Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks, 6-2 and ranked 17th in the country, fell out of the national title picture with back-to-back losses to LSU and Florida this month. He can’t hide the disappointment that accompanied those defeats but can still recite off the top of his head all the superlatives about Gamecocks football in recent years. Here’s one: “Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Clemson — those are probably our four big rivals. The coach before me, in 24 games was 3-21. Let’s see, right now, we’re 15-15. That’s the difference we’ve made. And in the last two years now, we’re 9-1 on those teams.”
Another program turned around. Time and age haven’t changed much, he said. His feats at Duke seem almost like mythological lore. Florida is a perennial powerhouse because of the foundation Spurrier laid. And now South Carolina football has risen from SEC dreck to become a top-25 mainstay. In fact, the only place Spurrier didn’t win was the NFL.
It has been 10 years since Spurrier roved the Washington Redskins’ sideline. When he left the Gators to become the NFL’s highest-paid coach — $25 million over five years — he was just another pricey acquisition in an era when the Redskins were tossing around cash for impressive résumés.
“I look back and can say that was a mistake,” Spurrier said of his tenure in Washington. “The lifestyle of an NFL coach is more time-consuming with football than I enjoy doing. I enjoy an offseason, playing golf, getting away from it — this, that and the other. Some guys love being consumed with football 12 months of the year. I like to get consumed four or five months during the season. And then a little more here and there.”
After two rough seasons and a 12-20 record, Spurrier walked away from the Redskins, saying his “give-a-damn was busted.” A year later, the lifelong Gator showed up in Columbia, taking over for the retired Lou Holtz, finding a program not unlike the Duke and Florida teams he’d previously inherited. He was again starting almost from scratch.
Florida Coach Will Muschamp was asked last weekend what satisfaction he derived from beating Spurrier, a Heisman winner when he played for the Gators who has a statue in front of the stadium he nicknamed.
“It has to do with the respect that I have for him as a football coach, and not necessarily what he did at Florida,” Muschamp said. “What he did at Duke. What he is doing at South Carolina. . . . I’ve got as much respect for him as I do for anybody who has been a coach, for what he has accomplished and for what he did for this university.”