"Encouraged to look elsewhere."
"Nudged out the door."
These are the awkward phrases in which we must traffic as connoisseurs of college football, perhaps the only sport in America that requires its coaches to employ such egregiously euphemistic phrases in lieu of "cut" or "dismissed" or "designated for assignment" or "non-tendered."
Whatever you want to call it, this is exactly the situation in which rising redshirt junior QB Andrew Clifford finds himself, as Steve Spurrier told The Big Spur on Monday that he has "encouraged him to maybe transfer somewhere where he has a chance to play." The cold reality is that if Andrew Clifford ever saw the field in non-garbage time, then it would likely mean that Connor Shaw, Dylan Thompson, Tanner McEvoy, and Seth Strickland each died in a horrific car accident in some sort of quarterback buddy road trip gone horribly awry (see: Deathproof).
In the past, players who have completed their fourth year in the program (i.e., players who have completed their redshirt junior season) have been, on occasion, unceremoniously relieved of their footballing duties. This is a relatively palatable practice since the players have at least been given a scholarship long enough to obtain a four year degree. But it would be politically difficult for Spurrier to out-and-out dismiss Clifford from the team since he is entering just his third year in the program, so volunteering this information to the media is likely the Ol' Ball Coach's way of making it extremely uncomfortable for Clifford to do anything but transfer.
The only other way Spurrier would have the kind of cover to dismiss him altogether is if he lucked out by having Clifford get picked up on a drunk and disorderly charge or fail a class or get caught having another hotel "party" with Stephen Garcia, which is likely why you see Spurrier grasping at straws by reminding us that "[Clifford] hung around with Garcia and was involved in some of his stuff."
I say all of this not to cast aspersions on the way Steve Spurrier is handling the situation. Scholarships are a limited resource in college football, and devoting one to Andrew Clifford is a waste of that resource. So it's in Spurrier's best interest as the manager of that resource to better allocate it to a player who will is more likely to add value to the product on the field.
I just wish the rules, spoken and unspoken, allowed for this to be dealt with in a more above board manner.
Continue reading after the jump.
If Clifford does elect to transfer (which isn't certain), South Carolina would still need to shed six more scholarships before fall practice. Two are expected to be freed up when non-qualifying signees Jhaustin Thomas and Joe Harris are placed in prep school. Where the other four would come from is less clear, but if I told you that a guy named Chaun Gresham is currently on scholarship, you'd probably say, "Who?" And giving a scholarship to rising sophomore punter Patrick Fish has to have Steve Spurrier feeling a bit like Gob Bluth.
So for good or ill, Andrew Clifford likely isn't the Gamecock football player that we will see "encouraged to look elsewhere."