By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
Birmingham, Ala. -- It was once written of Steve Spurrier that “Spurrier, with his hands tied behind his back and facing a firing squad, would be favored to escape.”
That comment, written following Spurrier’s winning 40-yard field goal against Auburn his senior season that likely locked him in as the recipient of the 1966 Heisman Trophy, was also quite prophetic about what would transpire in his coaching career.
Often, when it comes to larger than life figures, there is a discrepancy between real life and legend. In Spurrier, they are one and the same.
When Spurrier’s South Carolina team defeated UAB this past Saturday, it gave the college football world an opportunity to reflect back on his career to this point. It marked Spurrier’s 200th victory as a collegiate head coach and, while that number is impressive, it is his contributions to changing the game of college football that have been his biggest impact.
In a coaching career that spans five decades, Spurrier has seemingly done it all. He has coached at the collegiate, USFL and NFL levels. He led Duke to an Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and then took Florida to the 1996 National Championship. In total, he has won nearly 250 games as a head coach at three different levels.
Spurrier revolutionized the game of college football with his ‘Fun and Gun’ attack at Florida, taking the game of collegiate football into the air. While with the Gators, his offense became the only one in modern collegiate history (since 1937) to score at least 500 points in four consecutive seasons.
When Spurrier eclipsed the 100-win milestone in 1999, he did so in just 120 games. His 122 victories in Gainesville from 1990-2001 rank as the best win total for a coach in his first 12 years at a school in major college history. He won a league-most 73 conference games during the decade of the 1990s.
While the numbers tell a story of their own, what is it that makes Spurrier so special?
Most importantly, he is himself.
You don’t have to wonder what Spurrier is thinking or what his motivations are. He will tell you. In a coaching profession that has become almost obsessed with the non-stop pursuit of excellence, Spurrier does things his own way. And he still wins.
Last week, I listened in on an SEC on CBS teleconference where announcer Gary Danielson made mention that he believed Spurrier has done a better coaching job at South Carolina than he did at Florida.
You could certainly make that argument.
He has led the Gamecocks to never-before-seen heights and has attracted some of the nation’s top talent to Columbia.
Last season, Spurrier directed South Carolina to a school-record 11 victories and the school’s first-ever AP top-10 finish. The Gamecocks also won a school-record six SEC games and defeated each of their Eastern Division rivals before capturing the Capital One Bowl.
It hasn’t just been the victories – it has been what they have meant and how he has accomplished them.
Spurrier may be 67 years old, but when you look at where he has the South Carolina program positioned and the passion with which he does his job each day, you’re tempted to think just one thing.
I wonder how he will get the next 200 victories?