By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The man known as the “Head Ball Coach” decided to step down from his head coaching duties at the University of South Carolina on Monday. I say step down as opposed to retire because the coach was quite clear in his press conference yesterday that he wasn’t retiring, just resigning from his position.
“I’ll just be the former head ball coach now,” said Spurrier to reporters on Tuesday. “It’s time for me to get out of the way and let somebody else have a go at it.”
Spurrier’s Gamecocks started this season 2-4, and following a disappointing 7-6 campaign last season, the 70-year-old coach decided it was time to hand the program over to someone else. While Spurrier did say that he could possibly coach high school football in the future, it seems likely that this is the last we’ll see of the witty, snark-filled coach in that position.
With the close of a coaching career comes reflection upon what that person meant to the game. You may have heard some of the statistics already. He’s the only person ever to win a Heisman trophy as a player and coach another player who went on to win the award. He won a national championship as the head coach at Florida in 1996. The list of accomplishments is long. The list of memorable quotes could go on forever. He may have been the greatest trash talker to grace the sidelines of college football, an old-school version of today’s Twitter troll.
But, one thing that is amazing to consider is the imprint he has had on the game. From the first start he made under center for the Florida Gators on September 19, 1964 to Monday, is a span of 51 years in the game. He made stops in the NFL as a player (49ers & Bucs, 1967-1976) and as a coach (Washington Redskins 2002-2003). He coached in the USFL and is the 3rd winning-est head coach in the league going 35-19 in three seasons with the Tampa Bay Bandits, before going back to the college game and becoming the head coach at Duke.
In his 26 seasons as a head coach at Duke, Florida and South Carolina, Spurrier compiled a 228-89-2 record. The 228 wins puts him 13th on the all-time list, ahead of Woody Hayes, Bill Snyder and Nick Saban. He won Coach of the Year honors seven times over the course of three different decades. He’s the all-time wins leader at both South Carolina and Florida. The Gamecocks program has a .513 winning percentage for it’s entire history (552-524-41) and Spurrier’s .637 winning percentage in his 11 years is well above that mark. South Carolina’s record taking out Spurrier’s time there would come to 466-475-41.
One thing that has become a focus in the football community is the “coaching tree” or the disciples of a particular coach who have gone on to take either head coaching jobs, or high profile coordinator positions elsewhere. The coaching tree of Mike Holmgren for example is extensive in the NFL, including some 16 former or current head coaches. Likewise, in the college ranks, Hal Mumme and his “Air Raid” offense have taken over college football through his disciples.
Spurrier’s coaching tree is one that isn’t talked about much, but has sprouted some significant branches. Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Rich Stockstill (Middle Tennessee), Charlie Strong (Texas) all currently hold head coaching positions at the college level.
At the pro level, despite spending only two years with the Redskins, Spurrier’s tree boasts Marvin Lewis, Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther – the current head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, of the Cincinnati Bengals who have an undefeated team. George Edwards is the defensive coordinator in Minnesota.
The statistics say a lot, the coaching tree does the same, there’s no doubt that Spurrier in 51 years involved in the sport has left his fingerprints all over it. College football, all of football, will miss one of it’s greatest personalities. One can only hope that one of the networks bring him on as a commentator because the wit, personality, smile and laugh would translate perfectly to the television set.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.