SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Spurrier's rant can't mask problems
Hard to say if it was the most bizarre day in University of South Carolina football history. I've only been around the program for a quarter-century.
Taking stock of the two primary developments Tuesday:
--The Gamecocks lost a quarterback.
--Head coach Steve Spurrier might be losing his marbles.
It's hilarious when a head coach gets ticked off enough to become must-see YouTube, unless he represents your favorite team or the largest institution of higher learning in your home state.
Or unless he is acting.
It's constructive to roughly dissect the timeline of South Carolina's odd start to Mississippi State week.
A little after noon, Spurrier entered his weekly news conference at Williams-Brice Stadium and, without taking a seat, said he no longer will take questions in the presence of Ron Morris, a
columnist for The State newspaper whom Spurrier accused of inaccurate reporting in a story that included a reference to basketball point guard Bruce Ellington joining the football team.
That piece, a story about the basketball team in which Morris said Spurrier "poached" Ellington for football use, ran last spring.
And less than two hours after the Spurrier rant, South Carolina officially announced fifth-year quarterback Stephen Garcia's dismissal, complete with quotes from Spurrier and athletic director Eric Hyman.
No more than cellophane used to cover up sour grapes.
Spurrier is a master play-caller, but the ol' fake-the-media while we dump the quarterback and negotiate with NCAA investigators play will not work.
Morris, contacted late Tuesday, declined to comment "other than to say I stand by my story."
Does anyone think Spurrier is really upset about an Ellington theory halfway into potentially the Gamecocks' best football season?
He is 66. He has endured all kinds of criticism over 27 years as a head coach.
But he has never been in trouble with the NCAA before this year and, coincidentally, this nitpicky stuff with the Columbia columnist started as the NCAA investigation began heating up.
Spurrier has never had a quarterback as controversial as the 34-game starter just ejected.
Spurrier, a wise and very media savvy man, clearly wants reporters to report on this rip-roaring Ellington controversy that has the entire Palmetto State in a tizzy. I mean, you're either on one side or the other with no middle ground -- and please let me know what the sides are so I can sign up.
Spurrier absolutely does not want us to ask NCAA questions or dig into the failed Garcia experiment. Kudos to the Head Ball Coach if he is doing a Tommy Lasorda/Bobby Cox type thing and trying to draw attention to himself to save a player from scrutiny. It's possible that the mock Ellington concern was Spurrier's parting gift to No. 5.
But how sad.
Who's the boss?
Ellington, the former Berkeley High School standout, was thrown into something that could have been settled behind closed doors. Now he and his family must answer a lot more questions.
Football wasn't supposed to end this way for Garcia, a good kid from a great family. He was a 20-game winner as a starting quarterback, 2-0 against Clemson and got the best of No. 1 Alabama.
Ken Hatfield, Sparky Woods, Tommy West, Brad Scott and Tommy Bowden all took a lot of heat as head coaches in this state without pointing fingers -- at least not before they lost their jobs. None of those guys have Spurrier's resume, which includes South Carolina's current No. 15 ranking and a remarkably shiny 15-4 record in the Gamecocks' last 19 regular season games.
Ah, the paradox. Garcia got the boot for failing to successfully navigate within a tightly organized disciplinary structure designed to help him stick it out one more season. But Garcia apparently is not part of the program's bigger trouble with the NCAA, and there was no chain of command clearance for Spurrier's news conference rant. He said he opted for the public attack all on his own.
Well, at least something makes sense.
Surely, Spurrier's boss, if he has one, would have advised against such ridiculousness.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com or 937-5593.