Tales From the Cockpit: New Beginnings

Five years ago, the end of the greatest era of Gamecocks football came to a close with an abysmal 3-9 season as Steve Spurrier stepped down and a new chapter began.

Ray Tanner’s coaching search didn’t go very well and Will Muschamp became the head coach, much to the displeasure of a lot of Gamecock Nation…but, we did what we do. We showed up, we gave support and we hoped for great things to happen, even if Boom’s track record told us they probably wouldn’t (I even wrote a blog about it: Cautious Optimism).

Today, we are in the same boat (kinda, but not really).

Will Muschamp’s tenure at the University of South Carolina was about the same as it was in Florida, bad, and the Gamecocks ended the 2020 season in search of a new HBC.

This time around, the search seemed to go much differently and ultimately led to the hiring of an old friend, former Gamecocks assistant coach, Shane Beamer.

Of course, for some, nothing but the sexiest name available was going to appease their hopes for the future of the program, Billy Napier and Hugh Freeze being the “sexiest” of the names on the list. Personally, I would have never even entertained the idea of Hugh Freeze, but admittedly, I was enamored by the idea of Coach Napier.

Ray Tanner and Bob Caslen were enamored too, but it wasn’t Napier…it was Beamer.

For the most part, introductory press conferences are mindless fluff with endless positivity that feels and looks forced and more-likely-than-not, fake.

Yesterday in Columbia, South Carolina seemed different.

Caslen, Tanner and Beamer all seemed to show real emotion. Caslen even started talking about being a “championship program,” which is awesome…but let’s pump the brakes a little. The entire presser felt genuine, and you could feel the excitement and pure joy through the television screen.

Shane Beamer, without question, wanted THIS job.

Some may hint that he should’ve waited to see what happens with Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech (“legacy gig”), but Coach Beamer made it abundantly clear that South Carolina was where he wanted to be. He spoke of his time in Columbia under Steve Spurrier with pride and raw emotion, he told us about his family’s love for the university and even promised to bring the family out to support Coach Staley, Coach Martin and the rest of the teams.

This is the attitude we needed. He’s a fan, he’s one of us, and he wants this to work as much as we do.

Does that mean it absolutely will?

Of course not, there’s no way to know how this will turn out, but that’s a bridge we will cross in the future. What Coach Beamer has immediately provided Gamecocks Nation with is hope.

Real hope.

Not “man I hope this works” hope like we had 5-years ago. Hope like, “man…this could really work out well for us” hope. The kind of hope I feel about this program right now is the kind of hope I felt 16-years ago when Spurrier came to town.

Obviously, we had more reason to have that hope 16-years ago with the hall of fame resume Spurrier provided, but that makes this new hope (Sorry, Mr. Lucas) even more special. Not only does Shane Beamer provide us with warm and cozy memories of the Spurrier era, but he also provides us with a clean slate…a new beginning for both our beloved football program and for Shane Beamer himself.

Since the firing of Will Muschamp, and honestly long before, I’ve been very clear about what I was looking for in a new HBC. I didn’t care about sexy names, I didn’t care about head coaching experience (okay maybe a little), but I did care about 3 things:

  1. I wanted our next HBC to be young. Not a retread, 60-to-70-something legend looking for one last grasp at glory or somebody looking to erase a past failure. We had those, let’s do something new.
  2. I wanted our next HBC to be hungry. Obviously all coaches are hungry to succeed, but to me the true example of hungry is a willingness to adapt, learn and grow. Older coaches typically have their system and that’s that. I wanted somebody that was able to create a new system that fits their recruits and their program and to be able to modify that system on the fly when it isn’t working.
  3. I just wanted our next HBC to win some important football games. Sure, Boom got a few big wins, but beating UGA in 2019 and Auburn in 2020 didn’t do anything to change the trajectory of the season. Honestly, and I really don’t think it’s asking too much, I want to see 2010-2013 type results…and better.

Shane Beamer, in my opinion, checks those first two boxes. The third is the wait-and-see…it could happen, it might not. That part I honestly don’t care one iota about right now, it will play itself out on the field.

Just look at the list of football coaching mentors that Beamer rattled off in his introductory presser. First and foremost, his father Frank Beamer, then Spurrier, Croom, Riley, Smart, O’Leary and Fulmer. He coached underneath and learned from some of the best coaches of the past 30-years of college football. He’s learned from offensive minded coaches, defensive minded coaches and we all know what the Beamer name means in the world of Special Teams.

Head coaching experience or not, Beamer’s resume is far better than a lot of folks have insinuated (initially, I was one of these folks).

Plus, let’s not forget what he represents in terms of Gamecocks football. His work under Spurrier lead to the 5-peat and the 4-best seasons in program history. He helped to bring Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, Connor Shaw, Marcus Lattimore and countless others to Columbia. He was a huge part of building the winning culture that brought us so many amazing memories. The winning culture that seems to have existed decades ago now.

If you need any more proof that Coach Beamer is the right guy for the job, look at the reaction of some of the best and most beloved players in Gamecocks history. The players Beamer recruited and coached. If those guys support this, I fully support this.

Unlike five years ago, my optimism for Gamecocks football has no caution attached. I’m ready for Fall 2021 and ready to begin the Beamer Era.

Here’s to the future of Gamecocks football, here’s to our HBC, Shane Beamer, and here’s to new beginnings!

Forever to thee.

-Ditti

Find me on Twitter (@ditti33) and Instagram (dittius33)

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