It started with Dabo Swinney telling anyone who would listen that “my kids’ grandkids won’t live long enough to ever see this become a rivalry.”
It ended, for now at least, with Steve Spurrier saying most of the things that Swinney says are “garbage” and “BS” anyway.
In between, there has been a dismissive reference to Clemson’s home field here and a jab there. In total, it’s been an eventful and chirpy 361 days since South Carolina beat Clemson 34-13 in Williams-Brice Stadium last November.
“First of all, I like Dabo,” Spurrier said this week. “I think he is a wonderful guy and excellent coach. He and I, and I think our wives, get along real well — but every now and then, just to keep the rivalry going, he and I need to say a little something to stir up emotions here or there.”
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The gloves are back on this week, says Spurrier as he prepares the No. 13 Gamecocks (9-2) to face the No. 12 Tigers (10-1).
“I never said much during the season that I know of,” he said. “I had those little old corny jokes during the summertime. (Florida State’s) Bobby Bowden did the same thing. They have their little jokes about us, and we have our little jokes about them. No big deal, everybody laughed a little bit.”
There wasn’t much good humor, though, in the back-and-forth of the past year. Swinney, angered by a statement wrongly attributed to Spurrier following last year’s game, threw the first punch, and it was a haymaker.
“Carolina is in Chapel Hill, USC is in California and the university in this state always has been, always will be in Clemson,” Swinney said in December. “I’ve gone out of my way to be complimentary to them and to be complimentary to coach Spurrier. I got a lot of respect for coach Spurrier, but I will defend my program. I will defend my players, my coaches. I am going to defend Clemson University because I believe in it. You’re looking at the best era in the history of South Carolina football right now. They just had their second 10-win season, they won a championship in 1969 and the 2010 SEC East. And this rivalry, there’s a lot of rivalries out there, this is more of a domination, and that’s the fact. My kids’ grandkids won’t live long enough really to ever see this become a rivalry.”
The Tigers lead the overall series 65-40-4, although South Carolina has won the past three games.
After an easing of hostilities, Spurrier went back on the offensive in October during a tribute rally for injured running back Marcus Lattimore. Spurrier was referring to a statement in which Swinney had heaped praise on Lattimore when he said, “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 on what he said the other day.”
On Tuesday, Spurrier argued that all he was doing at the time was agreeing with Swinney.
“All of a sudden you start beating some people and you tell a little joke, and they think you’re trying to jab them and dig at them and all that, but that’s just offseason humor, keeping things light, that’s the way I look at it,” he said.
When asked if he understood how his latest comments could be taken another way, he replied: “About the USC-North Carolina stuff, I think he’d probably admit it was a little… but anyway. I usually don’t like to respond to what other coaches say to tell you the truth. They’re free to say whatever they want to, and it doesn’t bother me. My comments were just sort of to lighten up the situation a little bit.”
South Carolina’s players don’t pay attention to the sniping between the coaches, safety D.J. Swearinger said.
“Regardless of what their coach says or our coach says, it’s going to be a heated game,” senior running back Kenny Miles said. “That’s good for the fans and the fans love it, but when it comes down to it, it’s what happens between the white lines.”
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington compared the coaches to players “talking trash.”
“I’m not surprised,” he said. “It’s a rivalry game and both of them want to win.”
THE WAR OF WORDS
USC coach Steve Spurrier and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney say they have a lot of respect for each other, but that didn’t prevent some memorable exchanges between them during the past year:
... SPURRIER SAID: “A lot of quotes came across the nation (praising Marcus Lattimore). I read one from the head coach of our upstate school. . . that school that used to beat us a lot but doesn’t beat us much anymore. 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 . . . . (when) he said, 'Lattimore stands for what’s right about college football.’ ”
... DABO SAID: “People, they just need to back off the ledge. I really think he was trying to pay me a compliment. I know it was a roundabout way maybe of getting there. It would be like me telling my wife, 'I think you should wear this dress.. . . (because) you don’t look near as fat in this dress.’ ”
... SPURRIER SAID: “Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley. (LSU’s stadium) is the Death Valley, isn’t it? Or is there another one? There’s two of them. That’s right. There’s two Death Valleys.”
... DABO SAID: “I can see where he might have a little confusion. Our guys have never been to USC. California is a long way from here. . . . got two Death Valleys, two USCs, but only one real one. The original Death Valley is right here, in case anyone has any doubt.”
HE DIDN’T REALLY SAY IT
... (A QUOTE ATTRIBUTED TO) SPURRIER SAID: “We aren’t LSU, and we aren’t Alabama. But we sure ain’t Clemson,” was the quote originally attributed to Spurrier on twitter. Gamecocks radio play-by-play voice Todd Ellis later clarified: “Coach said that part of it. I added, 'but we ain’t Clemson.’ ”
... DABO SAID: “He’s exactly right. They ain’t Alabama. They ain’t LSU, and they certainly aren’t Clemson. . . and they are never going to be Clemson, and no three-game winning streak is going to change that. It’s not the first time they’ve won three in a row, and it won’t be the last time. It might be 50 more years.”