, and former Summerville High School head football coach John McKissick is definitely one. McKissick recently ended a high school coaching career at Summerville High School where he collected a national record 621 wins to go along with 10 state championships, and Muschamp made sure to once again show off the gift the Gamecocks gave him for his retirement in a framed black Gamecock football jersey emblazoned with the number 621. “You are what your record is, and he’s the best coach ever based on that, so that’s the way I’ve got to look at him,” Muschamp said of McKissick, who retired after 63 years of coaching at Summerville. “He’s been really gracious to us since we’ve been here. I’ve been down here - this is my second time (in Summerville). We met and had lunch one day, and then he came up to a practice. It’s been really neat for me to be able to talk to a legend like that.” Muschamp made these comments as part of a special meet and greet with the Dorchester Gamecocks in Summerville, South Carolina on Monday, May 23. During the event, Muschamp signed post-
photo by brian hand
ers and spoke with the crowd before ending things with a question and answer session. As always, Muschamp was overwhelmed with the sellout crowd in attendance at Bud Knight’s Party Barn.
“Everybody has been outstanding,” Muschamp said. “It’s such a positive outlook on everything right now. Of course, we’re undefeated right now, so that’s the best thing about it. Our fans have been outstanding. It’s
the most loyal fan base in the country. It’s just great to reach out and touch base with them.” Dorchester Gamecocks president Cecil Buddin was thrilled that Muschamp would take time out of his schedule to visit the area. “We are so excited that coach Muschamp is here,” Buddin said. “It really does me good to see all of these people here tonight.” Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland was blown away by the passion for the Gamecocks on an evening that also featured some of the Carolina Girls Dance Team in attendance. “It was a packed house, and the enthusiasm for coach Muschamp and Gamecock athletics was more than evident on the evening,” McFarland said. Lowcountry natives and former Gamecock football greats Langston Moore and Preston Thorne served as the emcees on the evening as both were also there signing their worldrenowned children’s book, #JustaChicken. Thorne, who played for McKissick at Summerville, was excited to be back home for such a tremendous event. “This is awesome to see all of this garnet and black with all of this green and gold,” Thorne said. “It’s really cool to see all of these people out. I think it was supposed to originally be a small event, but it’s big, which is no surprise. Everything they do down here is pretty big.”
Marion County Gamecocks hold 22nd annual golf tournament by kyle heck Reporter For the 22nd consecutive year, the Marion Gamecocks held a golf tournament to benefit the Gamecock Club. Held at Dusty Hills Country Club on Wednesday, June 1, the event was once again a big hit that included support from other counties as well, like Dillon. “We had about 48 players, which is a good turnout for us,” said Bradley George, President of the Marion Gamecocks. “The tournament’s main focus is to raise money for the Gamecock Club, and we were able to raise some money and that is our biggest fundraiser of the year. We always get good support from our neighbor county of Dillon. We appreciate them coming out and playing.” The highlight of the golf tournament was the
appearance of South Carolina assistant head coach for defense/defensive line coach Lance Thompson, who spoke to the Marion crowd after the tournament. “He was just very excited about being at the University of South Carolina, and he just brought an excitement that filled the room,” George said. “He showed a glimpse of hope and some things to look forward to in the future. We were definitely excited to have coach Thompson. I read off his accolades and history, and it’s just very, very impressive to have a coach of his stature at our University. Hopefully that will help and translate to the football field.” Also in attendance at the event was GamecockCentral’s Wes Mitchell, who talked about the football team, focusing mainly on the recruiting aspect of things. His job has gotten a lot harder since coach Will Muschamp, Thompson
and the rest of the new staff have taken over. “He made the comment that with this new staff, his job has definitely gotten more interesting and hands on and involved,” George said. “Wes really touched on the fact that this staff is relentless, and they’re covering the majority of the southeast and focusing on the state of South Carolina and trying to win back the state in recruiting. We appreciate Mitchell’s time. He always makes time whenever we give him a call, and he always takes time to give a good recruiting and team update.” Gamecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland made the trip down, and is thankful for the efforts of the Marion Gamecocks. “We really appreciate the Marion Gamecocks and all they do for Gamecocks everywhere,” McFarland said. “This golf tournament just continues to show their commitment to the
Gamecock Club. We cannot thank them enough for their efforts.” George took over the Marion Gamecocks earlier this year, and interest in the club has continued to grow. He noted there were several new faces at the golf tournament, and one of his main goals is to make people more aware of the local Gamecock organizations in their area. “I think the one thing is getting the word of mouth out that ‘hey, there’s a group of folks in your county that have a common interest to help out the University of South Carolina,’” George said. “So that’s been one of my main focuses since I’ve been president.” The next thing to look forward to down in Marion County is a football season kickoff party. George said the plans for that event are in the works and it’s scheduled to take place sometime in August.
Spurs & Feathers • 11
June 15, 2016
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12 • Spurs & Feathers
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DC Gamecocks spring social a fun-filled evening for all by brian hand Executive Editor
The DC Gamecocks held their annual spring social on Tuesday, May 24, at Hard Time Cafe Claredon in Arlington, Virginia. The event was a treat in that the DC Gamecocks had the unique opportunity to hear both from new South Carolina men’s basketball assistant coach Bruce Shingler and Gamecock football assistant head coach for defense/defensive line Lance Thompson. Also in attendance on the evening was Gamecock football great, former NFL star and current George Mason athletics director Brad Edwards. According to Neil Baumgardner of the DC Gamecocks the evening was a great time for everyone involved. “The National Capital Regional Gamecock Club was excited to host coaches Thompson and Shingler, and Gamecock great Brad Edwards at
our spring social,” Baumgardner said. “We loved witnessing coach Thompson’s energy first-hand and learning about what he has in mind for our defensive line. Similarly, we appreciated the chance to catch up with coach Shingler, someone who is very familiar with the DC area, to the Gamecock family. And we were also very excited to hear what USC and State of South Carolina Hall of Famer Brad Edwards was able to tell us about his days playing in the ‘black death’ defense and his career in collegiate athletics.” The event was Shingler’s first Gamecock Club meeting since joining Frank Martin’s staff at South Carolina, and he was more than mpressed by all of the Gamecocks that he was able to interact with. “I haven’t really had the chance to interact with fans, but from what I’ve seen watching games and just for the couple of weeks that I’ve been in Columbia, I just can tell from the atmosphere on the campus and in the city, that the state loves their school,” Shingler said.
