PHOENIX, Ariz. — Columbia, South Carolina, has a parade coming soon and the planning has already begun to honor the accomplishments of the South Carolina basketball programs.
Columbia mayor Stephen Benjamin said he was on the phone with university president Dr. Harris Pastides and athletic director Ray Tanner on Sunday morning about a soon-to-come parade to celebrate the Gamecocks’ women’s basketball team winning the national title in a 67-55 win against Mississippi State.
“We want to honor the women as champions, but we want to honor the men, too, who fought so hard and took us to brand-new heights,” Benjamin said. “We are going to do something this week and I’m going to let them decide when. I’m going to let them decide days.”
Standing on the side of a room packed with celebrating Gamecocks, Benjamin beamed in the moment as the South Carolina basketball programs have spent the past couple weeks getting national attention as the women made a run to the national title and the men made their first Final Four.
“Throughout the last several weeks, Columbia has become the basketball capital of the United States,” Benjamin said. “It was a hard-fought game for the men’s basketball team and a phenomenal job by the women’s team that we watched build and build and build over the years. It just means that we are going to continue to prosper in the national spotlight. We are going to continue to recruit fantastic players and, hopefully and prayerfully, we are able to keep Dawn Staley and Frank Martin right where they are and continue to build on what is becoming a brand-new basketball tradition.
“Columbia, South Carolina, the biggest cathedral is always Williams-Brice Stadium. But in football country to see basketball prosper, this is wonderful.”
Benjamin, an alumnus of South Carolina, also heaped praise on Martin and Staley for the people they are to Columbia.
And now sometime this week, Columbia will have the chance to show Martin, Staley and the Gamecocks how much they appreciate this national title as the city will have a national championship parade for the first time since the baseball team won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.
“It is going to be big and we are going to do it right,” Benjamin said.