Throwing Shade: College Football's Disses and Jabs Might Be Petty, But It's About Posturing

By Patrick Maks on July 24, 2014 at 8:05a
9 Comments

For a pair of men charged with being the figureheads of two schools that so deeply seem to hate each other, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney actually have a few things in common.

They both have roots that can be traced back to the south. Both spent their college football playing days in the SEC. Both rock variations of the combover. And most of all, they’re both kind of weird.

Spurrier, 69, likes to walk around shirtless. Swinney comes across as a man who’s a few degrees away from Les Miles minus a few Red Bulls. 

If you want a barometer for the current state of the college football and an offseason that's nearing the end, look no further than the latest feud between the two.

It is, of course, altogether funny and bizarre like most things involving Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney.

The coaches don’t love each other and the bad blood associated with their in-state rivalry is well documented. It’s so intense, in fact, Spurrier said at SEC Media Days he thinks Gamecocks fans would rather beat the Tigers than win a national title.

At ACC Media Days Monday, Swinney was asked to compare himself to Spurrier, a national-championship winning coach, Heisman Trophy Winner and overall legend of the game.

“He’s from Pluto and I’m from Mars,” Swinney said.

“We’re different. I mean we’re different ages and all that stuff, the way we handle things and run our programs. But we’re similar too. Similar in our values. I have respect for him as a husband, as a father and the job he’s done is amazing.

“The thing I like is he is who he is and I don’t think he’s gonna change anytime soon.”

It’s a pretty benign answer.

Which is why, in an interview with ESPN Tuesday, Spurrier responded in a way only Spurrier can. 

“Dabo probably thinks there's only, what, nine planets out there,” he said. “I think I read where Pluto may not be considered one now."

But Spurrier wasn’t finished.

“The only thing I remind Dabo of is his comments three years ago of the real Carolina being in Chapel Hill and the real USC being in California," Spurrier said in reference to Swinney’s 2011 tirade about South Carolina being an afterthought compared to schools with similar names in North Carolina and Southern California (USC).

“Sometimes he forgets he throws some stuff out there also. He wants to make people believe that I'm the only one that throws a little stuff out there."

Little stuff like that or joking about Pluto, though, tends to blow up into national headlines. And lately, everybody's doing it. 

In just the last few weeks, college football has become a battle royal for throwing shade and media days have been its arena:

  • Maryland football coach Randy Edsall, whose Terrapins officially moved from the ACC to the Big Ten earlier this month, took a shot at his team's former conference while at a Baltimore-based PressBox luncheon in mid-July. 

"As a football coach, I feel better. I'm going to a football conference," he said. "I'm not in a basketball conference anymore." 

In response, Swinney swung back on the ACC's behalf by reminding Edsall of Clemson's 40-35 win against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl last season.

"I think we just played Ohio State," he said at ACC Media Days Monday. "Aren't they from that conference?"  

  • In an interview with ESPN Tuesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban said he had trouble motivating the Crimson Tide prior to their 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, which he called a "consolation game" compared to the national championship. Sooners coach Bob Stoops responded at Big 12 Media Days by sounding off on the SEC, including this nugget from ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy: 
  • At ACC Media Days Monday, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said it was "ridiculous" how some conferences (including the Big 12) don't play in conference championship games. Baylor coach Art Briles got wind of the comments and responded with this at Big 12 Media Days Tuesday, according to NFL.com college football reporter Bryan Fischer: 

Sure, a lot of it is petty, trivial and small.

But it makes for great theatre in a sport that's facing unprecedented times and turmoil with the NCAA's expected move toward granting the Power Five conferences autonomy and a new playoff system after more than a decade of using the BCS. 

College football is exciting on its own. But the crossfire of words with five weeks before the start of the season simply adds fuel to the fire. 

The noise, even if it's meaningless static, lends itself to attention. It's a time for hot-name coaches and budding programs to build, or in a lot of cases, continue momentum.

It's a game of posturing.

With an unchartered postseason, every move, every step, is a chance to gain ground in a rat race for a spot in the sport's four-team playoff. 

Jabbing back and forth with other coaches won't necessarily improve their on-field performance, but schools like Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska and even Penn State can't hurt themselves by trying to play that game when Big Ten Media Days roll around Monday. 

And in a conference perceived by much of the nation as plodding and boring, positioning means so much, especially when it comes to things out of your control like a bad strength of schedule or inherently weak competition in your conference.

"It's just a bunch of talking," Spurrier told ESPN. "That's all it is."

It’s just theatre. It's just entertainment. 

And, most of all, it’s good for college football. 

9 Comments

Comments

MN Buckeye's picture

Hmmm, I wonder which B1G coach will shake it up the most. 

AngryWoody's picture

I think Franklin has said a few things that have rubbed people the wrong way already. Also Rutgers offensive coordinator, Ralph Friedgen, supposedly burnt his degree from Maryland after he was fired. So there could be some epic smack talk later in the year when he coaches against his old school. For the most part though, the coaches in the Big Ten are really boring.

Our Honor Defend!

+1 HS
45has2's picture

The OBC is the king of quips. He says what he means, he means what he says and he never backs away from it with a limp wristed, PC apology after the fact. Spurrier is also one of, if not the only, strong disciplinarian in the SEC.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

+4 HS
sharks's picture

Guys like Hatin Ass Spurrier and Big Game Bob are throwbacks, in that they give genuine answers, not politically correct canned phrases designed not to offend. His program was lawless, but Bobby Bowden was the same way. Jimmy Johnson too, now that I think about it...

Also, good art by Mr. Maks. Between unique and interesting topics and ticking off the hacks on other sites, you're on your way to becoming a must-read for me...

The postgame show is brought to you by... Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it...

+2 HS
Bucksfan70's picture

jimmie johnson is the godfather of swag IMO.

“Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't.” - Jerry Rice

Fort Seneca Steve's picture

I have hated clemson since the Woody Hayes incident, when that punk intercepted Art, ran into the OSU sideline and taunted the team and Woody.  But I almost hate the fact that we were one dropped punt return from beating them in the bowl game last season.  It is not a tsun or notre dame hate, but clemson sure is a punk school.

Before there was Larry Bird, there was "Hondo" John Havilcek! The Pride of Martins Ferry, Ohio!

+3 HS
NC_Buckeye's picture

You don't know how correct you are. I occasionally run into their fans down here in NC. They're never alums or students. Always some Jim-Bob who desperately wants to troll a Buckeye. Knowing the state of our DBs and LBs I cringed when they announced our Orange Bowl opponent. These bozos are going to crow about that 40-35 "blow-out" for the next decade.

Fun times in the bible-belt. :-(
 

Killer nuts's picture

This is all I have to say about Steve Spurrier:

+6 HS
Buckeye1004's picture

Two words.......Muck Fichigan!