COLUMBIA -- A Clemson booster in North Carolina has created quite a stir in the wake of Clemson's football victory against South Carolina 10 days ago. He paid for a billboard on I-26 near Harbison Boulevard that has Clemson and USC officials upset.
The billboard's message, which was removed this past Friday after running for four days, was intended as a way for Ken Jackson of Arden, N.C., to crow about Clemson's win.
"(Coach Steve Spurrier) told me that they aren't going to lose to Clemson again," the billboard read with attribution to USC player Rodney Paulk. Below the quote was the final score -- Clemson 23, USC 21.
Since the billboard ran, athletics director Terry Don Phillips issued a stern lecture about sportsmanship via e-mail to Clemson boosters, and a follow-up e-mail that again stated he does not condone such actions. Those messages also were posted on Clemson's Web site. Phillips also rifled off a letter of apology to Eric Hyman, USC's athletics director.
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By Monday, Jackson continued to defend the billboard as "just having a little bit of fun. It's a rivalry, good, clean fun. Nobody got hurt."
Spurrier, when first informed of the billboard's contents on Monday, was not so enamored by the "prank," as Jackson described the billboard's message.
"Rodney is full of crap if he thinks I said that," Spurrier said of his sophomore linebacker. "I don't even talk about Clemson. I talk about the SEC if I talk about anything. That's a bunch of crap. I don't even talk about Clemson. I don't give them that much credit. I try to only talk about the SEC."
Paulk confirmed Monday that the comment was made while the Richland Northeast High School graduate was being recruited by USC in February 2006. But Paulk said the billboard attributed the quote to the wrong USC coach.
"Coach (Rick) Stocktill told me that," Paulk said of Stockstill, who was USC's recruiting coordinator at the time. "I didn't get that directly from coach Spurrier. That's what the billboard's claiming, but that's not the way it happened. I did not get that directly from coach Spurrier. That needs to be clarified."
The billboard seemed to initially strike a nerve most with Phillips, who has been working with Hyman to make the USC-Clemson football rivalry more harmonious since the 2004 game included a benches-clearing brawl.
"We have made great strides by demonstrating good sportsmanship, especially in our competitions with the University of South Carolina," Phillips wrote in the first e-mail. "However ... We do not condone the exhibition of this billboard. It steps over the line, and I am personally disappointed that it has been displayed. And, I would ask those that are responsible to have it removed."
Phillips then sent out a second e-mail that backed down somewhat from his initial claim of unsportsmanlike behavior.
"While I still hold the basic opinion that was expressed, I should have stated that I recognize that in a rivalry such as this -- both sides, whenever the opportunity presents itself, are going to take shots at one another. And, not necessarily because of poor sportsmanship -- but, rather, that's the nature of the rivalry."
Phillips and Jackson met for lunch last week prior to Clemson's men's basketball game against USC at Littlejohn Coliseum. Jackson, who contributes to Clemson's IPTAY Club at the Heisman (highest) level, said he explained further why he purchased the billboard.
"Any other coach, it probably wouldn't have happened," Jackson said. "But when Spurrier came into the program and he said some of the things he said, including making that promise to Paulk ..."
Jackson said he saved Paulk's comment, which he said appeared many times on Gamecock fan Web sites. Jackson said Spurrier also riled Clemson fans by stating at a Kenny Chesney concert a year ago that Clemson fans need to get used to losing to USC. Further, Jackson said Clemson fans did not take to Spurrier autographing footballs for fans with the final score of the 2006 game (USC 31, Clemson 28) emblazoned on them.
"It prompts people to want to do something and say, 'OK, we're going to get you back now. We're going to let you know your team just lost,'" said Jackson, who initially paid $2,500 for a two-week run on the billboard, but is expected to get a pro-rated refund.
"It was a good, fun, clean prank," he said.
Not according to Spurrier. He said anyone who has been around him any length of time knows that he rarely if ever uses the words "never" and "always."
"If you use those (words), you make a liar out of yourself," Spurrier said. "This guy is trying to be cute, trying to rub it in a little bit, trying to get a little thrill. That's OK, so be it. It was just one game they came back (and won)."