South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is an old hand at handling SEC Football Media Days. He did it for 12 years as the coach of the Florida Gators, and he’s working on his eighth year at South Carolina.
He’s always been one of the most quotable coaches in the Southeastern Conference. That is why he stands out at the annual gathering of coaches and players at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, AL. Most coaches bend over backward to say the right thing—or rather not to say the wrong thing — but not Spurrier. He speaks his mind and if you don’t like it … well, tough.
It is that kind of honesty and openness that makes him all that much more special. Tuesday was no exception as Spurrier talked about his current South Carolina team, the upcoming college football playoff, his longevity and his desire to be the winningest coach in the history of South Carolina football.
“I’ve been fortunate to be here. I do say ‘fortunate’ to be able to coach in the SEC,” Spurrier said. “This is my 20th year.”
“Our teams are getting better. We’ve recruited better guys; got an excellent group of assistant coaches; our athletic directors and boosters have built up the facilities up to the best in the conference and we’ve been able to recruit outstanding players.
“We’ve still not won the SEC. That’s our ultimate goal,” he said.
Spurrier is 10 wins short of reaching his goal of becoming the top coach in South Carolina history after posting 55 wins in his tenure in Columbia, a figure he could reach this season.
“I mentioned at a booster meeting before the first season that I’d like to try to be the winningest coach, which only 65 wins would do it,” Spurrier said. “I said that because I wanted people to know that I meant to be there for seven or eight, 10 years, something like that, and not jump at the first best offer that came around.”
South Carolina had enjoyed some success at winning before Spurrier, but had not been a constant championship contender from its early days in the ACC and certainly not as an independent.
“You always hope you can do it real quickly. I think we just didn’t put together a team that was quite capable as quickly,” he said. “I think we’ve assembled better players, better coaches, maybe a better strength coach, trainer, equipment guy, the whole bit. But again, we got to go play the games.”
Could this be the year?
“Well, we hope we can, but we realize we’re not favored like we usually were those years at Florida,” Spurrier said. “We got some teams certainly ranked ahead of us. That’s okay. We’ve sort of assembled I think better players, coaches, everything around us that gives us a chance to be successful.”
Although the college football playoff is still a couple of years away, Spurrier is happy that it is on the way even if he would tweak the system before it gets going.
“I would have eight teams go play,” Spurrier said. “We got six BCS conferences right now. If you can win your conference championship, one of these BCS conferences, you ought to have a chance to play for it all. Then you take two at-large teams. If Notre Dame goes undefeated, maybe Houston or Southern Miss goes undefeated; maybe they deserve a spot to play for the national championship.”
That got Spurrier back to the business of football in 2012. The Gamecocks open with a Thursday night ESPN game against Vanderbilt and second-year coach James Franklin on August 30th.
“He’s got his guys believing at Vandy. They believe they can beat everybody they play. They almost did it last year. They almost had a shot at Florida, almost had a shot at Georgia. So they are a very, very competitive, good team,” Spurrier said.
“(They) play with a lot of fire and energy, just like (Coach) Franklin has,” he said. “They’re going to be competitive. We know that. We know we have to play well if we’re going to have a chance to beat them in Nashville that Thursday night.”
The Gamecocks are working on a countdown for this season with the ultimate goal of a first SEC championship … and for Steve Spurrier’s 10 wins, which would vault him to the top of the South Carolina win list.