Part II - Football Forensics: The QB Controversy
"We must change the culture of this program. Not me, I'm not going to be the one to do it. It will take the combined efforts of many to make it happen."
- Lou Holtz, Head Football Coach, The University of South Carolina
Finally the man is seeing the light. This is not your everyday major football program. USC is different and it's all in the mind.
In what is arguably the most important season in Lou Holtz's career, it appears that he has experienced a rebirth since last November's beating at the hands of arch rival Clemson. Now he understands, now he knows. He must understand the psyche of the program if he is to ever truly make a difference. And in doing so he must somehow find a way to force a merger between his own outdated philosophy and the mass changes necessary within the mindset of the fans.
Remember this always. Cultural changes have little to do with the players, not in the beginning anyway. When a player signs he is a virgin to the Gamecock culture. He has yet to experience the day-to-day happenings that will shape his world for the next four or five years - and the remainder of his life. Newbie prospects are sponges absorbing anything and everything thrown their way by the coaches and the fans. They are not yet part of the culture of the program.
Some refer to Lou's culture as tradition. Others refer to it as 'a winning mentallity' or 'a losing mentallity.' Still others refer to it as 'a mindset,' while you may hear others saying something along the lines of 'they have our number.' Whatever you call it, it is what separates those that have from those that have not. Some simply will themselves to win and that is what Lou means when referring to a change of culture within the South Carolina program. You gotta believe.
Historically it is the fans who are most in need of culture change. It will take an incredibly strong-willed and flexible personality to make that change come about. Lou was supposed to be the man for the job. This summer he may have had the epiphany, the blinding flash of light, that forced him to realize for the first time the maginitude of his task. He seems open to change.
Culture Change 1 - Lou is coaching in the SEC. Initially he underestimated the strength of the conference. Now he knows.
Culture Change 2 - Gamecock fans are fickled. Without a doubt they are some of the finest, and most loyal, fans in the country - but they are fickled and over the decades they have lost some of their propensity for patience ... even where a coaching legend is concerned. Who would have ever thought there would be booing in mass within Williams-Brice Stadium. Lou must re-earn the trust of the fans.
Culture Change 3 - Beat Clemson. Beat Clemson. Beat Clemson. Lou failed to understand that at all costs he must Beat Clemson! on a regular basis. He understands that now. But does Clemson 'have USC's number?' Time will tell and this may be the most difficult change in the culture of the Gamecocks' fortunes to deprogram.
Culture Change 4 - Expect to win and then make it happen. This is the year because this South Carolina team has talent. With the new coaches there is a sense of a new beginning while at the same time there remains a lingering taste of the two Outback Bowl successes - wins over Ohio State no less. Proof that it can be done.
Culture Change 5 - Lou needs to hold on loosely to the reigns. Allow some of the younger minds more input and control in key situations. Coach Holtz's football fundamentals are sound, but merely sound fundamentals become boring over time and rarely produce big wins over fundamentally sound teams that are also inventive and imaginative in their approach. This applies both on and off the field and is part of the reason we witnessed a battle of wills during the offseason between a handful of players and the coaching staff. Times have changed - Lou Holtz has not. Great leaders are flexible and that is what Coach Holtz is going to have to be this season if he expects to be successful.
Culture Change 6 - This one will be hotly debated by the fans, but it is many Gamecock Club members who are in need of a major culture change. Too many long time club donors are selling their tickets to fair-weathered fans and band wagon riders. If the club leadership were to do an audit of their purchasers, many long time season tickets are held by dead people. Staff and/or faculty who have long since passed are still receiving ticket applications which are being cashed by the children and resold for a profit. And whenever above face values are paid for tickets, those who paid expect more than normal and are very difficult to please. That's just for starters. In another instance an Executive Committee member had to be called on the carpet during the offseason for disparaging the program and hurling repeated insults at Coach Holtz on his sports radio program in the Charleston area. The Gamecocks have enough hurdles to overcome without having a traitor from within casting negative vibes about the third largest Gamecock market in the state. The sports personality in question should have been discharged from his position within the Gamecock Club and allowed to be a free-wheeling talking head without allowing him the validity of being an Executive Committee member. The Gamecock Club is lead by one of the most dynamic Club Directors in the country in Jeff Barber. It makes you wonder if his hands are tied to some degree. Invisible heads in high-up places within the program have always had questionable influence at times. Whatever the reason the Gamecock Club needs to put in motion a gradual change of the culture of the club most of all. The Gamecock Club is a sleeping giant in this country and it is within its ranks that change is needed perhaps more than anywhere else painted Garnet and Black.
This is a tell all do-or-die season for Lou Holtz and his football team. Cultural change is an easy thing to talk about but a very difficult thing to achieve. What Ray Tanner, Dave Odom, Curtis Frye and others have accomplished proves that it CAN be done. And while you may, during the course of the next couple of months, hear that change is needed within the players' ranks - cultural change must happen among the coaches and fans first. It is all between the ears of those, the players are actually nothing more than extensions of those teaching them, AND those cheering or jeering their exploits.