Dramatic change typically is more subtle. Changing of the guards, outfielders, quarterbacks and Palmetto State braggin' rights hierarchy almost never comes all at one time.
But this time it happened in one week, so fast most Clemson and South Carolina fans blinked and missed the Gamecocks sliding by the Tigers in the three sports most people care most about.
On Tuesday, April 6, one Oliver Purnell turned up at a hastily arranged news conference in Chicago, officially introduced as the head basketball coach at DePaul.
On Friday night, April 9, the Clemson baseball team opened a ho-hum Atlantic Coast Conference baseball series with a 10-9 loss to lowly Duke.
But in a jolt to the Clemson football program, outfielder/quarterback Kyle Parker, during the loss before 788 fans in Durham, socked his 12th home run, drove in three runs and scored three runs.
Meanwhile, South Carolina was making basketball, baseball and football progress.
Mark your calendar, or dig it out of the trash can.
April came in like a Tiger and went out like a Gamecock.
Wright or wrong?
Suddenly, the South Carolina basketball program -- the one that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2004 -- seems to have the upper hand on Clemson. Yes, despite the Tigers' three consecutive trips to the recently expanded Bigger Dance.
Say hello to prized incoming Gamecocks recruits R.J. Slawson of Fort Dorchester High School and Bruce Ellington of Berkeley High School, and to Clemson head coach Brad Brownell,
a persistently puzzling post-Purnell hire.
Darrin Horn was a questionable choice at South Carolina. At least he was fresh from taking Western Kentucky to the Sweet 16 of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Brownell is certainly a friendly man and somehow guided UNC Wilmington into the NCAA Tournament. But Wright State isn't the right place for an ACC program to find a new head coach unless Wright State has proven everyone wrong with several NCAA Tournament appearances in a row.
The previous head coaching stops of Clemson's last four head coaches: Providence (Rick Barnes), Wyoming (Larry Shyatt), Dayton (Purnell), Wright State (Brownell).
Notice a pattern here?
A graph line leading to Division II for the next guy?
The ACC is a serious league requiring at least some NBA-caliber talent to succeed. Brownell and his young staff probably will require an extensive rebuilding process, as Horn and Co. gain more recruiting advantages around the state.
But Gamecock and Tiger fans care more about baseball than basketball.
Ray Tanner's deep and balanced South Carolina team has won 12 of its last 15 games, including two wins that fateful weekend of April 9-11 in a critical series at Vanderbilt. As unranked Clemson (11-10 in ACC play) stumbles on the diamond and is blowing its chance to host a regional, the No. 7 Gamecocks (14-4 in the SEC) look like a strong national seed -- the traditional path to the College World Series in Omaha.
Losing two Kyles
Perhaps the Tigers' greater baseball loss to an SEC program happened before the season started, when pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Kyle Bunn, a former Citadel pitcher, bolted for Alabama. SEC dollars made it an easy call for Bunn. If he cashes in on his Palmetto State recruiting connections -- and he is trying hard with Lowcountry prospects and others -- the slope will be slipperier for Clemson than the hill in center field at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
But Tigers and Gamecocks fans care more about football than baseball.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier spent the spring tinkering with an offense minus skill position stars C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford, a pair of NFL draft picks.
Parker made huge strides as a redshirt freshman quarterback in 2009, but as a draft-eligible junior in baseball is moving up the projected pick each productive weekend. He leads the ACC in home runs (16) and slugging percentage (.764), numbers that translate into a baseball signing bonus large enough to kiss football goodbye.
With Parker at quarterback, Clemson, you might have heard, recently lost a football game to South Carolina, 34-17.
Without the power-hitting outfielder taking snaps, it might get worse in November.
If so, Tigers fans will have to hope for better things against the Gamecocks in basketball and baseball.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (843) 937-5593.
Jack Leggett's Tigers have lost 10 of their last 15 ACC games.×
Kyle Parker plays football and baseball at Clemson - for now.×
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