Before Steve Spurrier’s arrival in Columbia, S.C., there wasn’t much of a rivalry to speak of with SEC East foe Tennessee. The Volunteers dominated the Gamecocks, holding a 19-2-2 overall record in their matchup, which became annual in 1992.
But since taking over in 2005, Spurrier’s Gamecocks have gone 5-4 against Tennessee, winning three straight games before last year’s 23-21 upset. Spurrier, who had previously coached at his alma matter Florida from 1990-2001, is no stranger to Volunteer football.
The “Head Ball Coach” has a 14-9 career record against Tennessee, playing spoiler to the Vols on several occasions throughout the 1990s. The Gators defeated the Vols five straight times from 1993-97 by an average of 16.4 points. Even with Peyton Manning– the most decorated quarterback in program history– Tennessee went 0-4 against Florida under Spurrier.
“I know why Peyton came back for his senior year,” Spurrier told Sports Illustrated. “He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl.”
“You can’t spell citrus without U-T,” said Spurrier when referring to Tennessee missing out on a major bowl game.
Following a failed tenure with the Washington Redskins, Spurrier returned to the SEC looking to elevate a South Carolina program that had seen little success since joining the conference in 1992.
In 2010, Spurrier led the Gamecocks to their first SEC East Championship. Since then, South Carolina has won 11 games in each of the past three seasons.
Coincidentally, Tennessee has experienced a tailspin since Spurrier’s arrival. In 2005, Tennessee missed its first bowl game since 1998. Since then, the Vols have made just four bowl appearance and experienced four straight losing seasons.
Spurrier’s tenure in Columbia has spanned four Tennessee coaches. The boisterous coach made light of the situation entering a matchup at Neyland Stadium last season.
“This will be the 14th time I’ve coached at Neyland Stadium,” he said. “I’ve coached there more than some of their head coaches.”
Not only has South Carolina-Tennessee become a major SEC East rivalry, but the perception has changed over the past decade. The Gamecocks have been the dominant program in recent years while the Vols have come up short.
The Spurrier factor cannot be denied as he’s continued his success over both Tennessee and the SEC East during his nine years at South Carolina.