Newspaper writers usually reserve that “most wonderful time of the year” title for the Christmas season. However, for sports fans the best time every year is the month that begins the middle of March and ends in mid-April. During that stretch of time we have March Madness featuring both the men’s and women’s basketball teams fighting it out for national supremacy. Major League Baseball begins its new season the first couple of days in April, and the Master’s Golf Tournament in Augusta is just around the corner. If you are a die-hard football fan, spring football is usually going on at your favorite school.
Here in early April, March Madness is behind us with North Carolina taking home the men’s trophy and South Carolina the women’s. We are just at the beginning of baseball so no one’s favorite team is more than a game or two below .500. Hope does spring eternal. By the time you read this the Master’s Golf Tournament will be history and we will find out who stepped up for the win in the absence of Dustin Johnson, the favorite who had to cancel because of a back injury.
There is a first in NCAA championships that a citizen of South Carolina should point out. In the spring of 2016 Coastal Carolina University of South Carolina won the Collegiate Baseball World Series in Omaha. In the fall football season that culminated in the national championship game between defending champion Alabama and challenger Clemson University of South Carolina, it was the challenger who scored with 6 seconds on the clock to win the championship. Then, just a week ago, the University of South Carolina Women’s basketball team won a hard fought game with Mississippi State to take home their first national championship.
The thought to contemplate is, “When have Universities from one state held national collegiate titles in the three major sports of football, basketball, and baseball at the same time?” The answer from the NCAA archives is … Never.
“Wait till next year,” is often the rallying cry when the home team does not do as well as the faithful wanted. So, what can we expect as we look ahead to the major sport seasons in the future?
First, Oregon is currently ranked number one in NCAA baseball rankings. However, the Atlantic Coast Conference has teams well placed with Louisville ranked No. 2, Clemson No. 4, and North Carolina No. 5. We can expect that at least two of these will make it to Omaha to compete for major hardware in June.
Football season always occupies us from early fall into the winter schedule. Next year Alabama, always competitive, should be more so with stellar recruiting classes each year and a returning quarterback. Will Clemson be back to defend their 2016 championship? Stranger things have happened. An All-American quarterback has graduated but the overall talent is still on campus. Don’t be surprised to see a third year rematch between these two college football powers.
Can North Carolina and South Carolina repeat as champions of men’s and women’s basketball? With major personnel losses to graduation and the professional ranks the odds are against it, but coaches Roy Williams for UNC and Dawn Staley for USC are still in place and both are capable of producing yet another championship season.
Incidentally, would you call it “piling on,” if I reported that Dustin Johnson, currently top ranked golfer in the world, is from Columbia, South Carolina?
I confess to being a sports fan. Like most of my vintage, I played a bit of everything growing up. And, like most All-Backyard athletes I slipped easily into the spectator category as the years passed. Still, writing about it is a welcome relief from the national issues that are my usual focus.
-- Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states. Books by Hopkins currently available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble include “Journey to Gettysburg” and “The Wounds of War,” both Civil War-era novels, and “The World As It Was When Jesus Came.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org