Steve Spurrier

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This article is about the former American football coach and player. For the British artist, see Steven Spurrier (artist). For the wine writer, see Steven Spurrier (wine merchant).
Steve Spurrier
Steve Spurrier ESPNWeekend2010-056.jpg
Spurrier at ESPN the Weekend in 2010
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1945-04-20) April 20, 1945 (age 71)
Miami Beach, Florida
Playing career
1963–1966 Florida
1967–1975 San Francisco 49ers
1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Position(s) Quarterback, punter, kicker[1]
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1978 Florida (QB)
1979 Georgia Tech (QB)
1980–1982 Duke (OC)
1983–1985 Tampa Bay Bandits
1987–1989 Duke
1990–2001 Florida
2002–2003 Washington Redskins
2005–2015 South Carolina
Head coaching record
Overall 228–89–2 (college)
12–20 (NFL)
35–21 (USFL)
Bowls 11–10
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
1 National (1996)
1 ACC (1989)
6 SEC (1991, 1993–1996, 2000)
8 SEC Eastern Division (1992–1996, 1999–2000, 2010)
Awards
As a coach
ACC Coach of the Year (1988, 1989)
SEC Coach of the Year
(1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2005, 2010)
As a player
First-team All-American (1965, 1966)
Heisman Trophy (1966)
UPI Player of the Year (1966)
Walter Camp Memorial Trophy (1966)
SEC Player of the Year (1966)
Florida–Georgia Hall of Fame
University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1986 (profile)

Stephen Orr Spurrier (born April 20, 1945) is a former American football player and coach, having served as the head coach of three college and two professional teams. Spurrier was also noteworthy as a standout college football player, and he spent a decade playing professionally in the National Football League (NFL). Spurrier retired from coaching in 2015 and now serves as an ambassador and consultant for the University of Florida's athletic department.

Spurrier was born in Miami Beach, Florida and grew up in Tennessee, where he was a multi-sport all-state athlete at Science Hill High School in Johnson City. He is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he was the Florida Gators' starting quarterback for three seasons. Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy in his senior season of 1966, and was a consensus All-American in both 1965 and 1966. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1986. Spurrier was drafted in the first round (third overall) of the 1967 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers, for whom he played from 1967 to 1975, mainly as a backup quarterback and punter. In 1976, the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for Spurrier, and he was the team's starting quarterback for most of their inaugural season.

After retiring as a player, Spurrier spent a year away from football before returning to the game as a college assistant coach. He served as the quarterbacks coach at Florida and Georgia Tech for one season each before being named the offensive coordinator of the Duke Blue Devils in 1980. Spurrier gained a reputation as an innovative young offensive coach during his three seasons at Duke, and his 1982 offense set a school record for yardage.

In 1983, Spurrier accepted his first head coaching job with Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League (USFL). The Bandits had a successful three-season run, and Spurrier's "Bandit Ball" offense was popular with fans, but the team folded along with the rest of the USFL after the 1985 season. Spurrier returned to the college ranks and Duke University in 1987, when he was named the Blue Devils' head coach. His Duke squads broke school records for scoring and yardage that had been set during his tenure as offensive coordinator, and his 1989 Duke squad won the program's first conference championship since 1962 and most recent to date.

On January 1, 1990, Spurrier returned to the University of Florida to become the Gators' head coach. For the next twelve seasons, he led Florida's program to unprecedented success, including Florida's first six Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships and first consensus national championship in 1996. His wide-open offensive scheme (nicknamed the "Fun 'n' Gun") continued to produce points at Florida, and his squads and individual players set numerous Southeastern Conference (SEC) and school records. In 1996, Spurrier became the first Heisman Trophy winner to coach a Heisman Trophy winner when Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the award.

Spurrier unexpectedly resigned at Florida immediately after the 2001 season to coach in the NFL, but after a largely disappointing tenure as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, he returned to the college game when he became head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2005. While his offenses were productive, they weren't quite as prolific as they had been at Florida, Spurrier similarly brought the South Carolina program to new levels of success. Under his watch, the Gamecocks tallied three of the four 10-win seasons in program history, as well as the Gamecocks' only 11-win seasons, top-10 poll finishes, and its only SEC Championship Game appearance. He is the winningest coach in both Florida and South Carolina history, and has the second most coaching wins in the history of the SEC.

