Steve Spurriers' Public Criticism Hurting Team Chemistry

Jay HolgateContributor IIISeptember 28, 2009

Original Article Published on SEC Sports Report.


ATLANTA, Ga—Some feathers have been ruffled.  The Ole Ball Coach is spending a lot of time making negative statements about his Gamecock team and I believe it will be costly as the season goes on. 

Many statements should have never been said publicly, and it needs to stop if this team wants to go to the next level.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier has been a great offensive play caller and his success at Florida cannot be questioned. 

But this is a new era in college football. 

Florida Coach Urban Meyer gets it.  So does Alabama’s Nick Saban.  Even Georgia’s Mark Richt understands what can be said and what cannot.  But the "Ole Ball" coach needs a refresher course in public relations. 

Spurrier tends to speak too openly to reporters at the expense of his team; he needs to use the public forum to his advantage.  When he becomes an ESPN analyst, he can tell it like it is and it will be priceless analysis. 

But as a head coach, Spurrier needs to say things publicly that build his team up, not tear them down.  "We are working on that and it should be better," would be more effective.

The players read the quotes and constant criticism is damaging.  No college athlete wants to be singled out or joked about in the news.

After a historic school win over then-No.4 Ole Miss that was seen nationally on ESPN, one of Coach Spurrier’s comments were:

“It was interesting to me how the guys all celebrate the victory so much, even guys that didn’t play very well,” Spurrier said Sunday. “I’m one of those guys that if I didn’t play very well or the people I coach didn’t perform all that well, it puts a little bit of damper on it.”

When your team wins, everybody on the team wins.  Whether it is ugly, miraculous, or just pure lucky breaks, a win is a win and the team and the fans celebrate. 

I’ve been watching this team for a long time.  They need to celebrate a big victory, because I’ve seen too many games slip by on Spurrier’s watch.  As a matter of fact, the Georgia game just two weeks ago should have been won.

It kills the team chemistry if only the players who do well can celebrate.  Sometimes you just don’t play that well, but you still get the win and you need to celebrate.  Despite your play, you reached the goal of winning. 

Year in and out, the Georgia Bulldogs consistently beat South Carolina despite being outplayed.  And all the Bulldogs players celebrate the win because it is another tough SEC win, and it moves them closer to an SEC title.

Last year, Coach Spurrier spent most of the year publicly complaining about quarterbacks Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia.  What happened? They tended to get worse after every comment.  His players had a team meeting and they let him know it was hurting their performance. 

Spurrier backed off and acknowledged that he was too critical, but too much harm had been done.  Several players that may have returned left early for the draft.  Maybe they would have left anyway, but the turmoil with the coaches didn’t help.

Spurrier is walking dangerously close to that line again.  When you are pushing college athletes to go past their limits, one question is always  in their heads:  “Is this worth it?” 

A Coach’s praise promotes; criticism kills. 

No different than any other team effort.  Coach Spurrier needs to lay off the public criticism unless he wants to suffer the wrath of the Gamecock nation publicly criticizing him for his team's losses.

Until next time, I will see you on the ball field.

Jay Holgate is an SEC sports analyst, freelance writer and editor of SEC Sports Report.  He can be heard around the South on sports radio.  Send comments to editor (at)

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