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Friday, November 28, 2014

South Carolina newspaper bans Ron Morris from covering Gamecocks football

Steve-Spurrier-South-CarolinaA little over two years ago, South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier went on one of his most epic rants to date when he refused to answer questions during his press conference as long as a certain reporter was in the room. That beat writer was The State’s Ron Morris, and apparently Spurrier no longer has to deal with him.

According to JimRomenesko.com, Morris has been banned from covering South Carolina football by his publisher. Several people who are familiar with the situation reportedly told Romenesko that Henry Haitz III, the publisher of The State, made Morris agree in writing that he would never write about Gamecocks football again or talk about it on television and radio shows. One of Morris’ former colleagues described it as a “journalism restraining order.”

“The publisher of the paper has removed Ron from any coverage of the football program, which down there is akin to the Washington Post not letting Dan Balz write about government,” an ex-colleague reportedly said. “Effectively, he’s being forced out at the behest of the football coach, with the publisher not standing up for him.”

In other words, Spurrier won. At the time of his tirade in 2011, the Ole Ball Coach said Morris was one of two reporters that he has ever had to completely dissociate himself from in 26 years of coaching. Morris had become known for writing columns that were critical of Spurrier’s decisions, and he pushed the 68-year-old over the edge when he wrote a piece accusing Spurrier of stealing a player from the school’s basketball program.

During a radio interview last year, Morris was asked about Spurrier’s refusal to take his questions during press conferences.

“I think it’s a real test of the [University of South Carolina] administration. This is how things like Penn State happen — when the administration won’t step up and confront the football coach, and he becomes all-powerful,” Morris said. “When the football coach begins to dictate company policy, I think you’re asking for trouble.”

As expected, Spurrier was once again infuriated by the remarks. He later proclaimed that he is “not taking it anymore” and basically threatened to retire if he had to continue dealing with Morris’ criticism. That set the wheels in motion for Morris to being barred from covering South Carolina football. The State later hired 67-year-old Glenn Snyder, a friend of Spurrier’s and huge Gamecocks fan, to cover the team.

In a statement sent to Romenesko from The State (which can be read here), the publication dodged the Morris question and spoke about what an exciting time it is for the state of South Carolina with USC and Clemson both being ranked in the top five in the nation. The bottom line is popular coaches at big-time programs can usually control the message that is being sent out to the public. Spurrier managed to do exactly that.



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