Clemson is ranked 15th by The Associated Press going into Saturday afternoon’s game against Georgia Tech at Death Valley. South Carolina is ranked sixth going into perhaps the biggest game ever played at Williams-Brice Stadium — Saturday night’s showdown against No. 5 Georgia.
But off the field, both Clemson and USC’s head coaches have recently committed public-relations turnovers.
On Sept. 3, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was pulled for driving 63 in a 35 mph zone in Pickens while rushing to his live radio show (too bad his struggling secondary isn’t that fast).
According to arresting officer Michael McClatchy, Mr. Swinney wasn’t fully cooperative. The officer also reported that the coach’s brother gave him a hard time. Two weeks later, Mr. McClatchy was fired.
Pickens Assistant Police Chief Travis Riggs said Mr. McClatchy was discharged not because he pulled Mr. Swinney, but because he “posted, while on duty, while using one of our computers, comments about the citation that was issued to Mr. Swinney” on a USC fan website. Mr. McClatchy, a Gamecocks loyalist, said last week that he is considering a lawsuit against the city for wrongful termination. Though Coach Swinney has a Thursday court date on the citation, he has already paid the fine.
And Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks have won 16 of their last 18 games, has renewed his feud with sports columnist Ron Morris of The State newspaper.
In an embarrassing tirade on his radio show last Thursday night, the USC coach clearly identified, without naming, Mr. Morris.
The columnist had found fault with the coach’s decision to keep quarterback Connor Shaw in the lineup despite an injured shoulder — a strategy fully exonerated by the junior’s amazing 35-of-39 passing accuracy over the last two games.
From Coach Spurrier’s extended radio rant: “I think some positive changes are going to happen. They have a little problem over there [at The State] that we know about, but they’re working on it. Our president [Harris Pastides] and our athletic director [Ray Tanner], they’re all backing me in this.”
Really? Roughly a year ago, then-USC AD Eric Hyman reportedly told Coach Spurrier that he should not have refused to speak to sportswriters at his weekly news conference while Mr. Morris was present.
Back to the last week’s outburst from the remarkably thin-skinned “Old Ball Coach”: “I believe our city is going to be better off because we’re all going to get along better. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve had some serious discussions about things. Basically, I said I’m not taking any more of this stuff that’s coming out of our local paper anymore. If that’s part of the job, I’ll head to the beach.”
What’s not properly part of a college coach’s job, of course, is trying to intimidate sportswriters who dare to criticize him.
That’s an especially galling gambit for a coach making huge money at a public institution of higher learning — as does Mr. Spurrier ($2.88 million this year).
Mr. Swinney, maybe because he has lost three straight to Mr. Spurrier, must get by on a paltry $1.9 million.
So while the Gamecocks and Tigers pursue even greater gridiron glory, their coaches should keep in mind that their job duties go beyond winning as many games as possible.