The autograph lines got longer and longer as the crowd of USC fans waited for Gamecocks football coach Steve Spurrier to enter Fluor Field.
Ray Tanner had a line of fans waiting for his autograph and basketball coach Frank Martin walked through the crowd shaking hands and speaking with well-wishers.
But, as is usually the case, The Head Ball Coach was the main attraction and, on a day when both the Gamecocks and the entire Southeastern Conference had a lot to be excited about, he was in a good mood.
There were minimal references about Upstate rival Clemson, although Spurrier said he thanked Tigers coach Dabo Swinney for beating LSU because it allowed the Gamecocks to earn their highest finish (seventh nationally) in school history.
Spurrier spent more time discussing the development of his football team, which has earned back-to-back 11-win seasons and top 10 finishes.
“We had a good year last year,” said Spurrier. “It was very similar to the year before but we finished one notch higher — number seven in the nation, number eight the year before. It was a good year, and the players played well.”
As has been the case since Marcus Lattimore declared for the 2013 NFL draft, Spurrier praised the former USC running back and a few other players for helping to turn the program around.
“Marcus Lattimore is one of my favorite players of all time, and I’m sure all of you agree,” Spurrier said. “I really believe he is going to have a long NFL career. His knee is really in good shape right now. The 49ers will bring him along at the correct pace, and really good things are going to happen for Marcus.
“We started winning about three years ago, about when we signed Marcus, Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney and Alshon Jeffery. One big reason we got our facilities up like all the other schools in the SEC. We’re right there amongst the best.”
The trend probably will continue following the announcement by the league, along with ESPN, of a new ESPN network that should further increase the revenue of each school.
“The league releases their dollar figures in Destin (Fla) at the end of every year,” said USC Senior Associate Athletic Director External Affairs Charles Bloom, who spent several years working in the SEC office. “The numbers are very good for the conference, and this will supplement those dollars. Monies that come from television go back to the budgets of our schools. They pay for an assortment of things at all the institutions.
“Whether it is facilities or scholarships, or coaches contracts, it runs the gamut, so that is an important part of the arrangement. The exposure is also important for fans all over the country. It is no longer a regional network. It is a national network you can get all over the country.”
Martin said he is not pursuing an assistant coach at the moment and is helping former Gamecocks assistant Brad Underwood assemble his staff.
He said Underwood approached Director of Operations Andy Assaley about joining him but Assaley decided to stay at South Carolina. Other than that, he directed questions to Underwood.