Steve Spurrier is not happy about a Big Ten coach who tried to bad mouth his program on the recruiting trail:
"We don’t run into much of any negative recruiting around here as SEC coaches," Spurrier said. "We were involved with a player who was being recruited by a Big Ten school. They got negative a little bit with ‘There’s a lot of crime in Columbia, the big city. They don’t graduate their players,’ which was completely untrue. They searched for a little bit of everything but the player came with us anyways."
Spurrier is not always super precise when shooting off at the mouth, but I feel like there are enough clues here to take a pretty good guess as to who this was.
Eliminating Big Ten schools
There are five B1G programs we can rule out automatically: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Rutgers. Why? The mystery coach tried to scare the prospect by calling Columbia "the big city". Therefore, it's very unlikely that the coach oversees a program in or near a city as big or bigger than Columbia.
All five of those are in or right next to metro areas that hold over a million people. Columbia's metro area holds 784,745 people. We probably can't blame any of those five. Wisconsin (metro area: 568,593) is unlikely as well but isn't a slam dunk for elimination like those others are.
It also follows that a competing coach wouldn't try to sway a recruit away from the scary big city of Columbia if that guy is already from a city of comparable size. From there we can remove nine players: Terry Googer (Atlanta metro area), Al Harris, Jr. (Ft. Lauderdale), Chris Lammons (Plantation, FL), Blake McClain (Jacksonville, FL), Michael Scarnecchia (Jacksonville metro area), D.J. Smith (Marieta, GA), Jhaustin Thomas (Decatur, GA), and Malik Young (Greenville, SC metro area).
Five more players are unlikely targets as well due to being near to major cities, although they don't really live in those major cities: Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, GA—near Atlanta), Wesley Green (Lithonia, GA—near Atlanta), Kalan Ritchie (Goose Creek, SC—near Charleston), Dante Sawyer (Suwanee, GA—near Atlanta), and Darin Smalls (Summerville, SC—near Charleston). Taylor Stallworth is worth mentioning here too. He's from Mobile, which is noticeably smaller than Columbia, but it's probably still too large for "big city" scare tactics to work on him.
Narrowing the field
The final filter would be to look for players that South Carolina signed who Big Ten schools recruited. Specifically, we're looking for the nine Big Ten programs not already ruled out above.
I don't think we can know for sure everything here. Spurrier is known to take offense to slights of any size, so it's possible that this Big Ten program never was a real option for the player in question. Acknowledging that possibility, let's still assume that this mystery school was one that the player seriously considered. After all, the recruit thought enough of it to relay the story of negative recruiting to Spurrier.
Going off of the lists of schools of interest on Rivals.com, five South Carolina recruits either came from true small towns or appeared on my "unlikely but maybe" list and also were recruited by any of the nine suspect Big Ten schools:
- Allen-Williams: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin
- Kevin Crosby: Illinois, Michigan
- Green: Indiana
- Abu Lamin: Illinois, Nebraska
- Dexter Wideman: Michigan
Here's where it gets tricky. Spurrier uses the singular for both school and player. Presumably, if the mystery Big Ten school thought this line was a winner, it would use it on more than one recruit. The only schools to appear once and only once here are Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
I don't think it would have been someone from Penn State, as James Franklin and Spurrier seem to have a level of mutual respect. Wisconsin is also unlikely for the reason I stated above about it not being that much smaller than Columbia.
That then leaves Michigan State and Nebraska. MSU is in the larger metro area, but East Lansing itself seems like it would feel smaller than Lincoln does (I have never been to either place). That said, look at where Allen-Williams's hometown of Ellenwood, GA is. Is that really far enough away from Atlanta for anti-"big city" recruiting to work?
Based on everything I have here, I'm going to guess this Big Ten coach was someone on Bo Pelini's staff at Nebraska. Spurrier didn't say it was the head coach, so we can't indict Pelini personally. However, an eventual Auburn signee said in January of 2013 that Nebraska went heavy into negative recruiting against Auburn. Plus the recruit in question here, which would be Abu Lamin, is from the small town of Fayetteville, NC, and he signed with South Carolina out of a JUCO in a tiny Kansas town. He has not, to the best of my Googling ability, lived in a large city, and Nebraska would need something to sway him away from going to a place that is far closer to his hometown of Fayetteville than Lincoln is.
So, the circumstantial evidence points to Nebraska going negative in the recruitment of Lamin being the full story here. We can't know for sure unless one of the people involved speaks up, but who doesn't like a little recruiting mystery during the offseason?