ESPN’s SportsCenter On The Road is shooting live from South Carolina’s campus Saturday, and it’s not because Vanderbilt is here or because it’s the kickoff of the Shawn Elliott era.
SportsCenter is here because Steve Spurrier is not.
And that’s going to feel weird for a little while.
South Carolina’s winningest coach and one of only two to spend more than a decade at the school resigned abruptly Monday. The whirlwind since has allowed little time for reflection.
He won 86 games at South Carolina, 228 overall as a collegiate coach and 275 as a coach in collegiate and pro football combined. The (Columbia) State newspaper asked readers this week how the Gamecocks should honor Spurrier following his resignation. Naming the field at Williams-Brice Stadium after him was the top response.
“They don’t need to name anything after me,” Spurrier told The State. “They have treated me some unbelievably kind with a big picture on the stadium and so forth. I am sort of a different bird, you know that.”
Yes, we all know that. For 10 1/2 seasons at South Carolina, Spurrier was the story, and it was rare that a week went by in the last five years on this beat when someone didn’t ask me, “What’s it like to cover Steve Spurrier?”
It was mostly like it looked from the outside. There was no other version of Spurrier behind closed doors. All the things he was in public, he was in private.
Spurrier would like to be remembered as “one of the best” coaches in college football history, and he will be.
“There are a whole bunch of good ones and to be considered up there amongst the good ones, that would be enough,” he said.
He’ll be remembered for more than that, too. In a lot of places, he’ll be remembered for adding a late touchdown just because he could. When I visited with him this week, he could only remember one of those that he regretted, a late bomb in a blowout against Kentucky.
“We were way ahead and they kept sort of milking the clock,” Spurrier said. “So I let our backup quarterback go in and throw one deep at the end of the game. Probably shouldn’t have done that. One of their players was yelling. I said, ‘You guys were hogging the clock. We had guys who wanted to play a little bit.’”
Spurrier could only remember two coaches who refused to shake his hand after the game and both of those instances came during his USFL career. He couldn’t even remember many tense postgame moments during his college career, although there must have been some.
“They have never really said too much nasty,” he said.
Rankling people will be one of those things for which Spurrier is remembered. Saturday will be weird for him, he admitted. In the last 50 years, he’s only spent one season away from football, the 2004 season after his short stay with the Washington Redskins. He’s planning to go to Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday to appear on College GameDay before Michigan’s game against Michigan State.
“I’ve never been to Michigan, that’s why I’m doing it,” he said. “The Big House, yeah. If it was somewhere I had been I would have said, ‘Nah.’ It’s a new adventure, somewhere to go.”
After that, he’ll find another adventure. He spoke with longtime college coach Dick Tomey this week, and Tomey got him thinking about a possible job.
“He is an associate athletic director at the University of South Florida,” Spurrier said. “His good friend is the A.D. and he hired him to observe football. So he was out watching practice. He said, ‘I watch practice, I make suggestions to the head coach. He can do it or not do it. I am just sort of an observer who makes suggestions and that kind of thing.’ I said, ‘You know what? That sounds like a lot of fun.’ ”
Spurrier has joked with son Scottie, an offensive quality control coach for the Gamecocks, about the pair coaching together at the high school level.
“We have a place called Crescent Beach, Fla., and there is a high school there called Menendez High School named after a Spanish explorer. I said, ‘If you get the job there, I’ll come coach quarterbacks for you,’ ” Spurrier said. “We laugh about that every now and then, but that’s just something to think about.”
Spurrier has been the OBC (Ol’ Ball Coach) and the HBC (Head Ball Coach) during his career. What is he now I asked this week?
“The Former HBC,” he replied.
There you go, and there he goes.