Perry Orth reflects on USC program a year after Spurrier
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Steve Spurrier walks into a bar.
Of course, you haven’t heard this one. It’s absurd, the idea that a Hall of Fame college football player, a soon-to-be Hall of Fame college football coach, the winningest football coach in history at two SEC schools would stroll into a bar by himself on a Sunday afternoon.
But there was Steve Spurrier was Sunday, looking for a place to watch the South Carolina-Georgia game. The former Gamecocks head coach had driven from Gainesville, Fla., to Crescent Beach to check on his beach home after Hurricane Matthew. He was pleased to see almost no significant damage. In fact, he still had power. He just didn’t have cable.
“I found me a little sports bar down the road. There was a crowd at a little place called Wings on A1A,” he told The State. “The manager of the place sort of recognized me even though I had my hat and sunglasses on. My hat and sunglasses aren’t working as well as they used to. I found me some buddies there and watched the Gamecocks-Georgia game.”
Like, literally just plopped down with some folks and started watching football.
“It was a lady and her husband, about the same age I was, that live down the road from me. They were in there, and then a couple of FSU sisters came in with their husbands so they wanted to talk a while,” Spurrier said. “The FSU people and I are buddies now. I told them since Jimbo Fisher is there I don’t have any ill will. Really, I’m OK with Bobby (Bowden). His defensive team bragged about hurting people and I thought that’s no part of college football. But that’s a long time ago.”
So Spurrier sat there with his new friends and watched his old team lose 28-14 to the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks dropped to 2-4 overall and 1-4 in the SEC with the loss, and Spurrier knows it’s a mess that he helped create.
“Yeah, I hope the Gamecocks get it going,” he said. “They have excellent coaches there. They are doing a good job. Just a little light on big play talent, but I think they will be fine.”
Wednesday will be one year from the day Spurrier told South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner that he was finished immediately. After winning 86 games and the school’s only SEC Eastern Division championship, Spurrier was 2-4 himself when he called it quits.
“Basically, I had failed to put together a competitive team and I knew my time was finished there,” he said. “I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do. I had failed to put a decent team together, and it was either go out then or announce and go out at the end of the season. Or the other would have been to be like most coaches and say, ‘I ain’t quitting,’ and then they have to fire you, but I wasn’t going to do that. I always said when it went bad, I’d be gone and they wouldn’t have to buy me out.”
A year after his resignation, Spurrier is now in his third month of being a consultant and ambassador at his alma mater, Florida, where he won the Heisman Trophy and coached the Gators to a national title. The job is more ambassadoring than consulting.
“I don’t know who I’m consulting,” he said.
Occasionally, he will talk offense with Florida head coach Jim McElwain.
“I go watch practice every now and then and watch a little tape and make some suggestions but that’s all,” said Spurrier, who is in the process of selling his home in Elgin. “Their terminology and mine are completely different. We don’t even know what the other one is talking about half the time.”
Spurrier makes the rounds for the Gators athletic department. On Tuesday, he was playing golf with members of the Gainesville Touchdown Club before speaking at an evening event.
So basically, Steve Spurrier has reached the stage of his career where his job is simply to be Steve Spurrier, Legend At Large. It’s good work if you can get it, but sometimes Spurrier wonders if it’s the job for him.
“Oh, I’m a little bored,” he said.
There are times when he wonders if anyone wants a new quarterbacks coach. The idea of all the hours that come with being a modern college coach don’t appeal to Spurrier, but drawing up plays and having somebody to beat on a Saturday still does.
“Every now and then when you are watching games and watch everybody struggling on offense, it makes you think, ‘What the heck am I doing up here watching on TV?’ ” he said. “Sometimes people will ask me, ‘What do you miss?’ Obviously, I miss the really good teams with players with wonderful attitudes like Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw and even D.J. Swearinger and those defensive guys who come to the ballpark ready to play. I miss all of those guys. And having a good team and calling plays.”
Of course, a year later, he still wishes things had ended differently. He gave the school the best four-year stretch in its football team’s history and gave back to the athletic department nearly $1.5 million throughout his career, but he wishes he could have given a little more in the end.
“It was a good run,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, we are on good terms with those people. I hope so. After last year, I have to take responsibility. I thought I could fix the defense; I thought we had a decent team; I was wrong. I was terribly wrong, and then it was over.”