South Carolina football fans will remember from last season that there was something going on between Gamecock head coach Shane Beamer and Kentucky Wildcat headman Mark Stoops. The two got into a bit of an indirect war of words last year and certainly got themselves stricken from the other’s Christmas card list.
In the 2022 preseason, during an interview on the SECNetwork, Stoops made comments about how a program’s “climate” (temporary warm feelings) and “culture” (long-term, sustainable positivity) are two different things.
There was no problem with that part of Stoops’ message. However, he went on in his next sentence to say, “It’s easy to change the climate: you just change a uniform, talk a little game, dance around, put on some stupid sunglasses…you can change a climate, but to change a culture is at the core [of a program].”
The comments came out right after Coach Beamer and the South Carolina football media team released the now-famous “Soulja Boy” video in which Beamer donned a pair of Pit Viper sunglasses, danced, and lip-synced the artist’s “Turn My Swag On.”
It was an obvious (although maybe unplanned) dig at Beamer’s social media presence. The South Carolina football coach didn’t take kindly to the remarks, making several public statements about “culture” and “climate” throughout the preseason and into the season.
After the Gamecocks whipped the Wildcats in Lexington, Kentucky that season, the two coaches didn’t speak after the game, and Beamer took his response to Stoops to the next level by putting on the same sunglasses in the locker room and dancing around, much to the delight of his football team.
This offseason, when talking with Taylor Lewan and Will Compton on the “Bussin’ with the Boys” Podcast, Beamer was asked which SEC coaches he could take in a fight. He sorta-jokingly-sorta-not-jokingly revealed there were two or three of his SEC counterparts with whom he would like to exchange pleasantries. Mark Stoops was obviously one of these unnamed coaches.
On Monday, Stoops tried to claim there was no animosity between the two head coaches.
During his media availability, Stoops was asked directly about Beamer and if the two coaches still had “an edge” to their relationship. The Kentucky coach feigned ignorance, stating that there was never an issue between the two of them.
He added, “I have no idea where you would get that information from…I mean, I don’t feel that way. Maybe he does. I don’t know. You’d have to ask him…it’s just another game.”
Stoops isn’t telling the truth here, but his reluctance to continue the verbal sparring with Beamer shows that he probably would like the public side of the beef to disappear. It remains to be seen how the South Carolina football coach feels about that.
Even after the Kentucky win was in the rear-view mirror last season, the Gamecocks played “Turn My Swag On” after victories at Williams-Brice Stadium (and even during basketball games at Colonial Life Arena and baseball games at Founders Park). The song has gotten some play (albeit much less) this season, as well.
If the Gamecocks pull off the win this weekend over the visiting Wildcats, fans can probably expect to hear Soulja Boy echoing through the Columbia night.
Would that be the last blow traded in the coaching rivalry? Maybe. Maybe not.