Story and photo By Jeff Owens
HARTSVILLE, S.C. — Last week, South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp shared the stage with men's basketball coach Frank Martin when he visited the York County Gamecock Club in Rock Hill.
On Tuesday, he shared the stage with women's basketball coach Dawn Staley in Hartsville.
Muschamp looks at what Martin and Staley accomplished this past season and wants to build that kind of program for football.
He wants to build the kind of culture he has seen evolve around Gamecock basketball.
"When you lose Alaina Coates before the NCCA Tournament and you still win a national championship, that's called culture," Muschamp told the Darlington County Gamecock Club Tuesday night. "That's having the character to overcome that, it's having the recruiting depth to overcome that.
"It's losing in the first round of the (men's) SEC Tournament, and it's doomsday for Gamecock Nation. … But it's being able to make a Final Four run. That's what you call culture. And that's what we are in the midst of doing as well."
Muschamp, who is preparing for his second season as South Carolina's head coach, has been spending a lot of time with Staley and Martin lately. He hopes to use them as a model for rebuilding the South Carolina football program.
"I really do admire the job that Dawn and Frank have done, and we want to be a mirror image of that," he said.
Muschamp spoke to about 250 Gamecock fans at Coker College in the third stop of his Spurs Up Tour. Staley received a standing ovation when she arrived with former Gamecock player and Coker head coach Shannon Johnson, who played with Staley on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.
Muschamp said this month is a critical time for his football team, which has about 45 players participating in Maymester, a short semester that allows students to take extra classes. They are also able to participate in voluntary workouts while on campus.
Muschamp said that's more than twice the number of players he had on campus this time last year.
"These 45 guys wanted to be in Columbia, S.C. They wanted to work, they wanted to be in the weight room," he said. "They have a four-day lift program that I am really excited about.
"That commitment level is what I am talking about (with) culture. When they come to you and say, 'Coach, I want to come to Maymester,' that shows that we are making strides as far as that (culture) is concerned."
Muschamp said the university is making the right investments in the athletic program, from its Dodie Anderson Academic Center to the $50 million, 110-square-foot football operations center that will open in 2018.
"The investment we are making in our entire program, and obviously our football program, that is something that we have never really done before," Muschamp said. "The investment we are making now is going to make the difference.
"I am excited about where we are. I'm really excited about where we are headed because of the investment Coach Tanner and the board have made for us. The commitment they have made for us is the best I have ever seen of all the places I have ever been."
Part of that culture includes visiting with fans and talking about the state and future of the program.
"I enjoy getting out and seeing Gamecock Nation," Muschamp said. "They spend a lot of money and time and energy for us in the fall and for our other athletic teams throughout the year and it's important to come out and see our people."
Darlington County Gamecock Club President Curtis Tyner was pleased with the turnout and the program the club hosted.
"I think we are very fortunate to have this caliber of program in Hartsville, S.C. and at Coker College," he said. "Having Coach Muschamp going into his second year, with the recruiting that he has done, and someone of Coach Staley's prominence, along with Shannon Johnson, our own Olympic champion here in Hartsville, made it a very special evening for the Gamecock family."