For nearly two decades, Steve Spurrier never believed he’d be a football coach into his 70s. His 70s begin Monday, but South Carolina’s coach is coming back next year for his 11th season with the Gamecocks.
“I remember one time I asked Donald Trump, ‘When do you think you will retire?’ He said, ‘Retire, why? That’s for people who hate their job,’” Spurrier said. “I said, ‘You know what, you’re probably right.’”
Spurrier doesn’t hate his job. There were times last year he didn’t like it very much, but he has come to terms with last season and the Gamecocks’ 7-6 record. Made peace with it, in fact.
“I tell people, ‘It could have been worse, you know,’” Spurrier said. “We don’t need to sit around and say, ‘What if?’ We need to be thankful we had us another winning season and another bowl victory. And we are, we are thankful and appreciative. I have said a lot of, ‘Thank you, Lords’ this past season for the 7-6 record.”
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There were times last season Spurrier thought it might be his last season, but he is encouraged after an offseason in which he hired longtime friend Jon Hoke as co-defensive coordinator, he told The State.
“My spirits have really increased with Jon Hoke here, I am telling you that right now,” he said.
Spurrier remains in good physical and mental shape, he said, because of an active lifestyle and adherence to guidelines for healthy living he has picked up through the years. He keeps several copies of a 50-point list culled from Dr. David Agus’ book “A Short List for a Long Life,” among the many piles of paper on his desk.
“I collect little things like that,” he said. “I like No. 3 – automate yourself, your body loves predictability.”
That’s the reason Spurrier eats the same lunch almost every day he is in his office – a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato from Firehouse Subs.
“Either that or the salad just about every day, yeah,” he said.
Spurrier, who has 12 grandchildren, took time last week to talk with The State about several topics – including his friendship with Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, how some college football coaches make the job more stressful than it needs to be, whether he might ever work as a TV analyst and where he will live when he does retire – as he prepares to enter his eighth decade.
Question: When you were 50 years old, what did you think about guys who were coaching in their 70s?
Answer: Well, there weren’t many. There weren’t many because just nobody did it. Nobody lasted that long, and most of the time they didn’t last that long because at some point they quit winning as much as they used to win. Bobby Bowden, of course, went a long time, and they finally had to tell him, ‘You’re finished.’ Joe Paterno was still there. That was very unfortunate what happened up there. I still think he got a bad deal, got a terrible deal.
Q: In terms of taking so much blame?
A: Correct. He did what the head coach is supposed to do. He told the athletic director, and (the AD) and the president let it die down I guess, and of course it flared up later. He was a good guy, a good friend. I liked him.
Q: Have you reached out to anybody around your age who has been through this recently?
A: The last guy that just flat retired on his own that I know of is Barry Alvarez. That was still about 10 or 15 years ago. Of course, he came back and coached the Capital One Bowl this year. I mean, he could have kept coaching, but he became athletic director. Of course back when he resigned, the pay wasn’t near what the pay is now. That’s what Frank Broyles told me one time, I was 48 and we were at the College Hall of Fame dinner, and I said, ‘Coach, how old were you when you got out of it?’ He said, ‘I was 52, but I went on to become athletic director and I made just as much as A.D. as head football coach, and I had already been a head coach 20 years.’ That was sort what you did. Darrell Royal went 20 years and got out at 51, 52, 53. My coach Ray Graves, 51, 52, right in there. That was just what they thought you should do. Later (we learned) you don’t have to do it that way. The basketball coaches prove that. Coach K, certainly nobody is asking him how long he’s going to do it. He’s one year younger than me. I think he’s 68 right now. He and Frank Beamer, we are all sort of right in there, Tom Coughlin, the Giants coach. We are right in there. Age wise, we are all the same. I mean Coach K looks like he is 50. He’s got a youthful look about him.
Q: So, you think four or five years?
