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When Clemson travels to Columbia Wednesday night tickets will be at a premium. Scalpers will have a nice night as over 5,500 fans of the two schools will jam into Sarge Fry. The following Wednesday Doug Kingsmore Stadium will be packed to the gills as over 5,500 more will see the Tigers and their in-state rivals again.
Doubters of college baseball may suggest that it is only the rivalry that leads to those numbers. But Clemson will average over 5,000 for the weekend series against Maryland this coming weekend also. The same Maryland team that despite taking two out of three from third-ranked Georgia Tech last weekend only drew 511 for the final game of that series in College Park, MD.
I was amazed at the lack of interest in the Georgia baseball program in recent weeks. A thrilling extra-inning win over a highly ranked Clemson team only yielded 1,811 fans in Athens on March 28. The following night in Tigertown 5,426 fans caught the action. Despite Athens being a bigger city with more fans to draw from, Clemson continues to outdraw very good programs like this by wide margins. You may say that a Tuesday night is the reason for the attendance but only 1,611 saw Sunday’s game in Athens versus Ole Miss.
Let’s look around the South where college baseball is the most popular.
Florida State traveled to Chapel Hill this past weekend where two top five teams squared off. The series drew 7,101 fans for the entire three-game series. That was the best turnout in Chapel Hill in recent memory.
Miami has won four national titles in baseball and could be considered one of the top three or four college baseball powers over the last 25 years.
Sunday was the final game of a sweep for Clemson against the Canes in Coral Gables but as it pertains to this article the news is only 1,927 fans saw it.
In late March, Richmond traveled to Blacksburg, VA to face in-state opponent Virginia Tech and maybe you were one of the 60 people that were counted in the official attendance.
The Tigers and Gamecocks combined for 11,478 fans in their two-games series earlier this season. At this pace almost 23,000 will see the four games between the rivals. I would say we are baseball crazy in the Palmetto State.
When Miami joined the league one could figure Clemson would have more success on the basketball court than the gridiron or the baseball diamond against the new rivals. That has not been the case. Clemson is 7-0 versus the Canes in baseball and 1-1 in football where both games headed to overtime. On the hardwood the news has not been good as the Tigers are 0-5 against the South Beach crew. Who would have thought it?
Nickleberry To Hampton
Late last week Clemson assistant Kevin Nickleberry got the good news when he was hired as the new head coach at Hampton. Congrats to Nickleberry and his new staff (which could include some guys with Clemson ties).
Now the questions are: 1-How will this affect Clemson? 2- Who will replace Nickleberry?
I have no inside information about Nickleberry’s replacement, but it better be a strong recruiter. Nickleberry was noted as a very strong recruiter and his presence will be missed on the recruiting trail.
I know I am getting old, but am I the only one that appreciates Cliff Hammonds for the little things he does?
I love the way he hustles on and off of the court during timeouts and at the end of each half. I love his attitude and his desire. Jim Davis, former women’s coach at Clemson, said Hammonds works harder than anyone. He told me Hammonds would get to games several hours before tip-off just to work on his free throw shooting.
His attitude and hustle are great attributes but consider his best attribute his intelligence. Hammonds is an architecture major. Yes, that’s right the same architecture school that only lets in about 100 new students each year.
Yes, the same college of studies where when you were in school you did not have any friends in architecture because they were studying 18 hours a day.
With all due respect to the other majors at Clemson, I could not imagine being in architecture and playing basketball in the ACC. I also can only imagine the day when everyone hustles like Hammonds.
What Could Have Been
Congrats to Larry Shyatt for a national championship season at Florida but am I the only the one that is still mad that Shyatt did not red-shirt Akin Akingbala as a freshman? Akingbala played sparingly as a freshman and was not ready for the ACC. His progression now means the Tigers will miss their big man next year. I can only imagine the excitement around the basketball program had Akingbala had one more season.
I know a lot of you are coming to The Valley on Saturday for the spring game. If you can’t make it Saturday tune in to WCCP-FM 104.9 or www.wccpfm.com to hear the worst play-by-play in America. Scott Rhymer and I will handle the broadcast of the spring game at 1:00 pm on Saturday and we know the play-by-play will get better with the baseball contest versus Maryland to follow at 3:45.