Head Ball Coach heads out: Steve Spurrier retires with legacy intact
A legendary coach with an endless legacy, Steve Spurrier will reportedly announce his retirement Tuesday. CBS Sports senior columnist Dennis Dodd explains what made Spurrier so special to the world of college football.
Steve Spurrier was starting to sound like the get-off-my-lawn guy.
The strident defense of a 7-6 season. The attack on mysterious "enemies" of the program. It was weird and rambling. But that's all it was, and not totally out of character for a coaching great known for cutting through the B.S.
If Spurrier was getting cranky, well, he was 70 and doggone it, perhaps he'd earned the right. He also was tired of the opposition beating his butt.
That had to play into the Head Ball Coach's retirement, which is expected to be made official on Tuesday. As a coach, Spurrier had lost some of his fastball. It happens to everyone. The difference is, he saw the future and it wasn't filled with W's.
Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden stayed way too long. Virginia Tech may have to make a decision about Frank Beamer soon. No matter how all this goes down, the oldest SEC coach ever to take the field will avoid any (further) speculation about his age.
The Great Spurrier retired at least near the top of his game.
"Most coaches get run out," Spurrier said in July. "If a guy starts losing and they have to make a change, that's the way most coaches go out."
And maybe there is some of that to this move. Perhaps we'll find out in time. If the decision isn't totally his own, that would be disappointing. But if Spurrier is leaving his team in midseason, isn't he letting down the same players he urged to never give up?
These type of things are never black and white. There was wide speculation Spurrier was retiring after last season. So after the first 0-4 SEC start to his career, what difference does it really make? Spurrier was just … ready.
Big picture, the Spur Dog leaves with his legacy intact. How many coaches can say they were the best coach ever at two major programs?
South Carolina, for sure. We can have a discussion about Urban Meyer at Florida. But there's probably no Urban Meyer at Florida if Spurrier hadn't laid the foundation.
Let's not forget he basically brought the modern passing game to the SEC. He also brought a wit and a style to the job.
(For the most part), he loved his "media boys" and we loved him back in print, on TV and on the Internet.
His negative obsession with a Columbia, S.C., columnist was disturbing. So were the major NCAA sanctions South Carolina incurred under his watch.
But sometimes it seemed Spurrier's only agenda was to entertain. Who else could get away with breaking down Peyton Manning's return to Tennessee this way: It allowed him to be a three-time "star" of the Citrus Bowl.
That confrontation with Lane Kiffin in 2009 at the SEC spring meetings was another classic.
If it's possible, Spurrier was more beloved at South Carolina than he was at Florida. He delivered the winningest era in the program's 120-year history. Spurrier was astounded to find out that his 35 wins in the first five years at South Carolina were a school record. Then proudly used it as an accomplishment in succeeding years.
Spurrier went ahead and proved what once looked impossible, posting three consecutive 11-win seasons at South Carolina.
It's not fair to say the game was passing him by. It was changing. There are more SEC coaches from Ohio (three) than Alabama. There are as many from the Rust Belt as the Bible Belt.
Spurrier is the only current SEC coach who played and coached at his alma mater (Florida).
"I'm one of the few coaches who had success as a player," he said. "I did win the Heisman, you know."
Yeah, we know, Steve. That's part of what we're going to miss about you. You were at your best when you were winning -- flaming Phil Fulmer, Florida State, the media, whoever happened to be close. That's how we knew that he knew his team was good.
In the last couple of years, something was different. Spurrier wasn't as ebullient. The jabs weren't quite as pithy or frequent.
"There's nothing drawing me somewhere else," he said this summer. "Retirement and living at the beach is not something I can do."
Something changed. The final chapter to this retirement saga may not be that pleasant in the end. For now, we can only conclude that everyone is allowed to change their mind. Whether it was changed for him, we'll know soon enough.
That's because Steve Spurrier isn't going to hold back. In retirement -- contemplating life on his porch, cool drink in hand -- he'll have more time to yell the real thing now and then.
"Get off my lawn."
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