Whether you love him or hate him – with there being very few in between – South Carolina Gamecocks head football coach Steve Spurrier has added another chapter to the car wreck you can’t help but watch, his relationship with the media.
This time it’s a rematch of a previous foe, someone you could almost call his nemesis now, in South Carolina’s The State columnist Ron Morris.
Many may remember that Morris became critical last year of Spurrier, accusing him of persuading Bruce Ellington to leave the basketball program to join the football team. Spurrier defended his move in rather unorthodox fashion when he called out Morris in front of his colleagues during a press conference months after Morris wrote the initial story.
“I’m not gonna talk when [Morris] is in here. That’s my right as a head coach. I don’t have to talk to him, and I don’t have to talk to him when he’s in here. So what we’re gonna do, all you TV guys, I’m gonna do a personal interview with you in this other room.”
This was October 2011, nearly a year ago. And just when you thought it was all water under the bridge, it’s all come back around again, like a Tyson-Hollyfield II minus the ear biting.
This time it was Morris’ criticism of Spurrier’s decision to play quarterback Conner Shaw against the UAB Blazers. Morris writes, “Shaw should not have started, or maybe even played, against UAB. It was an opponent USC could easily have beaten with [Dylan] Thompson at quarterback. The risk of Shaw re-injuring his shoulder was much greater than that of USC losing to UAB.”
Morris goes on to attack Spurrier’s decision making, saying, “My guess also is that, because of Spurrier’s poor decision to play Shaw against UAB, USC will be dealing with the quarterback’s sore shoulder for most of the remainder of the season.”
Shaw’s performance against the Missouri Tigers, where he completed 20 consecutive pass attempts, was enough to dismiss the idea in fan’s minds that Shaw wasn’t healthy enough to play not only against UAB, but Mizzou as well.
Again, after a little bit of passive aggressive mentality, there was a response. Thursday evening, on South Carolina’s 107.5 The Game sports radio, Spurrier unloaded on Morris in a four minute segment.
“One of the local writers wrote another nasty article last week,” Spurrier said. “It was very negative and critical towards me. It slandered my name and my integrity. The guy is trying to tarnish and ruin my reputation as a coach. That’s okay. I don’t dislike this guy, I really don’t. Because we all know who the guy is and that’s the kind of person he is.”
Apparently the contents of the article can not be tolerated by Spurrier in the future.
“I told my wife after the last article, ‘I’ve had it. I’ve had enough,’” Spurrier said. “‘I’m not going to take it anymore. I’ve had enough.’ Almost all of the Gamecocks say, ‘Coach, don’t pay any attention to him, he’s insignificant,’ which he is. He is not an important person. But they’re not having their name and reputation slandered. So, I’m the one. It’s not my mode of operation to not say anything about it. So, this is my voice here. He gets his voice in the newspaper, which he uses.”
The highlight of the segment comes in what Spurrier says next, where he eludes to the idea that he is going to get Morris fired from his job.
“I think we need to make some changes. I think some positive changes are going to happen,” Spurrier said. “They have a little problem over there that we know about, but they’re working on it. Our president and our athletic director, they’re all backing me in this.”
It’s hard to imagine someone saying they’d have taken a job somewhere else while in their current position, but that’s exactly what Spurrier goes on to say.
“When I came here, I didn’t know we had some enemies within our own city,” Spurrier said. “If Mike McGee, when he hired me, had said, ‘Steve, we’re going to give you a chance to run the football program at South Carolina. You hire your coaches, you do your thing, but you have to put up with the local media trying to trash you and try to ruin your reputation and they’ll try to portray you as a mean, evil, self-serving person.’ I would have said, ‘You give that job to somebody else. I’ll wait for the North Carolina [Tarheels] job to open,’ which opened the next year.”
Spurrier closes with reiteration of the idea that getting rid or Morris will bring the community closer together.
“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,” Spurrier said. “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. That’s not part of the job. So, we’re going to get it straightened out.”
Audio of the interview was available briefly on 107.5 The Game’s soundcloud.com account, but was soon removed because of contract stipulations between the station and Gamecock IMG Sports.
Like the calm before a storm, there’s a feeling that something major is about to happen in South Carolina. What does this mean for the future of the media that covers Gamecocks football? Will anyone who is critical of the team or Spurrier be subject to discipline? Who will the fans ultimately side with? Whether you like Steve Spurrier or not, it’s almost impossible to not look at what happens next.