The Calm Before The Sandstorm

By Charlie Drafts 09/13/2019 |

In order to win, you must first expect to win.

After the devastating loss against UNC to start the college football season, the South Carolina Gamecock fan base were left reeling, grasping for answers and demanding change. We were then dealt another blow after learning that Jake Bentley was injured and likely done for the season and possibly his career as a Gamecock.

You couldn’t ask for a worse start to the season.

The coveted starting quarterback role was turned over to true freshman, Ryan Hilinski, for the Charleston Southern game and he stepped right in and owned it. The caveat of the lack of competition was trendy on social media, as fans begin to dissect the performance.  If no other team had lined up against us and he ran the same plays that he ran against Charleston Southern, he still looked incredible. The ball speed, the quick reads, his eyes always down field, the look-offs, the accuracy. He looked nothing like a true freshman.

Gamecock Nation now feels somewhat rejuvenated. We needed that blow out win. We never blow anyone out.

Now we face our next game, our next challenge.

Tomorrow afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium, we have an opportunity to shock the nation. No one expects South Carolina to win. We will not get picked by any analyst or “expert” on any of the pregame shows. We are okay with that and used to it. We go into this game with absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The weather tomorrow will be hot. The heat will be intense as you debate at your tailgate all of the questions; Which Gamecock team will show up? Is Hilinski the real deal? Will our defense be able to hold Alabama? Will our run game be able to do anything?

Just know, that inside the locker room there will be an intense atmosphere, this team knows this is far more than just another game. They know what a win will mean.

So tomorrow, as you make your way inside the stadium with 80,000 of your closest friends, by this time you may even have become miserable and irritable because of the weather and anticipation for the game to start. You find your seat, as you have 100’s of times before. You begin to look around to find your bearings and gather your thoughts.  You look down upon the field and spot a familiar face.

Stephen Garcia has returned.

As he leads the Gamecock chant, all is right in the world.  You scream as loud as possible. GAME!!... COCKS!!... GAME!!... roars throughout the house. You look around and it might as well be 70 degrees outside. Everyone around you is engaged and ready.

2001 begins playing.

Smoke is seen blasting from the tunnels as Hilinski leads the team out onto the field. The team is hyped and ready as they begin filling the sidelines facing the stands sending the already pumped fans into a frenzy.  The entire stadium is now rocking and swaying, as a Sandstorm blows through.

Big game garnet is the armor of choice as we prepare for battle.

Hilinski jogs out to the line of scrimmage ready for the first possession.

He points to the sky up above. Tyler, this is for you. Buckle up and hang on for the ride.

Ray Tanner Has Wagered His Legacy On The Success Of Kingston & Muschamp

By Jarrett Davis 07/15/2017 |>

(Photo: Richard Shiro, AP)
I really loved Ray Tanner as a baseball coach. 

The pressure never seemed to rattle him, his pitchers and certainly not his 2010 infield and 2011 wasn’t bad either.  There is finally enough public information to form an opinion on Ray Tanner as an athletic director. We waited some time for him to be faced with a high profile hire, and now it has come and passed twice.  Some of what has occurred under Tanner has been great and other moments he looked unsuitable in the role. 

The first huge accomplishment for Tanner was nailing down both Dawn Staley and Frank Martin. 

It is true neither coach was hired by Tanner, but he gave them very competitive contract extensions.  Frank Martin’s salary rose from 2.1 M to 2.45 million in 2016-2017.  Based on those numbers he ranks in the upper tier among basketball coaches in the SEC.  One more NCAA run and they will need to push his salary to 3M mark and into the realm of great coaches that are on the fringe of a national championship.  Martin’s buyout is 4.8 million this season, 3.5 million the following season, and 1.5 million in 2018-2019.  Tanner handled this moment smoothly and locked down his man.  

That’s a win.

Dawn Staley’s new contract runs through 2024-2025, and made her the highest paid women’s basketball coach in the SEC.  Coach Staley deserved it and Tanner made sure she got it from South Carolina, that’s a win.

The South Carolina athletics programs have greatly benefited from being in the SEC.  Some of it was history, and media attention, but mostly it came down to money.  The SEC revenue splits are essential to the health and balance of the conference.  The ongoing trend is the teams that spend win.  

When Ray Tanner missed on Kirby Smart and Tom Herman people were upset about the plan C hire of Will Muschamp.  Coach Muschamp had been all the right places, and had all the proper experience.  He simply needed a second chance and South Carolina was a great fit being the program like Muschamp had not had great recent success but great potential.  I am 100 % behind coach Muschamp, and I will be pulling for him as long as he is at South Carolina.  That being said when you hire a football coach if you want to win you have to throw your money on the table.  

Muschamp makes 3.0 Million annually, the university saved just over 1 M per year in the transition from Spurrier to Muschamp.  Muschamp ranks 12th, ahead of only Barry Odom among SEC head coaches in 2016.  Why does the SEC west always beat the SEC east? The truth is in the money, 7 of the top 8 SEC salaries are coaches from the SEC West.  Perhaps Muschamp was the perfect fit for South Carolina but either way there was not enough money offered to attract top talent.  

It felt like a loss to everyone watching, hoping and anticipating something to celebrate.

The assistant football coaches at South Carolina did fare much better.  In 2016 Muschamp’s assistants will make 4 million dollars, ranking them competitively 6th in the conference.  The athletic department also added a lot of talent to the administrative recruiting office.  11 employees were hired to work behind the scenes helping Muschamp lure in much needed talent.  This was needed to keep up with competition. 

Well done. That’s a winner.  

Mack Brown recently said that the arms race was once centered on facilities, but now it’s in staff members.  Football analyst has become an important term in the world of NCAA football.  It’s a vague title with even less specific duties associated with the position.  New Texas coach Tom “Prick” Herman plans to hire an army of analyst and support staff.  

In 2013-2014 Alabama spent 2.7 M on 8 football analysts on the Saban staff.  These people can’t be involved in practice, but they can recruit, game plan, and break down film in far greater detail than on field coaches.  Committed teams want no stone unturned and they get ahead through choosing to pay administrative employees than other schools don’t.  I don’t think the Gamecocks have gotten to this point yet.  

This is simply another place that if you truly want to win a national championship you must spend money. Ray is losing here.

I never thought that I would question a Ray Tanner baseball related decision, but I wasn’t happy with the hiring of Mark Kingston.  Coach Kingston has been winning people over, and we will all be behind him when the time comes.  Still yet, the teams that win championships and lure in talent like Kevin O’Sullivan, get it done by making offers that simply cannot be refused.  It would seem Tanner has been refused 5 or 6 times in the last 18 months.  Kingston’s contract is for 475,000 plus 125,000 for media/personal services.  That happens to be last in the conference. 

Ray Tanner has a vision and culture he has built at South Carolina.  He has hired coaches based on a personal connection, program management, and student athlete leadership. 

Can South Carolina win championships based on Ray Tanners ability to identify diamonds in the rough? I don’t think they can.  30 years ago education was more important than big time commercial power 5 sports, but that is not the case now.  

The athletic department that spends the most has the deepest and strongest staff, leading to great recruiting and eventually to championships.  God bless Ray Tanner but in the present, the tactics are not enough.  The only way to take the program to new heights is spending top dollar on top talent

By Jarrett Davis 07/15/2017