Guest Chat Transcript: Post and Courier's Gene Sapakoff

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Gene Sapakoff writes columns and covers a variety of sports subjects (and sometimes non-sports subjects) for the Charleston Post and Courier. An Oregon native and graduate of Colorado State U., he moved to the Lowcountry to study history and eat Frogmore Stew. He has won many national writing and reporting awards. Since 1997 he has won South Carolina Press Association awards in eight different categories. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, Sport, Sports Illustrated, California, Us, Baseball America and Pro Football Weekly. His SI feature on Charleston's 1955 Cannon Street All-Star team has been optioned as a movie.

Chat Transcript

Question: What is thetime for the Clemson USC game

Answer: Good afternoon. Hope all is well. I have notheard yet on the game time for USC and Clemson

Question: clemson vs scar game time?

Answer: Don't know yet

Question: any idea about the Clemson/Coot game time

Answer: Nope

Question: do you know the usc game time?

Answer: Nope

Question: who starts at qb saturday?

Answer: Thanks for this opportunity. Great website. DW, I think you have to give Charlie the benefit of the doubt. While Proctor played well against Duke, it was Duke. Charlie helped defeat FSU the last time the Seminoles came to Clemson and is 3-0 vs. South Carolina. Of course, if he's hurt or is not getting it done early on, that is a different story.

Question: Thanks for coming on. Tigers win out? Split? Or lose out?

Answer: Sterling, I think a split is most likely, though they now are likely a slight pointspread underdog in Columbia. Then again, I believe they were a 1 or 2 point underdog at USC two years ago and scored 63 points.

Question: From a sportswriters perspective is the Clemson season thus far a miserable failure due to the record or signs of improvment based on how we have played?

Answer: Wow - great question, the $64,000 question. I think you have to say in between. Not a miserable failure as most "experts" said about 6-5 with a minor bowl bid in August. But you can't say improvement, unless they win these two games and a bowl game.

Question: You once gave the Clemson administration a hard time on the firing of hatfield. He now has the longest losing streak in Div 1, any second thoughts?

Answer: It is tough working at Rice. Look at his record at Arkansas compared to Danny Ford's. Aside from not getting it done in bowl games, he did a fine job there. It was more a principle thing for me when they let him go at Clemson, though his record with the Tigers gets better and will look better the longer time goes on.

Question: Gene, what time is the Clemson/USuC game? :)

Answer: Not yet

Question: Are we doomed?

Answer: No.

Question: any word on how Tommy is doing with his arm

Answer: You mean Whitehurst? It will take through Thursday to know and even then, Clemson would be wise not to let on.

Question: What was the chances Clemson and USC both ends the season 7-4?

Answer: Not good. That means they both win Saturday. But all three games should be close (FSU-Clemson, Fla-USC, Clem-USC).

Question: Tiger finish: Win out? Split? Lose out?

Answer: Split.

Question: Gene, so you see us losing to fsu beating coots?

Answer: Clemson might well beat FSU and lose at South Carolina. The point spreads will be about the same. You know, ultimately, this is great college football entertainment when you come down to the wire like this with games like this.

Question: When will USC quit being all about their head coach(lou,spurrier,etc.) and be about the school or program?

Answer: Maybe never. But if Spurrier sticks around long enough, win or play about .500, he will build a real program with real discipline. Problem is, he is 60.

Question: Gene, is it easier to write about a close game or a blowout?

Answer: Great question. It is easier to write about a blowout. It is more fun to write about a close game, unless the underdog is doing the blowing out or a team snaps some kind of long streak. Say, Clemson winning a basketball game in Chapel Hill by 33 points.

Question: Is the ACC or the SEC the better conference this season?

Answer: ACC, despite Duke.

Question: u can't be serious on hatfield, lol.

Answer: OK, the structure of the league has changed. He had a lot of Ford's players. But look at the record, the undefeated ACC title season and he certainly put academic integrity into the program, which was lacking and which West and Bowden have maintained. He changed the culture for the better. My main problem with Hatfield is his teams were so boring to watch.

Question: Can Tommy Bowden make Clemson a Top 25 program year in and year out? Can ANYONE?

Answer: No, not year in and year out. A coach who can do that at Clemson probably moves on after 4-5 years. The ACC is just too tough and then you have all these SEC powers nearby.

Question: There's a chasm of opinion in TAC about Ken. How is he to work with?

Answer: Ken Burger is a great guy and I know of no one in journalism who thinks differently.

Question: Gene, let's say we win out and win a bowl. Top 25?

Answer: Probably. That would theoretically mean defeating a decent foe in Charlotte. Maybe like No. 23?

