Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Spurrier's work at South Carolina not done
By Chris Low
Steve Spurrier has been telling people since the end of his tenure at Florida that he had three or four more years in him before his coaching days were over.
And if you asked him today how much longer he planned on coaching the South Carolina Gamecocks, he’d cock his head and say in that familiar twang, “Oh, I’d say about three or four more years.”
Spurrier, who turned 66 in April, is just now starting to enjoy the fruits of his labor at South Carolina.
Steve Spurrier will be at the head of Gamecocks football through the 2015 season.
The Gamecocks won 10 games this season for just the second time in school history. It’s the first time in school history that they’ve won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons, and they’re recruiting as well as they ever have, particularly within the state.
They've also won three in a row over archrival Clemson, the first time that's happened in more than 40 years.
So why would Spurrier walk away now?
The answer: He’s not.
The University of South Carolina announced on Tuesday that Spurrier’s contract had been extended by two years and now runs through the 2015 season.
He might not go four more years, but here’s betting he goes at least two more.
Spurrier is 54-35 in seven seasons at South Carolina, which places him second all-time in wins at South Carolina.
Rex Enright is the Gamecocks’ all-time winningest coach with 64 victories. It’s certainly possible that Spurrier could catch Enright next season, although it may take two seasons to pass him.
It took Enright 15 seasons to rack up 64 wins. He was the Gamecocks’ head coach from 1938-42 and again from 1946-55, and he actually finished with a losing record (64-67-9).
Spurrier’s going to ascend to the top of the South Carolina coaching mountain in a little more than half the time that it took Enright.
Not only that, but he’ll walk away as the all-time winningest coach at two different SEC schools. He was 122-27-1 in 12 seasons at Florida.
It’s difficult to imagine when we’ll ever see that happen again in this league.
Here’s the other thing to remember when assessing where Spurrier ranks among the best coaches in college football history: He did it at two schools in the SEC that had little or no tradition before he arrived.
Florida had never won an SEC championship before Spurrier returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1990. Before he was done, the Gators had added six SEC championship trophies to their mantle.
What’s more, Florida had won just eight bowl games in its history before Spurrier arrived. During his 12 years there, the Gators won six.
Spurrier’s success at South Carolina didn’t come quite as quickly, but the Gamecocks burst through last season and made their first-ever trip to the SEC championship game.
And in the last two seasons, South Carolina has swept Eastern Division rivals Florida, Georgia and Tennessee with a perfect 6-0 record.
For perspective, prior to Spurrier’s arrival, South Carolina was 0-13 against Florida in SEC play, 4-9 against Georgia and 1-12 against Tennessee.
Spurrier has built programs at each of his two SEC stops, and in each case, taken those programs to unprecedented heights.
That’s what drives him. Still does, in fact. He loves the steepest of challenges. After all, the guy won an ACC championship at Duke … in football.
In 2005, several people advised Spurrier not to take the South Carolina job. They told him to be patient and wait for something better to come along.
But Spurrier had already made up his mind.
In his words, he wanted to go to a place where “they’d never done it before.”
It’s true that the Gamecocks are still looking for that first SEC championship, but they’ve made the kind of strides on Spurrier’s watch that few thought possible.
With this new contract extension, it sounds like Spurrier isn’t quite ready to go to the golf course full time.
His clubs are never going to be too far away and are usually parked right next to his desk, but his work at South Carolina isn’t done.