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Spurs & Feathers • 13
June 15, 2016
Guzan’s spot at No. 1 for US reminder Gamecock men’s soccer is elite South Carolina men’s soccer has been an elite program for a long time, and every time a major international soccer tournament comes about that fact is made even more profoundly evident. The South Carolina men’s soccer program is one of only two programs in the entire nation that can boast of having a player on the final 23-man United States World Cup roster in each of the last four World Cups. UCLA is the only other soccer program in the country that can also say this. In the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan former Gamecock standouts Clint Mathis and Josh Wolff both suited up for the United States National Team. Mathis scored in the United States’ 1-1 group play draw with South Korea in 2002. Wolff assisted on the United States’ opening goal in the second-round victory over rival Mexico in 2002. Wolff was also a member of the United States National Team in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The next World Cup is not until 2018 in Russia, but when that World Cup begins it may just be South Carolina men’s soccer that will be able to say that they have had a player on the final World Cup roster in five straight World Cups as no UCLA players are on the roster for the historic 2016 Copa America Centenario that started Friday, June 3. A Gamecock is definitely on the United States roster for the 2016 Copa America Centenario as Brad Guzan is on the 23-man roster for the prestigious competition. Guzan has been selected to the last two World Cups for the United States in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014. Guzan is not just on the roster though as United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann tabbed Guzan as the No. 1 United States goalkeeper for the Copa America Centenario, pointing out to the media on May 23 that the “decision went to him because we believe he will continue to be excellent the way he’s done the last two years for the National Team.” Guzan is presently with Aston Villa of the Premier League where he has made 144 appearances at the highest level of professional soccer. “To be named No. 1, it’s obviously a huge honor,” Guzan told the media after Klinsmann’s announcement. “But with that comes a lot of responsibility. It comes with putting
together solid performances. It comes with helping the guys in front of me and doing everything we can to try to get results to make sure that we’re successful this summer.” Guzan played two years for South Carolina before forgoing his final two years to play professionally. The 2004 NSCAA AllAmerican was the second pick in the 2005 Major League Soccer SuperDraft by CD Chivas USA. In 2007, Guzan would be tabbed the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year before deciding to ply his trade overseas in the prestigious English Premier League with Aston Villa. Guzan would see first-team action off and on over the next couple years before he was loaned to Hull City of the Football League Championship (second division in England) in late 2010. He would quickly return to Aston Villa, AP PHOTO and at the end of the 2012-13 Premier League campaign he was dubbed the Aston Villa Players’ Player of the Year and Suppeared in its 21st NCAA Tournament, and in schedule with the Gamecocks opening their porters’ Player of the Year. the 2016 season the Gamecocks once again regular-season at home against rival ClemSouth Carolina men’s soccer head coach as customary have another incredibly tough son at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30. Mark Berson has been in charge of the men’s soccer program for 38 years, and having players like Guzan compete at the highest level to him just shows the type of players that are recruited to play soccer for the Gamecocks. Berson has coached 11 individual AllAmericans as well as over 60 players who have go on to play in the professional ranks, but to Berson that’s just part of the story as he is just as proud of those that have used their South Carolina degrees to become doctors, lawyers and much more. “It’s one of those things that, as a parent, you realize in hindsight so many of the Partner With An Award Winning, things that happened in your life with your Established and Respected South Carolina children and you kind of understand and get a great perspective on the things that they Swimming Pool Company With Endless Referrals have accomplished, and maybe a little bit of Satisfied Customers. of how you influenced their lives,” Berson mused to Spurs & Feathers last year of his Owned O w and program that also has had the highest GPA operated ope by in men’s college soccer in 2010 and 2013. Bill Bill Muller, USC “Well, it’s the same thing with the players. team tea captain All of these players that came here chose for fo ‘66, ‘67, ‘68 fo the University of South Carolina, so the Swim Sw Teams. University of South Carolina shaped their lives. The soccer program was one of the main reasons that they chose the University, Since 1972 Si so that shaped their lives. When we have our 7433 1/2 Broad River Road South Carolina’s Largest and Oldest alumni game and guys come back and we Irmo, SC 29063 Pool Builder! see them on social media, it’s a wonderful 732-3636 ext 10 or “0” thing.” Last year, South Carolina men’s soccer firstname.lastname@example.org
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by brian hand Executive Editor
14 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
photo of mcfadden with hayden lipham of the Gamecock club by brian hand
Meet the man behind the wheel of the ‘Boom Bus’ by kyle heck Reporter
about and McFadden was asked if he would be the driver of the “Boom Bus.” “Whatever you need, I’ll take care of it,” Carl McFadden is used to driving Game- McFadden replied. cock fans to Columbia for football games, That set McFadden on an amazing jourbut for more than a month, he got to do ney where he indeed took care of everysomething that he never thought would be thing asked of him, and it was not just limpossible. ited to driving the bus. As part of the #SpursUp Tour that in“Carl has been a part of the #SpursUp troduced new head football coach Will Gamecock Club tour team since the beginMuschamp to the fans, McFadden was the ning, and has been an integral part of it at driver of the “Boom Bus,” one of the main that,” Gamecock Club executive director trademarks and staples of the tour. Patrick McFarland said. “Not only has he The “Boom Bus” was donated to Gamedriven the bus, but at every single event, cock athletics by long-time supporter he’s pitched in and helped with autographs Reamer King of King Cadillac in Florence, and getting coach in and out. He’s been a South Carolina, and that was how McFadchamp throughout this whole process.” den, who works for King, got involved. Being the driver of the “Boom Bus,” McMcFadden originally applied to be one Fadden has experienced firsthand the exof King’s spare drivers last year, but when citement from Gamecock fans everywhere. the main driver was diagnosed with cancer, No matter what corner of the state he’s in, McFadden came and filled in. A short while the energy and recognition is always high. later, the idea of the #SpursUp tour came “It’s just been a wonderful time,” McFad-
den said. “We went to Greenwood and we had an escort there. The various little towns we went through, people would line up on the side of the road waving us along and giving us the honk-honk. Every venue I’ve been to on the tour, we do it 100 percent. I’m pleased with it.” McFadden owns his own cab, limousine and bus service, so he is used to chauffeuring people around. However, it’s different when they’re people like Muschamp and head men’s basketball coach Frank Martin. McFadden has embraced the opportunity, and it will certainly be something he cherishes forever. He played linebacker at S.C. State, but had friends at the University of South Carolina, and that’s how he eventually became a Gamecock fan. He’s seen plenty of other fans since then, particularly on the #SpursUp Tour, where there were sold-out stops after sold-out stops. “We’ve had some venues that they’ve sold out, and there’s people on the outside
standing and hoping that they could get a glimpse of the coach,” McFadden said. McFadden has not only been impressed with the outpouring of support from the fans, but Muschamp and what he’s done so far has stood out as well. As a former football player himself, he believes the new coach is exactly what South Carolina needed. “He’s serious about what he’s doing,” McFadden said. “I see a positive thing in him. I’m glad to be here and I see the man has got a mold that I’ve seen before. If everybody falls with his plan, Carolina will be at the top.” As for whether you’ll see McFadden driving around the “Boom Bus” in the future, he’ll once again go above and beyond for the Gamecocks if that’s what is asked of him. “Anything to help the University go forward, get recruits and get more fans, I’m with that,” McFadden said.
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June 15, 2016
Bentley speaks with passionate Gamecocks in Gaffney by Brian Hand Executive Editor South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley was so sure that he was willing to give out his personal email and cell phone number. Near the end of Bentley’s time speaking to the Cherokee Gamecocks in Gaffney, South Carolina on Wednesday, May 25, the question was posed of whether or not you would see the Gamecocks holding their hands on their hips in the latter minutes of games. Bentley’s response? “You condition your football team in how you practice.” Long known as one of the strongest offensive minds in high school and college football, Bentley was so sure that Will Muschamp’s 2016 Gamecock football team would be conditioned the right way that as noted he handed out his business card with his personal information, and told the two people in attendance that asked the similar questions on the issue to call or email him later in the year if they felt the Gamecocks were doing just that. Particularly well-known in the Cherokee County area for his illustrious run as head they utilized a spread attack, Bentley refootball coach at Byrnes High School in ally wowed the audience shortly thereafnearby Duncan, South Carolina, where ter when he told everyone in attendance
photo by brian hand
that Muschamp’s Gamecocks “practice even faster than the way I used to practice.”
Bentley’s statement was just a small part of a special evening at Daddy Joe’s Beach House BBQ that commenced with Patrick McFarland and Hayden Lipham of the Gamecock Club talking about all of the great things happening with the Gamecock Club and South Carolina athletics before turning things over to Bentley, who spoke with the crowd for well over 30 minutes before answering questions. McFarland was ecstatic about how everything turned out during Bentley’s time with the Cherokee Gamecocks. “This is a cool place where we’re having the event,” McFarland said. “There’s a great crowd here, and I think people are really excited to meet coach Bentley faceto-face.” Cherokee Gamecocks president Mike Phillips was similarly thrilled with how the whole evening unfolded. “We’re glad to have coach Bentley here,” Phillips said. “We usually do have a pretty good turnout here for the coaches meetings. It’s a pretty good crowd and a great atmosphere.” Bentley expected nothing less than a great time in Gaffney. “These people are passionate about football, and it’s just rewarding to be here,” Bentley said.
