Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Michaux: Gamecocks now a serious player in SEC sports

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 2:00 PM
Last updated 7:52 PM
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The athletics director called him the “right person” and the football coach called him a “winner.”

Eric Hyman and Steve Spurrier may very well be proven right in the win/loss column about South Carolina’s newest men’s basketball coach Frank Martin. Similar things were spoken of Darrin Horn and Dave Odom as well, and still Martin was called upon to fix the deteriorating Gamecocks program.

But while we don’t yet know if Martin will turn a cellar-dwelling Southeastern Conference program into an NCAA-caliber squad overnight, we can make some very strong assessments about what his hiring means in Columbia.

And what the snagging of the successful Kansas State coach says to me is that South Carolina is a serious player in SEC sports. Martin’s hiring is yet another progression in the sea change of perception of an athletics program that was once considered “cursed.”

These aren’t your father’s Gamecocks anymore. Heck, they aren’t even your older sibling’s. The last couple of years have transformed the school’s reputation from outside by building a solid foundation within. Martin represents an opportunity to shore up the last major unsightly piece of the puzzle.

Spurrier has delivered championship-caliber football to a program that had long been yearning for it. He’s set the bar where an underachieving season can count 11 wins.

Ray Tanner has turned the baseball team into a national power, bringing home back-to-back NCAA titles with a record-setting run through the College World Series.

Dawn Staley took the women’s basketball program to its first NCAA Tournament in nine years and led them as far as the Sweet Sixteen.

Now Martin – who averaged more than 23 wins per season in five years at K-State while leading the Wildcats to the NCAA regional finals in 2010 and the third round this season – has the tools and the personality to make the Gamecocks a factor in the SEC and the NCAAs.

South Carolina is sure enough of his credentials that it ponied up $12.3 million over the next six years and paid a $1 million buyout to lure him away from Manhattan, Kan.

“Our league will miss him,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who is working the Final Four again this weekend representing a state that knows a little something about basketball.

“Our league just got better,” texted Alabama coach Anthony Grant to Martin upon the news of his hiring.

Whether this Frank and his famous stare can restore the Gamecocks to the glory days of another Frank – the legendary McGuire – is a long way from being determined. But just by stealing him from another established major-college program says something. Hyman didn’t have to go the mid-major route (Horn) or pick up an ACC retread (Odom). He opened his wallet and made a big-time coach believe that coming to South Carolina wasn’t a step down or a stepping-stone on the career food chain.

Martin has a tall order building confidence in a team that went 10-21 last season and has lost 24 of its last 27 SEC games. The Gamecocks lose leading scorer Malik Cooke and might still have to share point guard Bruce Ellington with football next season.

But the son of Cuban immigrants – who worked his way through the high school coaching ranks before apprenticing under Bob Huggins at Cincinnati – isn’t scared of a hard challenge. In a conference with outsized personalities like John Calipari and Billy Donovan, Martin will not be a shrinking violet.

He’s already committed to rebuilding a fan base that has largely given up on basketball.

“We will put 18,000 in this place every game,” Martin said of the Colonial Life Arena that has been mostly empty for too long.

While it’s not a given that Martin can do that in a region where football still reigns, the difference is that for once it doesn’t seem impossible in a program that keeps changing for the better.

Comments (17) Add comment
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etlinks
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etlinks 03/28/12 - 02:42 pm
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Good article and good luck

Good article and good luck Frank but it will take a year or two for some positive results.

csrareader
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csrareader 03/28/12 - 03:35 pm
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Good success in baseball.

Good success in baseball. Zero SEC championships in football and basketball. Not my definition of serious player.

KSL
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KSL 03/28/12 - 03:38 pm
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csrareader, it appears you

csrareader, it appears you just don't like the Gamecocks. Bet you are a Georgia fan.

csrareader
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csrareader 03/28/12 - 03:42 pm
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Yep. Dawg fan... The school

Yep. Dawg fan... The school with all the football championships. As for USC, I'll defer to Dabo's comments.

KSL
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KSL 03/28/12 - 03:46 pm
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I have very keen memories

I have very keen memories when UGA was a football embarrassment. And back then I was a UGA fan, but no longer.

csrareader
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csrareader 03/28/12 - 03:54 pm
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It's better to have tasted

It's better to have tasted success, followed by down years, than to have never tasted success. TRANSLATION: It's better to be a Dawg than a Gamecock.

