One of college football's worst-kept secrets -- that South Carolina Coach Lou Holtz was retiring, opening the door for former Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier to replace him -- came to fruition yesterday. The only surprise was that Holtz's retirement was immediate and he didn't plan on coaching the Gamecocks in a bowl game.
Neither will Spurrier, not after South Carolina and Clemson announced yesterday that neither team will accept a bid to play in a bowl game after players from both schools fought in an ugly melee during the fourth quarter of the Tigers' 29-7 win Saturday. The decision is a costly one for both schools -- Clemson probably would have been paid $750,000 for playing in the MPC Computer Bowl in Boise, Idaho; South Carolina would have earned $1.2 million from the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
Clemson's Yusef Kelly kicks a South Carolina player on Saturday. It was Lou Holtz's last game with the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier will replace him.
(Ken Ruinard -- Anderson (s.c.) Independent-mail Via AP)
"Isn't it a heck of a note?" Holtz said during the news conference announcing his retirement. "Lou Holtz is going to be remembered along with Woody Hayes for having a fight at the Clemson game. What a way to end a career."
Hayes, the legendary Ohio State coach, saw his career end after he punched Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman during the 1978 Gator Bowl.
"This was not a knee-jerk reaction to the most unfortunate incident that occurred on Saturday," South Carolina Athletics Director Mike McGee said during a news conference last night. "Football is a team sport. The punishment will be one that will affect the entire team. The players acted without thinking. I am certain they feel embarrassed, upset and sorry that it happened. But regret and remorse do not excuse these actions from being punished."
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the league was still reviewing film of the fight, which occurred with less than six minutes left, and would determine whether any players will face additional penalties. ACC Commissioner John Swofford said Clemson's players could also face further discipline.
"Attending a bowl game is important to the Clemson family, but nothing is more important than the integrity of the university," Clemson President John Barker said in a statement. "What happened Saturday does not reflect the values and character of Clemson."
Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden did not comment yesterday, but during a teleconference with reporters Sunday, he said he would be surprised if the Tigers were banned from playing in the postseason for their actions during the fight.
"We don't have a track record of doing this," he said. "Gosh, if you cut everybody's head off over one offense, that wouldn't leave much leeway. . . . Gosh, I surely wouldn't fire y'all for a bad article or the first bad article. We wouldn't have any sportswriters."
One bowl official said he thought the schools overreacted, saying they delivered the harsh punishment because of the fallout from Friday night's brawl between players from the NBA's Indiana Pacers and fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills, outside Detroit.
"If that doesn't happen in the NBA game on Friday night, they don't take these teams out of the bowls," the bowl official said. "They had to make a statement."
Now Spurrier, who has been out of work since quitting as the Redskins' coach last December, gets to help clean up the mess. He will be introduced as the Gamecocks' coach during a news conference today. Holtz all but identified Spurrier yesterday, telling reporters his replacement "was a very well-known, proven winner . . . that I play golf with."
Holtz, 67, leaves college football as the eighth-winningest coach in Division I-A history with 249 victories. He led Notre Dame to the 1988 national championship, but came nowhere near that success at South Carolina. After coming out of retirement in 1999, he had a 33-37 record in six seasons and went 3-21 against the school's biggest rivals -- Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
Other SEC coaches aren't sure Spurrier will be any more successful. While he led Florida to 122 victories and six SEC titles in 12 seasons at his alma mater, Spurrier won't have as broad of a recruiting base in South Carolina. At least one SEC coach believes Spurrier isn't convinced he can win with the Gamecocks, either, but is only taking the job because of the playing privileges he'll be afforded at nearby Augusta National Golf Club -- and the possibility of becoming a member at the exclusive club, like Holtz.
"He's sacrificing his legacy for a green jacket," the SEC coach said. "He's going to get his head beat in at South Carolina."
Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville said he welcomed Spurrier's return to the league.
"I think it's great," Tuberville said. "He means a lot to college football and a lot to our conference."
Spurrier already is assembling his coaching staff, and will apparently hire at least two former Redskins assistants -- quarterbacks coach Noah Brindise and his son, Steve Spurrier Jr., who coached the Redskins' wide receivers and is an assistant at the University of Arizona.