It’s a safe bet that for most colleges in the South, spring sports programs, including, baseball, softball and lacrosse, are relatively popular options to take up. And many northern schools, attempting to flee to cold grip of late February and early March, tend to migrate south to compete and train.
So it comes as rather a surprise to basically everybody above the Mason-Dixon Line that Clemson, a stalwart of the Atlantic Coast Conference, was sadly lacking a softball team. After all, the ACC’s 13 other schools have it, and have at least one school (Florida State this season) dominating the national rankings.
Also, Clemson’s chief interstate rival, South Carolina, has long been on board with softball, and the Gamecocks make regular appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including four straight nods and currently well-positioned for a fifth.
With the sport’s popularity and success both in-state and in-conference, it was inevitable that Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich would at least take a look at putting a softball program together. In fact, the question of softball has been a rather frequent question tossed Radakovich’s way ever since he arrived at Clemson in 2012.
The answer has finally arrived, as Radakovich announced that the Tigers would field a softball team.
Unfortunately, the news of the addition of softball is not good for everybody. Clemson’s women’s diving team, the lone program left after the institution discontinued swimming and men’s diving after 2011-12, will be gone after this season. That will leave 14-member squad, including three NCAA Zone B Championship finalists, without a place to dive next season.
Considering the Tigers’ success in the pool in the years since it became a standalone program, having it blinked out of existence appears to be a rather odd. That said, it looked as if it was only a matter of time before Clemson would claim the last of its pool sports.
And as bad as it seems to replace one program with another, softball’s popularity in South Carolina was too great to ignore, in Radakovich’s summation. There is also the overriding thought that the combination of a robust recruiting based around Clemson, membership in the ACC and a strong rival such as South Carolina were justification that the time has come for the Tigers to make the move.
It also probably helps that 2020, when softball is projected to begin, coincides with the linear launch of the ACC Network, which will give all spring sports a significant media footprint to work with.
The announcement, as grueling as the decision was to add softball and drop women’s diving, was surprisingly the easy part. The real work begins in the next three years, when Clemson will need to hire a coaching staff and build a softball field that will meet the standards of a pressing conference and non-conference slate.
While the timeline to get everything done will be, to say the least, intense, the advantages that the Tigers will have even before the first pitch is thrown will give them a major boost, which, given the fierce competitiveness of the ACC, they will sorely need.
Then again, a lot of us thought Clemson already had a softball team, so it would come as no surprise that it has the potential to come out of the gates as a force to be reckoned with within the conference.
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Photo: Clemson University