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South Carolina Paper Removes Columnist Muzzle: All Topics In Play

FeudThe embargo is lifted but will the hatchet be buried?  South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Ron Morris, a columnist for The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina have a well-documented feud.  Spurrier once refused to answer questions with Morris in the room.

This week, the blog reported that Morris had been banned from writing about Gamecocks football.  That report got picked up by media outlets around the country and now the newspaper has issued a clarification.  A memo went out to staff and Deadspin got a copy of it.  Here’s part of what it said.


“Please know this today: Ron Morris and other columnists at The State are free to pursue topics and stories as guided by their curiosity, their news judgment, their obligation to readers and our standards for quality journalism. No subject or individual is off limits for examination…

“Moving forward, all topics — including USC football — are in play. As always, this is a newspaper committed to accuracy, fairness and holding accountable the news makers and institutions that serve our community and our state.”


There you have it – “all topics — including USC football — are in play.”  Should be interesting when the columnist decides to aim his keyboard in the direction of Spurrier. And Spurrier’s reaction, as usual, is almost guaranteed to generate even more stories on the topic.

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SEC Headlines 9/30/2012

1. Early look ahead at next week in the SEC.  Georgia heads to South Carolina in a battle of Top 10 undefeated heavyweights.

2. Ron Morris on South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore – “seems to do his dirty work best in the second half of games.”

3. Victory number 5 for the Georgia Bulldogs – “Smack at the intersection of the Sun Belt Conference and a Marx Brothers movie.”

4. Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo returned from their four-game suspensions to contribute to the win over Tennessee.

5. Stewart Mandel: “(T)here was no shortage of missed tackles or blown assignments in No. 5 Georgia’s 51-44 win over Tennessee.”

6. Chris Bahn on the meltdown at Arkansas: “They’re headed for the greatest collapse of the BCS era.”

7. Good idea to not run on the field during a game.

8. For Mizzou’s Sheldon Richardson, Kentucky’s Larry Warford and Georgia’s Sanders Commings – their draft stock is rising.

9. This 4-0 start for Florida is a lot different than last year - in a good way.

10. What’s up with the LSU quarterback? “Mettenberger appears to be regressing…”

11. How Alabama’s defense plays mind games with the opponent.

12. Kentucky freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow draws comparisons to Randall Cobb.

13. Are critical fans not allowed on Joker Phillips’ radio show?

14. Is Vanderbilt coach James Franklin worried about his incoming freshmen class jumping ship? “To me, three years from now if we’re in this position (1-3 record), then I’d be worried.”

15. Alabama’s 1992 national championship team honored before Saturday night’s game against Ole Miss.

16. Missouri assistant basketball coach Rick Carter on different styles of play: “Obviously, the Big Ten is known for tough, physical, low-scoring, defensive basketball. … The SEC’s more of a fun brand of basketball — get up and down, score a lot of points.”


17. California becomes the first state in the country to mandate financial protection for student-athletes who suffer career-ending injuries.

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USC’s Spurrier Stops Answering Questions From The Media

S’up, Coach?  Why so serious?

Steve Spurrier should be a happy man.  His Gamecocks dominated Missouri to win the inaugural battle of the Columbias on Saturday.  Then his team jumped all the way to #6 in the polls on Sunday.  But for the second day in a row, the Ol’ Ball Coach refused to take questions from the media.

After the game on Saturday, Spurrier made an opening statement and then abruptly left the room (which means his comments were really just a “statement” and not an “opening” to anything).  On Sunday’s teleconference he did the same — he gave a statement and then hung up the phone before answering any questions.  “I believe that cover’s it all,” he said before disconnecting.  “I don’t need to take questions.”

The Charleston Post & Courier asked USC spokesperson Steve Fink for an explanation and received the following by way of email:


“He’s not interested in taking questions right now.  I’m sure he has his reasons.”


The first reason is that the 67-year-old Spurrier’s ego inflates whenever his team’s rankings do the same.  A legendary coach?  Absolutely.  A mature adult who’s grown past teenager-like fits of pouting or chest-pounding after each win or loss?  Absolutely not.

Now, some Carolina fans will defend their coach — did we mention he has the Gamecocks ranked #6 in both polls — and they’ll praise the fact that he’s cold-shouldering the mean ol’ media.  Those who do will fail to realize that Spurrier is dissing them, not the media.  Trust me, the folks who cover South Carolina’s football program wouldn’t be sticking a mic in Spurrier’s face if it weren’t for fans who want to know what their coach has to say after a loss or a big victory.  These guys wouldn’t tape him and then run home and listen to the coach’s words over and over again.  So when Spurrier cuts the reporters off, he’s really cutting off the USC fans.  Any man making millions of dollars a year from a public university should probably answer questions after each week whether he wants to or not and most rational folks realize that.

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Spurrier “Disassociates” Columbia SportsWriter

Why now?

That seems to be the main question following a bizarre press briefing in Columbia, South Carolina today.  Rather than taking his normal seat behind the microphone for his weekly meeting with the local media, Steve Spurrier paced back and forth in front of reporters and said he was going to disassociate himself from The State’s lead sports columnist, Ron Morris.

“In 26 years as a head coach I’ve had two guys that didn’t write the truth that I had to disassociate with,” Spurrier said.

He said that he would refuse to take questions as long as Morris was in the press room.  When Morris stayed put, Spurrier left to do television interviews.  When he returned and found Morris still in attendance, Spurrier wrapped the media session before it started and several beatwriters were ushered to his office instead.

Speaking moments ago with Jay Phillips of WNKT-FM in Columbia, it was made clear to me that Spurrier’s timing caught everyone off guard.

First, a little history:

* All hometown columnists — rightly or wrongly — are lumped into one of two categories: homer or hater.  Morris is viewed by many Gamecock fans as belonging to the latter category.

