COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier, the master of offense, got a little defensive Tuesday.
"Has my name been mentioned doing anything wrong? Huh? Has it?" South Carolina's head football coach said after someone asked about his "squeaky-clean" image with NCAA sleuths.
Questions about the NCAA's official investigation allegations notice received Monday at South Carolina took up much of Spurrier's regularly scheduled news conference Tuesday.
"I follow the rules as close as I possibly can," the veteran coach said. "If I ever break one, I turn myself in."
South Carolina's image is important, too.
The football program. The university. Your state.
Sure, we all want that sweet $14.59 suite rate at the Whitney Hotel. When school president Harris Pastides said Monday he is taking charges of $55,000 in improper benefits "very seriously," he picked the only proper reaction.
No doubt, South Carolina's rare and precious SEC East title secured last November is at stake here.
Plus, perception in a world where reality is a ticker at the bottom of the "SportsCenter" screen.
So the university should overreact.
Don't wait for the Dec. 14 allegations response deadline or a February meeting with the NCAA in Los Angeles, self-impose harsh penalties sooner than later.
Boise State example
Start with a Boise State baseline. The NCAA just last week penalized the upstart Idahoans by cutting nine football scholarships over three years, sliced the number of spring practices from 12 to nine for three years and mandated three fewer preseason practices in 2012.
Comparing two NCAA cases is wading into apples and tangerines. But this pair shares some similar slime (allegedly). The ruling body of college athletics nailed Boise State for impermissible housing and transportation advantages from 2005 to 2009.
So, yeah, South Carolina should go with the same number of reduced practices and raise the scholarship cuts to five per year for each of the next three -- 15 total.
Then take that improper benefits cash, double it and offer to pay a $110,000 penalty.
The NCAA might not even make Spurrier fly out to face the L.A. law.
Think of the positive publicity, the clear message to recruits, the opportunities for walk-ons.
It sure beats beating up on a compliance director taking too much heat.
Hall and Holtz
Class, dignity and other attributes were earned in Spurrier's Florida program. He took over at his alma mater in 1990, and because of NCAA violations charged to predecessor Galen Hall, had to forfeit the 1990 SEC championship.
Spurrier at South Carolina followed Lou Holtz and his NCAA violations.
Now this for a head coach who once made fun of football programs that ran afoul of the NCAA.
"I realize," Spurrier said Tuesday, "these kind of things can happen."
The Head Ball Coach said he personally has committed one NCAA violation at South Carolina.
It involved current starting left tackle Kyle Nunn and a 2007 recruiting trip Spurrier and former assistant coach David Reaves made to Sumter High School.
"I said, 'Do you play basketball?' " Spurrier recalled. "He said, 'Yeah, I've got a game tonight. I just went out for the team and I've got a game tonight.' I said, 'Well, we can't talk to you today.' So we got up and left and went back and turned myself in."
Thus, a potential crisis turned into Kyle Nunn blocking for Marcus Lattimore. Another reason why South Carolina should get serious about punishing itself this time.
Proactive offense is always better than getting defensive.