As is the case with most games between schools like North Carolina and South Carolina the media usually picks up on some kind of narrative to hype the game. Surprisingly they have not really talked about the “real Carolina” probably because there really is no debate and if you have any doubts simply type “Carolina” into Google and see what you get. The story everyone seems to be dwelling on is the return of Steve Spurrier to face UNC for the first time since Duke beat UNC 41-0 in 1989. As you might recall that the end of an interesting two seasons which saw the Heels go 1-10 back-to-back and Duke cobble together consecutive winning seasons which resulted in a share of the ACC title. At any rate The State picks up on this particular narrative discussing what happened that day in Chapel Hill when Duke came and absolutely pummeled UNC which included a concerted effort on the part of Spurrier to run up the score and embarrass UNC.
Today, Spurrier admits what possessed him to embarrass another coach and team in front of their fans. He points to 1980, when Spurrier was a Duke assistant and the Blue Devils lost 44-21 to UNC in Chapel Hill.
Late in that game, UNC coach Dick Crum inserted starter Kelvin Bryant to ensure that the running back would join teammate Amos Lawrence as a 1,000-yard rusher for the season. On one drive, Bryant carried the ball on five consecutive plays, and as Spurrier tells it, the Kenan Stadium public-address announcer kept fans abreast of his yardage total.
“I took my losing butt back to Durham, and we didn’t cry about it,” Spurrier said. “I figured maybe someday I’ll be on that sideline and can tack on some yards against those guys.”
That day came nine years later. Duke tailback Randy Cuthbert ran for 116 yards, becoming only the second Duke running back to top 1,000 yards in a season. Receiver Clarkston Hines caught eight passes for 162 yards to become the first ACC player to have three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
What Spurrier really wanted that day was for Duke to gain 637 yards. That would leave the Blue Devils with an astounding average of 500 yards per game for 11 games.
An 11-yard run by tailback Mike Varona on the final play left Duke with a whopping 37 first downs and 656 yards.
Spurrier’s play-calling earlier in the fourth quarter is what still rankles UNC supporters today. With a 41-0 lead, Spurrier emptied his toolbox of gadget plays. A double reverse netted 8 yards for wide receiver Keith Ewell. A flea-flicker pass from tailback Roger Boone to Jones gained 23 yards. Then a flanker pass by Darryl Clements fell incomplete.
“They’d been in the playbook, and we finally got a chance to use them,” Spurrier said after the game. “The kids like to run them. We just kept playing. I don’t think it upset the Tar Heels.”
First, I call poppycock. Spare me this nine year old grudge nonsense as a reason for running the score up on a beaten team who was 2-20 in two years. Spurrier running up the score on the opposition became as routine as Tommy Bowden coached teams falling apart mid-season. He loved to put points on the board and humiliate the other team as much as possible. So I am little skeptical that Spurrier’s interest that day was to avenge Dick Crum inserting a running back into the game for the singular purpose of allowing that player to achieve a statistical milestone. Now I was only five years old when that game in 1980 was played so I did not watch it(that I know of) and unless someone can offer me a eyewitness account I have to accept the word of The State here and assume the only thing Crum did wrong was leaving a starter in so he could reach 1000 yards rushing. Now we can debate whether that is right or wrong. I actually have no issue with it per se. If the express purpose is to help a player reach a milestone then what do I care. I do not think Crum was intending to show Duke up as much as he was permitting Kelvin Bryant to pad his stats.
That all being said, if Spurrier was really showing UNC up over that incident then let me say that he is a sad and pitiful human being. What kind of person does this sort of thing? It’s petty and incredibly childish to empty your playbook using trick plays and a tight end as a kicker all for purpose of ripping UNC a new one because you felt Dick Crum stuck it to Duke nine years earlier. I just cannot articulate how classless it is for a coach to do such a thing and then celebrate it as though he committed some heroic act of justice against the evil of Dick Crum. The last I checked anyone who lies than with the dogs gets fleas. In this case I am not sure you can make that argument. As I said I was not there and I have no idea what Dick Crum was thinking that day but if he was simply helping a player pad his stats that is vastly different from smacking a team while it’s down to satisfy some vendetta you have carried around for nearly a decade.
And while we are here can I ask a simple question. Why on earth is Steve Spurrier celebrated in the football media for being a pompous horse’s rear end most of the time? I know folks think he is funny because he delivers the “zingers” and is a straight shooter with his statements. But most of the time I simply find him arrogant and annoying. From where I sit Spurrier is absolutely in love with Spurrier. Anything he does is for glorification of his own ego or so it seems. Add to that the fact he has no qualms about throwing his own assistant coach or present school under the bus to serve his own purposes. Is he a great coach? No doubt, I mean he has South Carolina in the top ten for goodness sake. The fact he can convince anyone to come play football in Columbia is a great feat within itself.
However, the rest of it is crap from the pithy media quotes to the incessant self promotion. And anyone who feels the need to pay another team back for something that is debatable as an injustice nine years after the fact will get zero respect from me outside of his prowess as a coach.