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Guest Column: A Blueprint For Fixing Gamecock Football

Ken Ard: “I’m tired of halfassing football … I hope others are as well.”

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by KEN ARD

Congratulations, Tigers. A win is a win is a win. It was as ugly as a Chevette and a Pinto having a “car baby” – and our baseball teams may score more when they play in the spring – but you guys came into Williams-Brice on a Saturday night and took care of business. It is what it is. That’s hard to admit – but I’m proud of how I’ve evolved into such a diplomatic soul.

Now to my Gamecock brethren. That was yuuuuugly. We absolutely stunk it up. But let’s all take a deep breath and contemplate, together. Forget the emotions of the moment. Or trying to blame any single person for where we are. This is much more fundamental, systemic and cultural – and requires a deeper, more analytical review of why South Carolina’s football program is such a consistent underachiever. I have no magic wand or secret potion – but I also have no personal loyalty or animus to anyone associated or employed. I’m just tired of mediocrity and our continuous refusal to be bold.

Placeholders don’t belong in a league of heavyweights – and that’s where I think we are. I’m sorry, I just think our peers play football and we “play at” football. Always have.

My ramblings to reorient that will follow and you can take ‘em for what they’re worth …

Steve Spurrier coached three college football teams, Duke, Florida and South Carolina. He won a championship at two of those schools. He didn’t at one. Coincidence? Luck of the draw? Just one of them things? Maybe. Or could it be something else that has kept Gamecock football from winning championships. I support Shane Beamer 100 percent. I think he’s smart, energetic, a great recruiter, wants this job and will dedicate himself to fixing the things that are broken. And he understands the “new era” of college football and all its myriad complexities. But what Beamer is incapable of doing is changing the mindset of mediocrity that we’ve seemingly accepted for years and years. No coach is.

(Click to View)

University of South Carolina head football coach Shane Beamer heads to Williams-Brice stadium on November 25, 2023. (Gamecock Athletics)

Check the record books, it’s very mediocre. Will university leadership be bold and build a modern infrastructure dedicated to competing with Georgia, Clemson, Florida and Tennessee? Or will we continue with the same failed way of doing things? No coach will consistently win here unless major changes are made within. Period.

I’m in no position to make that decision. I’m not a university official or someone important people care what they have to say. I’m just a fan – a dude who will be sixty next month and has gone to games for 51 of those years. But I do have a busy head and a bunch of ideas – and a willingness to express those ideas. Below is a blueprint that I think is a good starting point. Where it goes from here, that’s for the important people to decide.

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THE REFORMATION OF GAMECOCK FOOTBALL

I. OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Form and elect a football oversight committee that reports directly to the school’s board of trustees and university president. This committee would be comprised of preferably five members who meet monthly to discuss and monitor all football activities. Members would act in an advisory capacity only.

II. CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: This oversight committee will make a recommendation to the board and president to hire a football chief executive officer. Similar to the NFL model, this football CEO will be in charge of the USC football front office and day-to-day operations of the program. This highly qualified and highly motivated person will hire and evaluate the head coach (I previously expressed my support for Beamer) and focus solely on the performance of Gamecock football 365 days a year. This CEO will hire a CFO, a talent evaluation coordinator, an NIL liaison and any other personnel he perceives to be essential to maintain competitiveness with SEC peers. This single sport CEO will allow the athletics director to better manage the other sports and activities within USC’s multi faceted programs. WHY DOES THE SAME PERSON OVERSEE THE FOOTBALL PROGRAM AND EQUESTRIAN TEAM? He or she shouldn’t in today’s college sports landscape. I personally believe adoption of (and commitment to) this model is a generational investment that will change the course of Gamecock football.

III. NIL ENHANCEMENT: Actively work with the S.C. General Assembly to adopt legislation allowing NIL collectives to become more integrated and seamless with the current athletics department – including allowing the merging of funds and personnel if the school chooses to do so. For example, the talent evaluation coordinator and head coach could meet with collective representatives on budgeting for players and positions. This communication and feedback would allow funds to be invested in players that are properly valued, thus generating a much better return on investment. Another example would be allowing the university to match what the collective raises with a small percentage of its TV revenue. These changes would result in a better funded NIL without asking donors for more and more money. Donor fatigue is real and will only get worse. The NCAA is a sanctioning entity and several states have already adopted legislation that usurps its power. We aren’t asking our politicians for additional funds. We simply want clarifying legislation that allows the school to decide how to spend funds it already receives.