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16 • Spurs & Feathers
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Tiffany Mitchell: ‘It felt like Colonial Life Arena all over again’ by kyle heck Reporter
ATLANTA - If you looked around Philips Arena on Sunday, May 29, you might have mistakenly thought that it was the Colonial Life Arena more than 200 miles away in Columbia, South Carolina. The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream were hosting a game against the Indiana Fever, but South Carolina women’s basketball fans were all throughout Philips Arena. Why? They were continuing to show why they’re among the best fan bases in basketball. Former Gamecock great Tiffany Mitchell is currently in the midst of her rookie season with the Indiana Fever, and the game was her first trip to Atlanta, which is the closet WNBA city to Columbia. The Dream’s sales team originally came up with the idea to try and get fans to come see Mitchell play, and after the game, there was a meet and greet with Mitchell. She spoke to the crowd before signing autographs down on the court. The opportunity was a no-brainer for Gamecock fans like Cindy Barrett. “We need to go support a Gamecock,” said Barrett on what crossed her mind when she heard about the event. With garnet, black and Indiana No. 3 Mitchell jerseys littering the arena, South Carolina women’s basketball and Mitchell fans cheered her and her team on throughout the course of the game. Indiana found itself in an early 18-point deficit and trailed by 10 at halftime, but charged back to take the lead momentarily in the third quarter. Cuevas were some of those teammates that However, the Fever eventually fell by a were in Atlanta. score of 85-76. Despite the loss, the amazing support Mitchell also had family come down from for Mitchell by Gamecock Nation made a Charlotte in what was a memorable afterlasting impression on many people, includ- noon for her. She said after the game that ing the head coach of Indiana, Stephanie “it felt like Colonial Life Arena all over White. again.” “You guys are awesome; can you come to “All my family came because this is the Indiana too?” White told the closest that they’re going to assembled Gamecock crowd get to see me, so this was cool after the game. to have them in the stands,” In addition to Gamecock Mitchell said. fans, South Carolina head Mitchell finished with 14 coach Dawn Staley, several of points, four rebounds and her assistant coaches as well two steals in the Fever loss. as several of Mitchell’s forThe 14 points were right at mer teammates came out and All Gamecock basketball the rookie’s season average, supported her. A’ja Wilson, coverage sponsored by which leads the team. Khadijah Sessions and Bianca Yesterdays “It means a lot (for them) to
photo by kyle heck
show their support even when I’m not in South Carolina,” Mitchell said of the fans and former coaches and teammates. “They still come out and support me.” In a special moment, a group of Gamecock fans were also able to welcome Mitchell and the Fever back onto the court to start the second half. They formed a line and high-fived the team as they left the locker room. Overall, the chance to support a former Gamecock who meant so much to the University and the women’s basketball team was something the fans took in stride. “She was one of our leaders and someone we looked to on and off the floor,” Barrett said. “She was part of the transition program to getting Carolina back on top.” Staley is obviously familiar with sold-out crowds at Colonial Life Arena and the sup-
port that is always shown for her team, but was particularly pleased that so many fans came out to make Mitchell feel at home. “It was great,” Staley told Spurs & Feathers after the game. “Our fans, you think they can’t top what they’ve done over the years, but for them to spend their hardearned money to come out and support Tiff, it was quite incredible.” While there were probably some people that were wondering why so many people traveled to Atlanta just to support one player, the South Carolina fans knew they’ve been going above and beyond for a long time, and they weren’t going to let a little travel stop them from supporting Mitchell. “We just took over, like we always do,” Barrett said. “Gamecock Nation - it’s not a fan base, it’s a family.”
Spurs & Feathers • 17
June 15, 2016
photo by allen sharpe
Super Fans: Gamecocks praise ‘incredible’ support from home crowd by kyle heck Reporter
to the Super Regionals with a 10-5 defeat of UNCW. “I think we have some nice bosses that When the deciding game in the 2016 Colive in Columbia that allowed people to lumbia Regional between UNCW and host come out of work,” head coach Chad HolSouth Carolina was moved from Monday, brook said. “It was incredible.” June 6, at 6 p.m. to Tuesday, June 7, at 2 The crowd certainly played a role in the p.m., there was some worry that the fan win for the Gamecocks, who were down support at Founders Park would take a dip 1-0 to the Seahawks early in the game. with the change. The early-evening MonHowever, a five-run fourth inning for South day time would allow most people to come Carolina allowed it to take control of the to the stadium right after work, while the contest. Tuesday time meant that the 9-5ers would The Gamecocks know that when the ofhave a lot more trouble getting over to the fense starts clicking, the fans get engaged, ballpark. and it’s hard to stop the train Instead, Gamecock Nation once it gets rolling. punked those notions and “They can make it hard on showed up in overwhelman opponent, and they sure ing numbers to try and did this weekend,” Holbrook urge South Carolina on to noted. victory. A crowd of 7,004, The Seahawks and GameAll Gamecock baseball the largest of the Columbia cocks first played each other coverage sponsored by Regional, showed up to see on Sunday, June 5, and after DiPrato’s the Gamecocks clinch a trip the 10-1 South Carolina
victory, the UNCW players noted that they weren’t used to playing in front of such a raucous crowd. In the deciding game between the two teams, the fans made sure they didn’t let up. “Tremendous atmosphere to play in,” UNCW head coach Mark Scalf said. The Seahawks committed three errors in the loss to the Gamecocks, and while both their coach and players said the crowd didn’t play a role in their performance, they recognized that there’s always an inherent advantage for teams that have a definite home field advantage. “Everybody loves playing at home, no doubt,” Scalf said. “The crowd was good. They supported that club the last two days extremely well.” After losing the opening game of the regional against Rhode Island, the Gamecocks reeled off four straight wins in pressure-packed elimination games to capture the crown. After that opening loss, history showed that South Carolina had about a
seven percent chance of coming back to win the regional. It took a complete team effort from everybody associated with the Gamecocks to overcome the odds and come out on top. Earlier in the season, Holbrook asked fans to be more vocal at games. He wasn’t displeased by the amount of fans that were turning up, because there were a lot, but rather the fact that most sat down and didn’t yell or make it difficult on the opponent. On June 7 after the win over UNCW, Holbrook reflected on that and said that was the reason he was “a bit of a crybaby.” He knows how much of an impact Gamecock Nation can have on the opponents. “Our fans were incredible,” Holbrook said. “That’s what a home field environment is all about. When you get a chance to play at home, then you get your fans behind you, and atmospheres like that help you win. Our fans were awesome, our players were awesome (and) our pitchers were incredible. It was a true team effort.”