On October 12, 2015, Spurrier announced that he was resigning as South Carolina's head coach, effective immediately.[2] In July 2016, Spurrier returned to the University of Florida as an ambassador and consultant to the athletic department.[3]

Early life[edit]

Spurrier was born on April 20, 1945, in Miami Beach, Florida.[4] He is the second son of a Presbyterian minister, J. Graham Spurrier, and his wife Marjorie.[5] Graham Spurrier changed congregations repeatedly during Steve Spurrier's early childhood, resulting in several moves for the family. The Spurriers left Miami Beach before Steve Spurrier's first birthday, moving to Charlotte, North Carolina to live near his paternal grandparents. His father accepted pastorships in Athens, Tennessee and then in Newport, Tennessee before settling in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1957, when Steve Spurrier was 12 years old.[6] The youngest Spurrier began to earn his reputation as a good athlete and a fierce competitor in Johnson City, and his father was talked into coaching a Little League baseball team so that his son would play on the team.[6]

Playing career[edit]

High school[edit]

Spurrier attended Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tennessee,[7] where he was a three-sport letterman starring in high school football, basketball and baseball for the Science Hill Hilltoppers, and was an all-state selection in all three sports.[5] In three years as the starting pitcher for Science Hill, he never lost a game and led his team to two consecutive state baseball championships.[5] On the basketball court, Spurrier played point guard and was known for flashy passes and dribbling behind his back.[8]

But Spurrier preferred football. The high school All-American quarterback set almost every Science Hill passing record, was allowed to call offensive plays, and was recruited by colleges from across the south.[5][8]

Steve Spurrier (11), two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback of the Florida Gators.

College[edit]

Spurrier in 1965.

After winning multiple all-state honors as a high school quarterback in Tennessee, Spurrier was recruited by several top college programs, but he was not aggressively pursued by the Tennessee Volunteers football team in nearby Knoxville because at the time, UT ran a wing-T offense that featured a running quarterback while Spurrier was an excellent passer.[9] He ultimately chose to accept a scholarship offer from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida because of "the passing, the SEC, the weather, and coach Ray Graves."[9]

After sitting out his freshman season per NCAA rules at the time, Spurrier became the Gators' starting quarterback at the beginning of his sophomore season in 1964. He kept the position until the end of his senior year in 1966 and led the team to some of the best seasons in program history up to that point.[10] In addition to being a stellar passer, Spurrier gained notoriety by regularly bringing his team back in the fourth quarter. In his first collegiate start, he led the Gators on a successful two-minute drill to beat Ole Miss in Oxford.[11] The most memorable example was during a key 1966 game against Auburn, when he waved off Florida's starting place-kicker and booted a forty-yard field goal to give the Gators a 30–27 victory.[12] This penchant for dramatic comebacks prompted John Logue of the Atlanta Constitution to famously write "Blindfolded, with his back to the wall, with his hands tied behind him, Steve Spurrier would be a two-point favorite at his own execution."[13]

Spurrier and the Gators v. Georgia, 1966.

Spurrier finished his three-year, thirty-one-game college career having completed 392 of 692 attempts, with 4,848 passing yards and 37 touchdowns, breaking numerous school and conference records.[14] In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy and the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy[15] as a senior,[14][16] he was selected as a Football Writers Association of America first-team All-American as a junior in 1965, and a unanimous first-team All-American in 1966.[10][17] He was also the recipient of the Gators' Fergie Ferguson Award, recognizing the "senior football player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage."[10] In 2006, Spurrier was recognized by The Gainesville Sun as the No. 2 player among the top 100 from the first century of the Gators football program.[18]

National Football League[edit]

The San Francisco 49ers selected Spurrier in the first round (third pick overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft.[19] Spurrier played for the 49ers for nine seasons, mostly as a punter and backup quarterback to John Brodie. Spurrier had few opportunities to start behind the durable All-Pro, but had some success in limited appearances. Brodie was injured early in the 1972 season, and Spurrier was thrust into the starting role with the team, which was struggling with a 2-3 record. He responded by leading the 49ers to a 5-2-1 record, throwing sixteen touchdowns over eight games. Spurrier threw three interceptions in the first half of the last game of the season, and a now-healthy Brodie was brought in to lead the team to a second half comeback. Brodie subsequently returned to the starting role over Spurrier for the playoffs, and the 49ers lost in the first round.[20]

Spurrier next had an opportunity to start in the fifth game of the 1973 season, when he replaced a slumping Brodie against the Minnesota Vikings. He set team records with 31 completions and 320 passing yards, but he also tossed two interceptions, and the 49ers lost 17-14.[14] With Spurrier suffering from a lingering knee injury, 49ers head coach Dick Nolan decided to start fellow backup Joe Reed the following week, and Spurrier's playing time was again limited.

Spurrier had successful knee surgery in the offseason and, with his NFL contract expired, listened to offers from teams in the new World Football League.[20] However, John Brodie had retired, and as the heir apparent to the 49ers' starting quarterback position in 1974, Spurrier decided to re-sign with the team. These expectations were dashed when he suffered a badly dislocated shoulder during the final preseason game, an injury which required surgery and caused him to miss virtually the entire season. A serious offseason traffic accident reaggravated the injury, and Spurrier was again relegated to limited duty in 1975.[20] Coach Nolan was fired after the season, and when incoming coach Monte Clark traded multiple high draft picks for New England Patriots' quarterback Jim Plunkett, it became clear that Spurrier was not part of the 49ers' rebuilding plans. Overall, he was 13-12-1 as a starter with San Francisco.

