Steve Spurrier is the greatest coach in South Carolina football history, and he will also go down as one the best ever in the SEC and in the country.
The Head Ball Coach took two programs that had never had national success and brought them into the national spotlight, first at Florida and then at South Carolina.
Florida had no conference championships when Spurrier arrived in 1990. He left 12 seasons later after leading the Gators to six SEC titles and a national title.
When he arrived at South Carolina in 2005, Spurrier sold USC’s program to recruits as a place where they could come and accomplish feats for the first time at South Carolina. The opportunity to lead the Gamecocks to new heights also is what helped lure Spurrier to USC.
While he never won an SEC title at South Carolina, which was on his list of goals, he did take the program to places many didn’t believe it could reach.
Under Spurrier South Carolina won its first SEC East title and reached the 11-win plateau three-straight years. USC had never won 11 games in a season prior to his arrival.
The Gamecocks finished in the top 10 in 2011 and 2012 and finished the 2013 season ranked No. 4.
“I don’t know that anybody else could have done what he did here at South Carolina,” ESPN reporter Chris Low said. “The only coach in the SEC that I would rank ahead of Steve would be Bear Bryant, and if you look at the numbers, only one coach has won more SEC games and that’s Bryant. But in a lot of ways Spurrier is in a class by himself because he did it at two schools that had never done it before.”
Spurrier also beat Clemson five straight years and kept USC competitive against its rivals. In his 10-plus seasons, USC went 21-20 against Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. South Carolina was 54-142-11 against those four schools prior to his arrival.
“I think he’s right up there at the top,” Low said of where Spurrier ranks among all coaches. “The fact that he did it at two different places, he won a national championship, and he never had any major violations. He did it the right way. He didn’t cheat. That was very important to him.”
The lists of the greatest college football coaches of all time usually start with Bear Bryant and are followed by names such as Knute Rockne, Bobby Bowden, Bo Schembechler, Joe Paterno, Tom Osborne and Woody Hayes.
Spurrier’s name belongs on the list.
“I don’t know that it’s fair to say, ‘OK, where does he rank with this guy or that guy?’ but among coaches of this generation, he qualifies, in my judgment, to be a legend or whatever phrase you want to use,” ESPN’s Rece Davis said. “He’s among the very best on a very, very short list.”
College coaching great
Where will Steve Spurrier wind up being ranked among college football coaching greats? A look at some of the best:
▪ Bear Bryant: In 38 years at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama, won seven national championships.
▪ Woody Hayes: Ohio State’s longtime head coach won five national titles and 13 Big 10 titles in 28 seasons.
▪ Tom Osborne: Won at least nine games in all 25 seasons at Nebraska, and national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
▪ Joe Paterno: Winningest coach in major college football with 409 wins. He won two national titles.
▪ Knute Rockne: Won three national titles at Notre Dame and played a large role in bringing forward pass to football.
▪ Bobby Bowden: Won two national titles and 12 ACC titles in 34 seasons at FSU.
▪ Nick Saban: Won a national title at LSU in 2003 and has three national titles at Alabama.
▪ Barry Switzer: Coached Oklahoma for 16 seasons and won three national titles and 12 conference titles.
▪ Pop Warner: In stops at Georgia, Iowa State, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Stanford and Temple, he won four national titles.
▪ Fielding Yost: Won six national titles and 10 Big 10 titles at Michigan.
-- Matt Connolly