Jersey flap: Spurrier asks for numbers

Rogers says OK, but Sharpe declines to unretire his jersey number

jperson@thestate.comFebruary 6, 2009 

If South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wants to bring Sterling Sharpe’s No. 2 out of retirement to give to incoming receiver Alshon Jeffery, he will have to do so without Sharpe’s blessings.

Sharpe is one of four USC players to have his number retired, and the former Gamecock great wants it to remain that way. In an interview Thursday on WNKT-FM 107.5, Sharpe stated emphatically that he was opposed to returning No. 2 into circulation.

After choosing the Gamecocks over Southern Cal on Wednesday, Jeffery said Spurrier told him he could keep the No. 2 he wore at Calhoun County. Duane Wages, the Saints’ offensive coordinator, said Sharpe has signed off on the idea.

That is not the case.

In the interview on 107.5, Sharpe said Spurrier called him twice about the possibility of the Gamecocks using Sharpe’s number, saying the team was running out of numbers. Sharpe, whose number was retired in 1987, told him he was opposed to the idea.

“Once they gave me that honor, I don’t see how in the world they would audition or petition for me to give it back,” Sharpe said in the radio interview. “I haven’t done anything to add to those numbers, but I definitely didn’t do anything to warrant having it taken down and having someone else wear it.”

Sharpe told hosts Jay Philips and Duce Staley, a former USC tailback, that it would hurt to see his jersey being worn again. “If it happens, I will go through a mourning period,” he said. “My guts will definitely be ripped out.”

Spurrier also has approached George Rogers, who won the school’s lone Heisman Trophy in 1980, about using his No. 38 again.

“When he asked me, I was like, ‘Coach, whatever you want to do,’ ” Rogers said. “But after hearing from some people, a lot of people don’t like that idea — a lot of people. It didn’t make no mind for me.”

Spurrier said Wednesday nothing had been decided, yet.

USC plans to retire the jersey of Kenny McKinley, who surpassed Sharpe as the school’s career receiving leader, at the spring game, but keep his No. 11 in circulation.

When he returned to his Florida alma mater as coach in 1990, Spurrier suggested the Gators un-retire the numbers of Spurrier and Scot Brantley, the only two Florida players whose numbers had been retired.

Florida and other schools such as Miami now pay tribute to players by adding them to a Ring of Honor at their stadiums rather than retiring their numbers.

Rogers said Spurrier told him the Gamecocks were running low on available numbers. This past season USC had 17 sets of duplicate numbers, including those worn by starting quarterbacks Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley.

Rogers plans to discuss the issue with USC athletics director Eric Hyman.

USC’s other retired numbers belong to Steve Wadiak (No. 37) and Mike Johnson (No. 56), both of whom were honored posthumously.

In 1994, Clemson discussed un-retiring the No. 4 jersey of All-American quarterback Steve Fuller to fulfill a recruiting promise made to Berea running back Anthony Downs. After a public backlash, Clemson officials ended up scrapping those plans and apologizing to Fuller.

If Rogers’ No. 38 is used again, he would like to see it go to his nephew, Chaun Gresham, a linebacker from Georgia who signed with USC on Wednesday.

This is not the first time Sharpe has been approached about his number. In the radio interview, Sharpe recalled that Staley and former USC tailback Derek Watson called him to ask about wearing No. 2.

He told both players no.

When reached by phone Thursday, Sharpe said the situation is out of his hands.

“I’m not beating this horse to death. I’ve said my piece, and I’m done. It’s a situation that I got drug into, this kid got drug into, and I don’t think it’s fair to either one of us,” Sharpe told The State.

“There’s nothing else I can do. There’s nothing else I can say. ... In the nicest way that I possibly can, I’m done with it. It’s up to the powers-that-be to do whatever it is they want to.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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