Dear USC students,
I am officially done trying to be reasonable.
Exactly one month ago, I wrote this column explaining why I believe students should be packing into Williams-Brice Stadium and staying until the final seconds every time the Gamecocks take the field. I wrote about the many lean years the program had gone through and the phenomenal athletes who now wear the garnet and black of South Carolina. I tried to be understanding and calm about the large numbers of students who leave games long before the clock has expired.
No longer. The time has come to tell the truth; South Carolina’s student section is an absolute joke.
USC led Vanderbilt 28-10 at halftime on Saturday night, which meant that students had seen all they needed to see. The section emptied in a matter of minutes, as Gamecock “fans” poured out of the stadium. There was just one small problem; Vanderbilt, unlike South Carolina’s students, realized that a collegiate football game lasts four quarters and mounted a comeback. Which is how the Gamecocks found themselves fighting for an SEC victory in front of a student section roughly the size of an introductory theatre course.
All I’ve ever heard is how loyal Gamecock fans are. How they stick with their team through thick and thin, how they are always there in good times and bad. If anyone ever says something like that to me again, I will call them a liar. South Carolina’s students have proven without a shadow of a doubt that the Gamecocks do not have the best fan base in the country, or the conference or even in the state.
I’ve been to Clemson for ACC games and South Carolina is, in my opinion, a much more enjoyable experience inside the stadium. USC’s chants are more diverse, the band is louder, the play-by-play environment is superior. But when it comes to student sections, Clemson wipes the floor with USC. The Tiger students are raucous and rabid and they stay put until the game ends. South Carolina may be dominating the series on the field, but Clemson students own the stadium battle.
Gamecock students are in the midst of the golden age of South Carolina football and they are too spoiled/inebriated to care. If I were an opposing quarterback in the SEC, I would love coming to Columbia. If you survive the first half, there won’t be any student noise to deal with in the final 30 minutes. You can march your offense into the teeth of what should be the rowdiest section in Williams-Brice Stadium and not even have to raise your voice. Kentucky, Mississippi State and Florida have to be licking their chops at the opportunity to audible at the goal line because South Carolina’s joke of a student section can do nothing to stop them.
And if other teams around the conference aren’t taking notice, USC’s players certainly are. Connor Shaw, the winningest quarterback in the history of the South Carolina football program, called out the “fans” following the game.
“I don’t think there’s any excuse for out stands to be emptying out,” Shaw said. “I was kind of disappointed about that.”
Shaw has never lost a home game as a starting quarterback, boasting a 12-0 record as a starter at Williams-Brice Stadium. It’s also likely that he’s never seen the student section full in the fourth quarter of any of those 12 wins. South Carolina’s student section is so dismal that the quarterback who has won more conference games than anyone in the history of the program felt compelled to say something about its pathetic performance.
Mike Davis, a sophomore tailback who was likely told that USC had great “fans” during his recruitment to South Carolina, also noted the large number of students that were disguised as empty bleachers in the second half.
“Our fans, they help us out a lot, they come out and support us,” Davis said after large numbers of those “fans” missed the majority of the second half. “We’re glad the student section stayed all the way through the game.”
At that point, the entire press conference burst into laughter.
Student section, your quarterback is calling you out and your running back is mocking you. Of course, I doubt you care. As long as you can make a brief appearance in the first half, try not to pass out, then leave during the halftime presentation to plan your night in Five Points, I’m sure you couldn’t care less what the players who sacrifice all year long to represent you and your school think.
And if anyone uses the “team stopped playing well in the second half, so why should I stay” argument, they should lose their speaking privileges. Because comparing college football players having a less-than-stellar half to students who are unable to stand a watch a football game using a ticket that they received without being charged or having to camp out in tents is beyond idiotic.
I enjoy sitting in the press box because I love my job, but I miss being able to sit with my friends and watch football without having to do any work. I had hoped that, at least once this year, I would be able to be in the student section for a game. Now, I’m not sure I even want to be there to witness the embarrassment that the section brings to the school.
Before the season began, ESPN compiled a list of the top 20 student sections in the country. Schools like Maryland, Cincinnati, SMU and Harvard made this list. I heard many Gamecock students complain that South Carolina was left off.
South Carolina wouldn’t crack a list of the top 100. USC doesn’t have a student section, it has a bunch of seats where students meet up for half an hour and then leave. The section is a complete and total embarrassment to the South Carolina football program.
Maybe a few more 1-10 seasons will get the students to stick around.
Because, apparently, winning every home game isn’t enough.