While Lane Kiffin was the big winner last week at SEC Media Days, it’s pretty obvious that the coach who came off the worst was Steve Spurrier.
Junior was the bigger story going in to Friday, but the OBC managed to upstage him by revealing himself to be at the center of Tebowgate. Instead of reaffirming his reputation as the sharp guy with the smart barb, Spurrier made himself into the head coach who appeared to be uninterested in detail, ready to blame subordinates for something that was clearly his fault and a lightning rod for aspersions being cast against the entire coaching fraternity.
And then there was the amount of time Spurrier spent apologizing/groveling (the losing sleep comment was particularly pathetic) to Tebow and the Florida fans and the praise he sent Urban Meyer’s way. I mean, does anybody think that the typical Gamecock fan wants to hear his head coach say something like this?
… I pull for Florida when they’re not playing us. If we don’t win the SEC, I hope Florida does it. Urban has been the best coach in the country the last three years. Simple as that. We all know that. I admire everything that they do. They do it the right way. Their players play clean. They do it the right way. I give ‘em credit for everything that they’ve accomplished. I admire what they’ve done.
Compare that to this tepid assessment he gives his own program.
Q. How tough is it to move up in the SEC East, given Florida, Georgia, Tennessee? Given South Carolina’s history of lack of championships, are you confident you can win a championship, an SEC championship?
COACH SPURRIER: I think Steve Fink, our sports information guy, said we’re picked fourth in the Eastern Division for the seventh year in a row. That’s where we are, we’re fourth until we prove we can do better.
Again, we haven’t turned it around big time yet. We’re trying to get there. So we’re encouraged by a lot of things that have happened since the Bowl game. Since the Bowl game, a lot of encouraging events have happened. We’re looking forward to see how it plays out this season.
Q. You were actually picked third in the East.
COACH SPURRIER: We were? Somebody told me fourth. Where is Steve Fink (smiling)? Oh, prior to this year. My bad.
Seven years prior to this year we were picked fourth. Now we’re third. Okay, thanks for correcting me. I didn’t know that.
Not a good week, in other words. I imagine that Spurrier looks at Gene Chizik’s relative anonymity as a safe haven right now.
But it’s the hint that there’s a lack of interest that’s going to plague him going forward. Most of the assessments of the program for this season read like reruns. Then you read the articles like this one by Ron Morris, which is supposed to sound like your typical “new direction” puff piece, but wind up reinforcing your impressions of the same, tired stuff.
“We just couldn’t put a team together,” Spurrier said. “It just hasn’t happened. The coaching staff, the whole thing. I haven’t done a great job. I don’t know about a lousy job. Twenty-eight wins are still tied for the most (at USC in four seasons), but it’s not anything super. We’re just a little above mediocre right now.”
While Spurrier’s 28 wins rank seventh-best among USC’s all-time coaches, his 22 losses are within five of his total over 12 seasons at Florida. Those numbers are part of the reason Spurrier has come to recognize that winning at USC is much more of a challenge than he faced at either of his previous two college coaching stops.
Spurrier used to poke fun at coaches who claimed they needed five years to rebuild a program. That was before he coached at USC, where it is not a matter of rebuilding, it is about construction.
“We haven’t put the team together that is capable of contending for a championship,” he said. “That’s just the way it is. It’s always disappointing when you lose, but that’s just the way it is.”
Does that sound like the kind of talk you expect to hear from a guy whose heart is really into it? It doesn’t sound like a calling for Spurrier any more; it sounds like a job. Having your ego fight drudgery isn’t fun. And you have to wonder if the day is coming when he simply wakes up and says, “ah, screw it.”
I don’t feel particularly sorry for him or the folks who hired him. But I do wonder how cringe worthy a moment it’ll be at the presser announcing his retirement when somebody asks him, “Coach, can anyone win in Columbia?”