WHERE DOES THE SEC tournament championship won by the South Carolina women’s basketball team this past weekend rank among the Gamecocks’ all-time best?
Here’s my list of the top 10 championships in USC athletics history – or at least among the four major sports of football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.
1. 2010 COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
The national championship represented a breakthrough for USC athletics. Only in women’s track and field had USC previously captured a national title until the Gamecocks made an unforgettable run through the loser’s bracket to close out Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium.
Having to beat rival Clemson twice to reach the championship series only added to the sweetness of winning it all. The reception and parade that followed in Columbia were the biggest since those received by triumphant men’s basketball teams in the early 1970s.
2. 2011 COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
The Gamecocks proved they were no fluke on the national stage, sweeping through the NCAA tournament and College World Series without a loss. USC became the sixth program to win back-to-back baseball championships, christening Omaha’s T.D. Ameritrade Park in the process.
Beyond that, the duplicate crowns meant USC had established itself as a nationally prominent program, sliding along longtime power LSU as the best in the SEC.
3. 1971 MEN’S BASKETBALL ACC TOURNAMENT
Frank McGuire had created an us-against- the-world mentality not only for his team but also the USC fan base. So when Tom Owens’ final-seconds basket lifted USC to a championship victory over much-despised North Carolina, the Gamecocks were atop the ACC world.
The following day, as the bus that carried the team weaved its way back to Columbia from Greensboro, N.C., fans lined the streets of every town to wave and cheer on what stood for many years as the greatest achievement in USC athletics history.
4. 1970 MEN’S BASKETBALL ACC REGULAR SEASON
This was McGuire’s best team, one that was ranked No. 1 nationally at one point during the early season. The Gamecocks then showed their might by becoming the third team at the time to run the table in the powerful ACC’s regular season.
The regular-season title meant USC was the first team to seriously challenge the Big Four of UNC, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest for league supremacy.
5. 2010 SEC EAST FOOTBALL
For the first 18 seasons as members of the SEC, USC football wallowed in mediocrity – if not worse. A testament to that was USC’s 55-88 record in the SEC to that point. Then Steve Spurrier lived up to the promises he made when he was hired by producing a division title in the toughest conference in the country.
6. 2015 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL SEC TOURNAMENT
The significance of this title rests in knowing that the Gamecocks had never previously advanced to the tournament championship game. After capturing at least a share of the regular-season crown in consecutive seasons, USC showed that Dawn Staley’s program had arrived as a kingpin the SEC.
7. 1969 ACC FOOTBALL
There is much importance attached to USC’s only conference championship in football, even though it came in an ACC that really had not placed much emphasis on the sport to that point. USC was the only team in the league that season with a winning overall record.
8. 1997 MEN’S BASKETBALL SEC REGULAR SEASON
Eddie Fogler’s club struggled early in the season, then caught fire to run roughshod through the SEC with a remarkable 15-1 record that included a championship-clinching victory at Kentucky on the final day of the regular season.
9. 2000 BASEBALL SEC REGULAR SEASON
This was arguably the most dominant team in USC baseball history, rolling to a 56-10 record that included an incredible 25-5 mark in the SEC. It was the first of Ray Tanner’s many standout teams.
10. 1933 MEN’S BASKETBALL SOUTHERN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
To win the tournament, USC had to defeat Virginia – as well as southeastern powers North Carolina and Duke – in Raleigh. Because there was no NCAA tournament or NIT, the winner of the Southern Conference or SEC tournament was considered the best team in the country. With a 17-2 record, USC could stake some claim to that distinction, along with a 21-3 Kentucky squad.