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The Turning Point


  by - Radio Host - Monday, March 24, 2014 10:41 AM
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The Turning Point
Clemson head basketball coach Brad BrownellBrad Brownell
Head Coach
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called into my radio show to thank the fans for their support yesterday and the rest of the show was spent with fans praising Brownell. It is my opinion that Brownell's popularity is at an all-time high here at Clemson.

Politicians will tell you that approval ratings can change as often as the weather in March. Public figures often ride the same role coaster. In my industry, coaches are often the target of criticism one day and a genius the next.

Sometimes a coach can have more than one opportunity to win over the fan base. Danny FordDanny Ford
Former Head Coach
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won the hearts of Clemson fans with his first game when he helped lead the Tigers to a Gator Bowl win over Ohio State in December of 1978. The 1979 season was a slight drop off and the fan base began to question Ford after a 5-5 start to the 1980 season. Ford's next big moment came when the Tigers upset South Carolina in 1980. A national title followed the next season and Ford stayed popular through the rest of his tenure.

Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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was a popular coach as an interim and solidified his popularity by beating South Carolina in his first chance. An ACC title game appearance in 2009 helped his approval ratings once again. However, Swinney's popularity fell after a down season in 2010. The biggest questions came after a bad loss to South Florida in the 2010 bowl game.

Swinney built back that support quickly in 2011 when his team beat Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech early the year. An ACC title followed and he has enjoyed solid approval among the fans, especially after wins over LSU and Ohio State the last two seasons.

I am hopeful that Brownell has gotten over the hump and is about to settle into a long stint of popularity at Clemson. His tenure has seen highs and lows, but I get the sense that he has finally won over the fan base, especially if Sunday was any indication.

Privately, administrators at Clemson were worried about the attendance for yesterday's game. Never before has Clemson tried to host a major sporting event on a Sunday at 11 o'clock. We are located in the Bible belt and no one had an idea of what to expect in terms of attendance.

Illinois coach John Groce said, "Obviously it was a hard fought game. There was a great environment in here today. Great home court here, so I give the Clemson administration a lot of credit; it was a great environment for an early morning game."

What we saw was an overflow crowd and an electric atmosphere inside Littlejohn Coliseum. It was that energy that helped propel the Tigers to a 50-49 win over Illinois in the second round of the NIT. Clemson will host Belmont Tuesday in the third round with a trip to New York City and a berth in the semi-finals at stake.

I think yesterday wa a result of a few things. I think the fan base appreciates the effort this team gives each night. I get the sense that the fans have started to get a feel for what type of program Brownell is trying to build and it is my hope that this momentum and interest will continue next season.

I also think general admission seating and lower ticket prices gave some fans a rare chance to see the Tigers up close.

Sunday was huge in terms of what Brownell is trying to build here. At times Brownell has been frustrated with fan and student support, but I am hopeful that Sunday was the turning point. I am hopeful that we will see the same kind of energy in the building again tomorrow night.

Basketball has proven to be a tough sell at Clemson. However there have been times where Littlejohn has been one of the best atmospheres in the country. The main issue has been sustaining any success and any momentum in the program. I am hopeful that Brownell has turned the corner and will enjoy that kind of support on a more consistent basis.

What we saw yesterday was a lot of Clemson fans having a blast at a basketball game. We also saw the potential of what could happen more often around here. That is my hope.

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