On Monday we started with the highlights of the last academic year. Today we begin our look at the lowlights.
This could be higher on the list because it was a big disappointment. Everywhere Steve Spurrier has gone he's run a clean program, so when allegations of improprieties surfaced just prior to the Southern Miss game, it was surprising. It would eventually be clear that neither Coach Spurrier nor his staff had anything to do with the violations that occurred. In fact the main part of the violation was caused by a mistake in the administration's office rather than a willful violation or attempt to gain an unfair advantage. The penalties that were assessed could have been worse, but Eric Hyman's office did a great job working with the NCAA. Nonetheless, the penalties were surely a lowlight in an otherwise stellar year.
9. Arkansas in Omaha
The Gamecock baseball team had so much success, and their winning streak was so long. We all knew at some point it had to end. That's not to say we wanted it to end or we looked forward to the day, but we knew it was an inevitability. There were times during the streak when it simply seemed we couldn't be beaten. As the game dragged on you just knew that at the end of the game the baseball team would have a chance to win, and they would cash in on it.
The end of the streak came against Arkansas in Carolina's second game of the College World Series. The baseball team came up just short of extending their NCAA record winning streak to 23 games. After 5, Carolina trailed 2-1, and it seemed like they would probably find a way to pull this one out, just like the others. But it didn't. Carolina only put one more runner on base, and they couldn't get him home. The pitching staff, Tyler Webb in particular, pitched well and kept the score 2-1. However, at the end, the streak ended.
8. Ohio State Basketball game
The Buckeyes had a very good basketball team, and everyone in Columbia knew the odds of beating them would be long. Ohio State was #2 in the nation and heavily favored. Still, Carolina played well. At the half USC actually led 33-29 and in the end they fell, but only by the score of 74-66. It wasn't a bad showing, and if you believe in moral victories this might be the game for you. The performance of the team on the court wasn't the lowlight. The lowlight occurred in the stands.
The official attendance was 13,654. Of that number, at least 8,000 and perhaps as many as 10,000 were Buckeye fans. They absolutely took over the Colonial Life Arena. Those of us who were there in person were treated to thundering cheers of O-H-I-O echoing around our arena. Many of the Carolina fans who elected not to attend stayed away because they didn't want to witness a massacre. Still others were displaying their dissatisfaction with the program and / or its coach. I don't blame either group for their decision, and watching our basketball team play as hard as they did and keep the game as close as they should have been a high light in an otherwise forgettable season. Instead feeling like you were in Columbus was embarrassing for the school and the team and a low light of the year.
7. Hyman's departure
This may have been the biggest loss of the academic year. Or, it might be the best blessing. Eric Hyman has some detractors, but I am not one of them. He brought the athletic department into the modern age. His facilities plan, YES program and financial acumen has made South Carolina a premier athletics program. The successful seasons that we saw this past year will continue to be more numerous and more successful because of the base he built. If Ray Tanner can continue that growth and build upon it, the future looks very bright indeed.
All of that sounds like a positive, and Hyman's tenure here was very positive. His departure feels like it came at a time when the job was not finished. Though in fairness, would the job ever be finished? He was a strong leader who will be missed, and his choice to continue his career at another school is a low light of the year for Carolina fans.
6. LSU Baseball Series
Despite a much publicized slow start, Carolina's baseball team controlled their own destiny during the final weekend series against LSU. If they won, they would probably secure a national seed, and the SEC championship. After Friday night's game was postponed, a double header was played on Saturday. Carolina had the chance to reach several milestones in one day. However, USC lost the first game 5-1, but they rallied to win the second 5-4. Florida and Kentucky struggled in each of their series, so Sunday's game would give South Carolina another shot at a national seed and the SEC title. All they had to do was win that game. Like the Florida series two years before, USC came up short. It took extra innings, but eventually USC lost 3-2.
The post script is nice though. Florida and Kentucky took themselves out of the race, and USC won the East. Carolina earned a national seed when teams around the country couldn't take advantage of Carolina's loss. The Gamecocks then went on to their 3rd straight CWS finals, but none of that was apparent on that Sunday afternoon at The Ray.
Next, we'll do the Bottom 5 lowlights of the year and finish with the Top 5 highlights.
I don't blame you for putting Probation at the bottom, but it was a $500k doh! that probably scared some recruits away and will put a crimp in our style just as we're turning the corner in football. Plus, Eric Hyman gets credit for steering us out of the mess, but also takes a share of blame for his office having gotten us in the mess in the first place.