I’m not a Steve Spurrier fan, but I can sure appreciate what he means to college football.
As the winningest coach in the history of both the University of Florida and the University of South Carolina, there are few coaches who make such an impact on programs, the media, and a sport like Steven Orr Spurrier. As a coach and a legend – which is a term we might throw around too loosely these days – there will never be a person who embodies what college football is and what it should be.
And although I am a graduate of The Florida State University, he helped to change my relationship with my father. Football is the religion of choice in our household. His is slightly more radical being he supports the swamp lands around Gainesville, Florida. I am a traditionalist, having lived in God’s Country in Tallahassee. There is no greater feeling than sitting in my family’s home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, trading barbs with the man I call my father, and listening to him do his favorite Spurrier impersonations. If Spurrier didn’t have the impact on the sport, he certainly had the impact on the spirit, as it has moved us all a few times.
There is irony in writing about Spurrier on a wrestling website because the first time I encountered the feisty Head Ball Coach was on a fall day in Gainesville when I was in my early 20s, where I went to see of all people, Ric Flair, who happened to be at a Florida Gator football game. I’d like to think of it was a two for the price of one day, because in his own way, since he became the head coach of the Duke Blue Devil in the mid-1980s, Spurrier has done his own “Stylin” and “profiling” on the sidelines.
Darth Visor has had us all in stitches at times over his facial expression and antics. But the same effervescence that he displays even today is the same one that made him an instant classic with the media and the fans alike.
Love him, hate or don’t have an opinion of him, Spurrier didn’t care – and he said what he wanted to say, picked on whoever he wanted to pick on, and challenged anyone to stop his “Fun and Gun” offense.
I’m sure when the news was released of his retirement on Monday night, Phil Fulmer was smiling, since he could rest a bit easier knowing his nemesis was finally calling it quits. Spurrier abused Fulmer through the media like it was a fraternity hazing ritual. It was funny and candid and Fulmer could not get out of his own way fast enough when it came to Spurrier and SEC Media Days.
There have been coaches who have won more games, won more national titles and probably had a better affair with the media. But Spurrier is in a class of his own with his style and respect for the game and its meaning. In the end, as Sporting News writer Matt Hayes explained, Spurrier’s overwhelming desire to win at South Carolina, and the fact he could not take the program where he wanted it to go in the twilight of his coaching career, was his undoing. It’s that spirit, even at 70 years old, that makes him a legend and someone that I respect for his stout demeanor.
For my father and his generation, it’s another door closing on his college football memories. For myself, it’s a lesson in how the science of football was played. Spurrier was a master at it and someone who will never be replaced. Now, the visor gets put away, the quips are forever stored away for keepsakes and the tradition the Head Ball Coach takes with him will never be forgotten.
Spurrier wanted to win the battle on the field, win the war with his competitors and remain on top as long as he could. I guess you could say he accomplished all of that. And taught some old dogs a few new tricks in the process. And left a mark on the sport we will never see again.