Originally created 06/20/02

South Carolina is cursed no more



Those who believe in a pox upon the Chickens might have to reassess their dogma. The infamous Chicken Curse, if not dead, is on its last drumstick.

With a 12-4 victory Wednesday over - of all teams - Clemson in the semifinals of the College World Series, South Carolina earns a rematch with its most despised rival Friday. The winner gets to play for the national championship Saturday at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.

That means the Gamecocks could be just two wins away from the school's second national championship in two weeks - its second EVER!

Clemson might argue, but the University of South Carolina seems to be entering a golden age of athletics, where success is finally catching up with support.

Evidence suggests the Curse was exorcised Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla., kicked away by a football program that blew a 28-point lead in the Outback Bowl only to recover for a 31-28 victory against Ohio State.

It was a sign. How else can you explain the modest men's basketball team making such a ruckus in the SEC Tournament before reaching the final game of the NIT?

This golden age of South Carolina crosses gender lines. The anatomically impossible "Lady" Gamecocks basketball program reached the NCAA's Elite Eight, even selling out Frank McGuire Arena for a regular-season showdown with Tennessee.

In women's golf, the Gamehens, if you will, won the SEC championship and received an invitation from alum Hootie Johnson to play a round at the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club. Talk about breaking barriers.

The biggest breakthrough of all, however, came earlier this month, when the women's track team won the NCAA Championship - ending the lifetime record of futility with the school's very first national title.

That victory broke the glass ceiling that had been tapped on but never cracked by heralded baseball, soccer and basketball teams of yore.

Now this baseball team has gone to extremes to shake off the reputation of postseason impotence, rallying to reach the College World Series.

When an 11-0 defeat in the College World Series opener against Georgia Tech could have left them demoralized, the Gamecocks rallied to beat Nebraska and pay back the Yellow Jackets to earn the right to play its nastiest rival - twice.

Never before have the two schools faced off in a sporting event with so much at stake for both programs. Never before was the Curse so tested.

When Clemson assumed a 3-0 lead Wednesday, it looked bleak. When a spectacular catch at the center-field wall was ruled a Tiger double, it looked ominous.

But when the Gamecocks banged out a five-run sixth inning, even the most hardened Gamecock pessimist had to believe.

The Chickens are working on an antidote. When they find it, they should send the recipe to the Red Sox.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.