18 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Restoring a standard, deserving respect
and camaraderie that Holbrook said was as good as any he’s seen in his 20-plus years of After all the wins; the surprise SEC East title; coaching. Returning players took ownership of the thrilling play on the edge of elimination in their struggles. Newcomers pushed veterans. the NCAA Regional; the breakout performanc- Junior-college transfers added a strong persones from players who didn’t sniff any preseason ality to the clubhouse. watch lists; it’s easy to forget how much uncerThat togetherness was evident as the wins tainty loomed over South Carolina heading into piled up. But not surprisingly, some scar tissue the 2016 season. remained in the psyches of fans. That’s why The Gamecocks were coming off their first these Gamecocks should be applauded as much missed NCAA Tournament in 17 years. They for the way they handled scrutiny and pressure had to replace their top two weekend starting as the way they won. pitchers. The heart of their order was gone, Pressure, of course, comes with the territory shredded by graduation and the draft. From a at USC. Players know what they sign up for. team that finished last in the SEC in hitting and But the pressure the Gamecocks shouldered this 11th in ERA, the Gamecocks only returned 38 year felt different. Not only did they have to percent of their RBIs and 61 percent of their in- maintain the high standards of South Carolina nings pitched. baseball, they had to prove that last year was a Given the numbers, it seemed like a daunting fluke. One down year was tough enough; they climb back. But Gamecock fans don’t want a knew a second would be unforgivable. steady rebuild. They expect a quick flip. They That fear of a relapse also influenced the way wanted a return to prominence, and fast. some - but certainly not all - fans treated the South Carolina’s season came to an end last Gamecocks when they struggled. Was the fan week, felled by Oklahoma State in the Super support still among the best in college baseball? Regional. For some fans, anyNo question. But in light of last thing short of Omaha is a disapyear, the skepticism seemed a pointment. But the 2016 season little more pointed, the scrutiny should be remembered more as a little more biting when the the year the Gamecocks restored Gamecocks hit a rough patch. the standard. It was understandable, and perPerhaps that’s why Chad Holhaps a little inevitable. South brook became emotional when Carolina, at least from some, talking about his players at his had lost its benefit of the doubt. season-ending press conference. It takes a special character “They maxed out,” Holbrook of kid to thrive under those cirtold me a day later. cumstances. The Gamecocks His players didn’t hide from had a clubhouse full of them. It the embarrassment of 2015. showed in the standings: South They let it fuel them. They used Carolina clinched the SEC East it to hold one another accountable despite not receiving a single during offseason workouts. preseason first-place vote (the That shared goal – to put Andy Demetra Gamecocks were to picked to South Carolina baseball back Contributing finish closer to fourth than first). on the map – forged a chemistry Writer Returning starters Gene Cone,
photo by jenny dilworth
Marcus Mooney and Alex Destino all raised their batting averages by at least 70 points. Pitchers Clarke Schmidt, Tyler Johnson and Josh Reagan enjoyed breakout years. The newcomers left their mark, too. Juniorcollege transfers Dom Thompson-Williams, John Jones and Jonah Bride were as good as advertised. Braden Webb and Adam Hill made Freshman All-SEC, leading the Gamecocks to a division title as part of the youngest weekend rotation in the SEC. Had it not been for a worstto-first turnaround from Mississippi State’s John Cohen, Holbrook would’ve likely won SEC Coach of the Year. The Gamecocks gave themselves a chance to play for their 12th College World Series. The atmospheres at Founders Park were typically terrific. It made sense why Holbrook’s voice caught at his final press conference. To quote the singer Jerry Reed, South Carolina had a long way to go and a short time to get there. The season ended shy of Omaha, but the
Gamecocks put themselves back into prominence. They never flinched in the face of extra pressure. And remember those numbers from earlier, about how the Gamecocks only returned 38 percent of their RBIs and 61 percent of their innings from a team that missed the NCAA Tournament? That team finished 4618, 20-9 in the SEC. Next year, South CaroAll Gamecock baseball lina will recoverage sponsored by turn at least 70 percent of DiPrato’s its innings and 78 percent of its RBIs. The Gamecocks restored the standard in 2016. In 2017, they might raise it.
Spurs & Feathers • 19
June 15, 2016
photo by allen sharpe
Gamecocks give back to community
tices were canceled, but many teams went out into the community to help with the relief efforts. “When campus was closed and people South Carolina was able to boast some of the top programs in the South- vacated, our student-athletes didn’t vacate,” Tanner said. “They continued to eastern Conference this year across sports, but the off-field success contin- try to work out the best way they could to stay in shape, but they also went ued as well. out into the community. It’s a culture The student-athletes led the SEC in that’s been created and I have to give fall GPA for the 10th straight season and has 19 consecutive semesters over Erica Nelson a lot of credit for that, the a 3.0 but what may be more impressive coaches and the student-athletes.” The volleyball team was the school’s is the amount of community service Community Outreach Team of the hours worked this academic year. Year, with an average of 93 hours per Gamecocks student-athletes worked 11,153 community service hours during student-athlete. Tanner was able to get out into the the 2015-16 academic year, which led the SEC by over 4,000 hours. On aver- community at times as well to watch his student-athletes in action. age, each student-athlete volunteered “What stands out more than anything 21 hours of their time. is where they are as young people, their “We all get excited about our teams leadership skills. When I get a chance and winning games is a big part of to visit and see our student-athletes athletics,” athletics director Ray Tanin those settings, it’s a ref lection for ner said. “At the end of the day, it’s about education and developing young me that they’re here now, but in 10 people, and I’m very sincere about that. years, they’ll be in roles that will be far-reaching and impacting whatever That’s impactful, and very gratifying they’re doing professionally.” to see that.” There were a lot of on-field acMany of those hours came during the October f loods that caused $12 billion complishments this season in South Carolina athletics, but the impact that in damages, according to a December student-athletes had in the community report in The State newspaper. Campus closed for several days, prac- shouldn’t be ignored.
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20 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
South Carolina tops in women’s basketball attendance South Carolina Athletics Media Relations
South Carolina ranked No. 1 in average home women’s basketball attendance for the second-straight season, the NCAA formally announced recently. The Gamecocks averaged 14,364 fans at Colonial Life Arena this season as one of two programs to draw over 10,000 per game. South Carolina’s increase of 2,072 over last season’s average ranked second in the nation, and the Gamecocks played in front of a total of 322,424 fans over their 35 games this season, the highest total in the country. “Our fans are amazing, and coaches all over the country ask us what we’re doing to fill the seats,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “We do our part, but it’s our fans that create that environment that others want to be a part of. And, they take it as a challenge to be back at the top of the attendance rankings. As much as they follow our team and our stats, they’re looking
at attendance figures around the country and challenging each other to get more people to come to games. It’s an incredible thing to watch.” Gamecock fans poured into Colonial Life Arena in 2015-16, recording three of the five most-attended games in the nation on
the season, including the highest singlegame total of 18,000 on Feb. 8, 2016. They went on to punch their ticket for eight of the top 10, and 15 of the Gamecocks’ 17 home games this season ranked among the top 25 in attendance. South Carolina’s attendance has grown
steadily in recent years, since the launch of the program’s “Drive for 5” in 2013-14, during which the number grew from 2012-13’s average of 3,952 to 6,371 as the Gamecocks led the nation in attendance increase. The program repeated the feat in 2014-15 as the average nearly doubled again to 12,293 for a 5,922 increase, which was more than double the increase of the next team on the list. In 2015-16, Gamecock fans again rose to the challenge to keep the program atop the national average, despite ceding the average increase top spot to SEC rival Missouri by 121 fans per game. The Southeastern Conference led the nation in women’s basketball attendance for the second-straight season as well, setting an all-time attendance high for any conference with 1,108,511 fans passing through turnstiles during home games and conference tournament action. In total, 11 SEC schools were ranked in the top 50 in average home attendance with five listed in the top 25.
Staley announces addition of Alexis Jennings by brian hand Executive Editor
South Carolina women’s basketball just got better - again. It was announced by South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley on Twitter on Wednesday, June 1, that Alexis Jennings is joining the program. A 6-foot-2 for- All Gamecock basketball ward, Jennings coverage sponsored by transfers to Yesterdays South Carolina from rival Kentucky where she played her first two seasons. Jennings will have to sit out the 2016-17 season, but she will have two years of eligibility remaining with the Gamecocks. During her freshman season with Kentucky in the 2014-15 season, Jennings averaged 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. In SEC play she averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game to garner SEC All-Freshman team
photo by jenny dilworth
honors. She was named the SEC Freshman of the Week twice during the season. Known as a player with post capabilities who has the ability to shoot the three, Jennings averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds
per game during her sophomore season with Kentucky this past year. Coming out of Sparkman High School, the Madison, Alabama native was chosen as the Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year and the
Alabama 6A Player of the Year during her senior season after averaging 22.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game. She was rated as the ninth-best forward in the 2014 class by ESPN.com.