A: Well, you have to plan on that. You have to plan on that. It’s sort of interesting, a lot of my friends who I hang out with from my Florida days, the 90s, and I still hang out with them, they are all still working. They are all doing the same job they had. My buddy Allen Trammell, still an insurance guy. Johnny Cox is a commodity broker down there in Orlando. In 1997, this guy Johnny Cox invited me and Jerri to go to the Bahamas with them. They had been going 20 years. Even as kids they went. I didn’t even know where Marsh Harbor was. Straight across from West Palm Beach. An hour flight from Orlando. I said, ‘Sure,’ so this year will be the 18th time we have done that. He and Allen Trammell have gone every year. Johnny owns the house there and the boat. Those guys, both of them still have their day job, still working away. If you enjoy what you’re doing, and it’s going pretty well and it’s not too stressful…
Q: But we always hear about how incredibly stressful college coaching is…
A: It hasn’t been for me. I will tell you a quick story. John Calpari, we talk a little bit, so after he won the game here, I called him up. I figured he was on the airplane going back to Kentucky. I said, ‘Coach Cal, I am going to name you the most improved coach in one year. Not only did you guys win the game, but you didn’t get thrown out. Congratulations.’ He laughed a little bit. I said, ‘Are you back in Lexington yet?’ He said, ‘Coach, I am in Florida. I took the school plane down here, my wife and I. We don’t practice until Tuesday afternoon so I am going to get away a little bit. I read in a book where you used to do that on open dates.’ I said, ‘You are right, I did.’ I would go to the beach every open date and still do.
Q: So some people are making it more stressful than it needs to be in your opinion?
A: Oh yeah, they go back and start practicing on open dates. Will Muschamp tells me the story of when they were at LSU with (Nick) Saban, and he told him that he had talked to some of the Florida assistants who said, ‘Coach Spurrier goes to the beach every open weekend. Leaves on Friday. They get Friday, Saturday, Sunday (off), come back Monday. Coach, our guys need a break.’ (Saban said), ‘Ah, bull,’ but he said finally he did give them a couple days. I mean, they are practicing on Saturday of an open date. I think you need to pace yourself as you go through, and I think (Saban) probably lets his team go on open dates now, I would guess.
Q: How much does your retirement decision have to do with you having two sons on the staff (Steve Spurrier Jr. is wide receivers coach, Scott Spurrier is an offensive quality control coach)?
A: That helps. Really my whole family is up here except Amy. My daughter, Amy, and her three children are in Panama City. She came to every game last year and probably will go to every one this year, too. So they are all here. We have gotten to where Columbia is one of my hometowns. Columbia and Crescent Beach. We spend probably 10-14 nights a year in Crescent Beach. That is not much.
Q: Do you still plan to retire to Crescent Beach?
A: Yeah. In 1994, little over 20 years ago, a piece of property on the beach there became available. I told Jerri, ‘If I ever have enough money, I’m going to put a nice house on the beach.’ As a kid, my mom and dad would take us to one of the Myrtle beaches most every year. Cherry Grove, the most northern beach, was where we normally went, occasionally Garden City. We’d rent a house, but we’d rent one about two or three blocks away for probably $60 a week, $70 a week, and of course all the aunts and cousins and uncles (would come). If I was lucky, I would get a sofa in the living room. One year I got the outdoor swing, but it was screened in. ... I said, ‘If I ever have enough money…’ I bought the property and then started building the house on it in 2004, ’05, somewhere in there. It was finished really in about 2011. We took a while building it.
Q: When you retire, Steve and Scott will have to find work…
A: Yeah, they are sort of looking. Scottie is sort of looking right now, had a few little feelers that didn’t work out, but he knows that. They are ready to get on their own. Steve Jr. is a very valuable coach, recruiting coordinator and so forth, all these guys do a lot.
Q: Would you do TV when you retire?
A: I keep hearing people say maybe you ought to do that, but I’m not sure that’s something I want to do. I know I could not be on TV and act like an expert and be critical of coaches and other players and things of that nature like some of these expert guys want to do. But I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s something I would want to do or not.
Q: Is your day as a 70-year-old any different as it was as a 50-year-old?
A: Not really. I heard something the other day, all these TV shows are about, ‘Are you going to have enough money when you retire at 65?’ The guys said, ‘The question is not what are you going to do when you’re 65. The question is what are you going to do before you are 65?’ Really that’s the same with health or money or whatever. ‘What are you going to do before you are 65?’ I sort of feel like I have been doing a lot of the same thing, and I have done a lot of the same things and I have gone right on through 65 so I am just going to breeze right on through it and do what I have been doing.
