Spurrier gaffe offers a lesson

The (Columbia, S.C.) StateJuly 25, 2009 

— Steve Spurrier and his director of football operations should not beat themselves up too much over this week's brouhaha regarding the coaches' preseason All-Southeastern Conference team.

Spurrier's omission -- and that of his dutiful assistant Jamie Speronis -- of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow from the first-team ballot merely exposed the true nature of preseason teams. They are silly. They are meaningless. They should be abolished or at least given no credence.

"I've been doing the preseason ballots for 17 years, and I've never filled one out," Spurrier said Friday at SEC Media Days. "I usually look at it. It was my fault. It was my fault all the way. ... Personally, I don't know why we vote."

During the three days of these annual meetings, the 900 or so media members in attendance have been chasing what Alabama coach Nick Saban termed a "created" news story: Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and widely considered the best quarterback in the country, was left off one coach's first-team ballot.

One by one on Wednesday and Thursday, each coach denied being the guilty party. Then Spurrier arrived Friday with what he called a "rehearsed" mea culpa for why he did not vote for Tebow.

"Some coach made a pretty serious mistake, either dumb or careless mistake, by not having Tim Tebow as his first [team] selection," Spurrier first said during a handful of radio and television interviews before repeating the mantra to the print and Internet media.

Spurrier said he first heard about a coach not including Tebow on the first team when he read Thursday morning's The State newspaper. So he went directly to Speronis, who likely has been filling out all-conference ballots and national rankings for Spurrier in all of the 18 years he has worked for the coach at Florida and South Carolina.

"Certainly, we had Tim Tebow on the first team," Spurrier recalled asking Speronis rhetorically.

Spurrier said Speronis admitted to putting Jevan Snead, Mississippi's outstanding quarterback, on the first team because the ballot already had about 10 Florida players on it and did not need another.

"That's bad," Spurrier said he told Speronis.

"But it's my fault," Spurrier said. "I take full responsibility. I messed that up. ... We screwed it up pretty badly. I'm embarrassed about it. I feel bad about it."

Spurrier said he called Tebow in Gainesville, Fla., and apologized. Then Spurrier called Charles Bloom, the director of media relations for the SEC, and asked if the ballot could be changed. Bloom, recognizing that the preseason team is meaningless anyway -- and that Spurrier's changed vote would not alter Tebow's status on the first team -- obliged.

Spurrier reiterated Friday his long-held belief that Tebow is the best player in college football

More than bringing to light the error of Spurrier's omission, the "snubbing" of Tebow revealed the irrelevancy of preseason teams. The SEC does not so much as send a certificate to those players named to the first or second teams. The same is true of the media's preseason All-SEC team, which was released Friday.

Bloom said the coaches' preseason team was established six years ago as a public-relations ploy to promote the SEC Media Days

"It really serves as a [public relations] function," Bloom said. "It's a preseason team designed to promote the student-athletes and SEC football."

Bloom said he only could surmise that the 12 league coaches actually fill out their own ballots. But it is widely known that few coaches have either the time or inclination to vote for this team or any other all-star team. Instead, most coaches admit to turning those duties over to their sports information directors, or in South Carolina's case to the director of football operations.

The message is clear from the coaches: The preseason teams are not relevant enough to be taken seriously. The same message became clear with the media's preseason team. Of the approximately 900 credentialed media at the SEC meetings, only 64 filled out ballots.

Three members of the media did not include Tebow on their first-team ballots. It is not far-fetched to believe that Snead could be the first-team quarterback on the one All-SEC team that really matters -- the one that is announced following the season, the one based on on-field performance, not on projections or guesses like the preseason teams.

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