The Head Ball Coach always did things his way, no matter what anyone else thought.
He once wondered why if the Florida State Seminoles — otherwise known as “Free Shoes University” — were simply referred to as the “Noles.” Why couldn’t he call them the “Semis”? For years while the coach at Florida, he stood up at Southeastern Conference Media Days and lobbied for a college football playoff, smirking all the while at BCS architect and then SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer in the back of the room.
Spurrier left his job at South Carolina on his terms too, announcing his resignation Tuesday.
It’s a less than glorious way for one of the best and most influential football coaches in SEC history to exit the stage. I personally don’t care for the way Spurrier quit on his team. He said he was leaving now to help interim coach Shawn Elliott get a leg up on lagging recruiting, but Spurrier could have announced his impending retirement at season’s end and coached the Gamecocks’ final six games just the same.
But at 2-4 (0-4 SEC), Spurrier probably couldn’t stand the losing anymore. His Gamecocks are a combined 9-10 the past two seasons after three consecutive 11-2 campaigns that followed the Gamecocks’ lone appearance in the SEC Championship Game in 2010, by far the best four-year run of football South Carolina has ever had.
Who knows? Maybe the thought of being done in by LSU and Les Miles last Saturday by a 45-24 count was the last straw.
Historically, it’s been mighty hard to win at South Carolina. Former LSU coach Paul Dietzel led the Gamecocks to their lone conference championship, an ACC title in 1969. Watching upstate rival Clemson vault into CFP contention couldn’t make this bitter start to the season taste much better.
So Spurrier left, mere days after his team put up a brave fight in Saturday’s “road” home game in Tiger Stadium. Whether we see him on a sideline again is doubtful because he’s 70, but one thing is certain: He will be sorely missed at SEC Media Days. Or wherever there’s an open microphone.
How remarkable that this strange and historic LSU football season would intersect with what is likely Spurrier’s final game as an SEC coach. Nearly three decades ago, he could have been LSU’s coach, at least for a time.
When Bill Arnsparger left after the 1986 season to become athletic director at Florida, Spurrier was looking for a job after a three-year stint with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits.
He wanted the LSU job and thought he was meeting the right people. But enough folks, including LSU players, lobbied for then-defensive coordinator Mike Archer to get the job. Archer did, and Spurrier went to downtrodden Duke from 1987-89, leading the Blue Devils to an ACC title.
That was before Arnsparger, who recommended Archer succeed him at LSU, hired Spurrier at Florida in 1990. Spurrier’s name surfaced again when LSU was looking to replace Nick Saban in 2004 and he was a year removed from a failed two-year stint with the Washington Redskins, but he never was a serious candidate.
Once Spurrier took over the Gators, he seemed to have a personal vendetta for LSU every time they met in their annual game. Spurrier never forgot a slight, and his Gators pounded the Tigers by some vengeful scores 11 out of 12 years, scores like 34-8, 58-3, 42-16, 52-13. He even walloped Saban’s 2001 SEC champions 44-15. LSU’s one win against him was 28-21 in 1997, the program’s first victory against a No. 1-ranked team.
Spurrier, who was 3-0 as a Florida quarterback against the Tigers as well, couldn’t beat LSU at South Carolina, going 0-4. His best chance came in 2012, when the No. 9 Tigers upended the No. 3 Gamecocks 23-21 in Tiger Stadium.
It’s worth thinking what might have been had LSU hired Spurrier instead of Archer. He still likely would have taken the Florida job when it came open, but he probably would have set up LSU as a much more stable program that never would have suffered six straight losing seasons under Archer and Curley Hallman from 1989-94.
But that’s all history. So is Spurrier, a true American original who through his Fun ‘N’ Gun offense did perhaps more to influence SEC football than any other coach.
Just one more Spurrierism: “You can’t spell Citrus Bowl without U-T (Tennessee).”
That’s all folks.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.