Not so long ago, Wofford College men’s basketball Coach Mike Young had to spell out his school’s name when calling high school guidance counselors for academic information on recruits.
Wofford, as in the Spartanburg, S.C., school with a tick under 1,600 students in a town better known as the headquarters of Denny’s restaurants.
Wofford, pronounced Wa-ford, not Woe-ford.
Three NCAA tournament appearances since 2010 -- the latest secured Monday after winning the Southern Conference title -- brought something Young never expected: name recognition.
“It’s through the roof,” the coach said in a telephone interview. “In the Midwest, we can go to Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota. We’re like a household name out there.”
This wasn’t always the case in Young’s 25 years at the school, the last 12 as coach.
“No,” he said, drawing out the word. “No. Absolutely not.”
Players from Colorado to Tennessee, nine states in all, are on the roster of a team that rebounded from a 7-10 start to the season. Young said he still isn’t certain what caused the turnaround -- Wofford has lost twice since Jan. 18 -- but he’s not asking too many questions as next week’s tournament approaches.
“Without getting too hokey, to see a team like this battle and grind and struggle and then to see the lights come on and see them successful and continue to get better and endure,” he said, “that’s the ultimate to me.”
Along with having a name people recognize.