It was July 2005 and Steve Spurrier had been the head football coach at the University of South Carolina less than eight months. That’s when word got out that he had sent letters to six players telling them they would lose their scholarships. Those affected included two South Carolina high school products and both were recruited by the staff of former coach Lou Holtz.
In response to Spurrier’s action, the South Carolina High School Coaches Association is called Spurrier unethical.
The SCHCA said Spurrier's actions showed a “lack of commitment to recruited players.”
The SCHCA even requested that the state HS championship games be moved away from Williams-Brice to a location off the SC campus.
But the SCHCA’s group turned out to be big talkers, who balked when called on their bluff. Spurrier alluded to his suspicion that the loud-mouth coaches were put up to their squawking. His indications were that the whiners were minions of an opportunist Clemson program, that had a head coach in Tommy Bowden who would again take a backseat to a man, in Spurrrier, who had achieved much more than Bowden ever will. And that has proven out.
For Spurrier’s part he did not back down, he answered:
“There were some players the former staff had signed that we did not think would ever contribute much. And we had some walk-on players who actually were contributing more. So some of the high schoolers they got mad about it. I don't know what to say, but to me in life, you put people on scholarship who deserve it the most.”
And later in the month this report surfaced:
Spurrier awarded scholarships to two USC walk-ons: senior WR Michael Flint and junior long snapper Ike Crofoot.
Imagine that, giving scholarships to kids who earn them, not to those who are deemed entitled.
With that episode, three years ago, Spurrier sent a message to the establishment that had controlled South Carolina football. He told the powers-that-once-were that he is the one and only football coach at SC.
Not missing the chance to hoist his own opportunities, Bowden, who had been dominated in in-state recruiting by Lou Holtz, wasted no time.
With Holtz’s departure, Bowden was coming off a 6-5 season in which one of his players had punched a pinned S.C. player in the face and ignited a free-for-all that ended up costing Bowden some minor bowl. Considering Bowden’s record of flourishing only in small-time post-season venues, missing the bowl game was hard on Bowden and the story he was peddling to the Clemson faithful. Bowden needed some new hope to sell his ever-grumbling, orange-clad following on. Then he remembered.
On Feb. 19, 2001 the headline screamed:
`We got him baby! - acquisition of player Roscoe Crosby by Clemson University's football team
It took seven years, but Bowden was right. The rank-and-foul IPTAY members had forgotten all about the euphoria they had bought into before. Long forgotten were the promises that Bowden made on the backs of Crosby, Currie, Hall and Zimmerman.
Fast-forward. It’s 2008, and there still have been no championships at Clemson. But The State newspaper is making more promises, but this time it’s about Harper, Allen, Brown and Page. The Associated Press tells us: “The potential star power in Clemson's new class will only increase the pressure for championships on Bowden…..”
But Bowden has been there and he knows to pull out numbers when faced with unpleasant facts. He‘s always one point away or as he said on Wednesday: “The expectations were high when I got here. I've been on the hot seat three times" in nine seasons, Bowden said.
Yep, they’re all smiling and the cupboard is full of can’t-miss-blue-chip big-timers again. It’s got to be so, because the media tells them it is.
While Spurrier sat with a wry smile and said: “I don’t know if they grew up wanting to go to Clemson or what…..We missed on a couple of the guys after the season was over. (But) I think Clemson was going to get most of the guys they got regardless.”
And of course there are a couple good ones in Bowden‘s class, but you’ve got to wonder who he has in there just to make the SCHCA happy.
And remember what Spurrier said about his class: “But we’re really proud of the guys that came and we’re proud of the guys we’ve got.”
They call coach a straight shooter. With that and 2001 in mind, I’m guessing the Tigers will be ready to trade that “can’t-miss” gang at Clemson for the guys who can keep their scholarships for Spurrier.