Q: Do you get reflective as you near 70?
A: No, not too much. I was telling a buddy of mine, it was Johnny Brantley, his son played quarterback at Florida, and Johnny Brantley was the first quarterback I ever coached. He called me today and said, ‘I am finally a granddaddy. My daughter had a baby.’ So I was telling him about retiring, resigning whatever you want to call it. I said, ‘Here’s what I should have done if I wanted to play golf a lot. I should have resigned when I was about 45 and played golf until I was 55 and then start coaching again because my best golf was 45-55.’ That’s when I should have resigned, played golf and then come back and told the boys, ‘OK, I’m ready.’ I doubt anybody would have hired me. I was 45 when I got the Florida job in ’90. I was actually 60 when I started here. If I had started when I was a young coach, I could have a bunch of records right now. I have been very fortunate and very thankful to Mike McGee and South Carolina that he hired me for the ’05 season. There are not many ADs that would go out and hire a coach just because of his age. You would think they would say, ‘Let’s go hire a guy who is 45 and hopefully he’ll be here 10 years or more.’ I tell people I was saying four to five years when I was in my 50s and I remember saying, ‘I doubt seriously I will coach into my 60s,’ and then in my young 60s, I always said, ‘There is no way I’m going to coach into my 70s,’ and then all of a sudden it gets here, and you say, ‘Well, why would you not keep coaching if things are going well and they want you.’ The fans here and president (Harris) Pastides and Ray Tanner, I tell you what, they are the best, you can’t get better people than that to work for. And the fans have been very appreciative. When I do those Gamecock Club meetings, the old-time Gamecock people they are still very appreciative. They know where we have been in the past.
A SHORT LIST FOR A LONG LIFE
This list is taken from a book written by Dr. David B. Agus. Spurrier keeps several photocopies of the list on his desk.
1. Listen, Look, Feel and Record Your Body’s Features
2. Measure Yourself – Hours of Sleep
3. Automate Yourself – Your Body Loves Predictability
4. Keep a File of Your Medical Records
5. Eat Real Food
6. Know a Real Fresh Food Grocer
7. Grow a Garden
8. Eat One Balanced Meal – No 2nds or 3rds
9. Reduce Stress at Work
10. Drink 1-2 Glasses of Red Wine
11. Practice Excellent Hygiene – Shower, Brush Teeth Often
12. Have a Wife, Husband or Good Pal to Live With
13. Maintain a Healthy Weight All Your Adult Life
14. Look in the Mirror Naked Often
15. Get Off Your Butt – Don’t Sit for Long Periods
16. Get Your Heart Rate Up 50 Percent With Serious Exercise
17. Drink Some Coffee Each Morning
18. Find Out What Killed Your Grandparents
19. Take Baby Aspirin (One)
20. Do Screening and Booster Vaccinations
21. Have a 1, 5, 10 and 20-Year Health Strategy
22. Deal with Sickness Smartly
23. Partner With Your Doctor – Prevention is Key to Good Health
24. Maintain Good Posture – Strength Your Core
25. Smile a Whole Lot and Have Fun
26. Pursue Your Passions – Travel, Golf, Fishing, Etc.
27. Be Positive – Avoid Negative People If Possible
28. Find Out What Activity is Challenging and Focus On It
29. Protect Your Eyes and Ears – Sunglasses, Clean Ears – No Real Loud Music
30. Protect Your Teeth and Feet
31. Learn CPR
32. Have an Emergency Supply Kit
33. Eat a Lot of Cold-Water Fish
34. Eat At Least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables
35. Speak Strongly To Your Children (Sex and Diseases)
36. Wash Your Hands Often – Stay Clean
37. Don’t Skip Breakfast
38. Have a Good Joke or Laugh Daily
39. Stretch Daily and Often
40. Keep a To-Do List Daily
41. Ask For Help, Occasionally It’s OK
42. Have Children
43. If on Meds – Stick With Them Daily
44. Get A Dog
45. Have a Will – Talk About End of Life Situations
46. Avoid Fad Diets
47. Avoid Risky Behavior and Dangerous Sports or Adventures
48. Avoid Sunburns
49. Get Plenty of Sleep
50. Don’t Be a Smoker