Kevin Fisher in 2018

Kevin Fisher

“The word South Carolina coach Will Muschamp muttered as he sidestepped questions Saturday about the refereeing in his team’s 38-27 loss to No. 9 Florida: ‘gutless.’” — The State, Oct. 19

This was the low point for Muschamp that day, as issuing a schoolyard taunt to an SEC game official is more nacho than macho. And by that I mean cheesy, which is a good word to describe the USC coach’s post-game comments about the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received.

That’s not to say Muschamp didn’t have grounds to question the officiating late in the game (back to that in a moment), but it is to say that Coach Boom could have used a little less of the approach his nickname implies.

Calling the ref “gutless”? Really?  

And for what? Well, in Muschamp’s own words from The State’s story: “The guy ran 40 yards away and dropped the flag. I have no idea. I’d rather him drop it on my feet … Drop it on my feet next time.”

While I don’t have an SEC football rulebook handy, I doubt it says the ref should drop the flag on the coach’s feet in that situation.

Indeed, if the official did move downfield from Muschamp (be it five yards or 40), he may have been attempting to both make the call and do it without showboating, defusing rather than further igniting things.  

In sum, I think Muschamp’s comments on the unsportsmanlike penalty call were an embarrassment to himself and USC, not the ref and the SEC. Now to the on-field calls. Or no-calls, as it were.  

Like all Gamecock fans, I hated them. And think they were unfair. And wrong.

But blown calls are part of football, and not just for USC. Other teams suffered blown calls on Saturday, and will next Saturday, and the Saturday after that, and the Saturday after that …  

Nor is it a problem unique to the SEC, or even college football. Indeed, the worst blown call in the most important game situation ever was the grotesquely missed pass interference call that kept the New Orleans Saints out of the Super Bowl last year.  

The question is not whether there will be blown calls, but rather how a coach and his or her team responds to them.

In a winning culture (be it sports, business or anything else), the team moves on from a bad call. In a losing culture, the team wallows in it.

And how the coach (or company leader, etc.) reacts to bad calls against the team sets the tone for which of those responses will emerge.

While I was not impressed with Coach Muschamp in that regard, I was very impressed with one of his players.

Cornerback Israel Mukuamu, the hero of the Georgia game, said he was held on a Florida scoring play. From The State:   

“I was getting held down the field the whole time,” Mukuamu said. “The refs didn’t see it, I guess.”

But he also said something else. Again, from The State:

“He went on to say he and his teammates had to be able to tune out the calls. ‘They didn’t help us, either,’ he said of the refs. ‘We can’t let the game get into their hands.’”   

Exactly.

And of course the opportunities were there for USC to win the game, missed calls notwithstanding.  

But a field goal that should have been a touchdown, a fumble that cost a shot at another score and the failure to use Dakereon Joyner at quarterback when Ryan Hilinski was not producing (which is an observation about this game, not a suggestion on who should start), is what sealed the Gamecocks fate.

And with all due respect Coach Muschamp, I’m dropping that right on your feet.  

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics. Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

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