Gamecocks Showing Signs Of Culture Change

In a world of wins and losses, where the only thing recorded for posterity's sake are Ws and Ls, it is difficult to change. Tradition and mindsets are the rules of the game. And old habits are hard to break. Others believe more, or you believe less - it really doesn't matter. Either way it takes learning to not accept the suffering and the pain from the losses, before you can truly experience consistent and honest winning ...

Lou Holtz's attempt to change the culture of mediocrity at the University of South Carolina is nothing short of insane. Have you ever known anyone that you can change? You know the cliche - you cannot change a person. So how is it that Lou Holtz expects to change people, as in more than one? How does he expect to change not only those under his direct influence, but also those he faces, those who believe they are going to beat his teams before they ever step on the field?

Do you know that at the University of Tennessee, they refer to their late season conference schedule as Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod? That would be South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Vol fans count those three as wins every year, it never fails.

So how do you not only overcome the doubts and low expectations of those under your control such as the players and fans of the University of South Carolina, but also defeat the high expectations of those you face on the gridiron?

You do it by making the suffering from the losses so unbearable, so distasteful, that losing becomes something you are no longer willing to accept.

There are signs.

In post game interviews after losses, in comments regularly uttered by players and coaches alike, the words become tediously repetitious and lacking in variety - even boring. And then you hear something different for a change. Something that matters.

Darrell Shropshire said many things Saturday night, but one thing he said stood out above all else.

"This hurts," he almost cried, tears in his eyes. "This does not feel good. It hurts in my stomach. This hurts in my heart. This cannot happen again."

He never said a word about his bruised body. His pain was from within.

Jonathan Alston echoed Shropshire's sentiments without knowing Darrell had expressed similar pain.

"Oh man I am hurting right now. I am hurting deep inside. I don't know how to explain what I am feeling inside right now. All of us are. It's painful. It is very painful. I mean all of them hurt but this one hurts bad. This will never leave me. I still have those close losses to Tennessee, Ole Miss and Florida in my head, but this one feels worse."

Ricardo Hurley, in another part of the room beyond earshot of his teammates, had his own way of expressing what he was feeling.

Looking straight ahead as if in deep thought while considering his words carefully he said, "I feel real bad about this loss. I can't explain it. I don't like it and I cannot live with this kind of pain again. We're all feeling it. I know we will put this behind us and move on but we are going to remember how this feels for a long time."

And that is what culture change is about. It is about changing from within.

Ko Simpson, one of the newest Gamecocks, reluctantly answered questions about his game to the media en masse. But when asked about his feelings, off to the side away from the crowd, his pain was evident as well.

"This is the first and last time I want to feel this," he said. "I mean it's almost unbearable. It's self inflicted too if you know what I mean? Maybe that's what makes it hurt so bad? The only thing that is going to cure this is to win."

He's right you know. But this is where it had to go before the next step could be taken. No moral victories. No self serving personal gratification. Like the shock blast of a bomb the hurt spread from one member of the team to the next and well into the fandom.

Coach Minter, completely unaware of the others' comments, had this to say.

"One thing I noticed immediately is that we do not take losing around here easy. It's obvious that we win as a team and we lose as a team and they are feeling this loss right now and that's not a bad thing. My heart goes out to all of these kids because I see the pain on their faces."

Lou Holtz reiterated the thought Sunday.

"This team is taking this as hard as any team since I've been here has taken a loss. I consider that a good sign because it means they played their hearts out and wanted to win."

No more moral victories. No more 'what could have beens.' Only winning will cure the pain all Gamecocks are feeling. Winning the big ones. Winning them all eventually.

The culture at the University of South Carolina is changing.

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