Question: Gene, based on your Hatfield response, do you think that a coach should MAINLY be judged on his win/loss record? Furthermore, do you think Hatfield left Clemson with the talent that he inherited?

Answer: Mainly, yes, judged on won-loss. But extreme situations have to be considered. He inherited a mess in which Ford was on record as saying he didn't want an athletic/academic study facility. It seems so recently yet so far away. C'mon, if a coach said that at virtually any school no, he's out or in big trouble. Hatfield's recruiting is a whole long story.

Question: I would say its easy working at rice expectations at all.

Answer: Good point but I mean it is hard to win. It is the only school where the number of living alumni is less than the capacity of the stadium. His legacy will be the Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson stuff.

Question: Gene, Anyone ever tell you that you look like a particular character from Beavis and Butthead?

Answer: My wife said that once. Or twice.

Question: clemson-usc a close game? LMAO..surely you jest...or have just forgotten recent past

Answer: I just don't see either team dominating. Unless James Davis runs wild.

Question: How much does Newberry's loss to PC hurt their elite status?

Answer: Hey, we have great college football all around the state. PC, Coastal Carolina, Wofford and Furman, S.C. State might be the best and most fun football experience in the state.

Question: Clemson has played a ton of young defensive linemen...The potential that I see for that unit is unlimited..Do you agree?

Answer: Absolutely. Each on of those guys has had dominant moments.

Question: You said you think we split the next two. I assume you think we'll lose to FSU and beat usc.

Answer: Again, as strange as it sounds, the point spreads will be nearly the same for both games so the opposite split wouldn't be stunning.

Question: Okay you said split... Lose to FSU or lose to USC?

Answer: Probably lose and then win but , again, the other wouldn't be surprising with FSU struggling against inferior talent such as UVa and N.C. State.

Question: will the players be behind Proctor next year like they have been for CW?

Answer: Judging from the quotes and feedback I get from beat guys, yes.

Question: Gene, Does Tommy have to win the last 2 games to keep his job?

Answer: No. Unless he gets blown out twice, then he's in very warm water. But they better have a replacement in mind they can sell to fans, that make people run out and buy season tix.

Question: Did Amato save his job Saturday?

Answer: Probably, assuming he wins 2 more - most likely Maryland and Middle Tennessee.

Question: Do you and Ken coinflip for the sides in your "arguments?" or do you really believe what you are saying?

Answer: We believe!

Question: Will there be an Ann Bowden cam sat?

Answer: Unfortunately, probably yes. The poor woman. They should have an Esso Club cam instead.

Question: So, if we win out and win the bowl... top 25 at season's end?

Answer: Probably. No. 23, with a bullet.

Question: How often do you visit sites such as this to get a feel for what fans are thinking? Do you think the sentiment on websites is indicative of how the majority feels?

Answer: From time to time. Generally, I think older fans are not chatting as much and tend to have less knee-jerk opinions.

Question: So you're saying if Spurrier goes .500 he's built a "real program"? Didn't Holtz do better than that?

Answer: Well, maybe slightly above .500. But if in a given 3 year stretch he goes - with the new 12 game sked - 8-5 with a bowl win, 7-6 with a bowl loss and 5-7, that is slightly above .500 but acceptable. And I think that's the worst-case scenario. I definitely think he will do better than .500 unless they jack up the non-conf. sked.

Question: Do you typically begin writing your articles during the game?

Answer: On deadline, at night, yes, you have to.

Question: South Carolina University is a coach's graveyard. Discuss.

Answer: A different story for each coach but there are too many cooks in the soup there, or have been, and not nearly the unified approach within the administration that Clemson and other schools have or have had.

Question: Despite Duke? Is there a league that doesn't have a crappy team?

Answer: No, probably not. But the question was regarding an SEC comparison. I think Ole Miss, Kentucky or Miss. State beat Duke this year. Even if barely.

Question: Given Spurrier's age, wouldn't it have made more sense for Carolina to go after a younger up & coming coach to help them build a program?

Answer: I have thought about that a lot but you just can't resist the chance to hire Spurrier if it is there. At this time last year Texas would have hired the guy.

Question: Concerning the Tues. morning write ups that you do with Burger, do each of you actually believe in what you're writing or do you sometimes have to pick the other side just for the sake of the article?

Answer: I believe in some more strongly than others, and I think the reader can see that. But I have never taken a position in which I believed the opposite way.

Question: Gene, with all due respect your comments on Ken Hatfield are idiotic.... those CU teams he inherited had a glut of talent on them - these teams he left did not.. I think the way the program was trending was what the media never mentions when they bashed and continue to bash Clemson.

