Joined The Augusta Chronicle in 1996 after spending nine years at The Aiken Standard. Served as copy editor, South Carolina bureau chief and Metro Editor before being named Sports Editor in April 2000.
Posted June 28, 2010 10:49 am

Can Gamecocks end Chicken Curse?

Will this be the week South Carolina fans have been waiting for all of their lives?

Will Omaha be the dateline of the Gamecocks' biggest victory?

Will the University of South Carolina finally win a national championship in a major sport?

The College World Series baseball championship series begins tonight. South Carolina takes on UCLA in a best-of-three series. After winning four consecutive elimination games, including two against archrival Clemson, the Gamecocks are in position to make history. (No disrespect, but the women's track title won by the school in 2002 wasn't something most fans could rally behind.)

South Carolina and athletic futility are synonymous. I should know; I was born in Columbia, grew up a Gamecock fan and graduated from the school. I still pull for my alma mater, but I'm a little more cautious and realistic in my expectations. (In a professional capacity, I can still be objective.)

But for every moment of Gamecock success in the last 40 years -- Frank McGuire's basketball teams winning ACC titles, George Rogers winning the Heisman Trophy, the Black Magic football season of 1984, the baseball team's multiple trips to the championship game -- there has always been an asterisk or "but" or something else that didn't quite lift the Gamecocks to the highest level.

Most folks call it the Chicken Curse.

I'm too young to remember, but by all accounts South Carolina's basketball teams from the late 1960s and early 1970s could have challenged for a national title. But injuries, poor officiating and a small NCAA field (only the ACC Tournament champion could go in those days) conspired against them.

What could have been South Carolina's crowning moment in football ended with a loss to Navy. The 1984 Gamecocks did come back to defeat Clemson for its only 10-win season, but the thoughts of an Orange Bowl game and national championship disappeared on that day in November 1984.

In the late 1990s, South Carolina's basketball team flourished again, this time under Eddie Fogler. The Gamecocks had high hopes, but Coppin State and Richmond, in successive years, left the faithful yearning for more after deflating first-round losses.

The baseball team has been the closest mainstream sport to grab the brass ring. South Carolina has played for (and lost) the national championship three separate times: 1975, 1977 and 2002.

I always figured South Carolina would do something special in 2001. After all, the date is signicant in that it marked the 200th anniversary of the school and it is the entrance song for the football team when it takes the field. But, nope, no national titles.

But wait a minute ... what if you rearrange the numbers in 2001? Specifically, reverse the last two? What do you get? 2010.

If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.