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These three bulletin points have hundreds of specifics and details that I’ve obviously not included. But it’s a blueprint for a different path forward – a different vision for a football program that has already invested heavily in buildings and amenities. Now it’s time to invest in a human infrastructure and organizational restructuring that is motivated solely on how to be more competitive, effective and efficient.

As I said, I’m a fan, nothing more – and I apologize if this offends anyone. But I’m tired of halfassing football. I hope enough others are as well.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Ken Ard is a native of Pamplico, S.C. The 88th lieutenant governor of the Palmetto State, he is the host of Wake Up Carolina on WFRK 95.3 in Florence, S.C. and the ‘No Stop Lights‘ podcast.

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18 comments

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The Colonel Top fan November 26, 2023 at 4:16 pm

1. when did Ken Ard become an expert on College Football? I’m pretty sure his only real knowledge about college football comes from his guilty plea for converting campaign funds to SEC Championship tickets.

2. Oversight committee?!? I’m sure the Coop could use some oversight, I work there, I know from whence I speak. The only thing Ken knows about oversight is the 5 years of probation he got from his guilty plea. Committees that meet without any authority are just so much flatulence.

3. Frankly, why should we create another overpaid bloviatorial chief executive to administer a program that frankly isn’t even tied tot the real purpose of the university. An athletic director should be able to handle the job – if he can’t maybe we need a new AD.

Wait, I just figured it out, Ken thinks there’s gubamint gig in this idea of his that only he can fill!

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tbrewer1 Top fan November 27, 2023 at 6:46 am

Get rid of current AD Ray Tanner. The only reason he got this job was a payoff for his Baseball coaching. He was an excellent Baseball coach but an abject failure as an AD(hiring proven loser football coach) and then paying him 13 million to leave.
Tanner has been in over his head from day one!

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Allen Bowers Top fan November 27, 2023 at 8:10 am

I will never understand why professional, college, high school, and youth travel football teams pay so much for coaches when there are so many experts sitting in the stands and watching on television that can win championships if everyone would just take their advice and use their coaching knowledge and skills.

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Anonymous November 27, 2023 at 12:04 pm

?????

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Lowered Expectations November 27, 2023 at 8:33 am

People have unreasonable expectations of the Gamecocks. I can’t tell you how many people were saying Rattler was in the running for a Heisman because of the numbers he was putting up against meh teams. Similarly people were expecting us to come into a rivalry game with a losing season but somehow miraculously blow out Clemson. The Tigers really didn’t play well at all either, which only makes the loss that much more embarrassing.

There are a lot of flaws on the team that truly hinders them from playing to their fullest potential and it’s going to take time to work those problems out. Maybe Beamer can do that, maybe he can’t, but a coach isn’t a magician. He can’t pull an offensive line that can actually protect the quarterback from his hat or completed passes from his sleeve. Y’all forget that those 11 win seasons and that streak against Clemson they got a while ago were only because of a large amount of work and talent put together over years. Stop talking about Heismans and national championships and start talking about getting back to the Outback Bowl. (Oh, wait, they don’t call it that anymore… Crap!)

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Kenneth Daniels November 27, 2023 at 3:19 pm

For the terminator your team just needs to keep taking the little white pill and don’t worry about our Gamecocks buddy .Don’t worry your Clemson tigers will fall on there face again it’s coming jack you might have won this year but your days are numbered. Dabo will leave for A&M or Alabama and that’s. Buzzard

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Lowered Expectations November 28, 2023 at 9:23 am

“you might have won this year”

I’m not a Clemson fan, just pointing out the obvious with the Gamecocks. The good news is it isn’t hard to see what needs to be worked on. They should be expected to perform better next year, a 7 or maybe 8 win season is possible. Reasonable fans set reasonable goals.

