The winningest coach in South Carolina’s history is not the coach at South Carolina anymore.
Steve Spurrier, 70, stepped down Monday, telling his team in an evening meeting that he was resigning immediately. He told the world Tuesday.
“I’m resigning. I’m not retiring,” Spurrier said. “I doubt I’ll ever be a head coach again but maybe coach at a high school team or something. Don’t say I’m resigning. Being on a team is fun. I may be a consultant or something.”
The Gamecocks are 2-4 overall and 0-4 in the SEC.
“If it starts going bad, then I need to get out. You can’t keep a head coach that has done it as long as I have when it starts going the wrong way,” Spurrier said. “Somehow or another we have slid and it’s my fault. It’s time for me to get out of the way and let somebody else have a go at it.”
Spurrier first began to think about resigning the Sunday after his team struggled to beat winless Central Florida, he said. He informed athletics director Ray Tanner of his decision this Sunday and told his team after Monday’s practice.
“I think I was the best coach for this job 11 years ago, but I’m not today,” Spurrier said. “That’s the cycle of coaching. I’ll be around town a lot. I just think this is the best thing, the best thing for South Carolina football, for our university.”
Spurrier, who was named South Carolina’s 32nd head coach on Nov. 23, 2004, finishes his 10-and-a-half seasons at South Carolina with a 86-49 record, and in 25-and-a-half seasons in college football he was 228-89-2. Only 18 men have won more FBS games. Only Bear Bryant has won more games as a coach in the SEC (Bryant finished with 292, Spurrier with 208).
His six SEC titles are tied for second all-time behind Bryant’s 14, and he has named Associated Press SEC coach of the year four times. His winning percent (73.2) ranks 14th in SEC history. In intra-conference games, his winning percentage of 70.8 percent is eighth all-time.
“Nothing goes on forever,” Spurrier said. “I have gone on a lot longer than most people. I have been blessed way beyond my wildest expectations.”
He turned three programs that had been floundering – Duke, Florida and South Carolina – into winners, claiming the ACC title at Duke in 1989, the national title at Florida in 1996 and the SEC East at South Carolina in 2010.
The list of firsts he compiled at South Carolina is long – first 11-win season, first SEC division title, first win over a No. 1 team, and first five-game winning streak against Clemson.
“He changed our culture, our champion mentality and became the winningest coach in the history of the program,” athletics director Ray Tanner said. “We are honored and blessed that Coach Spurrier has been with us for this length of time and has made such an impact on this school and our athletics department. He has been an inspiration to us all. He’s been a great friend to all of us and a great colleague.”
His only two losing seasons as a collegiate coach were his first (5-6 at Duke in 1987) and his last (2-4 at South Carolina this season). In an interesting bit of trivia, Spurrier’s first win as Gamecocks head coach came on Sept. 1, 2005, against Central Florida and his last came on Sept. 26, 2015, against the same opponent.
“He gave us our swagger, our pride and our Sandstorm enthusiasm,” said university president Harris Pastides, who said he tried to talk Spurrier out of retiring immediately. “That will be Coach Spurrier’s legacy for a lifetime.”
The Gamecocks will now be the responsibility of offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, who takes over as interim head coach. Tanner chose Elliott as the interim after meeting with several of the team’s veterans around midnight Monday, Tanner said.
“We’re moving forward,” Elliott said. “When I walked in this morning I said to our staff, our goal is to win this week, win today, win tomorrow, win the next day and beat Vanderbilt. Our team is not in shambles as some might say. We have a great group of energetic young men who are ready to lay it on the line.”