Spurs & Feathers • 21
June 15, 2016
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22 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Past, present and future of Gamecock men’s golf making noise by brian hand Executive Editor South Carolina men’s golf head coach Bill McDonald knows that his golfers join the program for many reasons, but he also knows at the end of the day the goal is simple. “It’s every kid’s dream that pretty much comes through the program to play professional golf,” McDonald muses. And that’s what South Carolina men’s golf can provide. South Carolina men’s golf has long All Gamecock golf coverage been a sponsored by Jeffers-McGill program with golfers making their way to the professional ranks, but of late particularly, the professional tours are now littered with Gamecock greats. In fact, two Palmetto State products and Gamecock greats played in the PGA TOUR FedEx St. Jude Classic June 9-12 in Memphis, Tennessee in 2016 first-team All-American Matt NeSmith (North Augusta, South Carolina) and current Web.com Tour money list leader Wesley Bryan (Chapin, South Carolina). It is the first PGA TOUR starts for both, and with two wins on the Web.com this year, Bryan is already assured of a PGA TOUR card next year. “Matt and Wesley are walking around here on cloud nine this week,” McDonald said while talking with Spurs & Feathers from Memphis. “It’s ‘The Show.’ There’s nothing like ‘The Show.’” Golf is like many other professional sports in that one has to ply their trade at lower levels to make it to ‘The Show’ on the PGA TOUR, and with playing professional golf such a part of Gamecock men’s golf the upward ascension was never more evident than on May 31. Shortly after the Gamecocks bowed out of the 2016 NCAA Division I Championship on Tuesday, May 31, all three Gamecock seniors at the championship in Sean Kelly, NeSmith and Will Starke were quickly on their way to playing professional golf. “We lose to Illinois at like 11 a.m. in the morning and by like 5 p.m. that afternoon they’re on a flight from Portland to the Canadian Tour (Mackenzie Tour event June 2-5 in Victoria, British Columbia),” McDonald said. “It was really tough sending them off like
photo by brian hand
that, but at the same time it was an incredible run with those guys. They were a lot of fun to coach.” That trio of now professional golfers were a big part of a historic 2015-16 season for South Carolina men’s golf that saw the Gamecocks as noted make it to match play at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship for the first time in program history. The Gamecocks picked up four tournament wins over the course of the season, which is tied for second-
best in program history. On the whole, McDonald was incredibly proud of what his team was able to accomplish this past season. “We hit a lot of our goals this year,” McDonald said. “We won some events and making it to match play was obviously a huge goal for us. It was bittersweet in the sense that it was a milestone for our program in a lot of ways, but it really hurt to be in all five matches (and not win in a national quarterfi-
nal 4-1 loss to Illinois). I think we had one of the more competitive matches of the entire championship.” Going forward into the 2016-17 season, McDonald knows he has another strong group in the fold, and that was more than evident recently with rising sophomore Ryan Stachler earning a spot in the 116th U.S. Open that will be contested June 16-19 at Oakmont Country Club in Plum, Pennsylvania. Stachler finished second during a sectional qualifier at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course to capture a spot in the second major of the year. The Alpharetta, Georgia native carded a 36-hole score of 8-under 136 to give the Gamecocks a current Gamecock in the U.S. Open for the second straight year. NeSmith qualified last year for the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington. Stachler’s spot in this year’s U.S. Open speaks emphatically to the depth of South Carolina men’s golf as this past season he played in only four events for the Gamecocks. “Ryan’s one of those kids, especially in the spring, that you could really see some of the hard work he was doing start to pay off,” McDonald said. “We just didn’t have enough spots (during the year). (Rising sophomore) Will Miles was much in the same boat too. (Ryan’s) a great kid, and he didn’t get down on himself, and he fought through the pain of not being able to play (for South Carolina). It’s awesome for him. It’s going to be a great experience for him.” In general, McDonald knows that the future is going to continue to be bright for Gamecock men’s golf with golfers like Stachler, rising junior Keenan Huskey, Miles and (rising sophomore) Scott Stevens returning for example, but he also knows the 2016-17 season is going to see some growing pains with the amount of youth on the roster. “We’re still going to be pretty young overall,” McDonald said. “What’s exciting though is that you are seeing a talent level that’s at a pretty high standard I think. I don’t want to put any great expectations on those kids. They’ve got a lot to live up to if they start looking at what some of these guys before them have done. “ McDonald knows though it’s a pretty special time to be a part of Gamecock men’s golf with all of the great things going on with the past, present and future of the program. “It gives your program a little validation of maybe you’re doing some things the right way,” McDonald said.
Spurs & Feathers • 23
June 15, 2016
by brian hand Executive Editor Shortly after the 2016 South Carolina football garnet and black spring game, the playing surface at Williams-Brice Stadium commenced the process of undergoing a makeover. The field makeover at Williams-Brice Stadium includes installation of a new
drainage system in addition to irrigation and sod. The updates will be done well before South Carolina’s home regular-season opener at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, against East Carolina. They are also still scheduled to be completed before the Gamecocks start preseason preparations officially for the 2016 season in early August.
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Spurs & Feathers • 25
June 15, 2016
Smith: ‘My players left knowing that they can compete with anybody’ by kyle heck Reporter Looking back at the 2016 season for the South Carolina softball team, head coach Beverly Smith came away with the feeling that every coach wants to have at the end of the year. “We took another step forward,” Smith stated. Indeed the Gamecocks did, as they made it all the way to the finals of the Tallahassee Regional in the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina held a lead over host Florida State, the eighth-ranked team in the country, after five and a half innings before the Seminoles came from behind to take the win and advance to the Super Regionals. It was the fourth consecutive postseason appearance for the Gamecocks, who have done more and more each time out. Coming so close to advancing to the next round is something that the team hopes to build off of in the future. “Playing in the championship game of the regionals was certainly one of our goals,” Smith said. “We definitely want to win it, but I think my players left with the feeling knowing that they can compete with anybody in the country. I think for me, I’ll take the time this summer to really dissect the things that we need to do to achieve our goals and be in the Super Regional and play for a National Championship.” For the second straight season, the Gamecocks finished the year with 38 victories, and they were particularly strong down the stretch. Over the course of the last six games of the regular season, the Gamecocks notched wins over top-20 teams in Alabama and Missouri. They then advanced to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament before winning two games at the Tallahassee Regional. “That might be one of the prouder moments for me,” Smith said. “You’ve seen teams that kind of run out of gas at the end of the year, and I felt like our team was refreshed. They were healthy and they were playing very good team softball. Nobody was ready to go home, mentality-wise. Everybody was in it together, which is a warm feeling for a coach for sure.” The group of four seniors for the Gamecocks were a large part of the reason for the team’s success over the last few years. Alaynie Page, Ansley Ard, Jordan Bizzell and Lauren Masters all went to the NCAA Tournament in each of their four years with the team, and they helped create a winning mentality in the Gamecock locker room. That group was around when Smith was still trying to adjust to her role as head coach, and before the facility upgrades occurred as well. “They watched us practice in the old facility, so they weren’t recruited with the beautiful new stadium,” Smith said. “They came here because they were all Gamecocks and loved it. They came here to change the program, and I think when you look back, they did just that because this class doesn’t know anything different than postseason.” While the Gamecocks will miss the production of those seniors, they are set up quite well for the future. Alexis Mack, Kenzi Maguire and Kennedy Clark were all fresh-
Photo by Allen Sharpe
men that performed extremely well for South Carolina in 2016. They return, along with stud junior Kaylea Snaer, who led the Gamecocks with a .374 batting average to go with an eye-popping 27 doubles, which is tied for fourthmost in a single season in NCAA Division I history. South Carolina will also return virtually all of its innings pitched on the mound. The junior duo of Nickie Blue and Jessica Elliott had outstanding seasons, and really stepped up late in the year. Blue finished with 19 wins and a 2.45 ERA while Elliott notched 18 victories and recorded a 2.77 ERA. “We’ve got a veteran pitching staff and two great pitchers that really can hold down anyone in the country,” Smith said. “We’ve got to continue to play lockdown defense,
which I thought was a big improvement for us this year.” The main thing that Smith wants her team to focus on is how they ended this year. She hopes they can carry over that confidence and ability over to the start of next year, so that they can continue to raise the standard of the program. After making the NCAA Tournament for four consecutive years, the Gamecocks are now aiming to be a NCAA Regional host in the very near future. “I want them to remember where we finished, and that feeling of what it was like to walk off that field and watch Florida State celebrate there,” Smith said. “I want them to remember the level at which we were competing at, and that’s where I want to start in September when we get back at it.”
