Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of perspective and suddenly debate, five full days AFTER the Gamecocks put a 34-13 beat-down on the Tigers for their third consecutive win in the series.
Voice of the Gamecocks Todd Ellis ignited a firestorm earlier this week with his on-air comment, which he attributed to Spurrier: “We ain’t LSU or Alabama, but we ain’t Clemson either.”
On Thursday those comments finally made their way over the hills and down into Death Valley, where the Tigers were preparing for Saturday’s ACC title game against Virginia Tech. Spurrier’s venom had a slow but sudden effect on Swinney, who went from mildly offended to down-right angry by the end of his tirade:
“I don’t know if he said it or not, but I guess he did because there hasn’t been a rebuttal. If he said that, I am disappointed because I was taught to win or lose with class. That is kind of a childish thing to put out there, to be honest with you. I think our program here speaks for itself. I guess I would have to say I agree with him. He is right. They are not Clemson and they aren’t ever going to be Clemson, to be honest with you.”
Swinney was just warming up. You can see the anger creeping into his brain with each sentence. Testify, Brother Dabo.
“No three-game winning streak is going to change that. It’s not the first they have won three in a row and it will not be the last time. It might be 50 more years but it will probably happen again. But I have gone out of my way to be complimentary to them and complimentary to coach Spurrier. I got a lot of respect for coach Spurrier, but I am going to defend my program. I’m going to defend my players and my coaches. I am going to defend Clemson University because I believe in it.
“So I think he is exactly right – they are not Clemson and never will be. You are looking at the best era in the history of South Carolina football right now. They just had their second 10-win season. They won a championship in 1969 and the 2010 SEC East. And this rivalry, there is a lot of rivalries out there, but this is more of a domination and that’s a fact. My kids’ grandkids won’t live long enough to see this really become a rivalry. I have respect for their program, but …”
Pause the tape. Whenever someone says something like, “I like Canada, BUT” get ready to hear the most anti-Canadian comments you’ve ever heard. Now press play.
“South Carolina is not Clemson. There are a lot of differences. This is a place that has won a national title, 17 conference championships and two division titles. Heck, we have won more bowl games than they have even been to. I think our program has 100-plus more wins than South Carolina. That is reality. This is the best era in 115 years of South Carolina football is right now and they have done a great job.
“Coach Spurrier has been there for seven years, but after five years I think he had 35 wins and got a new contract and all that kind of stuff. After five years at Clemson, if I have only got 35 wins there is going to be a new coach here and you know what there should be because there is a different standard.
“He is exactly right – they ain’t Alabama, they ain’t LSU and they certainly are not Clemson. That is why Carolina is in Chapel Hill, USC is in California and the university in this state always has been and always will be Clemson. It’s right here in Clemson, South Carolina. And you can print that, tweet that, whatever.”
Whatever indeed. I didn’t know Dabo had it in him, but he managed to unleash all the comments he’s overheard during his tour of IPTAY meetings into one single tirade. You could tell some of this stuff had been brewing for sometime, at least to when he made a comment about Spurrier’s contract extension two years ago.
But Spurrier’s history of verbal jabs goes way back to his glory days at Florida, when he made Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer his personal punching bag and irked Florida State legend Bobby Bowden by calling it “Free Shoes University.” He even managed to make some NFL coaches mad during his cup of coffee with the Washington Redskins.
Spurrier has laid low since coming to South Carolina, and rightfully so. It’s hard to be cocky when your mascot is Cocky. The Gamecocks have one of the saddest football histories in college football, and Clemson holds such a stranglehold on the rivalry that the last fight the Ol’ Ball Coach wanted to pick was with the Tigers.
But now that South Carolina has started to have some sustained success in the series, Spurrier’s true colors are starting to show. Although there’s some debate over whether Spurrier or Ellis made the initial comment that set off Hurricane Dabo, Spurrier’s post-game comments minimizing the meaning of a Clemson win and saying “Clemson used to own this series. … The don’t own us any more.”
It’s kind of nice to see some spice thrown into this rivalry, although we will have to wait 360 days to see the debate settled on the field. Unless the Tigers lose to the Hokies on Saturday, and then the Chick-Fil-A Bowl will have a real opportunity to cash in on the great Gamecock-Tiger debate. The Atlanta-based bowl usually gets the ACC title game’s leftovers and a fourth or fifth-best SEC team, which this year could be South Carolina. Can you say rematch?
Whenever they meet again, at least some fuel has been thrown on the fire of a rivalry that could use a little heat. Now that both teams are competing for conference titles and 10-win seasons, the series will take on more significance both inside and outside the state border. It’s not the Iron Bowl, but it’s not the Chick-Fil-A Bowl either.