Speaking Thursday evening from Wild Wing Cafe in the Vista, South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin made sure to note who was in attendance.
“Blake Edmunds is sitting right here,” Martin said during his “Carolina Calls” radio show. “His group of folks in marketing, who I work with on a regular basis, they’re great. They care. That’s all I ever want.”
Edmunds is an assistant athletic director for marketing and fan experience at USC. Martin, following the Gamecocks’ win over Wyoming on Wednesday, expressed his frustration with another sparse crowd at Colonial Life Arena, specifically naming Carolina’s marketing department.
“It would be nice if our marketing department helped us to get people in seats,” Martin said. “It’s a little disappointing to continue to play, after the two winningest years in the history of the school, in a building with [4,000] to 5,000 people. It’s embarrassing.”
Less than 24 hours later, Martin, while praising the work of administration and fans, clarified his remarks.
“We have sold more season tickets than at any point in the history of our school,” Martin told Gamecocks play-by-play announcer Derek Scott. “I need our fans to come help my guys out. That’s all I’m asking for. I’m not being critical.
“Our fans are incredible. They love the school unlike anything I’ve ever been around.
“Let me make the point even a little clearer: Not only do you help the guys in the locker room right now, not only do we continue to build what we’ve been fighting to build, I think our guys deserve support after what we’ve done for the last five years.
“But here’s another part: I am in the middle of some dogfights in recruiting with some schools that sell out their building every time they play. I don’t want to lose that recruiting battle because when our game’s on TV and you see a lot of seats and not a lot of people.”
Official attendance – or tickets sold – for the Wyoming game was 10,205. Last Saturday afternoon for a USC win over Massachusetts, the Colonial Life Arena (18,000 capacity) drew an announced crowd of 10,832 that was visibly smaller. Such a scene also grabbed Martin’s attention. He wondered if a “golf tournament or an evaluation of seventh round offensive linemen” was happening in town to take folks away from watching the reigning Final Four participants in person.
South Carolina is still searching for its first commitment in the 2018 class. The Gamecocks are considered an option for Spartanburg Day five-star forward Zion Williamson, but they’re competing against Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Clemson.
“Our fans are off the charts,” Martin said Thursday. “We just got to keep fighting the fight. You know what? If anybody got mad ... if you read what I said, I criticized myself. I didn’t criticize our players. I said our players didn’t play the game the right way, but it’s my fault, I’m the one who let it happen.
“And I need people’s help. I need our great fans to help our players. We’re young, we don’t know any better. We need our fans to give them life and help them out.”
USC (7-2) hosts Coastal Carolina on Saturday. Tip-off is noon. The game is being marketed with a Star Wars theme.