Ol’ Ball Coach, Stephen Garcia and Hank Williams, Jr

It’s been a crazy couple of days down in my hometown of Columbia, S.C. Within the span of two hours yesterday, Coach Spurrier abruptly called The State (Columbia) paper columnist Ron Morris onto the carpet at the start of a previously scheduled press conference and former starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was permanently dismissed from the football team. OBC noted that in 27 years of coaching he has only had to disassociate himself with two members of the media – Ron Morris and a Florida journalist in the mid-nineties. He went on to elaborate about the source of his angst, stating in essence that he could handle negative stories about the team and about himself, but he could not tolerate untruths. The well-documented spur under his saddle dates back to an April, 2011 article in which Morris speculated that Spurrier “recruited” Bruce Ellington to the football team and away from Coach Horn’s basketball team, where he had served as the starting point guard. Coach Spurrier took exception to the article, calling it a fabrication and clarifying that he and Ellington never spoke until Ellington had approached Coach Horn regarding his desire to play football in addition to basketball. Evidently, the option to play football was an accommodation Coach Horn made during the recruitment of Ellington two years ago. Spurrier went on to say that in the future, he would not address the media while Morris was in the room. He then invited members of the television media to a separate room for one-on-one interviews, and then came back later to address the members of the print media, sans a chastened Morris.

Members of the print media seem to have rallied around Morris, while fans have overwhelmingly voiced their support of the Ol’ Ball Coach, many vowing to cancel their subscriptions to the paper. Morris has yet to respond in print. There is one way to clear this up – Morris must now lay his cards on the table – he needs to provide proof of his accusations. Otherwise, The State will have some personnel decisions to make. Morris has no obligation to be a cheerleader for the University or it’s athletic teams. But, he has an obligation to report the truth, be it good, bad or indifferent. If he has done that in this case, good for him. Substantiate it. If not, well, the newspaper market is tough enough already without The State loosing the passionate legions of Gamecock Nation.

*****

Quarterback Stephen Garcia was permanently removed from the football team yesterday for positive results from an alcohol test. ESPN has reported that the positive results included marijuana, however I have not heard that from any other source. Garcia’s troubles have played out on a national stage for the past five years. Five suspensions in five years, unprecedented highs and crushing lows on the football field… Garcia’s career as a Gamecock has been a stormy one.

I feel for Stephen. When I was in college, most of his transgressions wouldn’t have even been transgressions. All but one of his five suspensions were alcohol-related, the lone exception being a gargantuanly bone-headed/borderline criminal brain fart in which he keyed a visiting professor’s car. Yes, that was stupid. That was also back in 2007, one month after he arrived on campus. His other suspensions have come from under age possession of alcohol, having girls in his hotel room after “lights out” before last year’s bowl game, and other general goofiness that are par for the course for most college kids and wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow for a collegiate athlete when I was in school. Today, these kids – especially quarterbacks, and extra-especially Spurrier-coached quarterbacks – live in a media fishbowl. Their every move is debated, criticized and scrutinized. Makes me want to have a beer just thinking about it.

Garcia led the South Carolina football program to, among other highlights, the program’s first-ever win over a top ranked team (vs. Alabama last season), the program’s first-ever SEC East Division championship, the first consecutive wins over arch-rival Clemson since the 1968-70 seasons (that last stat boggles my mind even today), he threw for over 7,500 passing yards (one of only three to do so in program history). He was a fearless warrior who played with reckless abandon and earned the respect of his teammates. That was the good Stephen. There were also the suspensions, the freshman mistakes made even as a fifth-year senior, the bad decisions both on and off the field, the 0-3 bowl record, the stormy relationship with his Head Coach. He was equal parts Jekyll and Hyde. He showed so much potential, yet was his own worst enemy in falling short of it. Reckless abandon works well most times on the football field. Not so much off it.

Stephen will be ok. He comes from an excellent family who will support him through this tough time. He graduated from Carolina this past spring with a degree in Sociology. He has much to be proud of from his time at Carolina and hopefully he has learned some valuable lessons.

Thank you, Stephen for the good times. You were without a doubt, the most entertaining quarterback in school history and it has been quite a ride. You are an alum and will always be a Gamecock. Best of luck and God speed.

*****

“Are you ready for some football???” Country legend Hank Williams, Jr. has been asking that question of Monday Night Football fans for 22 years now, but the question has been asked (shouted) for the final time. After making an unquestionably over-the-top comparison between President Obama and Hitler on a Fox News morning show last week (you know it’s over-the-top when even Fox News morning hosts are stricken speechless), ESPN and Hank have parted ways. ESPN says it was their decision. Hank says it was his. One thing we can all agree upon (I would hope) is that it was a muddle-headed thing for Ol’ Bocephus to say. Check that… it was just plain stupid. Even the most vociferous anti-Obama tea partier would have to admit that. Hitler’s is quite possibly the most toxic name in the history of world. Had Hank compared Obama to Pol Pot, most people would have likely thought he was accusing the President of smoking marijuana. Mention Hitler and all hell breaks loose. And rightly so. It was a ridiculous comparison. As much as I love his music (the early 80’s stuff, anyway), I will have to admit that Hank can be a bloviating jerk-off sometimes. I cringe whenever he stops singing and starts talking. It’s not pretty. Why can’t all of my musical heroes just shut up and sing? (I’m talking to you too, Mr. Mellencamp/Springstein/Young, etc, etc, etc).

Yet, we still live in a great country where people are free to make asses of themselves. The funny thing is, Hank owns the rights to his song and will likely take it elsewhere and make more money than he was making with ESPN. He’s an entrepreneur as well as a musician. Bottom line is, Hank had a right to say what he said, just as ESPN had a right to disassociate themselves from Hank. To be honest, the theme song had gotten a little stale anyway. Maybe now Hank can get back to focusing on music instead of being the court jester of the NFL. One can always hope.

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