Ron Morris, a columnist for The State newspaper in South Carolina, has publicly disagreed with Steve Spurrier before and been publicly rebuked before. Saturday Down South has a good recap of the situation; it's worth watching the video at that link if you want to see Steve Spurrier be both incredibly folksy and a huge asshole simultaneously. Last year, Spurrier felt that Morris was dishonest in describing the way Spurrier had convinced Bruce Ellington to play basketball—hence the tirade, and a brief impasse in Spurrier's communications with the media.
Now, trouble again, nearly a year later: Morris questioned Spurrier's decision to start South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw so soon after Shaw suffered a bone bruise, and suggested Spurrier was playing the media when he declared Shaw ready to go for today. "Me thinks," wrote Morris, annoyingly, "Spurrier has adeptly shifted the attention from one of the most ill-advised decisions of his illustrious coaching career." However obnoxious the prose (Morris starts three consecutive sentences with, "Me thinks"), every coach faces criticism from columnists. However, the Head Ball Coach does not care to be "every coach," and decided that, in response to Morris, he wouldn't talk to any member of the media for two days except to give opening statements. No press conferences, no questions.
The State published an odd mea culpa from Morris on Wednesday, wherein he apologized both for the Shaw article and for comparing South Carolina to Penn State in its blind allegiance to its coach on a radio show on Tuesday. The media freeze ended. But then, on Thursday evening, Spurrier went on his own radio show, and it didn't sound like he though Morris's apology was sufficient:
I'm not taking it anymore. If that's part of the job, I can head to the beach. That's not part of the job, so we're going to get it straightened out.
I don't dislike this guy anymore. I think we need to make some changes and I think some positive changes are going to happen.
But we need to make some changes and I really believe between [University of South Carolina] President Pastides and the guy that runs the newspaper, that some good changes are coming forth and I encourage the people that canceled their subscriptions last year, when some of this crap started last year, to give the newspaper and our university a chance. I believe that our city is going to be better off.
Friday, Morris was fired from his part-time job doing segments for the local ABC affiliate today for reasons articulated (or carefully talked around) in a statement from ABC Columbia News GM Chris Bailey:
In light of the recent friction between Ron and other parties, I made the decision to eliminate his weekly segment in our news. This decision was mine alone. I've had no contact with anyone at the University of South Carolina, or any other parties in this matter. For our television station, Mr Morris' work was very different than his role at The State newspaper. His body of work at WOLO was not controversial, and rarely focused on Gamecock sports. It was more celebratory of the world of sports, and mostly light-hearted in nature.
It gets weirder; Bailey starts talking about free speech and Soviet Russia. A tipster who seems fairly well wired to the situation tells us, "No word on what the paper is going to do, but indications are Spurrier is going to get his way."
The irony of being fired in part for suggesting that a school—or even a city—has a blind allegiance to a football coach is obvious, and there are definitely shades here of the South Carolina police officer that wrote his own pink slip when he ticketed Dabo Swinney for speeding. But the really sad story here comes in Morris' apology: he's been with Spurrier since the early 80s, where he first encountered him while he was with the Durham Morning Herald and Spurrier was at Duke. When Spurrier went to Florida, Morris went to a newspaper in Tallahassee and continued to track his career. Morris was back on the Spurrier beat after the Head Ball Coach's experiment with the Redskins, and has been covering him in the eight years since Spurrier came to Columbia. They kind of grew up together.
Morris admits he and Spurrier aren't friends, but also claims to have a "huge three-ring binder [stuffed] with the game summaries and statistics from every game he has coached, at any level." Maybe the South Carolina head coach could learn a thing or two from Morris, if he wasn't so busy getting him canned.