How nice would it be? One day you’re working a high-stress job, the next you can just throw it all away, settle down in a nice beach house down in Florida, and retire. While it sounds easier said than done, that surely wasn’t the case for the Ol’ ball coach. Steve Spurrier announced his resignation this past Monday, but it looks like he’s set to retire after nearly 40 years of coaching.
Let’s take a few moments to reminisce Spurrier’s career and talk about where he ranks among all-time coaches.
After winning a Heisman trophy in 1966 with the Gators, Spurrier went on to the NFL after being drafted 3rd overall in that year’s draft. He spent a decade as a QB in the NFL before retiring in 1976. After two years off, he would get his first coaching gig as the quarterbacks coach at his alma mater, Florida.
It didn’t take long for Spurrier to move up the ranks and get a head-coaching job. It wasn’t in college football, however, Spurrier took the job to coach the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL making him the youngest head coach in professional football. He led the Bandits to a 35-21 record over 3 seasons while featuring high-powered offenses before the league dissolved.
Following his stint in the USFL, he went back to the college scene was named head coach of the Duke Blue Devils; he served as the team’s offensive coordinator prior to his jump to the USFL. Spurrier revived a football team that hadn’t seen success in over twenty years. After back-t0-back winning seasons, he was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1989 and built himself a nice reputation.
After successful years at Duke, he was named head coach of the Florida Gators prior to the 1990 season, the team he played his college ball with. Spurrier inherited a team that was onto their 2nd NCAA investigation in 5 years. Spurrier successfully steered the program away from previous scandals and led the team to their first SEC title the next season. Spurrier endured tremendous success at Florida. He led them to a National Championship in 1997, 6 SEC championships, 5 SEC Coach of the Year awards and he became the first person ever win and coach a Heisman as Danny Wuerffel won it in 1996. His team appeared in the top 25 poll 202 out of 203 weeks since he took the job. During his 12 years at the school, he compiled an outstanding record of 122-27, averaging more than 10 wins per season.
In 2002, Spurrier looked at a new challenge as he jumped ship to coach in the NFL. The Washington Redskins gave him a 5 year, $25 million deal, the most lucrative coaching contract at the time. Things didn’t go as planned for the ‘Ol ball coach. In two seasons he suffered losing records both years and had a 12-20 record. Spurrier’s tenure was filled with friction with team owner, Daniel Synder and they parted ways after the 2003 season.
Many speculated in 2014 that Spurrier would return to the college ranks after a failed NFL experiment and a year off–which he sure did. Spurrier returned to the SEC as he was named head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. In his first year he was named SEC Coach of the Year and led South Carolina far past expectations. In 2010, he led them to their first SEC title in school history. Earlier in the season the team also won their first ever game against a #1 opponent as they beat Alabama. Spurrier brought the program to new levels of success.
Where does all his success land him on the all-time list of coaches? We’ll stick to the modern era.
The first coaches to come to mind are of course Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, the leaders in FBS wins, along with Nebraska great Tommy Osborne. The next tier includes Bill Snyder, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. I’ll rank him right behind Meyer and Saban as both coaches have won titles with two different schools, which Spurrier couldn’t do with the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier is the 6th best college coach of all-time. Plus, he was one hell of a player as well.
It’s a sad day when any prestigious coach hangs up the headset, but especially when it’s Steve Spurrier. The drive and passion just wasn’t there anymore for Spurrier. Many question the timing of his resignation, but he stated he didn’t want to be one of those co that stick around and wear out their welcome. Many critics questioned Spurrier’s decision to return for this season after the Gamecocks dipped to a 7-6 record last season following consecutive 11-win seasons. He had contemplated retirement prior to the season.
Filling in for coach Spurrier will be co-offensive coordinator and OL coach, Shawn Elliott. The Gamecocks offense has continued to thrive since Elliott joined the staff in 2010. Perhaps Spurrier has rubbed off on him a bit. Elliott has a chance to become the full-time head coach with a strong finish to the season. He gets his first chance to prove himself this week as Vanderbilt visits Columbia.
As he ends his coaching career, Spurrier finishes as the all-time winningest coach at both South Carolina and Florida, one of the few coaches to do so at two power-conference schools. Spurrier’s sarcastic, coaching personality will truly be missed. A man always known for his gamesmanship. No one will ever be like the ‘Ol ball coach, truly one of a kind.