At the start of his weekly press conference today—and just about an hour before announcing that former starting QB Stephen Garcia had been dismissed from the team—South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier made an announcement to the gathered reporters. He would not, he explained, go through with the usual dog and pony show unless a single reporter was segregated for the questioning.
The video's above, but first, some background: Ron Morris, the reporter in question, is a sports columnist for the State who is often critical of Spurrier and his Gamecocks—which is, technically speaking, his job. He downplayed No. 18 USC's 54-3 win over Kentucky on Saturday, for example, by pointing out that the offensive burst came against a "hopeless" team. A week earlier, following a 16-13 loss to Auburn, Morris wrote a column with the title "In the end, Spurrier coached poorly." Still, though, it was nothing out of bounds. As Spurrier says in today's pre-conference speech—after calling him "a negative guy...that tries to hurt our football program"—Morris has "got a right to do that."
But it wasn't the recent writing that set off Spurrier. Back in March, Morris wrote a story that floated the idea that Spurrier had "poached" Bruce Ellington—then the leading scorer and starting point guard for the Gamecocks' basketball team—for the university's football team. Spurrier denied the claim at the time, calling it "false, wrong and totally incorrect." He also threw in the word "fabrication," for good measure.
Today, six months after it was published, he brought it up again, calling it a "fabricated story." Spurrier announced that it was his "right" to refrain from speaking while Morris was in the room, and declared that he would hold individual interviews with the TV reporters, and then come back for the writers—presumably, Morris was then asked to leave the room. (A quick word: punitive segregation is really never a good tactic.)
As Spurrier admitted during his tirade, this is the second reporter that's been excommunicated by the longtime coach. When he was at Florida in the nineties, Mike Bianchi told The Big Lead a few years ago, he had a similar confrontation with Larry Guest from the Orlando Sentinel:
Guest would write nasty columns about Spurrier, and Spurrier would respond by calling Guest a "sad little fat man." I loved the fact that Guest, even though he knew Spurrier wouldn't answer his questions, would raise his hand during a press conference and ask a question anyway just so he could watch Spurrier bristle. I'm telling you when Guest walked into a Spurrier news conference, a hush literally fell over the room. It was terrific.
Spurrier had one more bomb for the press he kept around. Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia, who'd previously been suspended five times in his collegiate career, has been permanently dismissed from the team.
"Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right," athletic director Eric Hyman explained in a statement.
Just like reporting on it.