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South Carolina Baseball: Amidst Debates Over Football Grandeur, Is This Their Real Rising Power?

There's no more unpredictable division in the BCS entering 2011 than the SEC East. That's largely due to the recent recalibration of its dominant powers Florida, Tennessee and Georgia, but also thanks to the perception that its incumbent champion, South Carolina, as such an ill fit for the role of a rising power.

None of the East's recovering powerhouses have merited enough preseason hype (don't ask us exactly how a program merits incalculable hype in glossy magazines, just roll with this) to be considered a lock for the division, yet most are calling for South Carolina to be a one-season aberration. That's a huge blow to the national perception of a university with seemingly no laurels since joining the SEC in 1992 - unless you count that whole baseball thing that starts heating up again today.

The Cocks have quietly established themselves as a true power program in SEC baseball, and not just by winning last year's College World Series - from 2000-'09, South Carolina won more SEC games than any team in the conference (147), went a perfect 10-for-10 in postseason berths and found Omaha three times before winning it all in 2010. Then again, a large group of fans in the Southeast - and we'd assume most college sports fans nationwide - wouldn't know about the run going on in Columbia.

Such are the priorities of a SEC fan, but the lesser equity of national titles earned in June is metered by college baseball's comparative infancy as a nationally broadcast sport, especially against beastly big brother football. And since dawn of the modern SEC in 1992, no program has maintained regular dominance in two of the "big three" mens' sports simultaneously, save for Florida's recent Donovan/Meyer run - sorry, that should most definitely read Meyer/Donovan. That simply means we like to view our SEC schools as one particular kind of "school" or another.

Any LSU fan can tell you that football and baseball titles need not be mutually exclusive. But while doubts linger about the reigning SEC East Champions in football - an invisible finish against Auburn and Florida State, getting walloped at home by Arkansas - South Carolina the baseball team is two wins away from laying claim to the title as the class of the conference that's the class of the sport, something they've never been considered in any realm of any era in the SEC or elsewhere... ever.

Change the debate on South Carolina, at least for the month of June. If their division title in football was merely an aberration in an off year, are they on course to become the Kentucky of SEC Baseball?

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.