A report surfaced in the past few days that Steve Spurrier, veteran head football coach of the University of South Carolina, had one of the beat reporters for the largest newspaper in the state reassigned. The reporter, Ron Morris, who has tangled with the coach in the past few years, now covers Clemson University football for The State, his newspaper (The State recently refuted the notion that any topic is off limits for Morris).
Spurrier also denied using his influence with the publisher, a friend, to facilitate Morris's switch, but did say that he has told everyone who would listen ("the world," he said) about how unhappy he was with Morris' work. He also said that he did offer a recommendation for Glenn Snyder, a longtime Gamecocks fan, who has become Morris' successor.
"I love the University of South Carolina," Snyder, the new man, told the Romenesko Report, the website that broke the story. "I love Steve Spurrier..."
Mr. Snyder would seem to have the proper credentials to keep his job covering this demanding coach for a spineless publisher, but just in case he forgets, I would like to offer a sample column that he can carry with him at all times. He can feel free to use any of the following for guidance at any moment...
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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The clothes are still just right when Steve Spurrier wears them. The khakis are straight from a Ralph Lauren ad. The garnet and black golf shirt still fits perfectly over a still-trim body. The University of South Carolina sun visor still is the perfect added touch.
The 68-year-old coach still is a damned good-looking genius. You have to say that.
"How can this be?" you want to shout. "Einstein had all that frizzy hair. Thomas Edison could have been somebody's uncle from Menlo Park. Van Gogh, hah, we know about him. Beethoven. Mozart. Then we have Steve, inventor of the Fun 'n' Gun. He still looks like Robert Redford."
You can't believe it. Nobody can.
He walks the sideline at Williams-Brice Stadium with the confidence of Eisenhower sending the boys into battle at Normandy, Hannibal crossing the Alps, Francis Ford Coppola telling Brando where to stand on the set of The Godfather. When he says "Go for it" on a fourth-and-one for the Gamecocks offense, there is no hesitation on the field. The Gamecocks go for it!
His game plans seem to have been dreamed up at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, clever probes of the opposition's offense and defense that never have been considered elsewhere. The execution is routinely crisp and efficient. If there happens to be a mistake here, another there, Coach Spurrier counsels the perpetrator with great understanding. These are young men learning not only this game of football, but the game of life. Coach Spurrier is the teacher, the mentor in both respects.
He is known sometimes in the public prints as "The Ol' Ball Coach." It is a fine nickname, clever and true, encompassing his long career from Heisman Trophy winning quarterback to NFL player and coach and collegiate genius, but he really is the Old Philosopher. He not only can handle any situation, he can teach his scholar-athletes to handle it, too.
"Every day he gives classes more than holds practices," you say. "He has a touch of Socrates, a touch of John Housman, a touch of 'Welcome Back, Kotter.' I know he specializes on the passing game, offensive pyrotechnics, football, but he could teach anything from quantum physics to ballroom dancing."
His players once again are a collection of Fulbright Scholars, piano prodigies, future gastroenterologists and potential junk bond traders. They have an affinity for the Classics, an interest in all things scientific, a desire to help Mankind. A good percentage of them are Eagle Scouts and former altar boys. They all can carry a tune as well as the old pigskin.
At any time during the long academic day on the South Carolina campus you can find as many football players heading to the library as the gym or the student union. There might be tales about other schools and other situations -- even in the Southeastern Conference!!! -- that involve scholastic irregularities or even financial payoffs for athletes, but there would never be any of that here. This is no Oklahoma State. This is the University of South Carolina.
Our boosters are just fans who want to help with incidentals. Our fans are fabulous. Our team is wonderful. Our defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, could win the Heisman Trophy, just like Coach Spurrier did! Our running back, Mike Davis, is as good as any running back in the country! Our quarterback, Connor Shaw, is another coach on the field. Just like Coach Spurrier.
OK, there might have been a hiccup last week in Athens, Georgia -- that 41-30 loss to the Bulldogs to drop us to 1-1 -- but that was just part of the learning. Coach Spurrier has sat down with the lads and talked about that game. The mistakes will not happen again. Wait for this weekend against Vanderbilt. You'll see.
Coach Spurrier will be looking his Robert Redford best. The team will be looking its best. Those visiting Commodores will be stunned, surprised, sent home reeling. This is Gamecock Country, Gamecock Nation. This is the bestest college football place that ever could be. Check it out. Our school. Our football team.
Seldom is heard a discouraging word. And the skies are not cloudy all day.
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I think this should work fine. Then again a demanding coach and a spineless publisher are a tough combination. Good luck, Mr. Snyder.