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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- "Oh, man. ... Can you believe this?"It was Thursday night around midnight, barely eight hours after Coastal Carolina had won the College World Series, and head coach Gary Gilmore was being summoned to look out the window of the team...

For at least a few days, Coastal is South Carolina's team

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- "Oh, man. ... Can you believe this?"It was Thursday night around midnight, barely eight hours after Coastal Carolina had won the College World Series, and head coach Gary Gilmore was being summoned to look out the window of the team...

For at least a few days, Coastal is South Carolina's team

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- "Oh, man. ... Can you believe this?"

It was Thursday night around midnight, barely eight hours after Coastal Carolina had won the College World Series, and head coach Gary Gilmore was being summoned to look out the window of the team airplane.

"Sure, I figured a few folks would show up to greet us when we got home," he recalled thinking. "But I'm not sure the Myrtle Beach airport has ever had that many people there all at one time. This was bigger than spring break."

Way bigger. There were a few thousand fans, dressed in teal, waving homemade signs and chanting "C-C-U!" and "Gar-eee Gil-more!" The coach, eyes already puffy from a day of happy cries, instinctively climbed the fence to lead the cheers. He was so oblivious to what he was doing that he dang near grabbed the razor wire to pull himself up and over.

"There was a time when it would take us months to draw this many fans to our games," said Gilmore, who played at Coastal in 1979 and '80 and just completed his 21st season at the helm of his old team. "I worked out of a pop-up trailer next to the ballpark that first year. It's a long ways from that to this. People have no idea how long."

Well, most might not. But there are plenty who do.

For students, alumni and fans of Coastal Carolina, Thursday's victory felt like the liberation of a small nation. This is a school that didn't even exist until 1954, founded as a community college and holding its classes at Conway High School. By the 1960s, it was under contract as an extension campus of the University of South Carolina and didn't become a four-year school until 1974. On July 1, the school marked just its 23rd year as an independent university. Gilmore was hired two years later.

That's a lot of years and a lot of history to foster an inferiority complex, living life as a so-called "directional school" in the very long shadows of Clemson and South Carolina. Their mascot is an extension of those feelings. When the school -- then Coastal Carolina College of the University of South Carolina -- decided to get into sports, they wanted a mascot that would honor their parent school, the Gamecocks, but was decidedly fancier. An English professor suggested the Chanticleer, a character from Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" described as such: "For crowing there was not his equal in all the land ... his nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold." That's certainly no mere fighting rooster.

So one can only imagine the pride Coastal Carolina fans felt when their Twitter timelines were filled with clips of Clemson football players cheering Coastal's win on Thursday or well-wishes from the likes of Steve Spurrier.

"I can tell you this," Coastal athletic director Matt Hogue, a South Carolina alumnus, said earlier in the week. "There weren't many South Carolina fans rooting for Clemson to beat Alabama [in January's College Football Playoff title game], and when South Carolina was winning back-to-back College World Series, there might not have been any Clemson fans rooting for the Gamecocks. But I can't tell you how much support we've received from both schools during our time in Omaha."

"Yeah, outside of Conway and Myrtle Beach, it can be hard to find a lot of Coastal fans," explained pitcher Mike Morrison. Then he shrugged, recognizing that he needed to raise his voice to be heard over the crowd. "Now it feels like they are everywhere!"

They were certainly all over Omaha. Many made a last-minute migration to see their beloved Chanticleers play Arizona for the championship, deciding to make the trip out for the third and deciding game. A huge percentage of those fans had to return home without having seen a single inning of baseball, unable to afford the airline change fees or to find a hotel room when Game 3 was pushed from Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon because of inclement weather.

Jim McIntosh of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, was one of those people. A former CCU student, he blew up a credit card to get out there but by Thursday morning was on a plane packed with teal-wearing fans, rightfully pouting and just hoping to make it home in time to watch the game on television.

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On their first trip to the College World Series, Coastal Carolina and coach Gary Gilmore thwarted elimination five times to take home the first national championship in CCU sports history.

Carolina Panthers players, a Tampa Bay Rays guy and even the Clemson football team gave props to the Coastal Carolina baseball team for its national championship.

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers staved off elimination six times in the NCAA tournament to win the first national championship in school history.

Scott Chadwick of Charlotte was one of those people ... almost. The father of CCU infielder Tyler Chadwick was one of a huge group of families who worked into the wee hours of Wednesday night, scrambling for a way to stay in town for the delayed game. Already out of money because of continually extending their trip, the potential of thousands of dollars in flight changes meant that most of the families from both Coastal and Arizona would have to go on home and miss the title game. Some still did, but well past midnight, their bags packed, Chadwick and his family found a sympathetic Delta agent who helped out by finding minimal fees.

Michael Pruitt of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, was one those who was going to stay no matter what and was fortunate enough to have the means to make it happen. The CEO and president of an investment firm titled Chanticleer Holdings, he is one of the past heroes of Coastal Carolina baseball. He slugged a home run that clinched one of the team's four trips to the NAIA College World Series in the late 70s and early 80s. He and a group of his former teammates made the trip out and declared, "We'll stay here until damn July 4 if we have to!"

On Wednesday night, they were at their hotel bar ready to talk to anyone but at a bit of a loss for words when asked what a national championship would mean: "It's the biggest thing to ever happen to our school," they said.

Just how big might not be known for a while. Coastal is a school already experiencing rapid growth. There were a little over 7,500 CCU students a decade ago. Now that number is around 10,000, with a plan in place to reach 12,500. History suggests that the admissions office is about to become very busy. After reaching the Final Four in 2013, Wichita State saw an 81 percent jump in applications. In 2010, Butler's near-national title created a 41 percent increase. After Fresno State won the College World Series in 2008, it experienced a double-digit leap in out-of-state interest.

According to Joyce Julius & Associates, which monitors sports media exposure, Coastal Carolina had already received nearly 12,000 national media mentions even prior to winning the championship. In Omaha, there was little doubt as to who was also the two-week champion of merchandise sales. It was the same team that ended up becoming the actual champion. There was a lot of teal seen around eastern Nebraska in late June.

On Friday, as thousands of fans lined the streets of Conway and thousands more packed still-new Springs Brooks Stadium to celebrate with their team, they all wore that same teal. No matter how hard it was to come by.

"You can't find it anywhere. Everywhere is sold out," said Jimmy Shepard, a longtime Myrtle Beach resident who went to the celebration. "I saw a lot of people out here today that I know I saw last week wearing South Carolina and Clemson stuff. Their Chants shirts and hats all look pretty damn new. I wore the oldest shirt I had just so they'd know I'm no Johnny-Come-Lately. Now I hope these Johnnys that were here today will be back here next spring."

Almost as if he was taking his cue from Shepard, Gilmore stepped to the microphone to address the crowd estimated at more than 8,000. He thought about that pop-up trailer office. He thought about the old aluminum bleacher "stadium" that was on this site just three years ago, the one he used to have to power wash the seagull droppings off of before homestands. He looked at the sparkling national championship trophy, displayed in, of all places, Conway. And then he allowed himself, just for a moment, to try and look into the future.

"I want to see all of you back here in 2017," the coach challenged, once again on the verge of bursting into tears. "Let's get another one of these."

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

Publish Date : 23 Şubat 2017 Perşembe 18:18

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