26 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Gamecocks continue upward trend in year No. 3 of program by kyle heck Reporter The third year of the South Carolina beach volleyball program followed the theme from the first two years - gradual improvement. After winning five matches in their inaugural season, the Gamecocks nearly tripled that total in year No. 2, notching 14 wins. This season, South Carolina kept up that improvement, and it resulted in a All Gamecock very important milebeach volleyball coverage stone for the sponsored by James W. team. With a Smith Real Estate Co. victory over Florida International on April 23 to make it to the semifinals of the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) Tournament, the Gamecocks picked up their 20th win of the season, and finished the year with a 20-16 record. “It’s an important step for sure,” head coach Moritz Moritz said. “I think from year one to year two, and from year two to where we are now and the continued progress of this team, that’s going to be huge to continue to get to where we want to be to have that improvement. Ultimately we want to compete for championships, so these are the steps that we’re taking to ultimately get in that direction.” This was the first year that South Carolina was part of the CCSA conference, and to make it to the semifinals of the conference tournament was an impressive feat. The win over No. 10 Florida International in the postseason was even more important than the fact that it was the 20th victory of the year. It was also the Gamecocks’ first-ever win over a top-10 opponent. The future continues to look bright for the Gamecocks, as they were a relatively young team in 2016. The No. 1 spot in the lineup featured a freshman and a sophomore, and three more underclassmen featured heavily in the other four dual spots in the lineup. “The neat thing about our program and really the sport in general is the growth and the improvement,” Moritz said. “I think with the youth and inexperience, we have a ton to learn. It makes it tough sometimes because we want to compete and win, but at the same time, it’s
photo by jenny dilworth
really exciting because you see what is developing in the future, what the potential is and how that’s going to culminate over time into something that’s really strong and a lot of fun. They’re learning how to compete, and they’re learning how to embrace that pressure and that adversity and find that way to succeed.” South Carolina will lose just two seniors from the 2016 team, but they’re two players that Moritz will miss. Sarah Blomgren, who was also part of the indoor team, compiled a 22-14 dual record, working mainly with freshman Aubrey Ezell at the No. 2 spot. Litsa Darby is the other senior, and went 10-15, working
mainly with junior Erin Neuenfeldt at the No. 5 spot. “It’s a neat progression to see where they started from even before they got here, to all the way through and finishing their careers in the way that they did,” Moritz said. “Obviously to see them compete and train, but really accomplish everything that they accomplished is tremendous.” As Moritz and the Gamecocks look forward to the future, they hope to continue the theme of improvement each year. The next big step is to make the NCAA Tournament, while also continuing to excel on and off the sand.
“That growth is awesome, and that’s really kind of what (assistant coach) RJ (Abella) and I talk about constantly is daily improvement and how are we getting better,” Moritz said. “As long as we’re doing what we need to on a daily basis and getting better, and for us, that’s a very holistic thing. We can’t just be getting better in the weight room, conditioning and on the court, are we taking care of everything that we need to? Are we great in the community, are we great with our grades, are we taking care of business and taking care of what we need to at the rate we need to get where we need to over time.”
Spurs & Feathers • 27
June 15, 2016
Humpy Wheeler: ‘I just saw something I liked’ at South Carolina by Kyle Heck Reporter
a lot different back then, particularly for someone who played down in the trenches like himself. H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler was born in “First day, I don’t care how hot it was (or) North Carolina, but when it came time to if it was pouring rain, you scrimmaged,” decide what college he wanted to go play Wheeler said. “I think the big difference in football at, there was one to the south that college football today from then was that stuck out. we didn’t have free substitution. If you “I am from North Carolina, but this was were a tackle, you stayed in. If you were the closest University to us and I didn’t get a quarterback, you played quarterback on a tremendous amount of scholarship ofoffense and then you played safety on defers,” Wheeler said. “South Carolina was fense. It was really hard-nosed football.” one of the bigger ones. I could’ve gone to Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that North Carolina, but I came down here and Wheeler soon switched his focus to racing. I just saw something that I liked.” He began organizing races at Columbia So Wheeler chose the Gamecocks over Speedway while still in college (much to his instate school, where his brother, Dathe chagrin of his football coaches) and vid, played football at. In fact, Wheeler became one of the most recognized figures came from an extremely athletic family as in NASCAR after leaving South Carolina. his father also played and coached footFor more than three decades, Wheeler ball. was the president and general manager of “I think my sisters would’ve played if Charlotte Motor Speedway and became they could have,” Wheeler said. one of the most decorated promoters in the Wheeler played football for the Gamesport. He’s part of a whopping nine Hall of cocks in 1958 and 1959 and the sport was Fames.
away from it,” Wheeler said of racing. “I’m going to call Steve here in another two weeks and say ‘it’s nice, isn’t it?’” The 77-year-old Wheeler recently returned to Williams-Brice Stadium for the alumni flag football game that was held before the annual Garnet and Black spring game. For him, it was nice to return and interact with other former Gamecocks and he’s been pleased with what head coach Will Muschamp has done since arriving in Columbia. He compares what Muschamp has been through in his career to what happens to people in the sport of NASphoto by brian hand CAR and believes the head coach will take advantage of the opportunity given to him. “He’s had several bad blows against him Wheeler has since retired from leading Charlotte Motor Speedway and is enjoying and I always believe that sometimes that his time off now while helping oversee an- puts a little fire in somebody and I think other company he has, which his son runs, that’s done that to him,” Wheeler said. that services short tracks. Wheeler can re- “It’s happened to me, it’s happened to evlate to what former Head Ball Coach Steve ery race driver I know and it’s happened to a lot of football players and certainly a lot Spurrier is going through right now. of coaches. You see them come back more “It’s such an intense thing (and) it’s like determined than ever to win.” coaching football, you just need to get
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June 15, 2016
photo by allen sharpe
Holbrook: ‘I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed a team more than this one’ By kyle heck Reporter
brook was so attached to this year’s team was because of how close everyone was to each other. It was clear at the press conference short“I’ve been coaching for 20-something ly after South Carolina’s season came to an years, and I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed a end in the Super Regionals that head coach team more than this one,” Holbrook said. Chad Holbrook loves his team. “We kind of set the goal in September to Fighting back tears, put this program back on the Holbrook commended his map after what happened team for fighting so hard last year, and they certainly for every win in a season accomplished that.” that ended with a 3-1 loss to Last season, the GameOklahoma State in the seccocks went 32-25 and ond game of the Columbia missed out on the NCAA Super Regional. Tournament for the first All Gamecock baseball “I couldn’t be more proud time since 1999. They knew coverage sponsored by of my team,” Holbrook said. that wasn’t and shouldn’t be DiPrato’s One of the reasons Holthe norm for the team, so
they spent the offseason working extremely hard to get better. All of that work paid off this year when South Carolina won 46 games and were just two wins away from returning to the College World Series. The improvement from last year to this season was almost even more than what Holbrook himself expected. The Gamecocks used an excellent mix of junior college players and outstanding freshmen that combined well with the returning players. There were just three seniors on the roster in DC Arendas, Marcus Mooney and Vince Fiori, but they contributed a lot to the team over their careers and that wasn’t lost on the younger players. “I don’t think I’ve ever played with a
team as fun as this one,” sophomore pitcher Clarke Schmidt said. “The seniors, they dedicated their lives to this, and those guys that got drafted and won’t be returning next year, I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for this program.” With that said, the Gamecocks return a bevy of talent for next year. While the MLB Draft will likely claim a few of the draft-eligible non-seniors, the core of the group that helped win 46 games will be back. “Coming off of last year, we knew that we were going to have to do a lot of things better,” Arendas said. “I think there’s a foundation laid with a key group of guys that are coming back next year to build off of what we did this year.”
