South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier talks to the media during the SEC Football Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday. (Reuters)
HOOVER, Ala. — When Steve Spurrier came upon the chance to coach in Columbia, S.C., he did not need a compass to know there was only one direction for Gamecocks football to go — up.
With a school-record 33 wins in the past three seasons, expectations are peaking for South Carolina football.
“Pat Dooley always told me I’ll coach longer at South Carolina than I did at Florida,” Spurrier said Tuesday at SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency. “He might be right.”
Spurrier won the 1996 national title as Florida head coach and has the same goal with the Gamecocks. To get there, South Carolina will have to unseat Alabama and Auburn. The Tigers are 5-0 against Spurrier in his SC tenure.
“We’ve won a lot of games, we’ve still only won one division and we haven’t won the SEC,” Spurrier said. “Those are some goals that we have a shot at that would happen for the first time in school history. As far as the playoff — who knows, we’d have a chance. Shoot, where Auburn came from last year, a lot of schools would have a chance. Maybe we can make that last four teams and go from there.”
Spurrier, 68, received a contract extension and raise that pays him $4 million per year in January. He is the first coach to spend 10 years at two different SEC schools, but said he learned in a brief stint with the Washington Redskins there are perils to prematurely starting the countdown to retirement.
“I do enjoy it,” said Spurrier, who has a combined head coaching record of 219-79-2 at Duke, Florida and South Carolina, where he has spent the past nine years. “And I didn’t realize that 10 at two places was a record. When I left Florida I thought I was going to coach in the NFL five or six years, retire to a beach and play golf a bunch, travel around, this, that and the other. But that was a bad plan. It was. And later you found out, that was a bad idea.
“The South Carolina opportunity came up. … I wanted to coach again, go out a winner, not a loser. South Carolina was the best opportunity I could ever ask for.”
Spurrier is expected to restore a “Fun-and-Gun” type offense with strong-armed pocket passer Dylan Thompson, a senior, getting his first shot at the fulltime starting job as Connor Shaw’s replacement.
“It is unusual,” Spurrier said. “(Thompson) has been very patient. He and Connor Shaw are best of friends all four years and now he’s got it all by himself. It just worked out that way. It just happened that way. He’s played a little bit though. Two years ago we went to Clemson, Connor got a little injury of some nature and I said (to Thompson), ‘You’re ready to go this week aren’t ya?’ And he said ‘Yes sir.’ I told him, ‘It’s your game.’
“He played extremely well. He’s a good player. He’s ready to play.”