Look what Coastal Carolina started.
The Chanticleers won the College World Series on June 30 of last year. By itself, it was a remarkable story – a school of 10,500 in a town known more for spring break than spring training toppling the giants of the sport. It was a point of pride for the entire Palmetto State.
And it turns out it was only the start.
You might have noticed the state is on quite a run since Coastal celebrated in Omaha, Neb., 273 days ago. On Jan. 9, Clemson won its second national football championship and first in 35 years. This week, USC joined the party by being just the 10th school in history to put a team in the men’s and women’s Final Four in the same season.
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Next week, the Masters will begin just across the state line in Augusta, Ga. The world’s No. 1 player at the moment and the betting favorite to be wearing the green jacket is Columbia’s own Dustin Johnson, a Coastal alum.
Suddenly, the nation’s 24th- most populous state looks like it could be leading the nation in Trophies Per Capita. Talk about your underdog stories. Pretty soon, the Legislature is going to have to replace the crescent on the state flag with a crown.
This is new territory for South Carolina, which doesn’t often get to see itself near the top of the various “Best of” rankings for states in area’s like education and health care. In the sports world, though, there’s no denying the Palmetto State is the Best of the Best at the moment.
Now, its blue blood neighbor North Carolina seems to be standing in for South Carolina as a punching bag. After South Carolina moved the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in July of 2015, opening the way for NCAA events to return to the state, North Carolina stepped into the political muck we Sandlappers had just extricated ourselves from, passing House Bill 2 and setting off a series of events that have cost the state in both reputation and revenue.
On March 23 of 2016, North Carolina passed HB2 in an effort to reverse a Charlotte ordinance that had extended some rights for gay and transgender Americans. In the fallout from that decision, the state saw the NBA All-Star Game skip its planned turn in Charlotte, the ACC move its championship football game and the NCAA move an NCAA Regional site from Greensboro, N.C., to Greenville, S.C.
That last move had more than a symbolic impact on the role changes taking place between the Carolinas. It was in Greenville that No. 7 seed South Carolina upset No. 2 seed Duke in front of a hugely pro-Gamecocks crowd on the way to this weekend’s Final Four.
And, not for nothing, former Florida quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and media sensation Tim Tebow will begin his minor league baseball career with the Columbia Fireflies next week. Most Marches, that would be the lead story in the state, but not this one.
Two x Four
Schools that have had men’s and women’s basketball teams in the Final Four in the same year:
2017 South Carolina
2005 Michigan State