Monday, March 16, 2015

There's no denying Wofford anymore

When the Arkansas Razorbacks, led by now-Florida assistant John Pelphrey, clinched an NCAA tournament bid in 2008, no one associated with the program likely thought that a dismal six-year drought would occur. Likewise, no one expected that the very next time the Hogs would earn a berth, it would pit them against the Wofford Terriers.

Then again, Wofford was still relatively unknown in 2008; a tiny liberal arts college in Spartanburg, S.C., whose claim to fame was state-of-the art academics and an uncanny spirit of scrappiness and tenacity in collegiate athletics, even as one of the smallest institutions in the NCAA. There was some kind of unwritten rule, that when the rare occasion of a televised Terrier contest -- almost always football, in fact -- occurred, a mention of the school's size had to come with it.

If you aren't familiar with the author of this blog, you might not know that he, too, didn't know much about Wofford until around 2008. You also might not have known that he was, and remains, a resident of nowhere but the state of Arkansas. It's been mentioned before, but there is a certain aspect of Wofford that just draws people in -- athletes have noted it, coaches have thrown allusions at it, I've even said it myself.

In the same way that coach Mike Young described Wofford's exit of this season's arduous non-conference slate with only four games in the loss column -- quite "unconscionable," in fact -- it's equally preposterous to assume that a shining streak of success such as the one Terrier men's basketball has enjoyed as of late could have been predicted back in 2008.

Back then, when the calendar rolled around to March and the flurry of bracket predictions, exasperating over-analysis and choosing of a national darling to make an unexpected splash in the tournament field began to overrun the media, rarely did the prospect of Wofford glide through the minds of so-called experts or casual fans alike.

That's because, back then, Wofford was only a small liberal arts school -- the name meant little, if anything, to the public. Flashing foward seven years later, the collective view of that college has drastically changed. Sure, some pundits may continue to falter with the pronunciation, or fail to know much context about the institution or its traditions, but one certainly can't deny that Wofford is firmly implanted in the minds of many Americans.

There was a time when one would be hard-pressed to find media coverage of the Terriers outside of upstate South Carolina. There was a time when many people would stare blankly and attempt to change the subject if Wofford was brought up in a conversation, for lack of knowledge on the school.

Thankfully, those times have passed, and there's no denying that what the Terriers were able to accomplish this season is something for the ages.

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