Answer: Again, it is a long story. This is fact: Clemson "fans" undermined him in recruiting, calling me and other beat reporters with bad information, calling recruits. Some people - and I realize it was a minority - were willing to hurt Hatfield and their own favorite team they were so mad at how Ford was treated.

Question: I loved your unbiased humor in the early 90s. Have you become more passionate about CU vsUSC since then?

Answer: I am happy to say I get a lot of S.C. fans who think I favor Clemson and almost exactly as many Clemson fans who think I favor S.C.

Question: Clemson can't be a Top 25 program? Then the same can be said for Auburn or Tennesee

Answer: In both those cases, their league didn't just recently get dramatically better. Clemson within the old ACC - pre- FSU, or even just pre-BC, VT and Miami, would be a different story. Both also have significantly better facilities. UT, particularly.

Question: Why didn't USC comment/further punish USC after their violations came out? ACC isn't scared to pile it on.

Answer: And never has been. That's why I have always respected the ACC office more than any other of the major college leagues.

Question: Who will be the next great athlete/football player to emerge from Gilbert High School's stable?

Answer: Uh, a band member. Gilbert is a fine community and school but the band members are the real stars.

Question: So why can Auburn and VT be successful and Clemson cannot? High School talent is comparable, academic standards are comparable and traditions are comparable

Answer: Auburn has a longer stretch of sustained success and better facilities. VT has one heckof a coach, an administration that has allowed a lot of thug behavior among the athletes. And, this is key, the state of S.C. produces too many academically unqualified high school football prospects and it hurts both Clemson and S.C.

Question: Who is the best team in the state at this point?

Answer: We run a thing each Monday called the Braggin' Rights Barometer which attempts to predict the score if Clemson played S.C. that week. This week I picked S.C. to win 17-14.

Question: Who in your estimation is the best beat writer to come through Clemson since Forrest White?

Answer: Our man Larry Williams, probably on his way to the New York Times and ESPN one day. But Forrest was an underrated talent.

Question: What does Tommy need to do next season to be the coach in 2007?

Answer: Have a winning season and not have any significant off-the-field trouble.

Question: Okay enough about Hatfield. Can Tommy stay here winning 6-7 a season? How long?

Answer: Yes, because Clemson does not have the cash to buy him out, not while they are trying to build so much stuff. Then he will need to have a winning season next year.

Question: Ginger or MaryAnn?

Answer: Ginger is so overrated she is underrated now. Ginger.

Question: Could Furman beat Clemson?

Answer: No, Furman couldn't beat Georgia Southern, which couldn't beat Wofford, which couldn't beat Western Carolina ...

Question: Is Will Korn as good as everyone says he is? Can he translate his powers to the collegiate level?

Answer: Hard to tell. I have to see them on a college field first.

Question: betty, coots lose by double digits to fla?

Answer: Hmmm .... I thought so until I watched the Fla - Vandy game on TV. No I kind of lean toward closer than that. You know the Ballcoach will work his rear off trying to see to it, though I am sure Urban Meyer has been made aware that losing to Spurrier is not an option.

Question: If we beat FSU and USC loses to UF, then what will the spread be?

Answer: Clemson by 3-4. Not much different, even then, than FSU by 2 as the spread stands now.

Question: What freshman players ( other than the obvious choice JD) have impressed you the most so far this year?

Answer: Of the true freshmen? I really like Clay and Merling and I think Grisham and Haydrian Lewis will be very good.

Question: Gene, Will you be suprised if USC-Clemson is not on TV at all?

Answer: Yes, but I guess there is a chance. Spurrier vs. his arch-rival would be the tipper if I were a network exec. Then again, I like Ginger.

Question: Hatfield vs. Ditka?

Answer: Ditka

Question: would u suggest we hire Hatfield if TB gets in that warm water u speaketh of?

Answer: No. Ditka.

Question: What bowl will Clemson go to?

Answer: 2 wins might be good enough for Charlotte. Otherwise, maybe Boise, Memphis, San Francisco

Question: What's your favorite fart joke?

Answer: That one

Question: Does it speak to our mediocre season that the Clemson vs. USC game is not on TV?

Answer: Hard to deny

Question: During which stretch of Tommy Bowden's 7 year tenure do you think Clemson improved the most?

