Stockstill's Move

by - Correspondent -
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Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

COLUMBIA -- Life has a funny way of doing things sometimes.

For 14 years, Rick Stockstill spent more time roaming the Clemson sidelines than any other coach since the Legendary Frank Howard. More time than Tommy West, Chuck Reedy and, yes, even the great Danny Ford.

From 1989-2002, Stockstill was Mr. Clemson.

But like most of us when a better opportunity comes knocking, Stockstill left the humble surroundings of the Clemson family to become the new offensive coordinator at East Carolina. It was a promotion and an opportunity that was too good to pass up.

When the former Florida State quarterback got to Greenville, N.C., however, it wasn't at all what he expected. There were shake-ups in the athletic department and in the school's administration, plus Conference USA was splitting up thanks to the ripple effect caused from the expanding ACC.

"There was a lot of uncertainty," said Stockstill, "and really I just got scared at my age and where I'm at in my career with the athletic director leaving, the president leaving, the shake-up in the conference ... I got scared with what the future might hold." And this is when life threw Stockstill and his family a curve ball.

The University of South Carolina was looking for five new coaches, one of those positions opened - a receivers coach.

This was the area where Stockstill earned his stripes at Clemson (please excuse the pun). He coached the wide receivers for most of his time at Clemson and all four years he was under current Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden.

But it was USC - Clemson's archrival.

This was the same school he reportedly would tell jokes about with the Clemson faithful and helped beat 10 out of the 14 years he was at Clemson.

He can't go there! Could he?

As most of you already know - he did.

"This is coaching. It's part of the coaching profession," Stockstill said.

"Sometimes you have to move around.

"I was fortunate at Clemson to be there as long as I was." And as I asked for all of Clemson nation - why South Carolina?

"I really just got scared with what was going to happen at East Carolina," he said. "There is nothing else to it other than that. This opportunity came (open). It is still in the South - where I want to live. I didn't have to move my family across the country.

"I'm back in a state I'm familiar with after being at Clemson for so long.

There are a lot of things that made it a comfortable move... I was fortunate I was able to stay in the South and come back to South Carolina where I really like living.

"It is a good state, it's a good football state. There are a lot of good things about it so it just made it an easier move." Except when it comes to explaining it to his former players and some of the Clemson fans he grew to know.

"They're just glad I'm back and closer," said Stockstill. "A lot of them have said 'I never thought I see this' and that sort of thing.

"I have kept in contact and they've kept in contact with me. We did the same thing when I was at East Carolina. The relationships and friendships I built at Clemson, whether I'm at South Carolina or UCLA or wherever I'm at, will never change." Including his relationship with the current Clemson staff. Though Stockstill doesn't speak to them on a daily basis, he still has a close relationship with Coach Bowden and the rest of the staff. And it appears from talking to Stockstill, there doesn't seem to be any hard feelings.

"I bump into them all the time," he said. "I see more of the assistants like Burton Burns, Brad Scott, Mike (O'Cain) and those guys because you see them out on the road more recruiting.

"I have seen Tommy at some clinics and all that." And since we're talking about recruiting. Does it give Stockstill and USC an in-state advantage thanks to Stockstill's long-standing relationship with high school coaches in the state?

Stockstill doesn't think so.

"I'm familiar with it because I was at Clemson for 14 years and I recruited this state for East Carolina," he said. "I have been in this state a long, long time. I know a lot of the high school coaches and I respect the job they do and the product they put on the field.

"Hopefully, I can bring something to the table for South Carolina. Our friendship is based on how I treated them and how I recruited their school and treated their kids.

"That is based on me personally, not whether I'm at Clemson or South Carolina or East Carolina. That has nothing to do with it. Our friendship is there no matter where I'm at." Depending on how you look at it - good or bad - that place, for this year anyway, is at the University of South Carolina.

But despite the fact he now coaches the Gamecocks, as long as he lives in Columbia, he will always be reminded about his time at Clemson every time he turns off I-20 on his way home.

"This is very ironic," Stockstill said, "I live off Clemson Road." That's right, he said Clemson Road.

"Every time I tell somebody they always get a kick out of it," he said.

Well, Coach, life has a strange way of doing things sometimes.

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