In April 1976, Spurrier was sent to the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for two players and a second round draft pick as part of the new franchise's first trade.[20] The Bucs' new acquisition generated local excitement, as Spurrier had been a college star at the nearby University of Florida. He won the job as team's first starting quarterback, a position that he later regretted as the Bucs went on to suffer the first winless season (0-14) in modern NFL history. Frustrated by the string of losses, constant hits from playing behind a porous offensive line, his own mediocre performance, and philosophical differences with Bucs coach John McKay, Spurrier did not enjoy expansion football.[20][21] The Bucs released Spurrier during the offseason. He then signed with the Miami Dolphins, but was released during the last round of cuts during the 1977 preseason, at which point he decided to end his playing career.[20]

Over 10 NFL seasons, Spurrier played in 106 games (starting 38), completing 597 passes in 1,151 attempts, for a total of 6,878 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 60 interceptions. He also punted 230 times for a 38.3 yard average.[22]

Coaching career[edit]

Assistant coach[edit]

Florida (1978)[edit]

Spurrier spent the fall of 1977 out of football, living in Gainesville with his young family and considering possible career choices. While not officially connected with the University of Florida at the time, he was often on campus, running at the university's track and attending football games as a fan.[20] He watched the Gators play to a disappointing 6-4-1 record in 1977, a season that prompted head coach Doug Dickey to scrap the wishbone-based run-heavy attack that his teams had used for several years with declining success in favor of a more open pro-style offense. To affect this change, Dickey revamped his offensive staff, and he hired Spurrier to his first coaching job as Florida's quarterbacks and receivers coach.[23]

The changes did not bring many positive results. While Florida's passing attack improved, the 1978 Gators' overall scoring output was almost identical to that of 1977 (about 22 points per game) and the team's record slumped to 4-7, leading to Dickey's dismissal.[24][25] Spurrier expressed an interested in becoming Florida's next head coach but was not a serious candidate due to his lack of experience, and Clemson coach Charley Pell was hired soon after conclusion of the season.[26] Pell chose not to retain any of Dickey's staff, leaving Spurrier without a job.

Georgia Tech (1979)[edit]

Spurrier was unsure if he wanted to continue pursuing a coaching career after his unpleasant experience at Florida, stating that he would only accept a position "if the opportunity was really right."[26] In 1979, he accepted an offer to become the quarterbacks coach at Georgia Tech under head coach Pepper Rodgers, who had been an offensive assistant at Florida when Spurrier was the quarterback.[27] Like Dickey, Rodgers sought to transition from a wishbone attack to a passing-oriented offense with Spurrier's help. And also like Dickey, Rodgers' efforts did not increase his team's win total. The Yellow Jackets set a school record in passing yardage, but they finished 4-6-1, and Rodgers was fired after the season.[28]

Duke (1980-1982)[edit]

In 1980, Spurrier was hired to be the offensive coordinator at Duke University under head coach Red Wilson. Wilson gave Spurrier free reign to design the offense, coach the quarterbacks, and call plays. He quickly developed a record-breaking passing attack and built a reputation as an innovative young offensive coach.[20] Under Spurrier, Blue Devils quarterback Ben Bennett set an NCAA record for career passing yardage, and Duke's 1982 team was the first in Atlantic Coast Conference history to average more than 300 passing yards per game.[29] They also earned two straight winning seasons in 1981 and 1982, a feat that the program had not achieved since 1970 and 1971 and would not achieve again until Spurrier returned as Duke's head coach.

In later years, Spurrier has stated that his seasons working to get maximum production out of outmanned Duke squads were critical to his development as a coach and an offensive strategist.[30]

Tampa Bay Bandits (1983-1985)[edit]

In 1983, Spurrier returned to Tampa to accept his first head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the new United States Football League (USFL). At 37 years old, Spurrier was the youngest head coach in professional football at the time.[31]

"BanditBall" was marketed as a fun alternative to the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were in the midst of a record-setting streak of losing seasons. Spurrier's wide-open offense was prominently featured, as was starting quarterback John Reaves, who had broken many of Spurrier's passing records at the University of Florida and had grown up in Tampa.[20] The Bandits' attendance was the highest in the USFL over its three-year run, and Spurrier's offenses were consistently among the league's best.[32] The team narrowly missed the playoffs in their first season and made the postseason the next two years. Overall, Spurrier led the Bandits to 35–21 record before the USFL dissolved after the 1985 season.[27]

Duke Blue Devils (1987-1989)[edit]

Spurrier spent 1986 out of football as the USFL's planned move to a fall schedule never took place. When it became clear that the Bandits would not retake the field, Spurrier began to seek new coaching opportunities. He interviewed for several positions, including at LSU, where he was ultimately passed over in favor of Mike Archer.[20]