Spurs & Feathers • 29
June 15, 2016
Seven Gamecocks taken in MLB Draft by brian hand and kyle heck Executive Editor/Reporter
year when he was taken off the board in the 10th round by the New York Mets. The junior from Columbia was the 24th pick of South Carolina baseball had seven players the 10th round and the 310th pick overall. drafted in the 2016 Major League Baseball Cone led the Gamecocks and ranked in Draft. the top-10 in the SEC with a .363 batting South Carolina starting pitcher Braden average this past season. Over the course of Webb was tabbed with the fifth pick of the his impressive junior season, Cone scored third round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the 53 runs to go along with 30 RBIs. The outMilwaukee Brewers on Friday, June 10. fielder showed excellent discipline at the The first current Gamecock taken in this plate, drawing a team-high 45 walks while year’s MLB Draft, Webb was the 82nd se- striking out just 26 times in 215 at-bats. lection overall. Earlier in the year, Cone recorded a hit in Webb received the call that he had been 31 straight games, which broke the school drafted by the Brewers in front of his team- record for longest hitting streak. mates as South Carolina was on the field South Carolina junior pitcher Taylor practicing for the Super Regional against Widener was taken in the 12th round of the Oklahoma State. He was immediately con- 2016 MLB Draft by the New York Yangratulated by all of his teammates. kees. A rare draft eligible freshman, the Widener was particularly strong for the 21-year-old Webb was fantastic this past Gamecocks this past year, especially late season for South Carolina. He finished in the season. The Aiken native ended second among all Gamecocks with 128 his 2016 season with a 4-2 record with a strikeouts this season. On the year, Webb 4.20 ERA. He fanned 68 in 55 2/3 innings was 10-6 with a 3.09 ERA in 18 appearpitched. ances. The freshman All-America selection For the second time in his life, South pitched in 102 innings with Gamecock op- Carolina pitcher Wil Crowe was drafted by ponents hitting just .216 against him. the Cleveland Indians. Crowe, who has two South Carolina junior outfielder Dom seasons of eligibility remaining, informed Thompson-Williams was selected in the the South Carolina coaching staff that he fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the was coming back to school on Friday, June New York Yankees. Thompson-Williams 10, but nevertheless the Indians took Crowe was the 158th selection overall in the draft. with the 632nd pick (21st round) of the 2016 Rated No. 95 in the country among all MLB Draft on Saturday, June 11. college prospects by D1Baseball entering The 2013 Tennessee Gatorade Player the 2016 season, Thompson-Williams lived of the Year, Crowe coming out of Pigeon up to the hype for the South Carolina base- Forge High School was originally a 31st ball team in the 2016 season. He led the round selection of the Indians before joinGamecocks in doubles (17), triples (3) and ing up with the Gamecocks. stolen bases (18). Thompson-Williams was In his sophomore season in 2015, Crowe tied for second on the team with a .321 bat- made nine starts and owned a record of 3-4 ting average. He was the only Gamecock to with a 4.91 ERA before learning he would start all 64 games in the 2016 season. have to end his season to undergo Tommy After developing into one of South Caro- John surgery. Crowe underwent the surlina’s best hitters this season, South Caro- gery shortly after his last start of the year lina senior shortstop Marcus Mooney was against Florida on April 10, 2015. Before drafted by the Atlanta Braves with the third ending his year for the surgery, Crowe had pick in the 10th round. Mooney was taken been tabbed as the SEC Co-Pitcher of the with the 289th overall pick overall. Week after striking out a career-high tying This past season Mooney appeared to put 10 in a 10-1 win over Kentucky. it all together in his final season as he was Despite being sidelined from the injury fourth among all Gamecocks with a .314 and not pitching until making a summer batting average. Mooney league start for the Lexended his year with 38 runs ington County Blowfish of scored to go along with 29 the Coastal Plain League RBIs. He had 11 extra-base on Wednesday, June 1, the hits on 10 doubles and one 6-foot-2 right-handed pitchhome run. His on-base perer is still incredibly highly centage of .413 was third on regarded by Major League the team. scouts with Baseball AmerAll Gamecock baseball South Carolina’s Gene ica listing him among their coverage sponsored by Cone became the fourth top-100 prospects entering DiPrato’s Gamecock to be drafted this this year’s draft in March of
photo by allen sharpe
this year. South Carolina right-handed pitcher Matt Vogel was drafted in the 25th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. The junior was taken with the 750th pick overall, and despite not playing very much for the Gamecocks, professional scouts were impressed with Vogel’s upside and
potential. This past year, Vogel made nine appearances for South Carolina. He picked up his first career win on March 16 against Davidson by pitching two innings of relief. Overall, Vogel had a 3.86 ERA this past year with 11 strikeouts in seven innings of work to go with 12 walks.
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30 • Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016
Incentive programs for kids focus on literacy and combatting obesity by brad muller South Carolina Director of Content Sports fans love stats. A pair of initiatives by South Carolina Athletics aimed at elementary school students has been putting up great numbers in recent years, and this past academic year was no exception. The Active Gamecocks and the Read with the Gamecocks programs are incentive-based activities that do more than simply expose young people to South Carolina Athletics. “Obviously we want them to have a chance to come to some games and enjoy themselves, but it’s more about giving opportunities to kids through reading and exercise,” said Rebecca Piner, South Carolina marketing assistant. “We really just want to keep pounding in the ethic that being physically active and having fun outside is really important. I had one student come up and tell me, `my P.E. teacher said that I could be a basketball player if I worked really hard, so I didn’t do 30 minutes of exercise. I did an hour every day.’ So it’s really cool to see small things like that.” South Carolina Athletics launched its Read with the Gamecocks program in 2008 to combine the fun of sports with the importance of education. Since then, 95,434 youngsters in South Carolina as well as a couple of bordering states have participated in the program and have read more than 21 million pages. “Read with the Gamecocks has been embraced by the entire state, which is really awesome,” Piner said. “It has grown from just being around the Columbia-Midlands area to where it reaches the Low Country and the Upstate, and it’s also now in the southern part of North Carolina and northeastern Georgia. It has been embraced really well.” “What I like about the program is that all of the kids get a chance to be winners if they participate,” said Patricia Watson-Brown, who is the Library Media Specialist at Holly Hill (S.C.) Elementary School. “All the kids had an opportunity to get a ticket to a South Carolina game. A lot of times when kids are participating in things, they are competing against each other,
ball. “We have a list of over 1,800 schools or after school programs that we send packets to throughout the year,” Piner said. “We have a YMCA after school program that is involved, and a couple early childhood education after school programs have been involved as well. The Home Schooling Association of South Carolina has done it too. We also get a lot of teachers who email us throughout the year after they hear about it.” Teachers have noted that when children are more physically active, they seem to have better attention spans in the classroom. “I want to get them as active as posin recent years,” Piner said. “Having which makes it harder because you’re sible first and then try to teach the lesthis many take part and take advantage son,” Coe said. “It’s good to get out that either the winner or the loser. In this of the tickets helps us here too. In some built up energy they have from sitting all case, if you participated, you were a of the games where they attended, you day.” winner.” could just feel the energy from them Read with the Gamecocks promotes “More schools should definitely get down on the floor.” literacy by creating a three-segment involved with this,” said Tony Aull, the “Our school was the winner for the reading program. It offers students physical education teacher at Logan Elsecond round of the program this year,” ementary School in Columbia. “The kids three opportunities to participate with Watson-Brown said. “We took two bus- are just full of energy. If you don’t give incentives to attend three South Caroloads of kids to a game.” lina basketball games. Each student them opportunities to use that energy, records the number of pages read durThe Active Gamecocks program was then it’s going to come out in the classing the contest. Other rewards such as implemented in 2011 with the goal of room when the teachers are trying to get an autographed basketball or a visit helping to combat childhood obesity. them to focus. It’s a huge benefit.” with the women’s basketball team were The goal is simple: get kids to spend Nearly 58,000 children have particialso given to the individuals who have more time being active by encouraging pated in Active Gamecocks since 2011, read the most or to the overall winning kindergartners through sixth graders to recording just under 405,000 hours of school or organizations. participate in a two-week, 30-minute physical activity as part of the program. “Many of the schools take part in per day exercise regimen. If the student During the past academic year, 10,688 every session of Read with the Gamecompletes the assignment, he or she restudents took part while engaging in cocks as well as Active Gamecocks,” ceives two complimentary tickets to a 74,816 hours of physical activity. Of Piner said. “There are a lot of principredetermined South Carolina athletics note, 120 schools participated in Active pals who change around their school event. Gamecocks this year, including 30 that schedules to fit the programs.” “I like the fact that it offers students were new to the program. “Reading is a part of everything we good incentives for being active,” said “We were pretty pleased with the do here,” Watson-Brown said. “We Brenton Coe, a physical education teach- turnout,” Piner said. “Anytime you can have other initiatives to what we do, but er at Dewey Carter Elementary School get 33% new customers, it’s awesome, it definitely added something to what especially when all of the ones that did it in Effingham, S.C. “A lot of students we were already doing to encourage before are returning too.” don’t get to go to big-time events like a them to want to read and to do more.” Of course the ultimate goal is for the South Carolina game, especially the kids During the 2015-2016 academic year, from low income areas. So this not only Active Gamecocks plan to take hold so there were 23,492 participants in the gives the kids and their parents a chance the youngsters will continue to choose a program, which is roughly 8,700 more to do something together, but it also en- healthy lifestyle, even when there is not than the previous year. That led to more courages them to be physically active as the incentive of a free game ticket. than two million pages being read by “A lot of kids have started getting inwell.” the participants in this year’s program. volved in recreation league sports after With fall, winter, and spring sessions More than 90 returning schools partici- available for the program, youngsters being in Active Gamecocks,” Coe said. pated, and there were also more than 50 had the opportunity to attend competi“Some of them are just finishing up rec new schools that jumped on board. tions involving South Carolina men and league baseball and softball now, and “Two million pages is really awesome women’s soccer, volleyball, men and they’ve told me that being part of Active and is right on par with what we’ve had women’s basketball, baseball and softGamecocks encouraged them to do that.”
