The middle of October is not the time one would expect to say goodbye to a college football icon but that’s precisely what we’re being forced to do. Yesterday, Steve Spurrier announced his retirement from coaching effective immediately. His South Carolina Gamecocks have looked entirely hopeless and the man is 70-years-old so I suppose I can’t blame him for deciding now is the time to hang ’em up. However, the football world, and the SEC especially, is going to be a strange, and decidedly less fun, place without the presence of the Old Ball Coach.
I, for one, will miss him. Coach Spurrier was nearly as good at ruffling opponents’ feathers as he was winning football games. His snide comments in press conferences could be tough pills to swallow when your team was on the wrong side of an ass-kicking from Florida or South Carolina but they were, if nothing else, always hilarious. The older Spurrier got, the more likable he became. The young Spurrier was mostly despised for being arrogant and for running the score up on lesser opponents (a hatred was totally warranted by the way). The old Spurrier morphed into something like a crazy grandpa who will say something crazy from time to time but nobody pays it much attention. It was just Spurrier being Spurrier.
While Spurrier had moderate success at South Carolina, he will be most remembered for his incredible run with his alma mater Florida Gators. During his 12 seasons at Florida, he was 122-27-1, with six SEC titles, a national championship and a record of 68-5 in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – better know as the Swamp because of Spurrier. He revolutionized offensive football by throwing the ball all over the field during a time when SEC football was much more ground-oriented.
I’m not going to remember him for any of that, though. I’m going to remember him for getting up at press conferences with messy hair sticking out of his visor and, with a southern drawl, unleashing hysterically quotable one-liners that would dig into the soul of his opponents.
Here’s a quick list of his greatest press conference work courtesy of ESPN:
On coaching for so long …
- “People ask, ‘Why are you still coaching?’ I forgot to get fired and I’m not going to cheat.”
- “I’m smart enough to know when it’s time to let somebody else come in and do this, but I’m also smart enough to know that we’ve beaten Georgia four of the last five years, beaten Florida four of the last five years and beaten Clemson five of the last six years. We’re only 3-2 against Tennessee the last five years, and they won a couple of close ones against us, but they’ve lost 10 in a row to Florida. So I’d say we’ve done OK and have a lot more we’re going to do.”
- “Well, like I told people, I breezed right through age 60, breezed right through 65, and I’m going to try my best to breeze right on through 70. I can still remember just about everything. So mentally, I think I’m the same as I was. We got two people running for president, I think Hillary and Donald Trump are both 69, I believe. Coach K at Duke, he’s still doing pretty good at, I think 69 also. So the age really doesn’t mean a lot.”
Jabbing at the Georgia …
- “I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
- “Why is it that during recruiting season they sign all the great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players? I don’t understand that. What happens to them?”
Jabbing at Tennessee …
- On Tennessee missing out on the Sugar Bowl during his Florida years: “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.”
- On Peyton Manning: “I know why Peyton came back for his senior year. He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl.”
Jabbing at Florida State …
- “You know what FSU stands for, don’t you? Free Shoes University.”
- On FSU players hitting Danny Wuerffel late: “He’s like a New Testament person. He gets slapped up side the face, and turns the other cheek and says, ‘Lord, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.’ I’m probably more of an Old Testament guy. You spear our guy in the earhole, we think we’re supposed to spear you in the earhole. That’s kind of where we’re a little different.”
- On Jadeveon Clowney getting a speeding ticket: “I didn’t know Jadeveon’s car that could go that fast. He doesn’t have a pretty car like those FSU guys used to drive.”
Jabbing at Clemson and Dabo Swinney …
- Swinney was asked about his relationship with Spurrier and said, “He’s from Pluto, and I’m from Mars.” Spurrier responded: “Dabo probably thinks there’s only, what, nine planets out there? I think I read where Pluto may not be considered one now.”
- On winning an SEC title compared to beating Clemson: “What I’ve also learned at South Carolina, our fans realize there’s more to life than winning the SEC championship. They really do. We’re in a state with Clemson. Clemson used to pretty much own South Carolina in football, no question about it. We have a state championship trophy. If you ask our fans at South Carolina, I can assure you a majority would say, ‘We would rather beat Clemson than win the SEC.’ That is how big it is to them, that one game. Personally, I’d rather win the SEC. I don’t mind saying that. Personally, that’s the bigger trophy.”
- On LSU having the real Death Valley: “Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley. [LSU’s stadium] is the Death Valley, isn’t it? Or is there another one? There’s two of them. That’s right. There’s two Death Valleys.”
Jabbing at everyone else …
- On a fire at the Auburn library that destroyed 20 books: “The real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored yet.”
- On Tennessee and Arkansas having the same record as South Carolina in 2014: “We were 7-6. Same as Tennessee, same as Arkansas. I think they’re sorta celebratin’ big seasons last year. … There are people in Knoxville and Fayetteville still doing cartwheels over going 7-6.”
- On Nick Saban: “He’s got a nice little gig going, a little bit like [John] Calipari. He tells guys, ‘Hey, three years from now, you’re going to be a first-round pick and go.’ If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they’ve always won there at Alabama.”
I sure won’t miss having to play against his teams but I’ll definitely miss hearing him yap. Thanks for all the memories, Coach. You will be missed.