Friday, September 2, 2011

Admit it.  When you heard the news that Steve Spurrier had chosen Connor Shaw as his starting quarterback over Stephen Garcia you were surprised.  Maybe a little, maybe a lot, but you were.  I know I was, and it was more than a little.

I'm not here to question the football decisions Steve Spurrier makes.  He's won a lot, knows a lot and has insights none of the rest of us do when it comes to his team.  I can, however, question the methods he employs when it comes to announcing his more controversial decisions.  This is one of those times.

Before we discuss the latest news, let's harken back to the beginning of spring football at Carolina.  The first practice was slated to begin late one March afternoon.  Many folks noticed almost instantly that Garcia wasn't there.  No one thought much of it at the time, assuming he had a class or some other appointment the coaches knew of.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  After practice Coach Spurrier informed all of us that Garcia was actually suspended again, this time for something that happened two nights before the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.  Talk about bad timing.

Stephen's screw up in the ATL warranted a suspension for sure, but why would Spurrier and his staff wait until the day a spring practice full of promise was beginning to inform all of Gamecock nation about something so important?  It instantly derailed overall excitement about the ball club and put the spotlight back on Garcia, and for the wrong reasons.

They knew they were going to suspend him.  Telling the media a week or two prior to the start of camp would've allowed the story to be hashed out by fans, hosts, beat writers and bloggers so that it would have been a non-issue on day one.  Instead a mini firestorm kicked up and it took a few days to put it out.  In the end it wasn't that big of a deal, but any controversy involving quarterbacks at big time football schools is going to become bigger than it should, which brings us to the latest twist at Carolina.

Just 48 hours before the season opener, Spurrier dropped another bomb on us.  Shaw will start, Garcia will back him up.  Wow.  The reasons the coach gave are very valid, and if completely true I have no issue with it as far as football goes.  However, the world we live in isn't as black and white as we would like, and once again the timing of all of this is proving to be distracting.

Instead of focusing on the opponent, fans are concerned about their own QB - again.  "How will this affect the other guys," "Is Stephen being punished again," "What if Connor stinks it up," "Why would Spurrier yank Garcia around like this."  All questions I've seen or been asked.  All valid.  All avoidable too.  How, you ask?  Timing.

I love that Spurrier announces news on his call in show.  As a radio guy I think it's fantastic marketing.  This time though, I'd have done it sooner.  Based on the coach's comments during Wednesday morning's SEC teleconference, he already had his mind made up.  Go ahead and say it, and do so with clear conviction so there's no gray area in anyone's mind.  That's not the case today.  No matter the reasons, no matter the outcome, the announcement has caused a controversy and a distraction to the bigger picture of the 2011 Gamecock football season.  Perhaps by the end of the game it's all over.  Perhaps not.

Last night on Twitter I said if this is strictly about football, so be it.  If, however, this is another last minute, super-secret punishment of an often troubled QB, I'd have done it differently so that it didn't take away from everyone else on my team.  Timing is everything, and once again, at the beginning of something that looks so good, the timing of big news seems so bad.

No matter what, Carolina's got to go play a big game in Charlotte.  They should win, regardless of who's taking snaps.  It just would've been nicer to have the starter announced in a manner that didn't catch everyone off guard.

Then again, maybe that was Spurrier's plan all along.  He's wily like that, right?