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CongareeCatfish Top fan November 27, 2023 at 9:35 am

O-line protection has been a problem at USC for the last 30 years with the exception of the Spurrier years. Yes, this year we have alot of freshmen on the line, and yes, our backfield ball carriers were decimated with injuries this year….but this is a reoccuring problem. We can attract all kinds of receiver and tight end talent, but we just can’t seem to get the beefy nordic viking or samoan types who can make a wall around a QB so he can execute a play. Dear Lord, Rattler has to be the most sacked QB in program and conference history.
The other problem is almost nobody gets fired by the head coach – and then the problems exacerbate until the head coach gets fired and most of his coordinators and special teams coached get washed away when a new coach comes in.

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Terminator44 Top fan November 27, 2023 at 11:39 am

IV: Stop sucking! Oh wait, that is an impossibility for the Shamecocks.
V: Hire a real coach, not a cheerleader. (Clemson fans are happy for you to keep the cheerleader.)
VI: Break out the Bing Crosby – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”.

Suck it up, Losers!!!!

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Fitscommentator95 Top fan November 27, 2023 at 12:35 pm

Mediocrity is a choice.

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Joe November 27, 2023 at 1:51 pm

Great article! I’m been a very frustrated Gamecock fan too. I think Beamer is a great recruiter and headed in the right direction. It’s been apparent for decades, something needs to change and this article brings up some great suggestions. Thanks for sharing

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Jack Highsmith November 27, 2023 at 6:04 pm

As a lifelong South Carolina resident(67 years), and an alum of USC(bachelor’s & master’s), I learned/accepted a long time ago to stop gettmy hopes up in any way, or have any kind of expectations regarding USC football. I mean, let’s face reality here, our football program has been a bottom dweller for essentially its entire history(certainly all but 3-4 of my 66 years on this Earth, anyways), & with the SEC about to become even stronger with the additions of Texas & OU, we just become that much more irrelevant. We simply don’t have the tradition, overall success, pedigree, or investment that schools like UGA, Florida, & Tennessee do. Hell, UK’s football history is even significantly better than ours. It’s always gonna be USC, Vandy, Mizzou(excluding this year), Mississippi St, & Ole Miss(excluding the last few years), as the bottom dwellers/conference punching bags. Go Gamecocks!

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Squishy123 (the original) November 27, 2023 at 6:57 pm

So what you’re saying will fix this team is… more overhead.

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Jack Highsmith November 27, 2023 at 7:25 pm

Squishy123, no, what he’s really saying is USC football is a lost cause, & fans need to start living in reality in regards to annual expectations. After 100+ years of mostly awful/mediocre football, with zero championships of any kind, I’d think us as a fanbase would understand this by now. I say give Beamer a lifetime contract & let’s just be happy with reaching an occasional bowl game. There’s certainly not ever gonna be a Spurrier walking through those doors again. And, hell, even the Ol’ Ball Coach couldn’t ever get over the hump here. This university celebrates 11 win seasons like it’s a national championship. Embarrassing.

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The Colonel Top fan November 27, 2023 at 9:27 pm

Yep, embarrassing to the Taters that he whipped then five years running (and throwing).

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Terminator44 Top fan November 28, 2023 at 4:13 pm

Hey “Colonel”, ancient history. Clemson fans no longer worry about the quitter Spurrier. We are much happier with our recent success, a/k/a 2016 AND 2018 National Championships!! Meanwhile, your clown show is left to embrace what you are – and will always be . . . a women’s basketball school. Congratulations!

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tbrewer1 Top fan November 29, 2023 at 10:44 am

An AD is now required to be a hard charging businessman, able to make tough decisions and correct decisions also. Tanner has done neither. A former very successful baseball coach in and of itself does not qualify for this job. His lousy decisions have cost us multiple millions It’s also sad to see how he grovels to the Womans basketful coach also.

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Squishy123 (the original) November 29, 2023 at 6:55 pm

The only way you’re fixing this fiasco is to pull the program and try again in 10 years.

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