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EMBATTLED SOUTH CAROLINA COACH IS LOSING FAN SUPPORT …

The University of South Carolina baseball team began this season ranked No. 4 in the nation – and was expected to contend for a national title.

So far that hasn’t happened …

Fifth-year-head coach Chad Holbrook’s program saw its fortunes rebound in 2016 (up to a point), but the 2017 season has been yet another study in underachievement.

That’s why Holbrook – whose roster has no shortage of raw talent – once again finds himself on the hot seat after the Gamecocks (22-13, 8-7 SEC) lost their third consecutive conference series (and second straight home series) to the Mississippi State Bulldogs last week.

Earlier last week, South Carolina was humiliated by Holbrook’s alma mater – the University of North Carolina.  The Tar Heels put twenty runs on the board against the Gamecocks – prompting a resurgence of the #FireHolbrook hashtag on Twitter.

In fact South Carolina’s late rally against Mississippi State on Sunday – which kept the Gamecocks from getting swept by the Bulldogs – had some fans worried that Holbrook’s team was doing just enough to keep him employed.

“It was a big relief for us to win this one today after the way we lost the first two,” Holbrook told reporters after the game. “Live to fight another day and keep our head above water in the SEC.  I think this was a significant game.”

Hold up … keep our head above water?

That’s not the standard South Carolina fans have grown accustomed to in recent years.

When Holbrook inherited the Gamecock program from former head coach (and current athletics director) Ray Tanner after the 2012 season, South Carolina had appeared in three consecutive College World Series finals – winning championships in 2010 and 2011.

They haven’t been back since, though.  In fact they failed to qualify for postseason play two years ago – the first time that had happened in a decade-and-a-half.

This website has consistently defended Holbrook – arguing that his program was positioning itself for a return to national prominence.

“We fully expect Holbrook to reorient the trajectory of the program given the talent he’s brought in … as well as some of the stars he’s already landed for the 2015 class,” we wrote back in 2014.

We defended Holbrook again last April – attributing his success on the recruiting trail to last season’s turnaround.

“The young talent he recruited is paying dividends, and South Carolina is well-positioned for a return to postseason success,” we noted a year ago.

That success failed to materialize during the 2016 postseason, though – and is nowhere to be found this season.

South Carolina has a non-conference tilt against Davidson on Tuesday before traveling to Gainesville, Florida for a three-game series against the similarly-underachieving Gators this weekend.  Home SEC series against Kentucky and Georgia remain on the schedule, along with conference road series against LSU and Missouri.

Holbrook remains optimistic his team will turn things around – attributing their poor play thus far to the pressure of “expectations.”

“I think what our players have been through and how we have lost some games, we won some games, too, but I think some of the expectations have been weighing on them,” he told reporters.  “Maybe that will make us tougher for the stretch run.  I’m a glass half full guy. Maybe there is something in store for this team down the stretch that we will play our best baseball.”

He better hope that’s the case …

Holbrook was associate head coach under Tanner, so he’s likely got a longer leash than most head coaches in his situation.  But Tanner needs to remember that he, too, could soon find himself on the hot seat.  In addition to baseball’s precipitous decline, the school’s football program has seen its fortunes fade in recent years as well.  And Tanner can’t claim credit for the recent success of the school’s men’s and women’s basketball programs – whose coaches were both hired by his predecessor, Eric Hyman.

What you you think?  Should South Carolina fire Holbrook?

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Should South Carolina Fire Chad Holbrook?

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