BUT CAN STEVE SPURRIER – AND HIS PROGRAM – BOUNCE BACK?
|| By FITSNEWS || University of South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier made a big splash this week – slamming the “enemies” of his program and exposing what he claimed was a media conspiracy to keep talented high school players from the state of Georgia from cross the border. He also vowed he would coach at least “five or six more years” in Columbia, S.C.
“I got some enemies out there, I got some guys talking and writing and it’s all part of the game,” Spurrier said. “Some of our enemies out there want to make you think, ‘Spurrier’s getting old, he can’t do it anymore.’”
Spurrier said “no one gave a damn” about his age when South Carolina was winning, but that questions began arising when last year’s team posted a 7-6 record.
“This is new for South Carolina,” Spurrier added. “Somebody doesn’t like your coach. We’re not too proud of what happened last year, but we’re coming back. Don’t listen to our enemies.”
Spurrier’s rant even featured a quote attributed to Attila the Hun.
“It’s a simple truth that the greater your accomplishments – your victories – the greater opposition, torment, and discouragement your enemies will throw in your path. Expect it and don’t become a victim of it,” he said, channeling the fifth century conquerer.
For the record, this website was one of Spurrier’s harshest critics (enemies?) during his first five years at the helm of the Gamecock program. In fact we wanted him fired following the 2009 campaign, in which his program lost to a Big East school in a bowl game named after a pizza delivery website.
Seriously … that happened.
Spurrier’s response? His program reeled off the four best seasons in school history – including three consecutive seasons in which the Gamecocks won eleven games, finished in the Top Ten and won New Year’s Day bowl games.
Then came last year’s debacle, though … and an equally disappointing offseason. In fact Spurrier’s reticence to make precisely the sort of extended commitment to the Gamecock program he made this week has been a contributing factor in South Carolina’s recruiting troubles.
Spurrier’s Gamecocks were picked by the media to finish fourth in the SEC East this year, and there’s real concern that a recruiting pipeline which produced big-name stars like Stephone Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore, Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and others has dried up.
This point was made convincingly by USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, who noted the perilous position in which the Gamecock program currently finds itself.
“Tennessee is coming back strong. Clemson has become a more attractive destination in recruiting. Georgia isn’t interested in letting top-ranked players outside the state,” Wolken wrote. “And South Carolina has a 70-year old coach who all but admitted at SEC Media Days that he thought about walking away at the end of last season until the bowl win against Miami rejuvenated him.”
Wolken wasn’t impressed by Spurrier’s rant.
“At 70, Spurrier is in throes of humanity’s most natural reflex, playing out for all the world to see: Getting old stinks,” he wrote. “He was petulant. He was paranoid. He suggested an Atlanta Journal-Constitution conspiracy to help the Georgia Bulldogs in recruiting.”
And what did the author of this rumored conspiracy – columnist Mark Bradley – think of Spurrier calling him out?
“How can a man of such accomplishment not know that a certain amount of criticism comes with his high-profile (and high-salaried) job?” he wrote. “How can he not have learned that such criticism is best ignored? How can a guy who has spent his adult life tweaking others, from Ray Goff to Can’t-Spell-Citrus-Without-U-T to Free Shoes U. to Dabo Swinney, feel he’s above the fray?”
We agree. Even at the height of his success, Spurrier has demonstrated an unbecoming thinness of skin. He can dish it out better than anybody in the history of college football … but taking it? That’s another story.
Still, we’re not about to count him out. Even with a virtually nonexistent defense, South Carolina’s 7-6 mark last year could have just as easily been 10-3 were it not for fourth quarter collapses against Missouri, Kentucky and (most painfully) Tennessee.
We’ve questioned Spurrier’s ability once before … only to get served with four consecutive seasons of STFU. And as lifelong Gamecock fans (from the womb, people) we gladly savored that response. Hell, we’ve never been so happy to have been so wrong.
Spurrier’s program is in a very tough position at the moment – and it seems pretty clear he’s not dealing with things especially well. But anyone writing him off does so at their own peril.