Jan. 23, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
"Don't leave too early after the game because I want to come over and hug you guys when it's over," Frank Martin said while mingling with students at the Russell House on campus earlier this week.
The South Carolina head men's basketball coach regularly finds ways to engage with the student body in their "arena." That interaction is paying off for his program as students are not only lining up to get his autograph during his campus visits, but they are filling up the seats in the Colonial Life Arena to support the Gamecocks. Students are normally allotted 2,500 tickets for men's basketball games, but requests for tickets are routinely more than 3,000 as students are buying-in to show their support.
"I think over the last two years our guys have earned the trust of their peers - the students - by the way they play, by the way they engage in the community, and by being engaged academically," Martin said. "I think students see the efforts of our guys and they come out to support them. They've been great. The way they've been showing up this year has been off the charts. When I walked out for the Alabama game, and I saw the student section packed the way it was, it really got my juices flowing."
Martin is not only visible around the state talking to fans at every opportunity, but he goes out of his way to connect with current South Carolina students. This grassroots effort has included visits to fraternity and sorority houses, speaking to student groups multiple times per year, and serving as a judge for student-events on campus such as "Carolina has talent."
When I walked out for the Alabama game, and I saw the student section packed the way it was, it really got my juices flowing.
Martin also makes regular visits to the Russell House or outside on Greene Street, sometimes with some of his student-athletes in tow, to speak one-on-one with students and sign autographs.
"It feels really great to see him out here," said freshman Austin Roller at a recent appearance by Martin. "I've always wanted to meet him, and I think he's doing a great job with the program. I love seeing a coach out here, signing autographs and talking to us."
"To have a successful program, you need students," Martin said. "Part of the uniqueness in being a student at a major university like ours is the experience of going to these games and then looking back and realizing how much fun it was to be a part of it. I have a lot of respect for students. What we do every day is to represent that. Students are unique and the university revolves around them. That's what it is all about."
Martin has provided food and t-shirts for students at games and also served food to students camping out on the Horseshoe on campus prior to a live ESPN Game Day broadcast. He has routinely told the marketing department that he'll do anything for the students and all they need to do is ask. For their part, the students like what they're seeing.
"I'm a fan," said freshman Alicia Cianciolo. "It's exciting to see him out here. It gets us pumped up about the next game."
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