South Carolina Football: A giant chasing giants

Thursday around noon, Steve Spurrier accepted a one-year contract extension, that will see him continue to coach the South Carolina football team until 2018. This extension also saw Spurrier receive a raise of a little over 1 million per year.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Yep, he lifts bro

The Head Ball Coach, or HBC, as he is affectionately known, is most famous for his days at Florida from 1990-2001, when he brought the program their first National Championship and put the Gators in the national spotlight. To a lesser extent, Spurrier is known for his time as a player at Florida, where, in 1966, he won the Heisman trophy.

Upon his hiring in 2005, very few thought that he would stay in Columbia for more than a couple years before moving on to a high profile college job, or perhaps trying his hand in the NFL again–as his first attempt in Washington was an abysmal failure. The other certainty of this hiring was that not even the great Steve Spurrier could drag a chronically underachieving South Carolina program out of the mud and into any prominence, especially in the rising SEC.

Steve Spurrier’s arrival in Columbia coincided with the beginning of the SEC’s dominance of college football. 2005 was the last year, until Famous Jameis’ FSU team, that a non-SEC school would win a National Title, and even in that year, Auburn boasted an undefeated record and had more than their fair share of sympathizers when the Tigers were snubbed from the Championship game in Pasadena. Instead, the Tigers, who had already bested four top 15 teams to that point, settled for a victory over No. 15 Virginia Tech in the Superdome.

Despite all of this, Spurrier has accomplished what all but the most disillusioned–or optimistic, depending on how you look at it–South Carolina fans thought impossible: he brought the Gamecocks to the top.

Not quite the very top, not yet anyways, but he did see his team finish No. 4 in the final polls this season, the highest ever end of the year ranking for the Gamecocks.  His list of firsts at South Carolina is just unconscionable and includes five straight victories over in-state rival Clemson, who is enjoying arguably the longest stretch of national prominence in their history, an SEC East title, the first 11-win season in school history, the second 11-win season in school history, the first back-to-back 11-win seasons in school history, the third 11-win season in school history, the first back-t0-back-to-back 11-win seasons in school history (you get the point), three consecutive top ten finishes, and holds the school record for most consecutive weeks in the top 25 with 64, behind only LSU, Alabama, Oregon, and Oklahoma. Not bad company.

In addition to setting a freakish amount of school records and being the winningest coach in South Carolina football history with 77 (Rex Enright is second with 64), he is also almost certain to make his stay at South Carolina longer than his stay at Florida. If that comes to fruition, will he be remembered as a Gamecock rather than a Gator? Perhaps if he reaches his next milestone.

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The legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, accrued 159 conference wins in his time at Kentucky and Alabama. Steve Spurrier has 128 at Florida and South Carolina. While he openly admits that if he had wanted to chase Bear’s record, he would have stayed at Florida, he may have a realistic shot at it despite leaving college football for two years before coming to South Carolina.

An average of six conference wins over the next five years would put him one win short of Bryant in what would be his last year coaching if no more extensions are signed. Already one of the most renowned college football coaches of his time, Steve Spurrier could now conceivably break into rarefied air by the end of his career. I can see it now:

 

ESPN The Magazine: Greatest Coaches Edition

August 2083

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  • Joey Jenkins

    good job on this. thanks for your insight.

  • Rodney

    Very nice article and it has been truly amazing what Spurrier has done. Even more amazing is his impact on the entire school and student body as well as the campus, city, and state. All positive in the sense that you are generally better for what he has done or the impact he has made than you were prior. A legend no doubt and hope he does take aim at the Bear’s SEC record and get the #1 spot as well as win it all at least once at South Carolina!