I'm sick and tired. Literally. I've come down with some sort of flu over the weekend, and it kept me tossing and turning most of the night.
I'm also becoming sick and tired of how the Administration is treating Carolina fans. To my mind, two stories that came out at the end of last week bear this out.
The first was the news that USC President Harris Pastides has passively acceded to the wishes of the other 13 SEC presidents to make Texas A&M our new permanent cross-division rival, thereby allowing Arkansas to pick up Mizzou (an eastern team, though nearly as far west geographically as Arkansas). Wow - isn't that nice. While some may think it's a good idea, it's clearly not in South Carolina's interest.
What used to be a 14-15 hour, 913 mile trip from our Columbia to Fayetteville is now going to be a 17-18 hour, 1075 mile trip to College Station. What's another 150 miles among friends? The Hogs, on the other hand, now get a 5.5 hour, 312 mile drive from Fayetteville to Columbia, MO. Somebody sure made out like a bandit. Guess what? It wasn't South Carolina. Nice going, Harris. You must have wanted to ensure that USC fans have to make the two longest road trips in the SEC (USC-to-Mizzou and USC-to-A&M).
So the other guys have to travel as far to play us, some may argue? That's a bit of tautology, because we still have the two longest trips in the league ... A&M and Missouri only have to make the cross-country trek once, while we will being doing it twice. No other fan base will be required to travel on a required basis as far as we do. Quicker by airplane, you say, to fly to Houston and drive to College Station than it is to fly to Little Rock and drive up to Fayetteville? So what? How many of our fans can afford plane tickets in this economy? We're barely filling W-B during one of our greatest football eras ever - which has to do with the way A.D. Eric Hyman has jacked ticket prices through the roof. It's not that we were flying in droves to Fayetteville as it is. The new will quickly wear off making a 2000 mile roundtrip to East Texas, also - whether by car or plane.
I suppose we should be happy that Pastides tried to put the brakes on being pushed around by the other SEC presidents, and coordinated with The State to run a two-day "internet poll" on the subject. A whopping 736 "fans" said let's switch (you wonder how many of 'em were Athletic Department interns). Wow - that is so scientific and academic, Mr. President. Less than 1% of a typical game day crowd at Wiliams-Brice. What a joke. We get pushed around, and a two-day poll on what is primarily a pay-site (GoGamecocks.com) is all the cover Pastides needed.
South Carolina should be the ones yelling loudest to abolish permanent cross-division rivals. It's not in our interest at all, and the only ones who seem to cleave most tightly to them are UGA-Auburn, and UT-Bama; as previously argued on these pages, the SEC could make an exception that these two games are still permanently played while everyone else is free to play the cross-divisional rotation as it comes to pass.
Failing that, we should have been yelling to get a closer-permanent rival (e.g., pickup up Mississippi State again). Apparently we did neither - we simply rolled over and showed our tummy. Well, at least we're still proving to the rest of the league how slavishly grateful we are to have been admitted to the Club twenty-two years ago. Whatever the SEC dishes out, (e.g., the 2012 schedule) we take with a "just happy to be here smile." How very Carolina.
You still think it's best we drop Arkansas - which has had our number of late - for A&M? A&M is one of the largest and richest public universities in the nation. They can outspend us, whereas Arkansas is a smaller school. Why don't we try beating the Hogs on the field, rather than look for a new kid on the block to pay? For good or ill, we've been playing Arkie for 20 years, but we're just going to dump that to take on a bigger, richer and more geographically-distant opponent. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Are we really going to be raiding Texas for big-time recruits? The Carolinas, Georgia, New Jersey, and Florida are our recruiting hotbeds. We'd do better to schedule a game with Rutgers or Georgia Tech every year than fly out to College Station.
What was the other story that got me riled up? Oh, the one that''s come out that Coach Horn has received assurances from the Athletic Department that his job is secure. Hyman hasn't done anything to walk that story back, which gives it an imprimatur of truth. So much for "waiting to the end of the season" to evaluate the program, huh, Eric? Attendance has cratered at the Colonial Life Arena (going from one of the nationally top attending programs in 08 to a tomb in '12). We have few top recruits in the pipeline. The best players are leaving the state. Three progressively worse losing seasons in a row and little hope of a winning campaign next year. Even though we've long expected on GABA that Horn would be retained, perhaps a little thought crossed my mind that a 20 loss, two SEC victory season might give Hyman some pause. Apparently not.
(And who knows which of the Gamecocks will be either kicked out, or leave on their own accord, at the end of the season - just like last year? It's always year zero in the Horn era, and if you're going to lose, might as well have the ability to say it's because we have a young team, right, Darrin?).
But, by jimmy, Eric is sticking with Horn because he let Horn out-negotiate him into a $2.4m buyout for the last year of his contract. Are we detecting a pattern of out-negotiating?
I am. And it makes me sick.
And very, very tired.