From Goose Creek to George Street, from Kiawah to Columbia, the year 2012 brought change and controversy, heartbreak and fiasco to the Palmetto State and the Lowcountry sporting scene. The Post and Courier takes a look back at the top 10 stories of 2012:
Rory roars at Kiawah
Tiger Woods brought his yacht “Privacy” to Lowcountry waters, but Rory McIlroy brought his A game to the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island for South Carolina’s first major.
McIlroy blew away the field with a 67-66 weekend on Pete Dye’s diabolical layout, winning his second major title by eight shots and cementing 2012 as the Year of Rory. Woods faded with a 74-72; only Kiawah’s traffic planners had a more disappointing weekend.
2. No more Lattimore for USC
An entire state seemed to hold its breath at that moment on Oct. 28 when South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore took a blow to his knee from a Tennessee defender at Williams-Brice Stadium. From the sickening way Lattimore’s leg twisted and flopped, it seemed his football career might be over, and players from both teams gathered around him in tribute. But the injury, bad as it was, could have been a lot worse, and Lattimore later announced his intention to enter the NFL draft, with Gamecocks Nation — and many others — rooting for him.
3. High school stories go big time
Goose Creek’s fight against the S.C. High School League and Summerville coach John McKissick’s 600th career win brought the national spotlight to the Lowcountry.
The Gators, defending state champs and nationally ranked, were denied a chance to repeat when they were kicked out of the playoffs for allegedly using an ineligible player. Goose Creek fought the ruling in court, winning one injunction before ultimately losing its appeal to the SCHSL. But outraged politicians have vowed change for the High School League, which could revamp its own rules next spring.
McKissick, meanwhile, claimed his 600th victory with a 37-21 win over Ashley Ridge on Oct. 26. The 86-year-old coach finished his 61st season at Summerville and shows no signs of slowing down.
4. Rise of Clowney
South Carolina’s superb defensive end Jadeveon Clowney didn’t make it to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, and lost out to Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o for most major defensive awards.
But the 6-6, 256-pound rising junior is a national name after racking up 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss this season, and is sure to be on pre-season Heisman lists in 2013.
5. Change comes to C of C
Bobby Cremins came to the rescue of College of Charleston basketball in 2006 after Gregg Marshall accepted the job one day and turned it down the next. But in January of 2012, a fatigued Cremins took a medical leave of absence that lasted the rest of the 2011-12 season, and then retired in March. The Cougars hired ex-Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik to take his place, but change was only starting on George Street. After months of debate and controversy, C of C announced in November that it was leaving the Southern Conference for the Colonial Athletic Association. The Cougars begin play in the CAA in 2013-14, and the wisdom — or folly — of the move will begin to reveal itself.
6. Tanner moves up, Martin in at USC
South Carolina baseball reached the end of an era in 2012 when coach Ray Tanner announced he was leaving the dugout to become the Gamecocks’ athletic director. Tanner led USC to back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011, and to six College World Series trips. Assistant Chad Holbrook was promoted to head coach.
Meanwhile, USC surprised the college basketball world by luring Kansas State coach Frank Martin to Columbia. Martin led Kansas State to NCAA tournament bids in four of five seasons, including an Elite Eight run in 2010.
7. Lowcountry shines in NFL
Between Roddy White and A.J. Green, the Lowcountry can claim two of the top wide receivers in the NFL. White, from James Island Charter High School, has 87 catches for 1,309 yards and seven touchdowns for the Falcons. Green, from Summerville HS, has 95 catches for 1,324 yards and 11 TDs for the Bengals. Throw in Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (Fort Dorchester HS) and Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts and Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen (both from The Citadel), among others, and the Lowcountry is well represented in the league.
8. Clemson scores, but can’t soar
From the Orange Bowl debacle against West Virginia last January, to Sammy Watkins’ preseason arrest and a fourth straight loss to rival South Carolina, Clemson’s 2012 football season never quite lived up to the numbers the Tigers’ high-powered offense produced. Clemson averaged 42 points and 518 yards per game, but came up short against Florida State and USC, and faces powerful LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
9. Citadel football wins, finally
The Bulldogs’ 3-0 start this season included wins over top 10 FCS teams Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, the latter a shocking 52-28 beatdown in Boone. That earned the Bulldogs a national ranking and sparked hopes for their first SoCon title since 1992.The Citadel could not fulfill those hopes, but at 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the SoCon registered their best season since ’92, and inspired hope for even better things in 2013.
10. Serena, dominant again
Serena Williams was untouchable on the clay courts of Daniel Island during the Family Circle Cup in April, winning the finals by a score of 6-0, 6-1 and whipping fifth-ranked Sam Stosur, 6-1,6-1, in the semis. The performance presaged the Summer of Serena. She won her 14th Grand Slam and fifth Wimbledon title, and teamed with sister Venus to win the Wimbledon doubles. And back at Wimbledon for the Olympic Games, she won the gold medal with a 6-0, 6-1 trouncing of Maria Sharapova.
FIRST FIVE OUT
FIRST FIVE OUT: • National TV cameras were trained on Charleston for the Carrier Classic on the Yorktown in November. But the night game between the Ohio State and Marquette men was canceled due to moisture on the court, one of several aircraft carrier game fiascos around the nation. Nevertheless, officials announced the Carrier Classic will return to the Yorktown in 2013, with a secret “engineering solution” to keep the court dry. • South Carolina golf pro Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, a former cart attendant at Dunes West, had a big year. He played in front of friends and family in a major at the PGA on Kiawah, then won for the first time on the PGA Tour in October, at the McGladrey Classic on St. Simons Island, Ga.• The 35th Cooper River Bridge Run in April drew a record 36,652 participants, but has it grown too big? The start of the race was delayed by nearly an hour as organizers struggled to get runners to the start line in Mount Pleasant• The South Atlantic League held its home-run derby on the Yorktown, earning the Charleston RiverDogs two “Golden Bobblehead” awards.• College of Charleston basketball’s Andrew Lawrence played for Great Britain’s national team in the Olympics. And former Cougar Andrew Goudelock completed his first NBA season with the Lakers. He’s now with the Sioux Falls in the NBA D-League.
Rory McIlroy blew away Tiger Woods and the rest of the field at the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. (Mic Smith/Special to The Post and Courier)×
Goose Creek lost its struggle with the S.C. High School League, but not without a fight. Paul Zoeller/Special to the Post and Courier×
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore is turning pro after his second major knee injury. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)×
College of Charleston has a new basketball coach (Doug Wojcik) and a new league (the Colonial Athletic Conference). (Tyrone Walker/postandcourier.com)×
Citadel players Bay Amrhein, left, and Jim Knowles celebrate after an upset of Georgia Southern. Paul Zoeller/Special to the Post and Courier×
The Carrier Classic game between Ohio State and Marquette was canceled due to moisture on the court on the aircraft carrier Yorktown. (Tyrone Walker/postandcourier.com)×