After South Carolina beat Florida two week ago to clinch the SEC Eastern Division title, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier received a word of congratulations from an unlikely source — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
“He did text message me, and I called him back and said, ‘I appreciate it,’” Spurrier said. “I started telling him congratulations on beating Wake Forest, but I didn’t think he’d want to hear that. As far as congratulating someone on something, I don’t think that would have been the right thing to do.”
Things have come a long way in the relationship between the rivals since 2004, when the Gamecocks and Tigers ended their annual rivalry game with a brawl that embarrassed both schools and persuaded their administrations to hold both teams out of a bowl game.
“I like Dabo. He’s a good person, good coach, and he runs a good program up there,” Spurrier said. “I think we have a good, healthy rivalry with Clemson now. I know it was ugly about six years ago. That game at Death Valley got real ugly. It was really a terrible scene for our state of South Carolina. I don’t sense in any way that could happen with the coaching staffs in place and the players that are in place now.”
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Kind words about the Tigers and talk of a “good, clean, hard-fought game” and the fact that the two schools no longer “badmouth” each other on the recruiting trail might not be what South Carolina fans want to hear this week, Spurrier knows.
“I realize some fans don’t want to hear that, but I believe that’s the way it should be,” he said. “I think Dabo and his guys believe that’s the way it should be, also.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt wrote Spurrier a congratulatory note after the victory over Florida, Spurrier added.
“I don’t usually send a message to who wins the East,” he said.
To the grave
The South Carolina-Clemson game means more to some people than to others, a fact that was driven home this week for Gamecocks wide receiver Tori Gurley.
“One person, they sent me a message on Facebook and it was a guy, I guess his father passed away and on his tombstone, it said, ‘I’d rather be here than at Clemson,’ ” Gurley said. “It was something that really affected me in a positive way.”
South Carolina fans might despise orange considering it is the Tigers’ primary color, not to mention Tennessee’s and Florida’s, but Gurley admitted the color is featured prominently in his closet.
“I have a few orange shirts, a few Polo shirts,” he said. “My girlfriend thinks it looks good on me so I have to wear it. I have to do whatever to make her happy.”
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore expects to return to the practice field Wednesday, he said Tuesday. Gilmore suffered a minor concussion against Troy. Cornerback Marty Markett is nursing a sprained MCL and is questionable.