So long, Head Ball Coach.
It’s safe to say the SEC will never be the same without you.
After a combined 23 years in two separate stints as a head in coach in the Southeaster Conference, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier reportedly told his players Monday evening that he will be retiring from college football, effective immediately, per Sports Illustrated.
Few coaches have reached the same level of success as Spurrier in the SEC, and almost nobody could ever come close to matching his charisma.
As the head coach of Florida in the 1990’s, Spurrier turned the Gators into a dominant force in the SEC, winning six conference titles and a national championship in 1996. He compiled a 122-27-1 record as the head coach at his alma mater where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1966.
Spurrier’s success at Florida led him to make the jump to the next level, but after a failed two-year stint as the head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Spurrier managed to find his way back to his beloved Southeastern Conference. This time it was at South Carolina, a team whose greatest accomplishment in the SEC was two consecutive Outback Bowl victories under former head coach Lou Holtz.
Spurrier turned the Gamecocks into a power team in the SEC as well. He notched nine winning seasons at the helm in Columbia, including three straight 11-win seasons from 2011 to 2013, a number previously unthought of in the South Carolina football program. Upon his retirement, Spurrier is currently the all-time winningest coach in both Florida and South Carolina program history.
His innovation on college football has been massive, as Spurrier’s high-powered Fun N’ Gun offense at Florida was one of the skeletons for the fast-paced spread offenses that have come to dominate the collegiate game.
But as any SEC fan will tell you, Spurrier’s legacy will last through the things he said off the field just as much as his accomplishments on it. He was anything but shy at the mic, always quick to respond to his own critics and never afraid to take a jab or two at his rivals.
Some all-time classic Spurrier quotes include his response to a fire at an Auburn University library that destroyed 20 books. Spurrier famously replied, “The real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored yet.” He also dubbed Florida State “Free Shoes University” and reminded us all that “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T”.
If one thing is for certain, it’s that SEC Media Days will never be quite as entertaining without its headline act coming to the podium.
Spurrier’s critics may chastise him for the timing of his decision to step down. It may seem like he’s decided to abandon ship on a 2-4 South Carolina team that doesn’t look primed to turn things around at any point this season. Those critics might even be right, but if by now, any of them are still naive enough to think Spurrier cares what they think of him, they’d have to be crazy.
Conventional is one word you will never hear used to describe the career of Steve Spurrier. For over two decades, he did what he wanted to do, said what he wanted to say and coached where he wanted to coach. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that his retirement comes at an odd time. Spurrier decided to give up coaching when he decided it was his time, not a moment sooner or later.
His whole career was completely on his own terms, and it only seems fitting that his retirement follows suit.
So once again, here’s to you Head Ball Coach. The visor throws, the post-game rants, the fourth-quarter quarterback swaps, we’ll miss it all. But above all else, we’ll miss the character of a man who’s legacy in the Southeastern Conference can only be described with one word- legendary.