South Carolina has reached the Final Four. Bob Ryan called the Gamecocks leaving the ACC the dumbest realignment move in college history.
Ryan, it should be noted, was not ripping South Carolina for joining the SEC. The Gamecocks left the ACC in 1971, twenty years before they joined the SEC. They went independent in both football and basketball. The basketball team eventually joined the Metropolitan Athletic Conference in 1983.
South Carolina had developed into one of the top college basketball programs in the country in 1971. They were in the midst of a run of three-straight Top 10 seasons. Frank McGuire kept it going for a few years, though the program descended into mediocrity never to be heard from again until basically now.
It’s worth asking what would have happened with the South Carolina basketball brand if the school stayed in the ACC to rival North Carolina in the 1970s and been in the conference for the glory days in the 1980s. That was the sports era where major college and professional sports brands established themselves on television.
Yes, football it matters more for the bottom line. Going independent was not a great football move for South Carolina either. South Carolina finished ranked in the Top 25 twice in 21 years as an independent. The Gamecocks had one double-digit win football season over the next 40 years.
South Carolina is better off in the SEC right now financially than they would be in the ACC. The ACC trails well behind the SEC in revenue. But, circumstances changing independently to bail out South Carolina twenty years later does not change the fact the Gamecocks going independent in 1971 was a regrettable decision.