Finally, Spurrier returned to Duke University as the Blue Devils' new head coach and offensive coordinator in 1987.[27] Spurrier proceeded to revive the Blue Devils to levels of success that the program had not realized in over twenty-five years. His offenses broke numerous school and conference records for scoring, passing yards, and total yards, many of which had been set during his tenure as Duke's offensive coordinator. His 1989 Duke squad was the most successful, winning Duke's first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 1962 (and most recent to date), and appearing in their first bowl game since 1960.[33]

In what would become a recurring trend at most of his coaching stops, Spurrier's teams regularly beat their biggest rivals while he brashly "needled" them with jokes and "zingers" that were amusing to his fans but infuriating to opponents.[34] Spurrier's Duke squads went 3-0 against archrival North Carolina, including a 41-0 victory in Chapel Hill that clinched a share of the 1989 ACC title. At Spurrier's suggestion, that win was followed by a joyful team picture taken in front of the Kenan Memorial Stadium scoreboard, a photo that still rankles some Tarheel supporters.[33]

For his success, Spurrier was named the ACC Coach of the Year in both 1988 and 1989.[35]

Florida Gators (1990-2001)[edit]

On December 31, 1989, the University of Florida announced that Spurrier had accepted its offer to be the head football coach of the Florida Gators.[36][37] He inherited a team under NCAA investigation for the second time in five years,[38] and that had never won an officially recognized Southeastern Conference (SEC) football championship in 57 seasons of SEC play.[39]

Spurrier successfully steered the program away from the previous scandals and led the Gators to the best record in the SEC in his first year. However, they were not eligible for the title due to NCAA probation. Building on that momentum, he captured the Gators' first officially recognized SEC title in 1991.[5][40] Under Spurrier, the Gators won the SEC title in four of the next five years, and represented the SEC East in the first five SEC Championship Games.[5] The 1996 team captured the Gators' first-ever National Championship with a 52–20 win over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl,[41] avenging the Gators' sole regular season loss in which Florida State upset Florida 24–21 in Tallahassee.[5]

Steve Spurrier on Fan Day, 1999

Spurrier's finest moment as a coach may have been the Gators' 1997 game against the previously undefeated and national title game-bound Florida State Seminoles.[42] Spurrier used a two-quarterback offense, rotating quarterbacks Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise in and out of the game, confusing the Florida State defense and its veteran coordinator, Mickey Andrews, and giving Spurrier more time to counsel his quarterbacks on the sidelines without having to use time-outs.[42] Florida upset the heavily favored Seminoles 32–29.[42]

Significantly, Spurrier is credited with changing the way the SEC played football. Spurrier employed a pass-oriented offense (known in the sports media as the "Fun 'n' Gun")[43] in contrast to the ball-control, rush-oriented offenses that were traditionally played in the SEC. His innovative offensive schemes forced many coaches in the SEC to change their offensive and defensive play-calling.

While his offensive style used a more wide open passing game than the SEC was accustomed to, Spurrier was also able to utilize a constant group of talented running backs. Many of them would later go on to have success at the NFL level, including Errict Rhett, Fred Taylor, Terry Jackson, and Earnest Graham.

Spurrier and his Gators accomplished a number of memorable feats during his twelve seasons in Gainesville (1990–2001), including:

  • Won one national championship (1997), and played for another (1996).[5]
  • Won six SEC championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000).[5]
  • Named SEC Coach of the Year five times (1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996).[5]
  • First Heisman Trophy-winner to coach a Heisman Trophy-winner (Danny Wuerffel).[5]
  • Won at least nine games in each of his twelve seasons, one of only three coaches in major college history to do so.[5]
  • Averaged more than ten wins per season.[5]
  • Ranked in the final top fifteen in each of his twelve seasons, including nine top-ten finishes, five final top-five rankings, and an average end-of-season ranking of 6.8.[5]
  • Appeared among the top twenty-five teams in the weekly polls 202 of a possible 203 weeks, including each of his last 202 consecutive weeks. The Gators were ranked number one in the polls twenty-nine times, appeared among the top five team for 117 weeks, and among the nation's top ten teams for 179 weeks.[5]
  • Appeared in a bowl game in each of his last eleven seasons—every season in which the Gators were eligible—one of only five schools to do so during the same time period.[5]
  • Only coach in major college history to win as many as 120 games in his first twelve seasons at one school (an overall record of 122–27–1, with a winning percentage of .8167).[5]
  • One of only two coaches in major college history to win ten or more games in six consecutive seasons (1993–1998).[5]
  • Only college football team to score at least 500 points, including bowl games, for four consecutive years (1993–1996) since the NCAA began keeping statistics in 1937.[5]

Spurrier is also credited with creating the nickname "The Swamp" for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the Gators' home field. In the early 1990s, he said, ". . . a swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. Only Gators get out alive."[44] Soon after becoming head coach, he insisted that the artificial turf then in use at the stadium be replaced with natural grass, and the "Swamp" remains a natural surface field today.[36] During Spurrier's tenure, the Gators built up one of the most formidable home field advantages in the nation; they would not lose a home SEC game until 1994, and would only suffer two more home losses to conference opponents during his 12-year run. Largely due to the formidable home-field advantage Spurrier built, he is by far the winningest coach in Florida history as his 122 wins are 52 more than runner-up Graves.