Answer: The home stretch of the 2003 season

Question: Gene, answer the question.... the talent level that eroded significantly under Hatfield was the prime reason he was let go? It wasn't about academics.... but it was about a rapidly decling talent level. Just yes or no - no ifs ands or buts

Answer: The losing season in 1992 put him on the hot seat and the loss to Wake in 1993made the hill too high to climb. No is the answer. Had they supported him and he won the bowl game, do you fire a 9-3 coach? That would be nuts.

Question: Clemson looks awesome at times, and little lackluster performances recently. Do you think Tommy or the players get stage fright at times?

Answer: No, inconsistency isn't just a Clemson problem. It is all around college football, except at the real USC

Question: It seems USC gets a little preferred treatment in the media. Yes or No and why? Thanks

Answer: Yes, if you mean the entire state media. Columbia is centrally located in a major population area and a lot the TV and radio types there are too lazy to travel to Clemson on a regular basis, or find it too costly. But, this particular season, I do not apologize for myself and others having a keen interest in Spurrier, such a high-profile SEC icon, and how he handles his first year at S.C.

Question: Hatfield's relationship with high school coaches instate was shaky, hence our instate recruiting suffered,comment?

Answer: The coaches liked him, generally. Also, it takes some time to develop relationships.

Question: Gene, one last point on Hatfield's recruiting.... Check the 1991 recruiting class that Darnell Stephens (Converse, TX) was in... was a horrible class other than Stephens. Hatfield's comment "All of the time we spent recruiting in TX was worth it to get Darnell Stephens". Fact of the matter is that yes, some CU supporters didn't help him; but his neglecting to recruit as hard his home state and surrounding areas were his own fault.

Answer: Darnell Stephens was outstanding as a freshman and then grew so much he lost his speed. But, yeah, spending too much time in Texas and west of Ga. was a mistake. They got some good guys, like McCleon out of Miss. But he was doing what a lot of coaches do, mining their roots. Coming from Ark., Texas was his main recruiting area. But you are right, that was a mistake.

Question: If not top 25 every year, what should Clemson fans expect?

Answer: A winning season and a bowl game probably five out of six years unless the non-conf. schedule is ridiculously tough which it virtually never has been. Also, a winning record vs. South Carolina

Question: Do you not think the instate media is biased toward USC? Could it be because most are grads of USC's School of Journalism?

Answer: The entire media, including TV/radio/newspaper people? Yes, slightly, for exactly the reason you state.

Question: You think that crappy run defense holds Clemson to 14 points? Uh... okay.

Answer: Yeah, I would prefer a high scoring game. But I watched the tape of the Clemson-Tech game.

Question: Any chance of us beating the Seminoles?

Answer: Sure. About 40 percent.

Question: If Bowden coached at USC and Spurrier coached at Clemson, what do you think the records would be this year?

Answer: Hey, we might use that as a debate topic. About the same. Spurrier probably doesn't lose at Wake but might not have defeated Texas A&M

Question: Do you think the influence of being in the ACC will clean up the thuggery at Va Tech?

Answer: Yes

Question: Is it reasonable for Clemson fans to expect a bowl eveyr year and challenge for an ACC title every 4 years or so?

Answer: Bowl game about 5 of every six. The title question is probably about right but I think Clemson will have to be lucky to ever win another ACC title.

Question: Phil Kornblut or Teddy Heffner?

Answer: Both have their strengths.Kornblut has been doing radio longer and has more help. I like his show a lot. But Teddy is not afraid to speak out.

Question: All purple for FSU???!!!

Answer: Lots, probably

Question: Has Burger's golf game gotten any better? Last time I played with him he was horrible.

Answer: He's pretty good, good enough to have played in some city-am tournaments here in Charleston.

Question: Should Clemson fans be happy with Tommy Bowden's results so far and why?

Answer: Yes: Bowl game eligibility every year, 5-1 vs. the arch rival, clean program, some nice wins vs. Top 25 teams sprinkled in.

Question: So, you think we can't run the ball on usc with Davis, Merriweather, and Browning??????

Answer: I think Davis is the key. Yes, I think Clemson will run OK. But look what Arkansas did on the ground without scoring much.

Question: Who has the better talent this year, usc or Clemson?

Answer: Pretty even. Rice makes up for a lot of recruiting mistakes and will be the best player on the field Nov. 19. Overall, though, Clemson slightly.

Question: why don't more teams run the ball against the coots?

Answer: Arkansas did well but not in the red zone

Question: Where are you,Gene?

Answer: Beautiful downtown Mt. Pleasant about to leave for Clemson

Question: Early predictions? Clemson/FSU and USC/Florida?

Answer: FSU and Fla, both very close. And that does it for another round of chatting. Thanks for the 97.5 percent excellent questions. It was fun. So long.

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