Success is a relative term. Merely going to a bowl game is a success for one team and a given for another. Some schools expect to compete for conference and national championships; others just hope. What does that success look like at each school? Over a player’s four years in school, what is the measure of success?
Today, we look at South Carolina. The Gamecocks are a program that has not had much success. A lone conference championship from 1969 in the ACC is the only title to their credit. There have been periods of some success, but sustained excellence has not made a home in Columbia. Of course that doesn’t mean USC doesn’t have ambitions; they’ve just fallen short more than they have realized them.
Success at South Carolina over a four year period means winning records and bowl games each year. The program has reached the point where there can be no seasons (like last year) where the team doesn’t go to a bowl game. It only takes six wins. Three out of conference games are usually gimmes. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are always on the schedule, too. That’s five games that should be won by even the most basic Gamecock squad. Winning one more to get to a bowl is expected.
Success means beating your rival(s). It doesn’t mean beating Clemson or Georgia every year. It means beating Clemson as much as losing to them, so a 2-2 record every four years is perfectly acceptable in Columbia. 2-2 against Georgia is also a goal, although 1-3 with a win or two over Tennessee and Florida is probably acceptable as well.
Success means having a 10 or 10+ win season twice every four years. Steve Spurrier raised the program to that level. Three 11 win seasons showed that it can be done, and it can be done consecutively and repeatedly, but it doesn’t have to be. Given the competition in the SEC East, a 10 win season may not be a first or second place finish, but it’s important, nonetheless. Speaking of the East…
Success means winning the East once every four years. This is the most ambitious standard for the Gamecocks. The lone time they’ve won the East in 2009 came in a year where they only won 9 games. Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all had less than stellar years, and a 5-3 (in conference) Gamecock squad went to Atlanta. They haven’t been back, yet.
Notice that winning the SEC Championship is not on the list. Although it is a goal, it is not an expectation (as of 2016). USC needs more success. They need to make a habit of going to Atlanta before they can say they expect to win in Atlanta. Of course, any year they go that is a possibility, but an SEC title would clearly exceed expectations, not merely meet them.
Is there a Gamecock fan who would not sign on to a cycle described above? If Will Muschamp starts off his tenure like that will he be hailed as the next Spurrier? Everyone in Garnet and Black would be pretty happy if in the next four years the Gamecocks win the East once, win 10 or more games twice, beat Clemson twice and go to a bowl game every year. That is success in Columbia.