Steve Spurrier stages unplanned press conference to combat 'enemies'
After calmly handling questions about his eventual retirement all offseason, a story by an Atlanta columnist caused coach Steve Spurrier to get all worked up Wednesday.
Spurrier creates headlines with his mouth often, and manages to avoid damaging the South Carolina program almost always. He’s an engaging, entertaining personality who isn’t afraid to joust with his words.
It’s both impressive and surprising that he he’s rarely said anything harmful to the Gamecocks or his former school, the Florida Gators. But he did make a mistake last year when he told The State newspaper this after finishing the season 7-6:
““Give me two or three more (years). I used to say four or five, now I’m down to two or three. I mean, I could get in a car wreck, but I’m definitely planning on being back.”
That statement has fueled speculation on when Spurrier will retire, and whether he’ll coach at all beyond 2015.
On Wednesday, after going through SEC Media Days last week and the ESPN “car wash” this week, he felt it necessary to take a proactive stance.
Despite repeated and lengthy explanations clarifying that he’s committed to South Carolina, those initial comments have given ammo to other programs in recruiting, and it’s become very difficult for Spurrier to land 2016 prospects.
Essentially, The State recently has printed some thoughts on Spurrier from beat writers around the SEC. One of them, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, opined that Spurrier is “on the descent.” That seems to be what set Spurrier off.
Here’s an excerpt from the AJC column:
Beyond numerical age, there’s creeping reality: South Carolina, which Spurrier through force of will pushed to the cusp of an SEC title, appears in decline. After taking the East in 2010 and finishing in the top 10 each of the next three seasons, the Gamecocks finished 7-6 in 2014 and had to win the motley Independence Bowl to break .500. At these Media Days, there’s a chance they’ll be picked to finish fifth in the seven-team division.
He called an impromptu press conference Wednesday.
"We got some enemies out there. They're talking negatively about me and South Carolina and I'm sick of it." -Steve Spurrier
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) July 22, 2015
Spurrier: Nobody said anything when he was 69 and they were 11-2. Now at 70 and 7-6, "enemies" are chirping.
— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) July 22, 2015
Spurrier is up: "Now that we're 7-6, some of our enemies out there think Spurrier's gettin' old and can't do it anymore."
— WIS News 10 (@wis10) July 22, 2015
Spurrier not happy with recent comments that he's on a "descent." "I plan on coaching a long time."
— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) July 22, 2015
Spurrier says he should have addressed it a week ago. Says there are several recruits in this weekend. Expects some commitments #Gamecocks
— Willie Smith (@willie_t_smith) July 22, 2015
A pessimist could argue that South Carolina is in a near-crisis mode in terms of recruiting.
The 2016 class includes quarterback Brandon McIlwain, an Elite 11 finalist and a terrific player, as well as consensus four-star receiver Bryan Edwards.
But just eight players are committed to South Carolina during the current cycle. According to the 247Sports composite rankings, the Gamecocks’ class ranks No. 13 in the SEC and No. 53 nationally.
South Carolina won 11 games every season from 2011-13 before fading last year, prompting talk about when the Head Ball Coach will retire. It’s apparent that opposing coaches have been telling recruits not to go to Columbia, S.C., unless they’re prepared to play for an unknown coach in Spurrier’s wake in a few years.
Asked about his age, and coaching his 26th season, at Media Days, Spurrier responded like this:
“I really think the program I own helps to hang around a long time. Somebody said, ‘Why are you still coaching?’ I said, ‘Well, I forgot to get fired, and I’m not going to cheat.’ That’s about the only way you lose your job. You get fired for losing or you cheat, and then they get somebody else.
“I do get away probably more in the offseason than a lot of coaches. I know I work out more during the season than most all coaches. And I’ve got excellent assistant coaches. It’s not near as stressful as maybe some people make it out to be.”
On Wednesday, he said the press conference would be the last time he addresses his future retirement.
It may be tough for Spurrier to undo the damage caused by his quote after last season. The prep talent in South Carolina also has ebbed downward since a few of the years surrounding Jadeveon Clowney’s time at the university. And if Florida and Tennessee can get back to their typical levels, it will get more and more difficult for the Gamecocks on the field as well.
But it’s entertaining listening to Spurrier fight, and it’s nice to see that competitive spirit still going strong at 70 years old.
When do you think Spurrier will retire?