College football lost a legend this week.
No, Steve Spurrier didn’t die, thank goodness, but it felt like a part of college football did.
Spurrier, South Carolina’s coach since late 2004, announced his resignation on Tuesday, ending a storied coaching career the likes of which won’t be seen again. At least not in the vintage, always-interesting style of Spurrier.
During his final press conference as Gamecocks’ coach, Spurrier made sure the media – whom he charmed throughout his career – understood this was a resignation, not retirement.
“First of all, I’m resigning. I’m not retiring. Get that part straight,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “I doubt if I’ll never be a head coach again, maybe I’ll coach a high school team or something. So don’t say I’ve retired completely from coaching, who knows what will come in the future.”
Who knows what the future will bring. We can only hope, therefore, the future of college football features Spurrier, and does so prominently.
His career is defined most vividly — and dreadfully if you’re a Georgia or Tennessee fan — as head coach of the Florida Gators from 1990 to 2001. He awoke the sleeping giant of Florida football and led the school, his alma mater where he won the Heisman Trophy, to six SEC championships and the 1996 national title.
He did so while innovating college football as we knew it with his ‘Fun n’ Gun’ pass-happy offense.
For several years in the 1990s, Florida’s swagger, confidence and “it” factor mirrored that of its ‘Head Ball Coach.’ The Gators were intimidating, fun to watch, and always in the national championship conversation.
What Spurrier later accomplished at South Carolina was less splashy, but probably just as impressive. He led the Gamecocks to 11-win seasons in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and brought in NFL-ready players like Jadeveon Clowney, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery.
Spurrier finishes his collegiate coaching career with a 228-89-2 record in 25 seasons. He departs SEC football as the second-winningest coach in conference history, behind only Bear Bryant. He is the winningest coach at both Florida and South Carolina.
In addition to his on-field success, Spurrier’s penchant for jabbing opponents with well-timed, twist-the-knife quotes contributed to his living legend status.
When a fire at Auburn destroyed 20 books, Spurrier quipped: “The real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored yet.”
In the midst of dominating Tennessee and sending the Vols to the Citrus Bowl so many years, Spurrier said, “Well, you can’t spell Citrus without U-T.”
On playing Georgia: “I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
When star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney got a speeding ticket: “I didn’t know Jadeveon’s car could go that fast. He doesn’t have a pretty car like those FSU guys used to drive.”
There were other Spurrier hallmarks. His trademark visor. His trademark visor-throwing. His ever-present sideline grimace. Mostly, there was winning, and winning on his own terms.
His final press conference ended in typical Spurrier fashion, on his own terms.
“OK, let’s get moving. I’ve had enough here,” said Spurrier.
Steve Spurrier may have had enough of college football. But we haven’t had enough of him.
Now for quick picks of Saturday’s featured SEC games:
No. 10 Alabama at No. 9 Texas A&M (3:30 p.m., CBS): I can’t really explain why I like the Aggies in this one.
Maybe it’s their speedy offensive playmakers. Maybe it’s their improved defense under first-year coordinator John Chavis.
Maybe it’s just following my gut, like avoiding that weird new pizza-resembling-product Pizza Hut trots out every few months.
Prediction: Texas A&M 24, Alabama 21.
No. 8 Florida at No. 6 LSU: Few expected this contest to feature undefeated squads ranked in the top 10.
Aside from no passing game, exorbitantly high penalties, total lack of discipline, awful special teams, bad coaching, and a thin defense, LSU isn’t too bad.
Florida’s defense is the best LSU has faced all season. The Gators are rolling and, even without starting QB Will Grier, I’m thinking Florida pulls off the upset.
I hesitate mainly because, when the Louisiana sun finds its place in the western sky, it will be Saturday night in Death Valley. In the thick, bourbon-laced Tiger Stadium air, magic happens.
But not this week.
Prediction: Florida 26, LSU 24.
Ben Prevost writes SEC Banter for The Times. It appears on Thursday during college football season.