South Carolina likely is not going to hire a third straight head coach who would arrive in Columbia with a Hall of Fame resume, but Steve Spurrier has positioned athletics director Ray Tanner to be able to go out and hire a strong candidate.
In Spurrier’s 10 and a half years in Columbia he drastically improved the facilities and changed the way South Carolina is viewed around the country.
“The impact that Coach Spurrier has made on this program the minute he came here as a coach is he did give a lot of credibility that maybe we were lacking,” Tanner said. “He gave us a swagger that has been mentioned. He helped change the culture and he won at a high level.”
Spurrier fell short of winning an SEC title with the Gamecocks, but he did make the SEC championship game once after winning the SEC East title in 2010. He came close to making it again three straight years from 2011-13.
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USC had won 10 games in a season only once before Spurrier arrived. He won 11 games three years in a row and knocked off national powers such as Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia in the process.
ESPN’s Chris Low said South Carolina is now viewed as a program where coaches can come in and be successful, a thought that wasn’t always true.
“He has shown the way. The fact that he was able to come in and make this a nationally relevant program shows that it can be done,” Low said.
“Yes, they’ve dipped the past couple of years, the recruiting wasn’t as good, but the fact that he raised expectations the way that he did is a good thing. In the 1980s, the ‘90s, the 2000s, if South Carolina got to eight wins they were pretty happy around here.”
Prior to Spurrier, Lou Holtz took over a USC team coming off a 1-10 season. Holtz had a strong run that included back-to-back wins over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl, but he left the Gamecocks in disarray.
His final game coaching Carolina was overshadowed by a fight between USC and Clemson. Spurrier was called in to clean up the mess and did that and then some.
“Lou Holtz did a great job here. When he came here it was a complete disaster. Lou built a great foundation, and Steve came in and took it to the proverbial next level,” ESPN’s Rece Davis said.
“He took it to a near championship level. A game here, a game there, a play here, a play there, maybe they do win the East a couple of more times and have a chance to win the SEC, but the job that he did to take over and to lift the program, to lift the level of recruiting, to make this a viable destination, to be able to compete for recruits with anyone, is a testament to what a great coach he is and what a great job he did here.”
Ranking the college football job openings
The major head football coach job openings.
1. Southern Cal
Old coach: Steve Sarkisian was fired Monday
Interim: Quarterbacks coach Clay Helton
Selling points: Tradition, multiple Heisman Trophy winners (Matt Leinhart, Carson Palmer, O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen, etc), next door to Hollywood
2. South Carolina
Old coach: Steve Spurrier resigned on Tuesday
Interim: Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott
Selling points: Member of college football’s best conference, big money from the SEC Network, and vastly improved facilities including new indoor complex.
Old coach: Randy Edsall was fired Sunday
Interim: Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley
Selling points: Financial support from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, playing in the Big Ten and a recruiting base in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
Old coach: Tim Beckman was fired in September
Interim: Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit
Selling points: Secure bottom line by being in the Big Ten (big bucks from Big Ten network), uptapped recruiting base in the Chicago area and big fan support.
(The North Texas job is also open.)