Jeep Hunter was in the airport Friday morning getting ready to head home from a recruiting trip when South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier called to tell him he was fired, Hunter told The State on Friday afternoon.
“I just got a phone call from coach saying he wanted to go a different direction, Hunter said.
Hunter, who coached safeties last season after coaching tight ends and assisting with special teams for two seasons, does not know why his three-year tenure with the Gamecocks was terminated, he said.
“Yes, I was (surprised),” he said. “You should talk to him about that. I didn’t understand it myself.”
Spurrier declined to comment when reached Friday afternoon but released a statement later in the day that indicated he wanted a more experienced secondary coach than Hunter, a Denver, N.C., native.
“We wish Coach Hunter and his family the very best,” Spurrier said in the statement.
Hunter is the fourth of South Carolina’s nine on-field assistant coaches to leave the program since the end of the regular season.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson left to become head coach at Southern Miss. Running backs coach Jay Graham left to take the same job at Tennessee. Special teams coordinator John Butler left for a job at Penn State. Head strength coach Craig Fitzgerald also left for a job on the Nittany Lions’ staff.
Spurrier’s next press conference is scheduled for Wednesday, which is signing day. He is expected to introduce the three coaches he hired to replace Johnson, Graham and Butler at that time. Kirk Botkin will coach the Gamecocks’ linebackers; Joe Robinson will coach special teams and tight ends and Everette Sands will coach running backs.
Hunter will begin looking for work, he said. A graduate of Catawba, he has coached at Chattanooga, Eastern Kentucky, Memphis and Georgia Tech.
“I just believe in working hard,” he said.