At the risk of being branded as a “negative guy” and out to “hurt the football program” at South Carolina, the head ball coach has lost pieces of both his mind and his credibility.
Maybe it’s the severe jet lag talking as I try to wrap my head around the bizarre confluence of events Tuesday in Gamecock Nation when Steve Spurrier chose the hour before the summary dismissal of recidivist QB headache Stephen Garcia to suddenly clear his chest over an unrelated column that was written seven months ago, but the coincidental juxtaposition of those two unseemly events strikes me as a little suspicious.
As I’m sure everybody has seen repeatedly since I was out-of-pocket flying halfway across the globe Tuesday/Wednesday, Spurrier rode his high horse into his weekly news conference. He paced the room in front of reporters as he engaged in a rant besmirching The State newspaper columnist Ron Morris for what he called a “fabrication” that he’d written in March about Gamecocks basketball player Bruce Ellington opting to play football in 2011 for South Carolina as well.
Spurrier never called out Morris by name, but he pointed at him across the room several times and declared him to be persona non grata No. 2 in his 26-year coaching career (joining the esteemed Larry Guest, formerly of the Orlando Sentinel). The head ball coach stated that he would no longer give interviews with Morris in the same room and invited the TV cameras for one-on-ones in an adjacent space while presumably the other print guys put together a posse to hang Morris so that the ol’ HBC would come grace them with his thin-skinned wit and wisdom again.
I’m sure it’s only coincidence that this belated boycott of Morris came just a week after a post-Auburn column he wrote under the headline, “In the end, Spurrier coached poorly.” Spurrier couldn’t complain about that one because anybody who read it and watched the moronic final drive against Auburn knew that every word of it was true.
But the conspiracy theorist in me believes that this silly hissy fit had less to do about the columnist and more to do with the exiled quarterback. It smells like a clumsy attempt at misdirection that worked about as well as those misused time-outs against the Tigers.
Less than two hours after his petulant little tantrum, the head ball coach got to issue a statement regarding the inevitable final chapter in a Garcia saga that has been an ongoing public relations disaster.
“We all feel like we’ve given Stephen numerous opportunities to be a student-athlete here at South Carolina. Obviously, he has chosen not to follow the guidelines of his reinstatement contract,” Spurrier said in a statement. “We wish him the best.”
Part of that reinstatement contract must have involved not throwing interceptions. It’s awfully curious that Garcia finally got kicked off the team just days after being benched for being ineffective. Funny how the other five times he ran afoul of the school rules he never missed a game, but then again he was the most effective quarterback the Gamecocks had back then. I’m sure that’s just another coincidence, right?
Given a sixth chance, Garcia had been a grave disappointment halfway through what is presumed to be the most promising season in Gamecocks history. His failure was a reflection on the coaches who kept giving him chances and couldn’t understand how he didn’t respond to the confidence tear-down methods that worked so well for Spurrier with other QBs during his successes at Florida.
Spurrier had pretty much ruined any chance of Garcia ever being the leader the Gamecocks needed this year with his constant criticism. Now he’s stuck with Connor Shaw to try to salvage the championship run. Maybe Shaw will react better to being belittled for his perceived failures.
Garcia claimed to be “shocked and completely flabbergasted” by his sudden dismissal for reportedly failing a substance test that was a condition of his latest get-out-of-doghouse-free card. Excuse me if I don’t share his surprise.
But it seems odd that now is finally the moment that the Gamecocks chose to give up on him once and for all. And it seems even odder that Spurrier tried to preemptively change the subject before having to answer any hard questions about his quarterback.
Perhaps one of those questions should be why the head ball coach chose to stick with the troubled Garcia instead of pursuing N.C. State transfer Russell Wilson, who has emerged as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner as a one-year mercenary at Wisconsin instead of South Carolina where he could have been much closer to his family in Virginia.
If the Gamecocks fail to defend their title as East Division champs in the Southeastern Conference, I’m sure many fans will blame Garcia. He makes a convenient target. Heck, some fans might even follow Spurrier’s logic and blame Morris. Rationality is not a prerequisite for blind allegiance.
But if Shaw can’t be coached up to deliver the wins the Gamecocks need in the second half, blame should be placed where it belongs. When the head ball coach acts erratically, should it be any surprise if his team follows his cue?