Steve Spurrier uses SEC platform to rant on stipends, Notre Dame, President Obama

Eric Adelson
Yahoo! Sports

HOOVER, Ala. – Steve Spurrier hopped up on stage, smiled behind the podium, thanked all the folks for sticking around late, unfolded a few loose leaf sheets of paper, and declared he had a few things to say.

You could feel the entire college football world lean in to listen.

And if you squinted your eyes until the "SEC" on the lectern in front of him vanished, it sure felt like the Ol' Ball Coach was running for something beside the conference title game in Atlanta.

The South Carolina coach had a platform on this day, and he announced the results of votes taken in May by his SEC coaching peers. There were two unanimous votes, Spurrier declared, 14 to nothing, on important topics of the day.

First, Spurrier said, the SEC coaches had agreed that players' families should be given a stipend so they could travel to away games. Many families are not rich, Spurrier said, and their student-athletes bring in so much money, and it's the right thing to do. The basketball coaches, all 14 of them, agreed. 

And if for some reason that was not allowed, Spurrier said, he and the other coaches would pay for it out of their own pockets. He surmised it would cost $280,000 total. The coaches can afford it.

"This is tiny, compared to the money that's coming in," Spurrier stated. "I'm gonna keep fighting for our guys. If President Obama would say, 'Spurrier, you and those coaches need to quit fighting for your players, that they get enough, they get enough full scholarship,' then I'll shut up about it."

Oh, and this isn't pay-for-play, he informed the press. "This is just expense money."

Okay then. We'll call President Obama tomorrow for his comments on the SEC. On to the next item on the agenda.

So we're deciding on a four-team playoff, starting next year, and it seems the Notre Dame athletic director gets the same vote as the conference commissioners. Hmm.

"Why is Notre Dame equal with all the conference commissioners?" Spurrier asked. "All 14 of our coaches thought they should join the ACC and play football like the rest of us."

So the coaches voted – on a program they have zero control over – and it was unanimous: Notre Dame should get on with it and become members of another conference. So say we all.

This would have been far more preposterous coming from any other coach. Gary Pinkel is not going to get up there in front of hundreds of reporters and tell Notre Dame what to do. But we're talking about the OBC here. That's his shtick, a perfect blend of insight and satire. He says what he thinks, and he knows a lot of people will hate it, and so what? He smiles as if he just kicked an errant tee shot out of the rough at Augusta National.

"The Notre Damers will get mad at me," Spurrier said. "But why aren't they in a conference? Hard to figure out why. They're sort of in the ACC. Maybe if you guys can give me a good reason why they're not."

Spurrier did not wait for the reporters assembled to give them a good reason.

"We voted 14-0," he said, "they should be in a conference." Resolved.

This episode of Mr. Spurrier Goes To Hoover was not yet over.

"Alabama did not play three top teams in the East [last season], and Georgia did not play top three in West," Spurrier said. "We would like to see [that] – the Big 12, they all play each other. That's pretty doggone fair. We'd like to see what's the most fair way to determine a champion."

Curiously, he didn't mention a unanimous vote on that subject. After rallying 'round the SEC flag for a good 10 minutes, he stabbed Nick Saban and Mark Richt with the flagpole. Vintage Spurrier.

Look, a lot of people don't like this guy. He's been taking shots at opponents longer than most of his opponents' players have been alive. But look at the topics he's raising, in front of the sports world, and argue that he's wrong. Parents who send their kids off to make millions for a school should be allowed $300 to watch their kids make millions for a school.

And seriously, why does Notre Dame get its own special category? Because it's Notre Dame? That doesn't hold water anymore. Yes, the school has financial reasons for its independence, but that shouldn't carry over to decisions that affect dozens of other programs and their chances to play for a national title. Notre Dame shouldn't be allowed the benefits of conference membership along with the benefits of avoiding conference membership.

And as for the SEC's scheduling, well, Spurrier's got a point there too. Alabama lost to Texas A&M, nearly lost to LSU, nearly lost to Georgia, and didn't really play any other strong teams (except for Mississippi State, maybe). That's not the kind of résumé that should earn a conference title. Is Alabama undeserving? That's not really the point. The point is that the SEC champion should be deserving by any measure, including SEC schedule strength.

You can easily argue that Spurrier is lobbying for change that benefits Spurrier. Fine. But we have all season to talk about football. Let's talk about the issues facing college football.

The thought of Spurrier in a position of leadership in college sport might make some people retch. But he had a position of leadership Tuesday, up there in his coat and tie with all those cameras trained on him. He used the moment well. He didn't just say he had a good team this year and we look forward to blah, blah blah. He represented his conference, his school and his sport.

And if Notre Dame was offended? Well, it'll get over it.

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