Photo: Adam Orfinger / The Daily Gamecock

Column: Why only one year for women's basketball road signs?

Dawn Staley, A'ja Wilson and the 2017 women's basketball national champions were honored recently with signs along the highway, commemorating the program's first national championship. Now, drivers coming into Columbia from Interstate 77 and Interstate 20 will know they're entering the home of winners.

For one year.

Not like the Gamecocks' College World Series teams in 2010 and 2011, which are still celebrated on the Gervais Street bridge. Staley finally hoisting the trophy, Wilson bringing a title to her hometown and all that went into this run will be honored for just one year on the roads of Columbia.

I'm not naive. I know that in the college sports world, people really only care about football, men's basketball and baseball, and a lot of people would argue about that third one. That's pretty commonly known and accepted.

But that's not how it is here in Columbia, where the Gamecocks have led the nation in attendance in each of the last three seasons. In the 2015-16 season, Staley's squad drew over 14,000 fans per home game, a figure that had never even been approached in women's college basketball.

The frenzy of basketball fandom on display this spring was incredible, granted that it had a lot to do with what Frank Martin and the men's team were doing as well. The school and the city rallied around the Gamecocks, jumping into the fountain one final time once the buzzer sounded in the title game. And who could forget the parade?

The people of Columbia care about women's basketball, and they've made that pretty clear. Last season, the Gamecocks sold over 11,000 season tickets. Most schools can't even draw that many fans for one game.

When it's all said and done, Wilson will go down as one of the best, most decorated athletes in school history, and Staley will be known as the one who built this program from the "grassroots," as she'll tell you.

Isn't that worth remembering?



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