People nationally will see this differently than those locally. People nationally do not understand the contempt and agenda Morris has had against Carolina over the years. Like it or not, media has power. And when power goes to the media's head (for those of you who think power is gone to Spurrier's head), then it becomes irresponsible and wrong. Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from responsibility. And when a local writer with an irresponsible agenda influences the national perspective of someone locally, that's when it's fine to step in by the one getting unfairly attacked. That is all that is happening here. Spurrier is fine with criticism of his coaching. Questioning his honesty and integrity with no facts, just opinion, crosses the line. And is irresponsible. Which defines Morris.
After Saturday’s big win over Missouri, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier gave a statement at his postgame presser… and then he left the room without taking questions. Sunday, on his teleconference, the coach gave a statement… and then he hung up the phone before taking questions.
On Monday, we suggested that the Ol’ Ball Coach was a) feeling powerful enough to do whatever he liked because he’s winning and b) probably mad at something written by Ron Morris, a columnist for The State newspaper in Columbia who Spurrier strongly dislikes.
Yesterday, Spurrier was talking to the media again. He spoke long enough to plainly state what many already know — that unbeaten Carolina should defeat Kentucky this weekend in Lexington:
“I think we are better than them. But if we don’t play better than them, they can certainly beat us. Personnel-wise, they might be a little below some of the SEC teams, but they are a well-coached bunch. We know that upsets happen, and we know why they happen, usually when a team is not ready to play. Simple as that…
We know the meat of the schedule is down the road, but this is a game this week that’s one of 12, and we’re going to try to play our best.”
That’s kind of a far cry from Nick Saban’s “Why won’t you people take Western Kentucky seriously?” rant, no? Last year, Spurrier suggested that his Gamecocks could have hung 70 points or more on UK. Obviously, Carolina’s coach doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for Kentucky, a team that upset his Cocks on their last visit to Commonwealth Stadium.
But the key here is that Spurrier’s talking to the press again. Now the question is: Why did he go silent on everybody in the first place.
The aforementioned Morris seems to know that he’s the reason.
Today, Morris explains in column form that he was simply doing his job when he dared to suggest last week that Spurrier shouldn’t have played an already banged-up Connor Shaw in a victory of UAB. (And to be fair, most of the folks I spoke with also wondered why Spurrier would risk playing Shaw.). Here’s a piece of Morris column from today:
“Football coaches are hired to win football games. Sports columnists are expected to praise and critique those coaches, their teams and their programs.
It is natural for coaches — in any college town — to ask about columnists: ‘Who the heck are you to judge me?’
The answer is today, as it always has been: ‘I’m just a sports columnist doing my job.’”
All of that’s true. Many fans don’t care, of course, because many fans want only “positive” stories about their team or coach. Right up until said team and coach start losing. At that point, they tend to get angry with the media for “overhyping” a team. Trust me, I’ve experienced it firsthand.
“Negative” columns are also the ones that tend to be most remembered, as Morris also states in his column:
“The same week that I wrote about Shaw starting against UAB, I also wrote in celebration of Spurrier’s 200th win, the novelty and success of USC’s ‘Rabbits’ defense and how coordinator Lorenzo Ward’s defense excelled against Missouri. (Credit to Spurrier for placing Ward in charge of the defense).”
No one cared about the other columns, just the one questioning Spurrier’s use of Shaw and whether or not it would impact the rest of Carolina’s season.
If the story ended there, fans would back Spurrier and the media would back Morris (even though I’ve disagreed with several of Morris’ columns on this site in the past). Morris was doing his job. Spurrier punished everyone — including Carolina fans — by childishly zipping his lips and pouting.
But Morris took things a step further yesterday while appearing on Bill King’s radio show on XM Radio.
