Four years ago he was a deity. South Carolina fans could hardly believe the great Steve Spurrier had deigned to become their coach. Anything the Head Ball Coach said or did was fine by them. He was the greatest, and he was theirs.
That's the gist of a documentary done by Weatherly Thomas, a filmmaker and USC graduate (and fan, as she makes clear.) Thomas followed the Gamecocks around during that magical 2005 season – magical not so much because of the record, but because of Spurrier.
Thomas' documentary, "Lessons in Spurtitude" came out this year. It pieces together game highlights, Spurrier quotes, interviews with the likes of Ron Morris, Glenn Snyder, then-Gamecock players and lots and lots of fans. And there's a lot of Thomas herself, going game-by-game as they lead up to the season-making wins over Tennessee and Florida.
It was such a great time for Gamecock fans. The optimism, the glee over Spurrier's arrival, everything. And as I watched it this week, I couldn't help but thinking:
My, how things have changed.
Here's a current sampling of the thread titles on the GoGamecocks.com football message board:
"Why does he (Spurrier) have to humiliate people so much …"
"What has Spurrier Done Since the NFL?"
"Spurrier puts OFFENSIVE back in offensive coordinator."
And those were all created in the past few days. The first 48 hours after the Clemson debacle were much tougher, with some calling on Spurrier to resign.
Obviously, that would've been unthinkable four seasons ago. And this is for a team that's headed to a New Year's Day Bowl, and a coach whose four-year record stacks up impressively compared to his USC predecessors.
But that's what losing to your arch-rival will do to you. That, and a record of 7-10 since midway through last season.
Well, nobody asked me, but here are my quick thoughts:
1. People said that if Spurrier couldn't do it at USC, then no one could. Well …
2. This still doesn't mean Spurrier won't do it. As stated above, his overall record here is fine compared to others, and he believes there's more overall talent on the roster than ever before.
3. It might behoove Spurrier to hire an offensive coordinator. He'll never do it, but the current approach obviously isn't working. At a minimum, the hiring of two new assistant coaches will provide two new sets of eyes that hopefully will help this team establish a running game, and figure out an offensive line.
4. Spurrier has proved to be a good manager of a program. The hirings of Ellis Johnson and Ray Rychleski worked, and you've gotta think he'll make the right moves with this year's coaching hires. On the other hand, the management of the quarterback situation has often been a mystery. Maybe, in the sunset of his career, the CEO approach will work better for Spurrier, rather than the mad genius-offensive coordinator role.
But, like I said, nobody asked me.
If you're looking to feel better, pop in Thomas' "Spurtitude" video, or just think back to four years ago, and how happy you were Steve Spurrier was your coach. And then remember that while you may think the Spurrier era is in a rocky stage, it's not over yet.