Spurrier was known for his gamesmanship while coaching Florida, doing such things as giving much-derided Georgia coach Ray Goff the nickname of "Ray Goof."[45][46] His rivalry with the Tennessee Volunteers and their coach Phillip Fulmer became highly publicized, as Spurrier would gig the Volunteers after the Gators' wins over Tennessee, saying that "you can't spell 'Citrus' without 'UT,'" a reference to the Citrus Bowl, which has the contractual right to select the second-place SEC football team. He also said of Peyton Manning, Tennessee's quarterback, "I know why Peyton came back for his senior year: he wanted to be a three-time Citrus Bowl MVP!"[45]

Other memorable one-liners from Steve Spurrier included nicknaming rival Florida State University, "Free Shoes University," for the Seminoles' NCAA troubles with recruiting violations.[45]

On January 4, 2002, Spurrier abruptly resigned as head coach, stating, "I simply believe that twelve years as head coach at a major university in the SEC is long enough."[47]

Before Spurrier returned to coach his Gamecocks against the Gators in 2006 and 2008, his most recent visits to Gainesville were on September 2, 2006, to take part in the Gators' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of their 1996 championship season,[48] and on September 30, 2006, when he was one of the first four inductees into the Gator Football Ring of Honor, alongside Danny Wuerffel, Emmitt Smith, and Jack Youngblood.[49] At both appearances, Spurrier received standing ovations from the crowd.[49]

Spurrier retains a deep affection and loyalty for his alma mater, and sometimes still accidentally says "we" when referring to the University of Florida. The feeling is mutual; he remains very much in the good graces of Gator fans for building their program into a perennial national power.[50] When he was inducted into the Gators' "Ring of Honor," Spurrier humbly announced to the sell-out crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium: "I'd just like to thank coach Ray Graves for bringing the skinny kid from Tennessee to the University of Florida."[51] Additionally, in 2016, the university added his name to the playing surface at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium; it is now Steve Spurrier-Florida Field.

Spurrier has not let his affection for the University of Florida get in the way of a budding Florida-South Carolina rivalry, however. In 2005, his Gamecocks upset the Gators 30–22 in Columbia, costing the Gators a shot at the SEC championship.[52] And in November 2010, he coached South Carolina to a 36–14 victory in Gainesville (their first ever on Florida Field) in a game that decided the SEC Eastern Division title.[53]

Washington Redskins (2002-2003)[edit]

Ten days after Spurrier resigned his position at the University of Florida, he became head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins.[54] Spurrier's five-year, $25 million contract with the Redskins was the most lucrative coaching contract in the history of the NFL at the time.[54]

A fast start to the 2002 season raised hopes for Spurrier's potential success. The Redskins led off the preseason in Japan, where they beat the San Francisco 49ers 38-7 in the American Bowl. The team threw for over 400 yards and was accused of running up the score, a charge frequently leveled against Spurrier at Florida.[55] The Redskins went 4-1 in the preseason (including a 40-10 win in Tampa against Spurrier's last professional team, the Buccaneers[56]) and won the first game of the regular season 31-23, with Shane Matthews throwing for 327 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals.[57] However, subsequent opponents were able to slow Spurrier's offense, mainly by using disguised blitzes to disrupt the passing game. By the end of the season, the Redskins were ranked 25th (out of 32 teams) in scoring offense and finished with a 7–9 record. It was only Spurrier's second losing campaign in 18 years as a head coach, the first being his first year at Duke.

In 2003, the Redskins started 2–0 but finished 5–11, with several close losses coming down to the 4th quarter. The offense was a bit improved, but the departure of defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis to become the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals saw the defense fade from 5th in scoring defense during the previous season to 24th in 2003. The team as a whole faded late in the season, and were outscored 85–31 over their last three games. Spurrier resigned on December 30, 2003, choosing to walk away from $15 million still owed to him over the remaining three years of his contract. In a statement released by the team, Spurrier said “I apologize to Redskins fans that we did not reach a level of success that we had all hoped... It's a long grind and I feel (that) after 20 years as a head coach there are other things I need to do. I simply believe this is the right time for me to move on because this team needs new leadership.”[58]

