Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why I think Dabo’s stunt matters

It is time to turn the page on the Cockabooster to basketball and baseball for 2012, but before that happens, I am going to offer my substantive comments on the strange path Dabo Swinney chose.  In our Moo U section, we have already had a ton of fun with him (for a Gamecock blogger he is the gift that keeps on giving), but I believe his recent tirade will be remembered as a seminal moment in the rivalry.  As the rivalry is something I care about, I am going to give it some thoughtful commentary.   

(To my Tiger friends who are reading this, and I am blessed to be friends with many of you, I am sure you will disagree with some of these thoughts but I hope you will at least consider my perspective seriously and not just discount it out of hand.)

I have the good fortune of knowing some folks who work in various media jobs related to the Clemson football team.  The night Dabo made his original “response” to the non-existant Spurrier quote that triggered a firestorm on both sides, I was able to confirm pretty quickly that it was a staged event.  It was done with the hopes of moving the fan base past the bad loss in Columbia, unifying them behind the Coach and that it would fire up Clemson for the ACC Championship.  Dabo was directly involved in the planning of it, and took the time to memorize some key data, statistics and one-liners.  (I say all of this because there are still a few Clemson fans who honestly think it was a real “reaction” to something.) 

First of all, let’s cover the effect on the ACC title game and bowl bid for Clemson.  The stunt in a limited way  worked as intended here.  A fired-up and angry bunch of Tigers beat up on Virginia Tech and became the sixth team from the ACC to use the BCS AQ bid to the Orange Bowl.  As an added bonus to the cause, the NCAA bypassed about 20 more-deserving teams and dumped an at-large bid to that same Tech team.  So over the next month, the nation was treated to a true Clemson love-fest like you have never seen.  From the emotional back-story about “the little Coach that could” to how the Orange Bowl would be the night when the nation would learn all about the Clemson defense (yep, Dabo said this), it was a true march towards history for the Orange and White. 

Then came the game.  All of that crashing down in the form of a 70-33 loss to WVU.  Instead of Clemson solidifying a new level of national respect, you now can’t turn on the TV and avoid hearing an announcer talking about a team “pulling a Clemson.”  Even Kirk Herbstreit, who seriously has an odd “man-crush” on the Boy Wonder in the K-Mart sweatshirt, joked about Clemson during the LSU-Alabama broadcast. 

Meanwhile, the comments REALLY fired up Carolina.  If you think the Clemson fans were unified behind Dabo after “the rant,” you should see how unified everyone in Columbia became.  Instead of self-doubts creeping in ahead of the Citrus Bowl relating to the Gamecocks’ recent bowl failures, an angry and confident squad stormed into Orlando, won their 11th game and assured USC of a solid top-10 finish.  The Cocks go into the offseason brimming with confidence, returning 15 starters and feeling good about, well, everything.  Carolina fans would love to see Dabo get a lifetime contract at Clemson today. 

So why do I feel that a media stunt that largely backfired should be called a “seminal moment” in the rivalry?  As a 40 year old who has studied the history of the rivalry, I can honestly say that this was the first time I have seen one of the underlying institutions attacked that directly by a Coach at either school.  For those that scream “Frank Howard” when they hear this, I disagree.  Coach Howard may have been colorful and expressive and may have irritated Gamecock fans, but I don’t know of an instance where he directly attacked the University itself. 

And please don’t confuse fan interaction with a Coach’s public statements.  A yahoo like me having silly fun with my Moo U stuff on a blog, or Tigernet poking fun at Carolina, or Zero bars being given to Gamecock fans after the 0-11 season, etc, is different.  Normal fan banter about which football team is better and creative kidding back and forth between the schools is part of the fun.   

And not even all coaches’ actions are the same.  Tommy Bowden having Brad Scott carried off the field in 1999 or making a barb about “I love hearing 2001 because it means I am going to win a game” may make USC mad as hades, but it was not an attack on the underlying  institution.  Frank McGuire had his teams convinced the whole world was against them, and Steve Spurrier is famous for jabs that are funny and biting but I have never heard either of them attack Clemson as an institution of higher learning.  When it comes to public statements about the underlying schools themselves, coaches are and should be held to a higher standard.  Here are the recent coaches at both schools: 

Clemson- Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield, Tommy West, Tommy Bowden, Bill Foster, Cliff Ellis, Oliver Purnell, Bill Wilhelm and Jack Leggett.  Carolina-  Jim Carlen, Richard Bell, Joe Morrison, Sparky Woods, Brad Scott, Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier, Bill Foster, George Felton, Steve Newton, Eddie Fogler, Dave Odom, Darrin Horn, Bobby Richardson, June Raines and Ray Tanner. 

None of these names are associated with a deeply personal and nasty public attack on the level that we saw with Coach Swinney.  That is what is different to me about this situation.  So there you go.  My honest take on this from a Gamecock point of view.  Outside of responding to questions or comments about this column, I will now move on from this subject.  After all, karma is awesome, and it all worked out great for my team. 


  1. Could not agree more.
    Here's a health Carolina forever to Thee.

  2. Heather Simmons1/10/12, 1:48 PM

    Daybo's rant clearly shows how far we have gotten into their heads and it is hysterical. Daybo is truly the gift that keeps on giving and the longer he stays, the better!! The little man in orange will rue the day he attempted to cross swords with the master. Go Cocks!!

  3. Another great post. I hope spurrier plays Dabo Dabo Doo's speech before every single football game in the 2012 season

  4. You nailed it Ted. Poking at athletics is one thing but minimalizing and mocking a great deal of the population of South Carolina's degree and diploma is another beast altogether. Having said that, most Clemson "fans" I know are not alumni.

  5. Dabo is not a coach, he is a cheerleader.

  6. What's more embarrasing? Being coached by Dabo or giving your players a ring when you can't even win a championship? For being the 8/9th best team in the country and having 7 teams have more wins than you? Come on the lesser Carolina, shouldn't you strive for a championship and not an 11 win season with nothing to show for it. How EMBARRASING!!!!


  8. From a Clemson fan, Dabo definitely runs his mouth too much and that is good for SC fans to use for motivation and entertainment. However, I think this is Dabo's core personality whether he was a head coach or a real estate salesman. He's a young guy and we are paying for his education but he's only been at it 3 years. And he is still doing a lot of things right (recruiting, Chad Morris, dealing with players transgressions firmly, players gpas). It's a fair article but remember it's taken the experienced OBC a bunch of mistakes and quite a few years to get SC where it is now.

  9. To Anonymous of Jan 11, you didn't read the blog, did you? Too much sense? Too many words? Dabo, is that you?

    Embarrassing? Pulling a clemson on national TV. Again. That's embarrassing.

    But if you're going to do it, go big. You do realize that WVa could have scored the difference in the two scores and still won by 4?

  10. Well, Anonymous, of January 15th, I think the response from "Anonymous January 16th" speaks volumes .. it's a tirade.. it's cocky and in your face .. bets are 10 to 1, it's written by a Gamecock. I appreciate your point. Yes, I totally agree that Dabo was hot-headed (um, hello, Spurrier has never had a bad day, I suppose)? Dabo is a nice fella .. a moral guy and we Tigers don't mind him coaching our ball team. Heck, for his achievements - on and off the field - he is the recipient of the Bobby Dodd coach award. That just stirs them Gamecocks up all the more. Indignation is not becoming. I have been trying to follow the Cockabooster to support Ted, and he solicits Clemson to respond, but it's just not worth it. There is no sensible conversation that can take place with the mentality above. Don't get your blood pressure up - just stop reading the blog.



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