There was a hiring move this week that frankly floored me and that I think has farther reaching implications than may appear on the surface. Implications that I discussed with FSU Fan @saintwarrick and Georgia Tech fan @younglefhander on twitter. South Carolina lured away Kansas State head basketball coach Frank Martin to coach in Columbia. You know Columbia, South Carolina the college basketball mecca. Back to Back NIT Titles and 1 NCAA Tournament appearance are the Gamecock’s claim to fame since 1998.
Now I know Martin didn’t get along with his AD and Kansas St. but why on earth would he take his coaching talents to a college basketball desert like South Carolina? I suppose he has some southern roots having coached High School basketball in Florida, but come on there’s only one reason he’s going to Columbia and we know what it is… money.
I don’t take anything away from Martin or South Carolina. He got away from a situation in Manhattan he wasn’t happy in. South Carolina nabbed one of the better available head coaches in college basketball. It was a win-win for those two, but there’s something that might be a little disconcerting to the rest of nation and in particular the ACC. Over the last year and half, a lot of discussion has been about the SEC poaching an ACC team like Virginia Tech or NC State for example to get into a new market.
That doesn’t appear to happening anytime soon, but this move accomplishes the next best thing. The SEC and South Carolina have said they are making a commitment to college basketball and they are going to do it in the heart of ACC country, the Carolinas. The SEC has a ton of money, their teams have a ton of money and if you didn’t think it mattered before you should pay attention.
South Carolina gave Martin a $500,000 raise and agreed to pay his $1 million buyout. That’s what huge TV contracts will do for you. That’s what your 6 straight National Titles in Football will buy you. If you don’t understand that the success of the other teams in your conference can potentially benefit your own school, then you don’t understand the economics of college athletics.
The SEC already had perennial national title contender Kentucky, and strong programs at Florida an Vanderbilt. South Carolina with Martin could in 3 or 4 years give the SEC another top 20 type program. Don’t think so? He got Kansas St. to the NCAAs in 2008. Their first appearance since 1996 against the backdrop of basketball power the Kansas Jayhawks. Martin is a good recruiter and his teams are noted for their defense.
I can guarantee he won’t mind butting heads with the Dukes, UNCs, and NC State for talent in the Carolinas, but it’s the Wake Forests and Clemsons that may find the hiring the most problematic. Wake Forest is currently struggling to rebuild it’s basketball program and Clemson has enough trouble already recruiting the areas better talent.
I expect Martin and South Carolina to become another significant player in the region.
The SEC’s basketball reputation just got a healthy boost.