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In Defense of Steve Spurrier: How The Ole Ball Coach's Honest Humility Might Help Carolina

Posted: Jul 29, 2009

Is the SEC seeing a new side of Steve Spurrier in the wake of what seemed to be an uncharacteristic performance at this year's SEC Media Days?

His current situation hinges around a piece Swampland Sports wrote last February wondering whether Steve Spurrier's days as a dominant SEC coach are over.  That has become a popular question after an SEC Media Days that saw the former Florida icon look indecisive and uncomfortable. This was hard for many media member to watch considering that the man who used to be the “Entertainer of the Year” at SEC Media gatherings seemed out of place as he tried to explain his non-vote/vote for Tim Tebow. Who would have thought that the SEC media would like Lane Kiffin and be critical of Spurrier? However surprising, that’s what happened during the three day circus in Alabama.

Much more important the Tebow vote (non) issue is the future of the Ole Ball Coach and the South Carolina football program. It’s been a tumultuous ride in Columbia for Spurrier, who has a 15-17 SEC record in four seasons there. Lately, the headlines have involved players with off-field trouble, coaching turnover, and the Sterling Sharpe retired number flap instead of moving up the conference food chain. Fans and media in the Palmetto State are wondering if the coach who has won six SEC titles can get even get the Gamecocks close to that level in the next season or two.

The rabble around Spurrier has been cropping up all over our region. It just doesn’t sound like the Darth Visor from the ‘90s when the once confident coach says “…when you're 7-6, like I am now, you don't have much to say. That's just the way it is." Oh how times have changed. On top of the current frustration at South Carolina, the whole Tebow issue even has Gator supporters questioning their former hero. One Florida columnist says Spurrier may have gone from “revered Gator to reviled traitor”. Ouch.

We’ve written before how the SEC has upgraded with the amazing current coaching lineup. Has Spurrier fallen behind?  On the surface, that seems to be the case for the coach whose offense in the ‘90s single-handedly changed the conference from a "run first" league to one that had high-powered passing attacks. The lack of quarterback development in Columbia has become the biggest concern for a fan base that was so excited when Spurrier signed on in 2005.  Is it much like Phil Fulmer and Tommy Tuberville where the Ole Ball Coach looks to have been passed by the likes of Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, etc?

Before anyone starts to write Spurrier off, keep in mind that South Carolina had a very good recruiting class in 2009.  Whereas Spurrier outcoached opponents in his previous SEC tenure, he seems to clearly understand that SEC football today is decided by talent as much as game planning.  This is where Spurrier's path might differ from Fulmer's and Tuberville's because both of them had clearly allowed their respective talent pools to decline.  

Or could something else be going on?  Could this new side of Spurrier have more to do with understanding and accepting his situation coaching a South Carolina football team that has yet to make its mark in the SEC?  Maybe his own words from this past week say it best:

I'm often asked, do you wish you hadn't said this years ago, done this. I say, yeah, probably looking back, that was a little arrogant. I probably said too many things.... But in life, when you're winning a lot, you're winning sort of big, you naturally do that. I'm not the only coach that has done that.... And then, when you're 7-6, like I am now, you don't have much to say. That's just the way it is.... It's best to let your teams do the talking for you as a coach.

Humility and Steve Spurrier seem as foreign as grits and New York City, but humility is at least the honest approach.  Even though it seems strange to hear him say it, Spurrier knows that he hasn't accomplished anything yet in Columbia.  Being honest about it is really the only way to make it better.  How many coaches have we seen trying to delude themselves that success is right around the corner when it clearly is not?  This sounds like every coach right before they are on their way out of town.

Although this kind of change in such an iconic SEC figure seems strange, fans in our region should wait and see whether Spurrier is nearing an end or just moving into another phase of his career - one where he coaches less as the mad genius and more as the program figurehead who is trying to bring something to Gamecock fans that they've never seen - an SEC title.  

The Gamecocks have always had the passion and resources to be a winner.   They only need the leadership to get it done.  The 2009 season will likely tell the tale of whether Steve Spurrier can become that man.

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