Spurrier at odds with some state high school coaches
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Not everyone in South Carolina is happy with new Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier.
After Spurrier decided to revoke several scholarships this summer, the South Carolina Football Coaches Association's Board of Directors called the move "unethical" in a letter to the coach on Wednesday.
"We understand athletic scholarships are a year commitment," according to the board's letter. "However, we feel that unless an athlete 'breaks rules' or embarrasses the institution, to revoke a scholarship because you feel an athlete cannot play at the level needed to compete in the Southeastern Conference is unethical."
The board's letter, signed by about 90 coaches and sent to Spurrier and athletic director Eric Hyman, also recommended the South Carolina High School League find an alternate location for its five state championship games, scheduled to be played at South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium in December.
Earlier this summer, Spurrier sent letters to six players telling them they would lose their scholarships. Those affected included Irmo's Grayson Mullins and Pageland Central's Trent Usher, both recruited by the staffs of former coach Lou Holtz.
Scholarships are renewable each year.
"If coming out of spring practice, you make that decision that's one thing," SCFCA board member Andy Tweito, an assistant coach at Daniel High, said Thursday. "Now, these kids are stranded, they have nowhere to go. He's left the kids high and dry."
Spurrier says there are a few players signed by the old staff who new coaches did not think contributed much to the team.
"We had some walk-on players who were actually contributing more," Spurrier said at the Southeastern Conference football gathering in Birmingham, Ala. "So some of the high schoolers, they got mad about it. I don't know what to say, but to me in life you put people on scholarship who deserve it the most and that's what we tried to do."
Spurrier last week said receiver Michael Flint and long-snapper Ike Crofoot, both walk-ons, were rewarded with scholarships.
The flap over scholarships is one of the few stumbles since the Spurrier returned to college football at South Carolina. The school said Thursday it sold an all-time record of 62,618 seasons tickets. Donations to the Gamecock Club were up more than $1 million from last year to a record of $13 million.
Hyman received a copy of the letter. He would not directly comment on the matter or if the move would have any effect. "In every situation, if you're a football coach or a bank president, when you come in you're going to have a transition," he said. "This is a period of transition."
Tweito said the high school coaches were not trying to pick a fight with Spurrier or sour future recruits on the Gamecocks; they were just making their case in one of the few ways they could.
"Some coaches are so upset about it, they won't welcome (South Carolina) recruiters into their school," he said.
Hyman said Spurrier's past shows he does things the right way and the AD was confident that would continue at South Carolina. "His record speaks for itself," Hyman said.
However, when the letter was circulated before the association's meeting, about 75 additional coaches signed on.
The group will pass the additional signatures to Spurrier and Hyman and make a recommendation to SCHSL executive director Jerome Singleton, Tweito said.
"We're not trying to play political football here," Tweito said.
Spurrier said through an athletic department spokesman Thursday that he did not wish to comment further on the SCFCA's letter or his position.
Tweito said the board understood Spurrier's desire to have his own people in his program.
"But we fight like heck for our kids," he said. "If it can happen to a kid at Irmo or Pageland, it can happen to any kid in the state."
Singleton of the SCHSL said he has not received any request to move the Weekend of Champions and won't speculate on what might happen if he does. He says the league has an agreement to hold the games this year at South Carolina.
Williams-Brice is a central location for SCHSL members, Singleton said, and the event has been largely successful since all five title games were moved to one stadium in 1997.
Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips had previously requested the chance to host the championships should they become available and said the school would be "very interested" in hosting.
Singleton said if championships in any sport had to be moved, it was possible. He cited how Fort Jackson in Columbia stopped allowing the SCHSL to hold its cross country championships on the base after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "So we moved it elsewhere," he said.
Tweito stressed the coaches were not out to damage South Carolina's program, despite the letter's harsh words.
Spurrier "absolutely knows how to run a program and we wish him the best," Tweito said. "We're all for Carolina football and for college football in our state. This was something we felt we had to do."
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