by Chris Haire
Steve Spurrier is many things.
A Heisman Trophy winner.
A National Championship winning coach.
A sun visor aficionado.
The de facto head of the University of South Carolina.
And a chicken shit.
See, maybe you know this and maybe you don't, but Steve Spurrier has been trying his damnedest to get State newspaper sports columnist Ron Morris fired.
Why? Morris had the gall to criticize Spurrier's decision to play an injured Connor Shaw during the University of Alabama Birmingham game.
Now, just in case anyone is confused, this was UAB not the Crimson Frikkin' Tide. UAB posed little to no threat to the Gamecocks' hopes of an undefeated season and a national championship.
Meanwhile, Morris, in typical sportswriter hyperbole, procclaimed that the decision was perhaps one of Spurrier's "most ill-advised decisions of his illustrious coaching career." While that may or may not be true — it's hard to argue that it is — there's no arguing that the decision was just plain dumb. But that's the kind of shit you expect out of the University of South Carolina.
Surprisingly, Spurrier responded to Morris' column by refusing to talk to the press for two days. And not just Morris — all of the press. We can only imagine that the Old Ball Coach had to undergo intensive psychiatric counseling over that two-day period to get over the emotional and psychological damage Morris' words had caused.
And things only soured after that, with Morris comparing the reactions of Spurrier and USC to those taken by Joe Paterno and Penn State after they found out Jerry Sandusky had been caught raping a young boy in the shower. In response to that comment, the Head Ball Coach threatened to quit if The State didn't fire Morris and insinuated that the powers that be at USC were working hand in hand with the daily to do just that.
Somewhere in all of this a Columbia TV station dismissed Morris from his weekly gig with them, and the columnist responded to the whole brouhaha with an unnecessary apology.
Yes, this whole thing is silly. In fact, you might even say it's as silly as the way the average Gamecock fan puffs out their chests these days and talks as if their team is a perennial powerhouse and not the 81st best team of all time.
So what should be done here? What's the frikkin solution? As a reporter — and more importantly, as a Clemson fan — the answer is crystal clear. It's not Ron Morris who should be given his walking papers. It's Steve Spurrier.
But that's my take on it.
My Columbia colleague Dan Cook of the Free Times has a far more sensible take on the whole matter. Here's a little of what Dan had to say about the Old Ball Coach:
The real story here is not in the blow-by-blow disagreements between a sports columnist and a football coach, but rather in the unhealthy impulse among some fans and local officials to kill the messenger rather than listen to the message — or for that matter, to simply ignore it.
We live in a state where our governor routinely plays petty games with reporters, calling one — Renee Dudley, a Journalist of the Year who just left the Charleston Post & Courier to take a job with Bloomberg — a “little girl,” and refusing to take questions from another, Gina Smith of The State.
We live in a state with weak ethics laws and weak adherence to those that we do have.
We live in a state where officials and institutions routinely ignore, deny or drag their feet on Freedom of Information requests.
In short, we live in a state that needs more vigorous questioning from reporters and columnists, not less.
Well said, Dan. Well said.
On and for the record, Gamecock fans, the Steve Spurrier era is a kidney stone. It will pass and it will be painful and you will end up watching all of your hopes and dreams be flushed away. Go Tigers.