You can listen to the whole interview here:
Morris suggested that it’s a bad PR move by Spurrier to go silent and that USC officials should make him talk. (The last time he attempted to snub the media for something Morris wrote, the school did step in and push him back into the ring.) But Morris then made a very bad comparison:
“I think it’s a real test of the administration, because this is how things like Penn State happen. When the administration won’t step up and confront the football coach and he becomes all-powerful and when the football coach begins to dictate company policy, I think you’re asking for trouble.”
His point? That one man can’t be made bigger than the university. But that’s not how it was taken.
Instead, Morris’ remarks were met with anger by people who felt he compared child rape to a coach not chatting with the media. Clearly, that wasn’t his goal. But using Penn State as an analogy for anything these days will land you in a pot full of boiling water.
Morris used today’s column to apologize for those comments:
“The bigger issue for me was whether USC officials would recognize that Spurrier spurning the media was a public-relations problem. They did, and Spurrier resumed taking questions from the media Tuesday at his weekly news conference. I did not attend.
My comment on radio that connected USC’s public-relations issue with the Penn State scandal was only to suggest that college administrators have to be on high alert when it comes to coaches exerting too much influence over athletics department and university policy. That clearly was the case at Penn State.
In hindsight, any link to what happened at Penn State was inappropriate, and I apologize.
My critiques of Spurrier or any other sports figure, cannot be personal. It is all about doing my job as a columnist, and that is to provide an opinion, and provoke thought, about sports.”
So who’s the winner in all of this? Spurrier.
The coach got a win over Missouri on Saturday with a healthy Shaw passing the ball more accurately than ever. He then let everyone know who’s boss by refusing to take questions about the game, his team, his players, etc.
He put the spotlight on Morris and Morris proceeded to put his foot in his mouth. Those fans that weren’t behind Spurrier to begin with sure got behind him when the columnist made a comparison between USC and Penn State.
Even though it was clear that Morris wasn’t comparing child rape to snubbing sportswriters — he was talking about schools’ administrations allowing coaches to play by their own rules — Morris had to try and throw water on the fire with a public apology today.
That will be viewed as a big win for the coach. Spurrier gets the last laugh.
1. Spurrier’s as sharp and wily off the field as he is on it. Even though he’s often childish and bullying, he wins between the white lines and outside them.
2. Morris was just doing his job. There’s nothing at all wrong with questioning whether or not a player should have played. He put forth a theory. Readers could choose to agree with his theory or denounce it. (This from someone, as stated earlier, who isn’t particularly a fan of Morris’ work… though I doubt he’ll lose much sleep over that fact.) Where the writer botched things was in mentioning Penn State at all. That subject is too raw and too many people will take any mention of that situation the wrong way.
3. Carolina’s administration proved — for a second time — that Spurrier won’t be allowed to just do his own thing and cut off the press and the fanbase whenever he chooses. That is indeed bad PR. Want proof? Instead of talking about the Cocks’ impressive win over Missouri for half a week, the nation’s media has been talking about Spurrier and his decision to shhh himself. That puts Carolina officials ahead of Penn State’s when it comes to reeling in their coach.
But since Spurrier will be viewed as the big winner here — for “taking a stand” by pouting and punishing all the Columbia-area reporters for the actions of one — isn’t that symptomatic of the Joe Paterno-type hero worship that did go on at Penn State? Not the illegal activities and the cover-up, but the hero worship?
The media can be wrong. We often are because news-gathering is now a race to Tweet rather than a hunt for the truth.
But coaches can be wrong, too. In this case, Spurrier was wrong to go the crybaby route and shut out folks who were only trying to do their jobs and bring information from the coach to the fans. The fact that his handling of the situation is being praised by so many, reeks of the “Our coach can do no wrong” mentality that came back to bite PSU and its fans in their rumps.
And that statement has absolutely nothing to do with child rape, so don’t even begin to try spinning my words.
The next time Spurrier has a problem with something Morris writes — and we all know that’ll happen again at some point — he’d be wise to handle things mano y mano behind closed doors. As two adults should.
And if fans don’t like Morris or what he writes, they don’t have to buy it or read it.