June 15, 2016
Spurs & Feathers • 31
Looking forward already to the 2017 season What a rollercoaster ride the end of baseball season was for South Carolina. After last year, we really didn’t know what to expect from the Gamecocks. New faces were a plenty and though the prospects were good, no one could really tell. The mere fact that Coach Chad Holbrook and his team were able to win the SEC East over the No. 1 team in the country speaks volumes. That alone could be termed a success this year. Of course, we are talking about a program that has won two National Championships, thus, there are bigger expectations. Losing the two games in the Ed Girardeau SEC tournament Contributing is tough, but we’ve Editor been down that street before and lived to tell the story of holding the trophy in Omaha upon completion of the College World Series. So losing to Rhode Island was new territory. I have to admit, my expectations plummeted, and the win over Duke the next day didn’t really make it all better. However, the Gamecocks came to life and blew out Rhode Island on the second chance and had no trouble with UNCW in two games to take the Regional. Meantime, Oklahoma State pulled the upset at Clemson (though it certainly didn’t seem that way), and rather than South Carolina going on the road for the Super Regional, OSU came to Columbia. This was all setting up nicely. Alas, it was not meant to be. The Gamecocks scored two runs in two games, not exactly a formula for winning, and lost twice, missing out on a trip to Omaha. Unlike the Cowboys opponent from the weekend previously, Carolina gave OSU a good run. The pitching for USC was very good. If not for two innings, one run might have been enough to win one of those games. Braden Webb gave up a lead off homer in the third, hit a batter, who went to second on a passed ball that appeared to possibly be a cross up, and scored on a single to center. That was all the runs Webb would allow. Carolina only mustered a leadoff homer by Dom Thompson-Williams in the ninth. On Sunday, Clarke Schmidt gave up three runs in the third. Though the runs show as earned, it was the meltdown on defense that allowed the runs. An error in judgment and throwing by sure-handed shortstop Marcus Mooney led to runners at first and third with one out rather than two outs and a runner at second. A sacrifice bunt was mishandled by Madison
when scoring just one run. That’s eight of the 18 losses. There were not that many one-run games with USC going 5-3 in those. In the close games, the little things can be the difference. Bunting at times looked like an adventure and as Coach Holbrook pointed out during the final weekend, the difference can be just moving the runners along. There is a good base for next year. We will now hold our breath and see who opts for professional baseball and who stays. Webb was drafted in the third round by the Brewers which is an interesting anomaly as he is only a freshman at USC, but old enough to be drafted. I suppose that will come down to the offer he gets for turning pro. We were spoiled by Michael Roth spurning the Big Leagues and coming back and playing four years. That is the exception and not the rule. On a personal note, Taylor Widener being picked by the Yankees in the 12th round was bittersweet. I have no idea what Taylor will do. I would love to see him come back and pitch lights out and have a huge senior year and improve his draft status. Taylor’s father, Billy, and I grew up together and played baseball and football together from the time we were 8 years old. Billy was a good athlete. Taylor’s mom was two years behind us in my brother’s class, so I’ve known her a long time, too. I remember when Taylor was born. Aiken’s small and we are all family here. When Taylor was in high school, I had a long conversation with him before a baseball game at South Aiken, talking about baseball and his dad. We were both in the press box which doubled as the team dressing room. He was just up there relaxing before pitching. This was before he ever was recruited by South Carolina so that subject photo by allen sharpe never came up. It was just two guys hanging out which is Stokes when he tried to scoop the ball with his on Saturday, was excellent and they had timely mitt and shovel the ball to John Jones at catcher hitting. It will be interesting to see how they do what baseball is to so many of us. If that kid goes pro, that is the dream that we all dreamed and whiffed. There was no error, but picking in the World Series. Their first match-up with it up and throwing to first to get the out would UC Santa Barbara, with two really good starting about when we were kids. We didn’t do it, but if one of my buddy’s kid does it, well, that’s pretty have been the safe play. pitchers for both teams, should be a very good exciting. So it’s not the Braves, the Yankees are Then after a RBI single, a throwing error by game. Jones on a steal attempt led to the third run It wasn’t the pitching that lost the game and it’s pretty good, too. That’s how we should view all of these kids. scoring. You would think all three runs would not the fact that the Gamecocks didn’t hit. Carobe unearned, but through quirky baseball rules, lina had six hits on Saturday to OSU’s eight and They come to Carolina with the dream of playthey were all ruled earned. had nine hits on Sunday to the Cowboy’s eight. ing big time college baseball and playing in the That’s baseball. It’s really what makes it so in- There were runners, but only one extra base hit MLB. We have had some ups and some downs, but mostly ups. In the end, I wouldn’t trade my teresting, at least if you’re talking to me. (DTW’s homerun with the bases empty) and seat on the rollercoaster with All three plays were players just trying to no hits with runners in scoring them and look forward to seemake great plays. Todd Walker, who was doing position, as the other run scored ing them one day in the Bigs, the analyst job on the ESPN broadcast, comon a wild pitch. There was a just like Jackie, Whit, Sam, mented that the biggest enemy of good is great, lack of clutch hitting. Justin, or so many that have meaning that the guys were trying to make great At times during the season, gone before. For those who plays when the safe, good play would do. I have the hitting would disappear. stay, we will crank it back no problem with trying to be great. To win the South Carolina was shut out up again in the fall and get National Championship you have to be great four times, at Clemson, at All Gamecock baseball ready for another ride toward and that’s the goal. It’s easy to second guess. North Carolina, at Kentucky, coverage sponsored by Omaha. I would be remiss if I did not tip my cap to and at home against Texas DiPrato’s It’s great to be a Gamecock! Oklahoma State. Their pitching, particularly A&M and lost four games
32 â€¢ Spurs & Feathers
June 15, 2016