Southeastern Conference football fans are buzzing after a popular sports website suggested that one of the conference’s “high profile” coaches could be leaving his post at the end of the 2011 season.
“Hearing from multiple sources that high profile SEC coach will quit at end of season,” the editor of the website Sports By Brooks tweeted on Tuesday.
The reason given? Alleged “conflicts” between the unnamed coach and the unnamed school’s athletics director …
Given the abundance of turmoil in the University of South Carolina football program this season – along with the “high profile” reference – it was only a matter of time before speculation zeroed in on Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier and USC athletics director Eric Hyman.
In fact, a pair of USC boosters who spoke with FITS on condition of anonymity say that they heard the rumor about Spurrier leaving at the end of the 2011 season “months ago.”
So … is the rumor true?
Well, it’s no secret that Spurrier and Hyman haven’t seen eye-to-eye on things lately.
For example, Spurrier went to bat for embattled fifth-year quarterback Stephen Garcia during the Gamecocks’ drama-filled 2011 off-season – in which Hyman and his wife, Pauline, were accused of trying to run Garcia out of town.
Spurrier won that battle … resulting in Garcia being reinstated to the team on a probational basis … but he obviously lost the war.
Sources tell FITS that Spurrier vehemently disagreed with Hyman’s decision to toss Garcia from the USC program last month after he violated the conditions of his probationary reinstatement. Obviously Garcia was having a positively atrocious season at the time of his dismissal – leading the NCAA in interceptions when Spurrier yanked him from the starting lineup – but that doesn’t mean Spurrier wanted Garcia gone.
Also, according to multiple sources, Hyman came down very hard on Spurrier for his recent outburst directed at columnist Ron Morris of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper (even though Hyman basically did the same thing the day after Spurrier’s childish display).
In the wake of Spurrier’s tirade, Hyman reportedly ordered Spurrier to address the media with Morris present – something that Spurrier vowed he would never do again after he accused Morris of fabricating stories.
“Hyman told Steve he was out of line in doing what he did, and (that) he was to address the media at press conferences with Morris in the room,” a source familiar with the dust-up tells FITS. “Hyman rarely goes to these things, but he was standing near Spurrier (following the Mississippi State game) and attended (the following) Tuesday’s press conference.”
“Presumably to make sure his little kid obeyed orders,” our source said.
After struggling through his first five seasons in Columbia, Spurrier’s 2010 Gamecock squad posted a 9-5 record and won its first-ever SEC Eastern Division championship. This year, the Gamecocks have opened the season with a 7-1 record for the first time since 2000 – although that strong start is due almost exclusively to USC’s stultifying defense and the solid running of Marcus Lattimore, who was lost for the season two weeks ago against Mississippi State.
South Carolina faces No. 7 Arkansas on the road this weekend, and has tough home games remaining against Florida and No. 11 Clemson.
Through six-and-a-half seasons, Spurrier has posted a 51-34 mark – including a 16-6 record in his last 22 games. Also, after going 18-22 against SEC competition during his first five years in Columbia, Spurrier has posted a 10-4 mark against conference opponents over the last two seasons.
This website has been among Spurrier’s most vocal critics – repeatedly criticizing his predictable, conservative play-calling and basically arguing that Marcus Lattimore saved him from losing his job in 2010.
Having said all of that, it’s tough to argue with wins … which Spurrier’s team continues to reel off, albeit not always in impressive fashion (particularly on offense).
Needless to say, we’ll continue to explore these rumors and let you know what we’re able to uncover … but it certainly seems as though Spurrier fits the description of the coach in question.
He’s not the only one, though, as Georgia’s Mark Richt has endured a rocky relationship with his school’s athletics department. Richt’s having the last laugh now, though, as his Bulldogs have reeled off six straight wins since dropping the first two games of the season to Boise State and Spurrier’s Gamecocks.
UPDATE: In a follow-up tweet on Tuesday, Sports By Brooks’ editor says that it’s not Richt (or Kentucky’s Joker Phillips or Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt) that his sources are referring to.
Pic: Travis Bell, Sideline Carolina