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Tanner talks potentially awarding Gamecocks national championship

There is already one national championship banner hanging up at Colonial Life Arena, and while there won’t be a chance to earn one in the tournament, there’s a legitimate argument to hang another this year.

The Gamecock women’s team is the consensus No. 1 team and likely the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, which was just recently canceled due to the Coronavirus epidemic.

Now with no chance to compete in March for a title, the Gamecocks could claim a national championship this year, and the athletic director sees an argument for it.

Photo by Katie Dugan
Photo by Katie Dugan

“I think it’s too early to have those conversations. Not to avoid the question, but our focus has certainly been on the COVID-19 the last few days,” Ray Tanner said. “I will add we were on quite a run and, if I’m not mistaken, we were 32-1 and ranked number one in both polls. We won the regular season title and the tournament championship. In my mind, we’re number one.”

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The Gamecocks were winners of 26 straight games and went unscathed through their SEC slate, a perfect 16-0 regular season capped with a regular season and tournament title.

They were likely the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, which going to be announced Monday before both tournaments were canceled last week.

The Gamecocks are No. 1 in both polls—the AP and Coaches polls—with 27 of the 30 first place votes in both polls. They’re the only Power 5 team in the country with only one loss.

There are other cases of teams claiming national championships: UCF did it in football and a legislative bill has been introduced in Florida to name Florida State the men’s basketball champs this year.

Tanner, when asked about blowback if the Gamecocks were to claim themselves champions, said he’s not too worried about it.

“I haven’t given that a lot of thought. There probably would be blowback, but I’m not one to be concerned about a lot of things like that, quite honestly,” he said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We’re extremely proud of what coach Staley and her team accomplished. We’re disappointed we can’t continue but we understand and she understands. We’ll deal with that situation at a different time, but we’re not done with it.”

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There is an interesting situation as well in terms of bonuses with coaches having incentives in their contracts for making the tournament and reaching certain levels of the postseason, which includes winning a national championship.

It still remains to be seen how that would work if the Gamecocks were to claim a national title.

“I think Coach Staley would tell you our relationship is strong and she’s been treated very well here in her personal situation,” Tanner said. “It won’t be any different now.”