It looks like some feathers have been ruffled in Columbia, South Carolina:
An embarrassed and angry Steve Spurrier blasted South Carolina’s admissions process Sunday, apologizing to two recruits who signed with the Gamecocks last winter and were denied academic entry this summer.
“In my opinion, I still believe we made a mistake in doing this,” Spurrier said Sunday.
Spurrier had spoken with university president Andrew Sorensen and the two agreed, the coach said, that things needed to change.
Spurrier was angered that receiver Michael Bowman of Wadesboro, N.C., and Arkee Smith of Jacksonville, Fla., were cleared by the NCAA to enroll, yet were turned down by the university. The rest of the Gamecocks football team officially reported Friday for preseason camp.
“Hopefully, I truly believe this is the last year this is going to happen, because I can’t operate like that,” Spurrier said. “I can’t operate misleading young men.”
How strongly does the OBC feel about this? Strongly enough to go nuclear (or, new-cu-lar, if you’re Jimmah Carter):
… Spurrier signed a contract extension, which included a raise of nearly a half-million dollars, that ties him to South Carolina through 2012. However, he said if things didn’t change on admissions “then I have to go somewhere else, because I can’t tell the young man that he’s coming to school here,” then not have him admitted.
What’s not exactly clear from the article is what “things” to change are being discussed by Spurrier and the USC administration. At one point it’s made to sound as if it’s a communication issue being addressed…
University spokesman Russ McKinney said Spurrier has been involved in talks with Sorensen and other administrators about refining the process of athletic admissions.
“I think the university administration understands his frustration,” McKinney said.
McKinney said the goal would be to let all South Carolina coaches know as early as possible whether a prospect would meet the university’s admission standards…
but it then goes on to point out the debate over admission standards at Clemson and notes that Spurrier had successfully changed Gamecock policy on drug testing for athletes. Which implies that Spurrier is after something more substantive than a timely memo from the admissions office.
These are two very different matters. If this is simply a debate over keeping the football coaches in the loop about whether certain kids will be admitted, then I can’t blame Spurrier for being as upset as he is. It really is a credibility issue for him. (One can sense the final touches are being made to the draft of the Fulmer communiqué going out to all Gamecock recruits even as we speak.)
On the other hand, if what’s at issue here are the admission standards themselves, that’s an entirely different ballgame.
I hope it’s not the latter. It’s not an admirable thing to see a school sell its soul for a little more success in sports. But I do wonder if that’s why the OBC has gone on the record so publicly, so forcefully about this – to use the court of public opinion to force the administration to give in to his demands. (Or it may just be a move to preempt the inevitable Fulmer black ops mentioned above.)
One thing’s for sure. I wouldn’t bet against Spurrier in a power struggle with the USC administration. After all, he’s got more House Resolutions than the USC president does.
UPDATE: Speaking of the court of public opinion, it looks like some of the South Carolina faithful are ready to give folks in Alabama a run for their money:
… An estimated crowd of 3,100 — the most by the third-year coach’s count in his tenure — were on hand for the practice, including a couple who were married earlier in the day. The wife was still in her wedding gown.
UPDATE #2: The State has more, including this little tidbit (call this Scenario #3):
After Bowman was denied admission last month, the athletics director at his high school, Fred Davis, told a North Carolina newspaper that Bowman was a victim of the Gamecocks’ oversigning during recruiting season. USC’s top-10 recruiting class included 32 players — five more than the Gamecocks were able to bring in this year under NCAA rules.
“There’s a perception out there that South Carolina oversigned and they’re just getting rid of guys. And that’s not true. That’s not true on our coaching staff,” Spurrier said. “We had a plan in place to grayshirt if they all qualified. And we were going to do that. As it turned out, we’re not going to have to do that right now.”
The size of the grin on Phil Fulmer’s face this morning must be enormous.