South Carolina Football has turned into one of the most successful programs in the nation in the last four years, and it all started with one person. Steve Spurrier was introduced as South Carolina’s head coach on November 23rd, 2004 and began to steer the program in the right direction.
The journey to becoming an elite team was not easy for Spurrier and his Gamecocks. Many believed that Spurrier would be able to snap his fingers and right the ship in Columbia immediately. It didn’t quite happen like that for the Gamecocks.
Spurrier’s first season at the helm saw the Gamecocks win seven games, but they lost the Battle of the Palmetto State and their bowl game in a disappointing finish to the year. The Gamecocks battled through a tough schedule in 2006, losing five games to opponents ranked in the top 12. A rare win over Clemson and an even rarer bowl win had many fans excited after the season.
Spurrier had finally brought the Gamecocks into the national spotlight in 2007. A 6-1 ranking saw the Gamecocks flying high at #6 in the country heading into a match-up with Vanderbilt, a perennial cellar dweller in the SEC East.
Gamecock fans were cocky, and the state was abuzz with how Spurrier had brought the team to the top. Fast forward to December of 2007, and you will find the Gamecock faithful in a familiar place, home for the bowl season. South Carolina dropped the trap game against Vanderbilt and lost five in a row to end the season.
The 2008 season was another lackluster one for Spurrier’s team, and whispers of the Head Ball Coach retiring could be heard. Spurrier had failed to be successful with his famous Fun ‘N’ Gun offense from Florida. He hadn’t signed the playmakers that led his Florida team to a bevy of national championships.
After yet another disappointing season, Spurrier finally recruited a worthy class. Stephon Gilmore, Mr. Football from South Carolina, was the first marquee signing of Spurrier’s tenure at South Carolina. Alshon Jeffery came to Columbia in 2009 as well and turned into a star. With a successful recruiting class, the future looked bright despite another mediocre season for the Gamecocks.
The year that will always be remembered as the turning point for South Carolina was 2010. Spurrier had convinced Marcus Lattimore, another Mr. Football, to take his talents to Columbia. The freshman tailback ran the Gamecocks to an SEC East title, and the Gamecocks had finally arrived for real.
What allowed the Gamecocks to succeed was Spurrier changing from his air-raid offense to a balanced attack with a pounding ground game and capable receivers on the edge. Spurrier finally had the talent he wanted, and he changed his ways to best utilize said talent. After making it to the SEC title game for the first time, the Gamecocks were hungry for more.
Spurrier landed the number one recruit in the nation, and the rest is history. Jadeveon Clowney helped lead the Gamecocks to three consecutive 11-2 seasons, the best three years in school history.
Spurrier brought stars to Columbia. Spurrier watched stars be born in Columbia. Spurrier made sure the Gamecocks were respected and feared. He took a school and a city that had never succeeded to heights they only dreamed of.
No matter how Spurrier’s career ends, he will always be remembered as the man who gave the University of South Carolina hope.
Read more on coach Spurrier here.