Monday Morning Quarterback
When I was little boy, my older brother worked for WFBC Radio in Greenville, who used to be the flagship station for Clemson sports.
He knew how much of a geek I was about sports. So every week, he always gave me Clemson’s weekly game notes for football and basketball. He even brought me home regular-season and postseason media guides. He feed my obsession if you will.
I read those game notes and media guides backwards and forwards. I’ll admit it, and my teachers can vouch for this, I studied those game notes more than I did my school work.
To tell you the truth, it has really come in handy with what I do now. Very rarely, if I need an obscure statistic, do I need to look something up. It just comes right off the top of my head. Even Hall of Famer Tim Bourret has complimented me about some of the stuff I know about Clemson sports off the top of my head. I’m not bragging. I’m just a nerd.
I also do it with my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. That is really the only talent I have, to be honest with you.
However, it is because of Bourret and the great Mr. Bob Bradley that I know everything about Clemson football and basketball. Those game notes my brother gave me each week, they were created by those two men.
Mr. Bradley or Mr. B, as he was known at Clemson, worked for 34 years as Clemson’s Sports Information Director. He also authored my favorite Clemson football book, Death Valley Days: The Glory of Clemson Football. Years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to put my name alongside his and the great Sammy Blackman, Clemson athletics’ premiere historian, in the book called Clemson: Where the Tigers Play.
When Bradley retired in 1989, Bourret took his place, which made sense. Though he was a Notre Dame graduate, Bourret worked under Bradley for 11 years, helping him with not only football, but as the main SID for men’s basketball, too.
Bourret was the perfect fit. He knew everything about Clemson. As a publicist, what better person to talk about, promote and help the media with Clemson Athletics, then a guy who knows everything about Clemson and loves Clemson.
Blackman also studied and learned under Bradley and became the perfect Robin, if you will, to Bourret’s Batman when it came to promoting Clemson Athletics.
Even when things were bad in the 1990s, when Clemson football and men’s basketball were both under NCAA investigation at the same time, Bourret and Blackman handled things well, got the media what they needed and represented Clemson with class and dignity.
Over the years, Bourret passed his knowledge and wisdom from what he learned as an understudy from Mr. Bradley to hundreds of undergraduates and graduate students who worked for him the last 29 years.
When one of the major SID positions came open, Bourret generally filled those positions with one of his understudies. When I started covering Clemson in 2004, every SID in the office was a Clemson graduate. Some received their undergrad and their graduate degrees from Clemson, while others received their graduate.
When I saw a new student in the office, I always asked what made them come to Clemson and what made them want to work in the SID’s office. The answer was one of two things: “My mom or dad worked under Mr. Bourret and Mr. Bradley so I wanted to do it” or “Clemson has one of the best SID office’s in the country and I wanted to learn from Mr. Bourret.”
As you all know, Clemson’s Sports Information Department, known as Clemson Athletic Communications these days, is nationally renowned. It is loved by the media, and it has been this way for years. Long before Clemson won a national championship in football and long before any of the social media stuff we see today on Twitter and Instagram, Clemson was known as one of, if not the best, SID offices in the country.
Mr. Bradley and Tim Bourret are the reasons for that. If you don’t believe me, look at what Dabo Swinney told ESPN’s Chris Low this past spring when they talked about Bourret’s upcoming retirement from Clemson.
This is why it baffles me to report that Clemson is going to replace, arguably what is the most important position in its athletic department in terms of promoting Clemson sports, and more importantly Clemson football, with a person who knows nothing about Clemson other than what they have seen on television.
Let me set the record straight. I have nothing against Clemson giving the job to the best man or woman who deserves it. My beef is this … Clemson is not giving those who learned under Bourret the same opportunity they are giving the outsiders.
This has been a growing trend, not just in the athletic communications department, but the athletic department as a whole at Clemson. In recent years, when various jobs have come open in the athletic department, most of them have been filled with outsiders. Though in some cases, very qualified Clemson graduates applied for those jobs, but they were not even given token interviews.
This was the case for Bourret’s position, even though one of his best understudies, who has been in the business for years and is respected by many around the country especially by the national media, applied for the job.
When Bourret and Blackman leave on June 30, the athletic communications department will have just three full-time workers left that are Clemson grads. All three were hired by Bourret and have been working at Clemson for at least 10 years.
Because of this growing trend, I am afraid Clemson is losing what makes Clemson special. Data, history and other things are not being saved the same way or stored for that matter. Things are getting lost.
For most of the new people coming in, working at Clemson is just like anyone else at any other job. It’s a job. Their passion is not the same as Mr. Bradley’s. It will not be the same as Bourret’s or Sam Blackman’s because they will not train under either one of them.
Clemson will not be their passion.
If an outsider is to replace Bourret, and right now we know that looks to be the case, they will know nothing about Clemson football. Nothing!
Remember what Dabo Swinney said? It was Bourret’s passion for Clemson and his knowledge of Clemson that got him to understand what the Clemson Family is all about. Now imagine, if you can, what people will know about Clemson football in 10 or 15 years if a Clemson person does not get this job.
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