HOOVER, Ala. — Steve Spurrier likes to squeeze in impressive facts on the sly.
He snuck in that his tenure has seen South Carolina's first win in Knoxville and first win in Gainesville since Carolina joined the SEC. “Somebody told me,” he amends. He’s not wrong either.
But one factoid surprised even Steve Spurrier.
He’ll be the first coach in SEC history to spend 10 years at two different schools when he completes his first decade at South Carolina this season.
That brings about the question: Is Spurrier’s second act in the SEC at South Carolina’s coach more impressive than his first act at Florida?
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If Spurrier stays at South Carolina until 2017 he would have been the Gamecocks coach longer than he was the coach for the Gators. When he retires, he’ll be arguably the most important coach in either program’s history.
At SEC Media Day on Tuesday, a Florida columnist asked Spurrier if winning the SEC at South Carolina would be more impressive than doing it at Florida. The NCAA record books — as Spurrier often says — credits him with the first SEC title in Florida history. (The 1984 title has been vacated by the NCAA).
The Gators won six official SEC titles and the 1996 title under Spurrier. The 1990 title, again, was won on the field, but it was erased due to sanctions.
Although Florida achieved more under Spurrier than South Carolina has so far, Spurrier notes the head start in Gainesville.
“When I got to Florida in 1990, the team was already there,” Spurrier said. “There was no recruiting to be done for about two years. ... They were ready to play, offense, defense.”
When Spurrier started at South Carolina, the Gamecocks had one booster who had donated $1 million. Now that number has exceeded a dozen.
“The big donors are very important, extremely important to all athletic programs. There's no question about that,” he said. “You got to have the facilities to keep up. Within the last eight, nine years at South Carolina, ours are up there amongst the best now. That's been a big reason for our success.”
That success has meant three consecutive 11-win seasons and three consecutive top-10 seasons. Before Spurrier, South Carolina had never even gone to bowl games in three consecutive seasons.
Not bad for a second act even Spurrier didn’t expect before a short-lived experiment with the Washington Redskins.
“When I left Florida after 12 years, I thought I was going to coach NFL five or six years and retire to the beach and play golf a bunch and travel around,” Spurrier said. “That was a bad plan. Later you found out, that was not a real good idea. But that's the way I was thinking back then. ...
“I wanted to go out a winner, not a loser.”