Spurrier's disappointing tenure as an NFL head coach has been heavily scrutinized and analysed. During his first season in Washington, Spurrier had acquired many of his former Florida players, including quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews, leading to criticism that he played favorites. Also criticized was his decision to bring along most of his coaching staff from Florida even though they had little or no experience in professional football (the exception being Marvin Lewis, who was a veteran NFL coach). Additionally, there were many well-documented philosophical, strategic, and player personnel differences between Spurrier and the Washington front office, including team owner Daniel Snyder.[59][60][61] Snyder pushed for the drafting of Tulane quarterback Patrick Ramsey in the 2002 NFL Draft, and though Spurrier said that he would not play Ramsey during his first season in the NFL, he was the starter by game 4.[62] The quarterback position continued to be a source of friction, particularly when the front office decided to release Wuerffel before the start of Spurrier's second season over his objections.[63][64] Spurrier later said that he "knew it was over" when he "wasn't allowed to pick the backup quarterback".[62]

Spurrier spoke about his NFL coaching experience during SEC Media Days in 2014. "When I left Florida after 12 years, I thought I was going to coach in the NFL five or six years and retire to the beach, and play golf a bunch, and travel around, this, that and the other. But that was a bad plan. It was. Later you found out that was not a real good idea. But that's the way I was thinking back then.".[65] In a 2016 appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show, Spurrier reflected that the Redskins might not have been the best choice for his jump to the NFL. "I went to the team that offered the most money instead of the best situation," he said.[66]

South Carolina Gamecocks (2005-2015)[edit]

Spurrier stands on the sidelines during the Gamecocks' November 15, 2008 game against Florida.

Throughout the 2004 football season, various sources openly speculated about Spurrier returning to coach in the college ranks once again, preferably for a program located in the southeastern United States and even more preferably, somewhere in his beloved Southeastern Conference.[67] The University of Florida was in the process of taking applications for a new coach after Spurrier's successor at Florida, Ron Zook, was fired following the 2004 season.[68] The timing seemed perfect for Spurrier's return to the Gators and Spurrier initially said that he wanted to be considered for his old job, but later removed his name from consideration stating that "12 years at Florida was probably long enough."[69] Soon afterwards, rumors began circulating that South Carolina Gamecocks' Athletic Director, Mike McGee, was actively pursuing Spurrier and that Spurrier was considering the Gamecocks' offer. Again, the timing was perfect and on November 22, South Carolina coach Lou Holtz announced his retirement and, during his final press conference, hinted that Spurrier might replace him.[70] The next day, months of rumors were put to rest as Spurrier was introduced as South Carolina's new head coach. Spurrier had signed a seven-year deal that paid him $1.25 million per year and the Steve Spurrier era began for the Gamecocks.[71]

In 2005, his first season as the Gamecocks' new head coach, Spurrier led his South Carolina Gamecocks with newfound humility.[72] The Gamecocks, who were not expected to have a winning season by most pundits, rattled off a five-game SEC winning streak for the first time in their fourteen-year SEC history.[73] Included among those victories were historic wins at Tennessee (16–15)[74] — the program's first win in Knoxville[74] — and against then 12th-ranked Florida (30–22),[75] who South Carolina had not beaten since 1939.[75] The Associated Press named Spurrier the SEC Coach of the Year,[27] and the Gamecocks finished the 2005 season with a 7–5 record and a trip to the Independence Bowl.[73]

Two days prior to South Carolina's 2006 season opener, Spurrier announced that he would kick off the athletics department's capital campaign with a $250,000 donation over five years.[76] Spurrier's Gamecocks opened the 2006 season with a 15–0 win over Mississippi State in Starkville,[77] where he was 0–2 while coaching the Florida Gators.[78] With the victory, he reached 150 wins for his college coaching career.[79] On September 30, Spurrier was inducted into the Gator Football Ring of Honor in a pre-game ceremony in Gainesville.[80] Later in the season on November 11, Spurrier returned to "The Swamp" to face off against his former Gators team, which was then ranked sixth in the BCS rankings.[81] Trailing 17–16, the Gamecocks had a chance to win with a 48-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the game.[81] However, Ryan Succop's kick was blocked as time expired in a repeat of an earlier blocked extra-point attempt.[81]

In the final game of the 2006 regular season, Spurrier led the Gamecocks to victory over in-state rival Clemson at Death Valley.[82] Trailing 28–14 in the third quarter, South Carolina scored seventeen unanswered points to lead 31–28.[83] With only seconds remaining, Clemson's field goal attempt missed wide left and the Gamecocks celebrated their first victory over Clemson in five years.[82][84]

On December 2, 2006, amid speculation he was a candidate for head coaching jobs at Miami and Alabama, Spurrier received a contract extension through 2012 and a raise from $1.25 million to $1.75 million annually.[85] Spurrier and the Gamecocks went on to defeat the Houston Cougars in the Liberty Bowl on December 29, and finished the season 8–5.[77] All five of the Gamecocks' 2006 losses were to ranked opponents.[86] Spurrier became the first head coach in Gamecock football history to take a team to a bowl game in each of his first two seasons.[87]

