CLEMSON — Shots were fired after the 1902 game. Punches were thrown near the finish of the 2004 game. So this verbal volley between the football coaches at Clemson and South Carolina would seem relatively innocuous were it not so amusing.
USC coach Steve Spurrier said this week he likes Dabo Swinney, and the Clemson coach professed a deep respect for Spurrier.
“I don’t really have a problem with him,” Swinney said Tuesday. “Coach Spurrier is an interesting guy. We actually get along.”
Over the past year, the flames have been fanned several times, though it didn’t begin until South Carolina had beaten Clemson last season for a third consecutive Gamecock victory.
Several days after last year’s game Swinney launched a rant because of words inappropriately attributed to the South Carolina coach. In fact, it was Gamecock radio announcer Todd Ellis who parroted a phrase from Spurrier and sharpened the blade by adding, “… we sure ain’t Clemson, folks.”
Swinney had been prepared to respond to what he thought were Spurrier’s remarks the Tuesday after the game, but none of the reporters raised the matter because it was common knowledge that Ellis was the culprit. Swinney apparently wouldn’t turn it loose. Two days later, Swinney went off.
“I’ve gone out of my way to be complimentary to them, complimentary to coach Spurrier. . . I’m going to defend Clemson University because I believe in it. I think he’s exactly right. They’re not Clemson. They never will be.”
When Swinney’s remarks were relayed to him, Spurrier tried to take the high road, though he couldn’t resist a dig. “Smart people don’t believe everything they read and they don’t believe hearsay. I guess Dabo believed it.”
There also has been an exchange about whether the real “Death Valley” is at LSU or Clemson, and a compliment from Swinney about Marcus Lattimore was prefaced by a Spurrier comment that “usually when that coach up there talks about South Carolina it’s a bunch of garbage and a bunch of BS usually, but I have to agree with him (about Lattimore).”
The next day Swinney smiled.
“Personally, I really think that he was trying to pay us a compliment, I think. I know it was kind of a round-about way of getting there.”
Which brings us to this week.
“This is not about me and coach Spurrier. Some people may want to make it that way, but I’m not comfortable with that, I’m really not,” Swinney said Tuesday. He said he would continue to defend himself, his team and Clemson if “things cross the line.”
“Again, I got respect for coach Spurrier, as I should,” Swinney said. “He’s been doing this a long, long time. He’s had a lot of success.
“I don’t think it’s personal.”