Shane Beamer put the media through hard times
Understanding how Shane Beamer used his introduction of Dowell Loggains to restore the vibes around his program.
Shane Beamer understands that press conferences are more like pro wrestling than debate club
One of the things I’ve argued about Dabo Swinney — and college football coaches more generally — is that analyzing his public statements for logical coherence is a fool’s errand. The function of a head coach’s press conference is not, from the coach’s point of view, to engage in a good-faith public discourse with an adversarial press about the merits and demerits of the coach’s decisions; the function of the press conferences is, from the coach’s point of view, to advance a narrative that benefits the interests of the coach’s program.
In other words, press conferences are a public performance, intended to project one image or downplay another. I don’t know if Shane Beamer understands this on a purely instinctual level or on a calculated, strategic level, but he does seem to understand it. There’s no better evidence than the promo he cut on the South Carolina beat writers while announcing the hire of new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Beamer created a permission structure for skeptical fans to get on board with Loggains
Dowell Loggains is an exceptionally qualified coach, but reporters have done a bad job researching and explaining his qualifications. So be mad at the reporters instead of me or Dowell Loggains, and get back on board the Gamecock hype train.
This is the message Shane Beamer sent to fans. He drew the battle lines and asked Gamecock fans, “Are you with me or are you with the media?” Most fans, understandably prizing their loyalty to alma mater over their loyalty to local media, are going to side with Shane Beamer.
It’s already happening:
At a vibes-first football program, it is important to monitor and moderate the vibes
A striking element of the press conference was the degree to which Beamer seemed to be aware of the online discourse about Loggains. Not only did Beamer address the complaints head-on, there appeared to be some degree of coordination with the digital media team to send up a bat signal to let fans know which side of the argument they’re expected to take.
Under Steve Spurrier, engagement with fan opinion was virtually nonexistent, and there was vanishingly little evidence of the existence of any crisis communications plan whatsoever. We saw this in 2013, when the athletic department went several days without addressing a national story about Steve Spurrier supposedly being drunk on TV. We saw it again when the 2015 recruiting class crumbled amid speculation (since confirmed by Spurrier as being accurate) that he was planning to retire at the end of the 2014 season.
The only big public fight Spurrier picked with the media was an extremely esoteric beef with Ron Morris over the subtext of the verb “poach.” (Spurrier fought this fight really hard — far too hard, I would argue — and succeeded in his campaign to bully The State into reassigning Morris.)
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Unlike his predecessor, Beamer can be angry and charismatic at the same time
Will Muschamp was often quite grumpy with the media, and to some degree he succeeded in creating a bunker mentality around his program — the problem was that the combination of his aesthetically repellant style of football and his general outward demeanor made it extremely unappealing for anyone who wasn’t already in the bunker to join him.
The energy that Shane Beamer has created around the program is quite different, as evidenced by Dowell Loggains’ comments about what attracted him to the South Carolina job in the first place:
Your perception from the outside when you watch this thing is, “Okay, there’s an excitement there and it’s something people want to be a part of.” There are programs where there’s just something special about it and sometimes it’s hard to put into words but you just know you want to be part of it and it looks like a lot of fun. And you’re watching those Tennessee game and the Clemson games like, “That’s awesome. How do you get to be a part of that?”
On Wednesday, Beamer wasn’t hollering entirely from a place of grievance. In addition to complaining about the tenor of the coverage, he passionately — and persuasively — stated a positive case for his decision to hire Dowell Loggains. It helps that we arrived at this moment with some preconceived notions of Beamer as a happy-go-lucky sort of guy who will sometimes have to sit down because he is simply too overcome with joy to continue walking.
When you see that guy get angry, it’s natural to assume he must have a pretty good reason.
Beneath the bluster, Beamer had some compelling substantive points
Part of the reason I decided to write a piece of my own about Dowell Loggains was that it seemed like the exercise might give me insight into my own feelings about the hire. But in all my reading and writing, I kept tripping up on one central mystery: I did not yet know Shane Beamer’s rationale for making this hire. Lacking that information, I did not feel like it was possible to be as angry about the hire as I instinctually wanted to be.
Despite Loggains’ discouraging track record as an offensive coordinator, Shane Beamer sees something in him. In fact, everywhere Loggains goes, he seems to leave a trail of people who see something in him. Between now and September, the only thing we can do is cup our eyes and squint, on the off chance that maybe we will see it too.
I had a difficult time squaring Loggains’ struggles as a coordinator with the glowing praise his employers have had for him. So I wanted to wait and hear what Shane Beamer had to say about it.
And it turned out that we got some substantive answers to this question! Beamer gave extensive detail on how and with whom he vetted Loggains, and he clearly articulated what qualities he saw in Loggains that made him the right coach for this program at this moment.
Given how strident some of the condemnations of the hire have been, I think it’s fair game for Beamer to have been so critical. Especially when a big piece of intellectual scaffolding for the Loggains outrage stems from a factually inaccurate piece of clickbait that falsely claimed ESPN had named Loggains the worst coordinator in the NFL. What ESPN actually did was publish a listicle of all the offensive coordinators in the NFL, sorted by where their offense ranked at that time: Week 10 of the 2017 season. That listicle was then misinterpreted (or misrepresented, take your pick) by a writer at 247Sports, who incorrectly wrote that ESPN had named Loggains the worst coordinator in the league.
This 247Sports post from 2017 is not just being shared by fans. It’s being linked by prominent media publications and was referenced in the Gene Sapakoff column that got Beamer so angry. Over time, it’s been laundered into the discourse as a data point that’s supposedly a damning piece of evidence.
The media did a good job asking tough questions
Waiting to hear from Beamer before weighing in decisively on whether the hire was good or bad does not necessarily require accepting or being deferential to Beamer’s rationale. The media in attendance at the press conference did a public service in being tough on Beamer, asking him to defend the hire. Those questions gave Beamer the opportunity to explain why, in his view, fans should not be so hung up on his low-ranking NFL offenses, and I think we all — fans, journalists, everybody — benefit from Beamer having answered those questions.
It’s also good that Sapakoff followed up with Loggains to verify Beamer’s assertion that Loggains turned down an SEC coordinator job last year and was contacted by four SEC programs this year. It is understandable that Loggains did not want to divulge this information, and it’s undeniably true that the public would benefit from having it. What would do more to assuage fan concern — and help make Beamer’s point — than demonstrating that more than a third of the conference was trying to hire Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator?
Beamer himself is partly responsible for the negative initial reaction
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