Carolina81
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Carolina81 03/28/12 - 09:07 pm
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The taste of success is

The taste of success is pretty sweet. Especially when Bulldogs and Tigers have to mention past past success to soften the sting of recent losses. Michaux's point is that the SEC can no longer assume a victory when playing Carolina in everything but basketball - and hopefully, that will be changing soon too.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/28/12 - 09:21 pm
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Keep in mind, South Carolina

Keep in mind, South Carolina hasn't been in the SEC forever. They were in the ACC and then independent not too long ago. They were the ACC Champion in basketball and ranked number one in the nation often under Frank McGuire. They also won an ACC football championship not too long before leaving. They did pretty well too before the SEC days with Joe Morrison. Lou Holtz had some great seasons, too. This column is a little off.

heckspawn
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heckspawn 03/28/12 - 09:49 pm
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Carolina didn't steal Martin.

Carolina didn't steal Martin. They will pay KSU to get him.

augfootballfan
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augfootballfan 03/29/12 - 08:47 am
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UGAg also beats Carolina on

UGAg also beats Carolina on suspensions and arrests. Great Job!! You can hang your hat on playing with thugs and clowns and still get by Spurrier and the gamecocks!!

justthefacts
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justthefacts 03/29/12 - 09:41 am
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augfootballfan, one word.

augfootballfan, one word. Garcia.

csrareader
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csrareader 03/29/12 - 02:10 pm
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augfootballfan: Who's your QB

augfootballfan: Who's your QB coach that was arrested for being drunk and urinating in public?

etlinks
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etlinks 03/29/12 - 02:14 pm
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You dog fans are funny.See

You dog fans are funny.See you this October and bring your whining towels.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 03/29/12 - 02:17 pm
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We'll show up etlinks,

We'll show up etlinks, assuming all of our players haven't been suspended by then.

etlinks
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etlinks 03/29/12 - 02:25 pm
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Good luck jtf I hope all the

Good luck jtf I hope all the players on both teams behave. Carolinas baseball program has been a little suspect this year with some off field problems. The young men need to respect the position they have been lucky to receive.

Carolina81
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Carolina81 03/29/12 - 08:49 pm
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Kids get in trouble on either

Kids get in trouble on either side of the river. Let's get back to the point at hand. Carolina's ability to compete with Ga. Fla. and Tenn. You have to admit, it makes SEC football a whole lot more fun.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/14/12 - 09:44 pm
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I have no idea where to put

I have no idea where to put these type comments, so here it is. I played high school football in SC and we played the legendary, John McKissick's, Summerville Green Wave and I have a story.

I knew we were in trouble when my little school in our red and white uniforms that were still dirty from the last game did our pregame workout starting at about the 20 yard line and Summerville came out and filled the field back from the 50 yard line.

They even had those neck collar pad things like only the NFL had. Their band was bigger than our football team was and they played really loud...and good. Our little band at least had those our old uniforms.

Okay, so when the score is about 21 to 0 the defensive coach, Jack Verone, who had played linebacker at Clemson, walks way down the line and finds sophomore tackle me and told me to go in the game at defensive tackle the next series. I guess I didn't appear enthusiastic enough for him because he screamed at me, "Get up and do something to get ready!"

So I make it in the game and feel really out of place with these guys with blood and sweat all over them. I'm actually in the defensive huddle with these guys and so overwhelmed by their herorism I decide to just go ahead get down on the scrimmage line waiting.

Can you imagine that view from the stands? One guy down in white down while the defensive team huddles without him? Of course I had no one in the stands who cared, but that's another story.

The Summerville QB looks over and sees this idiot (me) down waiting in a defensive stance (I actually saw him spot me and change the play) with everyone else back in the huddle. I remember one guy, in our huddle, asking where is he (me) going when I went and lined up.

What happened then is our All American, All Everything linebacker who Notre Dame wanted, but who later ended up going to work for the Atlantic Coast, Southern Railroad for 35 years, saw what was going on, he pushed me over and got down like a defensive lineman, too. They ran over Herbert, us, like a tank squishing the enemy. I forget where I was or ended up, but it was under a pile of bodies at the end with this guy who did go to Clemson making fun of me.

But what I remember most is the Sunday morning film session, with our coach showing us the game and when he started to make fun of my effort as he often did, the linebacker, Herbert Fralix, said it was him and not me they ran over like a tank. The silence that ensued from Coach Mobley has been with me forever. I was a made man.

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