Super Fan: Ranking the Gamecocks' top coaches of all time

Spurrier No. 1 at USC with his long list of ‘firsts’

12/04/2013 12:02 PM

12/04/2013 12:08 PM

Since I have I revealed my Top 5 at each position, I thought I would close this series with my Top 5 all-time Gamecocks coaches.

At No. 5 is Lou Holtz (1999-04). Although his tenure was two seasons too long, Holtz's hiring increased the interest in USC's program on a national level. After an 0-11 first season, the Gamecocks finished 8-4 in 2000, which earned him National Coach of the Year honors, and 9-3 in 2001, which was capped by back-to-back Outback Bowl wins over Ohio State.

His overall record at Carolina was 33-37. His biggest failing was a 1-5 record against arch-rival Clemson.

What I remember most about Holtz was his very quick wit. When he first came to Carolina an older fan rushed up to him and excitedly said, “Coach, I haven't missed a home game in 45 years,” to which Holtz replied, “Sir, that means you've seen a lot of bad football.”

No. 4 on my list is Paul Dietzel (1966-74). While Carolina's record was a roller coaster during his nine seasons, he led the Gamecocks to their only conference title, the ACC Championship in 1969 and a 7-4 record in '73.

While his overall record was 42-52-1, 4-5 versus Clemson, his biggest contribution was understanding the importance of facilities. During coach Dietzel's tenure, Carolina Stadium became Williams-Brice, and the capacity increased from 43,000 to 54,000. He also oversaw the construction of “The Roost,” the first housing for student-athletes at USC.

What I remember most about coach Dietzel was his ability to “sell ice to Eskimos.” I can still see him with his chart and pointer explaining how fans could buy a piece of the artificial turf, that he had decided to install in Williams-Brice. The project sold out in days.

At No. 3 is coach Joe Morrison (1983-88), who led the Gamecocks to their first 10-win season in 1984, and back-to-back 8-4 campaigns in '87 and '88, the year of his untimely death.

Coach Morrison's overall record was 39-28-2, 2-3-1 against Clemson, and the Gamecocks made three bowl trips in six years.

What I remember most about “The Man in Black, was his kindness and cooperation with me and all of the media. In 1983, when there was public access to cable TV, I hosted “The Gamecock Report,” and Coach Morrison agreed to come to the studio in Five Points and do an interview for my show.

In the early '80s, the athletics department held a reception on Friday nights for the visiting dignitaries. One year it was decided not to have the event the week of the Clemson game. Coach Joe had his secretary call and invite us to join him at Jerry Kelly's, a restaurant across the street from the Round House saying, “I know you guys look forward to these Friday night get-togethers, so come, and it's on me.”

Coach Jim Carlen is at No. 2 on my list. South Carolina's program had really struggled after leaving the ACC in 1970, but he made the program a winner with just one losing record in seven seasons.

He led the Gamecocks to their first eight-win seasons in '79 and '80, the year George Rogers became the school's only Heisman Trophy winner.

Coach Carlen's overall record was 45-36-1, 2-5 versus Clemson, but he was the first coach to put the emphasis on recruiting linemen and understanding their importance in producing a competitive program.

What I remember most about coach Carlen was his genuine affection for his players that extended well beyond their playing days, and his role in making Spurs & Feathers a reality. When Dexter Hudson approached him about the plan for the publication and about having the Gamecock Club support it financially. He liked the idea, but was told by Business Manger Dr. John Moore that “he couldn't do that.” Coach Carlen replied, “Yes we can and we will.” It led to a 30-year-plus relationship between the paper and the club.

It will come as a surprise to no one that coach Steve Spurrier is No. 1 all-time on my list. His 76 wins and list of “firsts” as USC's coach dwarfs those of his predecessors. He has never had a losing season in his nine years, and after last Saturday's win he holds a 6-3 advantage against Clemson.

The Gamecocks have been bowl eligible for each of Spurrier's nine seasons, and last fall the team had the highest GPA (2.918) in school history. Jadeveon Clowney will give the Gamecocks a first-team All-American for the fifth-straight season.

The list goes on and on, but suffice to say the Head Ball Coach is unquestionably the most successful coach in South Carolina history.

My opinion of coach Spurrier has changed dramatically -- because he was the head coach whose Florida teams took the Gamecocks to the woodshed more than once. I thought he was a little arrogant and liked to run the score up on weaker teams, but nothing could be further from the truth. He is very humble about his successes. He believes that reserves have the right to run the offense they practiced all week, and if they put points on the board, so be it.

He has certainly been a friend to me, and I sincerely hope he stays a Gamecock at least through 2017.

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