The 2007 football season, got off to a quick start winning at SEC rival Georgia early in the season as well as Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina State, and climbed into the top 10 in the national rankings. South Carolina stumbled down the stretch dropping the final five games, including a home loss in the season finale to arch-rival Clemson. The 6-6 (3-5 SEC) season record marked the first non-winning college season for Spurrier since his first season at Duke in 1987.[88][89]

Spurrier won his 100th SEC game on October 11, 2008, coaching the Gamecocks to a 24–17 victory over Kentucky.[90] In his ten seasons as the Gamecocks' head coach, Spurrier has beaten each of South Carolina's traditional SEC Eastern Division rivals at least five times.[87] Against their annual SEC Eastern Division opponents, his ten teams have posted an 8–2 record against Kentucky, 8–2 against Vanderbilt, 5–5 against Tennessee, 5–5 against Georgia, 5–5 against Florida, and 2-1 against Missouri who began competing in the SEC in 2012.[87] Against South Carolina's major in-state rival, Clemson, Spurrier's Gamecocks have gone 6–3.[87] While Spurrier's teams at USC have shown flashes of his old "Fun 'n' Gun" offense, they have mostly relied on stout defense to win upsets. The Gamecocks have been bowl eligible every year Spurrier has been their head coach, a feat no other Carolina coach has accomplished. Also, the Gamecocks have been ranked in the AP Poll Top 25 at some point during the season in nine out of Spurrier's ten years at USC.

Spurrier's Gamecocks won the SEC Eastern Division championship for the first time in school history in 2010, clinching the title with a convincing 36–14 victory at "The Swamp" over the Florida Gators. It was a season of firsts for South Carolina, including their first win at Florida, first win over a No. 1 ranked team (Alabama), and first time sweeping the November "Orange Crush" portion of their schedule with wins over Tennessee, Florida and Clemson. Following a 9–3 regular season and an appearance in the SEC championship game, Spurrier was named SEC Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches in the conference.[91]

The Gamecocks had another strong season in 2011, beating every opponent in the division. However, losses to Arkansas and Auburn cost them a return appearance in the SEC title game. With a 34-13 rout of Clemson, the Gamecocks won 10 games for only the second time in their 119-year football history. In the 2012 Capital One Bowl, the Gamecocks dispatched Nebraska 30-13 to win their school-record 11th game. They also finished eighth in the AP Poll and ninth in the Coaches' Poll—their first top-ten finishes in a major media poll in school history.

In 2012 Spurrier led the Gamecocks to their second-consecutive regular season with double-digit wins—something no Gamecock team had ever achieved. The 2012 regular season culminated with the annual season-ending game against Clemson at Clemson's Memorial Stadium. Spurrier and his Gamecocks emerged with a fourth consecutive double-digit victory over the Tigers. That win was also Spurrier's 65th win with the Gamecocks, vaulting him past Rex Enright to become the winningest coach in South Carolina's history. Spurrier led the Gamecocks to a thrilling 33-28 victory in the 2013 Outback Bowl against the winningest program in college football, the Michigan Wolverines. The victory elevated the Gamecocks to an 11-2 record for the 2nd consecutive season. Additionally, by finishing 8th in the Associated Press poll and 7th in the Coaches poll, South Carolina finished in Top 10 of both polls for the second year in a row.

During the 2013 season, Spurrier led his Gamecocks to a third consecutive 11-2 record. Only two other programs (Alabama and Oregon) have won 11 or more games each of the last three seasons (2011–13). During the season, the Gamecocks defeated three teams that finished ranked in the Top 10 in the final AP Poll (Missouri, University of Central Florida, and Clemson). The Gamecocks were the only team to accomplish this feat. They also became the first and only team to defeat two teams that won BCS bowl games. Following their 34-24 win over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, the Gamecocks were ranked 4th in the final AP Poll,[92] setting a record for the program. This also marked the third straight year that the Gamecocks finished with a Top 10 ranking in the final AP Poll. While defeating Clemson, again, the Gamecocks ran their winning streak over their arch rival to five games, which is the longest winning streak in the rivalry, for either team, since 1940. The 31-17 score marked the 5th straight double-digit margin of victory over their ACC foe. Also, for the 5th straight year, the Gamecocks defense held the Tigers to 17 points or less.

On October 12, 2015, Spurrier announced to his team and staff that he had resigned as head coach. He publicly confirmed his intentions at a press conference the following day. Spurrier reiterated that he was not officially retiring, but added he will probably never coach again.[2]

The Ladies Clinic[edit]

A popular tradition, started during the Sparky Woods era at USC, occurs on the last Saturday of July when the University of South Carolina athletics department hosts the annual "Steve Spurrier Ladies Football Clinic." Only female fans are invited to attend the clinic where football coaches and players discuss the X's and O's with fans who want to understand the game better. All attendees get a tour of the football facilities, and finish the day running onto the football field through the players' tunnel accompanied by artificial smoke and theme music in the same way the team does during the season. The event was hosted by Spurrier and his wife Jerri.[93][94][95]

Personal[edit]

Spurrier married his college sweetheart, the former Jerri Starr, on September 14, 1966, during his senior year at the University of Florida.[5] They have four children —Lisa, Amy, Steve, Jr., and Scott, as well as over a dozen grandchildren.[14] Spurrier's oldest son, Steve Jr., has been an assistant football coach for several years, including stints as a receivers coach on his father's staffs in Washington and South Carolina. After his father retired in 2015, Steve Jr. joined Bob Stoops' staff at Oklahoma.[96] Spurrier's youngest son, Scott, played wide receiver for the Gamecocks through the 2009 season.[97][98]

While he was a University of Florida student, Spurrier was a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity (Alpha Omega chapter), and was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame, the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame,[99] and Florida Blue Key leadership honorary.