* When Bruce Ellington joined the Carolina football team this spring, Morris wrote that his sources told him that Spurrier had poached the player from Darrin Horn’s basketball team.

* Spurrier has denied those charges as have Horn and Ellington.  Today, Spurrier called the Ellington column from this spring “completely fabricated.”

* Following Carolina’s upset loss to Auburn, Morris wrote that Spurrier made “poor decisions” that cost his team.

* On Sunday, his column was titled: “Offense better, but it was against Kentucky.”

The coach said today: “The criticism he shows me is fine, I don’t mind that.  I’m just not okay with stories that aren’t true.”  Uh, fine, but the story Spurrier claims is untrue was written in the spring.  (Morris — for his part — has stood behind the column, though he’s been asked by The State not to comment on Spurrier’s actions today.)

So why bring this back up?

Perhaps because Spurrier has and always will act like a bully.  When he’s winning, he’s more likely to throw barbs at others (ask Kentucky fans).  And when he’s losing, he pouts, goes quiet and often acts melancholy.

So is it possible Spurrier dug up an old column that’s still under his skin because he’s feeling 10-feet-tall and bulletproof thanks to a 54-3 whooping of a lesser foe on Saturday?  And because the same writer continues to fire barbs at him and his offense?  If you’ve followed Spurrier’s career, then you know that answer is yes.  It’s very possible.

Why else bring this back up now?  For those who feel that Spurrier was creating a distraction to focus talk away from Stephen Garcia’s dismissal — which was announced later — we’re not buying.

The Garcia situation is a guaranteed hot topic and no amount of smokescreens can keep that story off the front page.  (Click here for proof.)  By going after Morris, Spurrier simply created a second controversy for himself.

Below is the video of the coach’s comments:

What a silly way to handle this.  Six months after the fact.

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USC’s Horn Needs Wins In 2010-11

“I’m not satisfied and not accepting of where we are.  I’m disappointed that we didn’t get better.  There’s no question about that, and I understand the sentiment with that.  I am disappointed we didn’t get better.  I want to evaluate all of that, but we would evaluate that regardless of how the season ended.”

Those are the words of South Carolina hoops coach Darrin Horn as quoted by Ron Morris of The State.  Horn’s Gamecocks stumbled and bungled their way to a 14-16 finish that included just two wins in their final 13 games.  The coach blamed youth for his team’s issues and that certainly had an effect.  So did playing in one of the toughest divisions in college basketball (five SEC East teams are going dancing, only Carolina will be at home). 

Still Year Four of the Horn era must show improvement.  Morris says the coach knows that to be true:

Horn is as aware as anyone that progress must be seen next season.  With the bulk of his team returning and a strong recruiting class, there cannot be another season of regression.

If there are more signs of regression next year — and the attendance continues to dwindle in Columbia as it did this past season — expect Horn to get the John Pelphrey treatment after next season.

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Let The Defense Of USC’s Horn Begin

There’s a hot debate in the state of Arkansas as to whether or not John Pelphrey deserves a fifth season in his rebuilding project.  LSU AD Joe Alleva spoke out in defense of third-year coach Trent Johnson last week.

In the state of Mississippi, some fans in red and blue aren’t happy that fifth-year coach Andy Kennedy will (most likely) once gain fail to earn his Rebels an NCAA bid.

Missing anyone from the warming seat list?  Ah, yes.  South Carolina’s Darrin Horn.

The third-year basketball coach is beginning to hear some cat calls in Columbia.  How do we know?  Well, one way to tell is the column written by Ron Morris of The State today — “Don’t Count Him Out: Horn and his USC team are struggling, but the program’s future is bright.”

You don’t read headlines like that unless the messageboards and talk radio shows are filled with grumblin’ Gamecock fans.  And the Cocks are crowing because the USC has dropped five-straight games and now sit in the basement of the SEC East with a 4-8 league mark.  Worse, they’re only 13-12 and could be in danger of missing out even on the NIT.

Carolina AD Eric Hyman came to the defense of his coach last week.  “I don’t know if I’ve been screaming for patience, but you have to manage expectations and be realistic.  It’s just like Jadeveon Clowney coming in here.  Everybody thinks Clowney is going to be a first-team All-American next year.  It just doesn’t happen that way.  It’s going to take him some time to develop and grow.  It’s going to take time with the basketball team with the freshman they have.”

His coach agrees.

“The progress that we’re making right now is the progress we’re making when you build a program, learning how to go through adversity and how to handle some things,” Horn said.  “The reality is we’ve got a couple of guys we thought we would be getting a little more from at this time that we’re not getting those things from.  That’s made some basketball things very challenging for us, especially on the offensive end.”

Horn’s job has not been made easier by Anthony Grant’s success at Alabama.  Ditto Pelphrey, Johnson and Kennedy.  “If Grant can do it in less than two years, what’s taking our guy so long?”  The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s a today observation that’s being used as an ever-after statement.

Pelphrey and Johnson both had success in their first years.  That changed soon after.  Who’s to say Grant’s 2011 success won’t be a blip on the radar?  We at don’t believe that will be the case, but there are no guarantees.

This time next year, Horn, Johnson and Pelphrey might all be thriving while Grant stumbles.  Point is, in all of these new coaches’ situations, we don’t have enough evidence to make any definitive declarations yet.

Now, at Ole Miss, the siutation’s a little different.  Kennedy has had five years at the helm.  He’s also been coaching in a watered down division.  No NCAA bids in five seasons?  That’s a bit tougher to ignore.

But when it comes to Pelphrey, Johnson and, yes, Horn, too… the local fans need to show a hair more patience.  Building a program isn’t easy.  Even if Grant is making it look like it is right now.

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