No one can provide a retrospective on Steve Spurrier like the one Spencer Hall from Every Day Should Be Saturday wrote, but we decided to post some thoughts on the Head Ball Coach here on College and Magnolia, too.
No, he was never an Auburn coach. Sure, there are plenty of memories good and bad surrounding his Florida and South Carolina teams playing Auburn. Still, though, he's a legend in the SEC. His rise to greatness as a head coach in the conference corresponds with the exact time frame I really started paying attention to personalities in football. He's always been a part of the landscape and I really find it hard to imagine what football will be without Stephen Orr Spurrier.
I (Walt) don't really have a specific personal memory of him to point to. It's all just general impressions. The throwing of the visor. Running up the score. The candid nature of his interviews. In an era of coach-speak, he was a breath of fresh air. A man that spoke his mind no matter who it upset.
I hated him when he was the head coach at Florida. I hated him because he almost always beat Auburn. Except for 1993, 94, and 2001. The other games were filled with some pretty bad whoopin's. I was thrilled when he left to go to the Washington Redskins. Something happened over the years he was gone, though. I realized how much he meant to college football. When he came back to the SEC to be South Carolina's coach, I was thrilled he was back.
It's hard to believe he was the head coach there for 10 years. It doesn't seem like it was that long. In that time span he did things at USC that no other coach has done. However, he never managed to end South Carolina's drought against Auburn (thankfully). Not for lack of trying, though, as last season's game showed. He took the Gamecocks higher than they'd ever been. Then he just up and walked away on his own terms.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised at that. He's always done things his own way. For the longest time I hated him. I'll admit now that while watching his press conference this morning in our lounge at work it got a bit dusty listening to him talk about it being time to leave. The sidelines won't ever be the same.
I hated him in the nineties when he was in the midst of a seven game winning streak against us. He ended on a seven game losing streak, so my opinion has softened.
What I'll always remember happened last year. Spurrier knew the Gamecocks had no chance playing straight, so he played every underdog strategy: chewed clock to limit snaps, went for it on fourth down all but once, recovered an onside kick, and called over fifty passes because Auburn couldn't get pressure on Dylan Thompson. Auburn won, but it was only close because the Ball Coach was incredible that night.
He was one of the first coaches I ever hated. But, he truly changed college football for the better. He made it faster and more fun, and he inspired guys like Gus Malzahn. Eventually, we all learned to love him (except maybe Georgia fans) because he did and said what he wanted...and it was always hilarious. The HBC became a damn national treasure. I'm honestly sad to see him go.
1990: Auburn visits the Swamp in Spurrier's first year at Florida. Auburn is ranked #4 hot on the trail of a fourth consecutive SEC title. #1 Virginia and #3 Nebraska lost earlier in the day so Auburn is in strong position to become the #1 or #2 ranked team in America and "host" Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for a national title. It's 7-7 in a heavy rain early in the second quarter. At the half, it's 34-7. I have no idea to this day what happened.
1999: Being drunk in the Student Section chanting "Spurrier, Spurrier, Spurrier, YOU SUCK!" over and over with my fraternity because we were drunk . . . and clever. The opposing team entered and exited out of the student section in those days and Spurrier got pelted with garbage and miniatures on the way in and out of the tunnel. After the game, he went into the locker room, came back out, and flicked off the student section. His middle finger has to be three feet long.
2001: Spurrier losing his mind in a slick, misty rain. 2001 was Spurrier's best team at Florida. That was the most surprised I've ever been by an Auburn win. I maintain that game (and Tuberville's taking the SEC coaches' golf championship) was what drove him to the NFL.
2006: Spurrier returns to the SEC. #2 Auburn holds the ball literally the entire third quarter on the way to a 24-17 win. The South Carolina crowd is so pleased by the Gamecock's performance they applaud their team after the loss. Spurrier told the fans after the game, "please don't clap if we get beat . . . . They [the fans] thought we were going to get clobbered.; we didn't get clobbered, so that's O.K.," Spurrier said. "That's not O.K."
All the one liners. My personal favorite: "In 12 years at Florida, I don't think we ever signed a kid from the state of Alabama ... Of course, we found out later that the scholarships they were giving out at Alabama were worth a whole lot more than ours."
I also remember one pregame interview, I believe it was from before the 2010 Alabama game where a relaxed Spurrier described his approach to the game. The sideline reporter hesitated, smiled and said, "You make it sound so simple." Spurrier shrugged and responded, "well, it is." That game was one of his masterpieces.
The man won a conference title at Duke, brought Florida their first SEC and national title, and had the most successful run in South Carolina football history. More than that, he made the game fun. He'll be missed.
My favorite Spurrier moment, other than the 2001 rain game (That soggy field goal was kicked into our end zone and I will never forget the feeling of beating Spurrier), happened some time during the reign of Stephen Garcia. During a press conference, Garcia told reporters that their game with Florida that year was the most important game in South Carolina history. When asked about it later, Spurrier simply said, "Don't listen to Stephen when he talks."
Assuming he is in good health, I look forward to his shade-throwing on ESPN for years to come.
1998-Bowden was out the next week. Spurrier knew this via his buddy Brother Oliver. Florida and Spurrier bear Auburn 24-3, and don't throw a pass in the second half. The HBC hated Bowden, but respected Oliver and Auburn.
When I was too young to understand his brilliance, I hated him. As I have gotten older, I look back and wonder why? Sure, in his hay-day, his teams would kick your ass on the field and he would insult you in the presser. I guess that would make you hate most coaches. He's always had the ultimate DGAF attitude about what others thought of him, he didn't sugarcoat things, and always said the first thing that came to mind. You have to love that.
So for all of you faithful readers and Auburn fans out there... what are your memories of Spurrier in general or Spurrier vs Auburn in particular? Sound off in the comments, below.