Originally created 11/18/99

Former Gamecock coach faces tough homecoming



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Brad Scott used to look out his office window three levels above the field at Williams-Brice Stadium and tell South Carolina recruits to imagine it filled with 80,000 Gamecock fans screaming their names.

This week, however, it will be 80,000 fans screaming Scott's name when cross-state rival Clemson comes visiting -- and most won't be friendly.

Now he's Clemson's tight ends coach, and the fans who loved him in 1995 for winning the only bowl game in Gamecocks history blame him for wrecking their team and siding with the enemy.

"I can't even imagine what that would be like," said former Clemson coach Tommy West, once Scott's chief rival. "It's hard for him to take all that blame."

South Carolina's 20-game losing streak is the longest in the country. Its offense averages less than a touchdown a game. And the talk is about whether new coach Lou Holtz might throw his hands up and leave, though Holtz says he won't.

Radio shows and Internet chat rooms are filled with grumbling Gamecocks.

On one chat room was this, from a person identified only as Lannie, a salesman from Columbia: "For our money and five-year investment in Brad, Carolina fans got a complete and total dismantling of our football program; the equivalent of the NCAA death penalty."

Scott hasn't talked much about his South Carolina days, besides thanking those who supported him.

But friends and some reporters who cover South Carolina said he had talked with them about what to do this week. Most said nothing good could come from interviews. So Scott said he would not speak publicly about the game until it was over.

The fans' anger is natural, said South Carolina professor Matt Bernthal, who has studied fan psychology. "It's almost cathartic in a way for them to have something that is easy to place the blame on without too much thought," he said.

West once stood in Scott's shoes.

After being let go as a Clemson assistant in 1989, West became the Gamecocks defensive coordinator in 1991. He figured the disappointment and frustration over his Clemson dismissal would keep his emotions in check when he returned to Death Valley wearing garnet and black in 1992.

"I can remember it like it was yesterday," West said. He said he tossed all night at the hotel, wrought with memories, and when he walked back into the stadium filled with a sea of Clemson orange, he felt overcome by the moment and struggled to stay focused.

The fans were cordial and appreciative of the job he had done, West said, and the Gamecocks won, so "any feelings I had about being on the old staff, I was able to let it go and bury the hatchet."

New Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says Scott has been instrumental in recruiting. His tight ends have caught two touchdown passes this year, something no Clemson tight end had done since 1989.

Scott also spends more time with his family. His son Jeff is a redshirt freshman receiver for the Tigers.

Bowden said he and Scott have not talked about the return to Williams-Brice.

"The only advice I gave players was not to stand next to coach Scott on Saturday," Bowden said. "I told Brad he could use both my policemen for protection."

Scott arrived at South Carolina six years ago with a freshly forged national championship ring as an assistant at Florida State. He won South Carolina's only bowl game his first season and nearly got to the postseason in 1996 as the Gamecocks beat Georgia and Clemson to finish 6-5.

But his last two years were a drudgery of assistants' squabbles and poor play. Last year's 1-10 mark was the worst in team history until this season.

Scott got a buyout package of more than $725,000, then joined Clemson and Bowden, his friend. It was the same night Gamecock fans waited out Holtz's agonizingly long final decision to come to South Carolina.

Tight end Trey Pennington, recruited by Scott, said there was no way he could shift sides as easily as his former coach. But safety Arturo Freeman, also recruited by Scott and molded into an all-Southeastern Conference player, does not hold animosity.

"Hey, the guy's got to put food on the table and feed his family. I don't feel like he let us down," Freeman said.

And tight end Trevon Matthews plans to hug Scott when Saturday's battle ends.

"He was there for my first game and I'm glad he'll be there for my last," Matthews said. "He taught me a lot and is important about who I am today."