Head coaching record[edit]

USFL[edit]

Team Year Regular Season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win %
Tampa Bay Bandits 1983 11 7 0 .611 3rd in Central Div. - - -
Tampa Bay Bandits 1984 14 4 0 .778 2nd in Southern Div. 0 1 .000
Tampa Bay Bandits 1985 10 8 0 .556 5th in Eastern Con. 0 1 .000
Total 35 19 0 .648

College[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Duke Blue Devils (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1987–1989)
1987 Duke 5–6 2–5 7th
1988 Duke 7–3–1 3–3–1 6th
1989 Duke 8–4 6–1 T–1st L All-American
Duke: 20–13–1 11–9–1
Florida Gators (Southeastern Conference) (1990–2001)
1990 Florida 9–2 6–1 1st ‡ 13
1991 Florida 10–2 7–0 1st L Sugar 8 7
1992 Florida 9–4 6–2 T–1st (Eastern) W Gator 11 10
1993 Florida 11–2 7–1 1st (Eastern) W Sugar 4 5
1994 Florida 10–2–1 7–1 1st (Eastern) L Sugar 7 7
1995 Florida 12–1 8–0 1st (Eastern) L Fiesta 3 2
1996 Florida 12–1 8–0 1st (Eastern) W Sugar 1 1
1997 Florida 10–2 6–2 T–2nd (Eastern) W Florida Citrus 6 4
1998 Florida 10–2 7–1 2nd (Eastern) W Orange 6 5
1999 Florida 9–4 7–1 1st (Eastern) L Florida Citrus 14 12
2000 Florida 10–3 7–1 1st (Eastern) L Sugar 11 10
2001 Florida 10–2 6–2 2nd (Eastern) W Orange 3 3
Florida: 122–27–1 87–12 ‡ Ineligible for SEC title, bowl game and Coaches' Poll
South Carolina Gamecocks (Southeastern Conference) (2005–2015)
2005 South Carolina 7–5 5–3 T–2nd (Eastern) L Independence
2006 South Carolina 8–5 3–5 5th (Eastern) W Liberty
2007 South Carolina 6–6 3–5 T–4th (Eastern)
2008 South Carolina 7–6 4–4 T–3rd (Eastern) L Outback
2009 South Carolina 7–6 3–5 T–4th (Eastern) L PapaJohns.com
2010 South Carolina 9–5 5–3 1st (Eastern) L Chick-fil-A 22 22
2011 South Carolina 11–2 6–2 2nd (Eastern) W Capital One 8 9
2012 South Carolina 11–2 6–2 3rd (Eastern) W Outback 7 8
2013 South Carolina 11–2 6–2 2nd (Eastern) W Capital One 4 4
2014 South Carolina 7–6 3–5 T–4th (Eastern) W Independence
2015 South Carolina 2–4[n 1] 0–4[n 1] (Eastern)[n 1]
South Carolina: 86–49 44–40
Total: 228–89–2
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance, BCS, or CFP / New Years' Six bowl.
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

National Football League[edit]

Team Year Regular Season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
WAS 2002 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC East - - - -
WAS 2003 5 11 0 .313 3rd in NFC East - - - -
WAS Total 12 20 0 .375 0 0 .000
Total 12 20 0 .375 0 0 .000

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Spurrier resigned on October 12, 2015. Shawn Elliott was named interim head coach the next day.

References[edit]

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  40. ^ The Gators won the 1984 SEC championship, but were stripped of the title by a vote of the SEC university presidents in the spring of 1985 because of fifty-nine documented violations of NCAA rules by the previous coaching staff. The Gators also had the best record in the SEC in 1985, but were ineligible for the SEC championship because of NCAA probation.
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  49. ^ a b SECSports.com, Football, SEC Football Roundup - Saturday, September 30th. Retrieved July 26, 2009.
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  51. ^ Antonya English, "Gators start Ring of Honor with four former greats," St. Petersburg Times (October 1, 2009). Retrieved July 26, 2009.
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Bibliography[edit]

  • 2012 Florida Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida (2012).
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  • Proctor, Samuel, & Wright Langley, Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida, South Star Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida (1986). ISBN 0-938637-00-2.

External links[edit]