In one of my early articles about South Carolina, a commenter wrote back and explained some of the drawbacks to recruiting athletes to Columbia.
He said, It can be awful hot in the summer because the city sits in a bowl. And, Columbia has a lot of the crime issues of other big cities and a couple of other not so pleasant things associated with the University of South Carolina's location.
The fan, who is a resident, explained he wasn't unhappy where he lived. He just wanted people to understand it was difficult to get the big, high profile athlete to consider South Carolina due to those issues in the past.
Well, the past is over. Quality athletes are not only considering Columbia—and the University of South Carolina—they are signing up, regularly. The reason is winners are drawn to other winners.
When it comes to crime and gang violence, Columbia South Carolina is an Eden in comparison to some of the areas surrounding Southern Cal or the University of Miami.
That is just a couple of examples I have witnessed, I'm sure there are others. But, for years, both of those schools have recruited great athletes and had great football programs.
Another thing I can tell you from experience, it is hot no matter where you have fall practice. Sure, some areas are hotter than others, but from a player's perspective, if it gets above 90 degrees, the heat is going to be miserable. Heck, it gets above 90 almost everywhere.
I'm sure the writer was referring to 95 to 100 degrees it gets up to regularly in Columbia in the summer. But, I assure all, it gets that hot in Knoxville, Tuscaloosa, Auburn. Baton Rouge and on and on.
Sure it may be four or five degrees hotter in Columbia but when it's 95 in Tuscaloosa they feel just as miserable as the guys in 100.
The point remains the same. Great players are going to be attracted to great coaches and great programs—regardless of the weather. The more you succeed, the more you will succeed, provided the coaches stay and the program is supported by the administration. Great players will find their way to you.
The proof, as usual, is buried in the numbers. According to Rivals.com, the average recruiting class ranking for the South Carolina Gamecocks from 2002 through 2006, was N0. 26 in the nation. From 2007 to the present, the average national ranking is No. 17.
The average is continuing to get better . Why? It's not the coaches are coaching better and the daytime temp sure as heck didn't go down. So, why are the classes improving?
They're winning, that's why!
You folks have a great thing going at South Carolina right now. Expectations are rising and fortunately, you have a coach who wants and expects exactly that.
Speaking as a big kid who grew up in East Tennessee and remembers this giddy time the Gamecocks and their fan base are going through, I can only say. Enjoy it! Enjoy every minute of it if you love college football and are a fan of the Gamecocks.
All fame—at least the kind you want and enjoy—is fleeting. Enjoy your time in the sun for as long as it lasts, Gamecock fans!