Retirement hasn’t softened Steve Spurrier, and, Wednesday, the 72-year old proved he hasn’t lost his touch. The “Head Ball Coach” was on top of his game as the guest speaker at the eighth annual Independence Bowl Foundation Kickoff Luncheon.
The stories, the laughter and the one-liners – one aimed at LSU subsequently lit up social media – likely came as no surprise to the 1,000 in attendance at the Shreveport Convention Center. However, it’s a good bet the level of fondness the former Heisman Trophy winner and college football coaching legend displayed for Shreveport opened some eyes.
“My last meaningful victory was here,” said Spurrier, who led the Gamecocks to a satisfying – for many reasons – victory (24-21) against the Miami Hurricanes at Independence Stadium to cap his final full season (2014) in Columbia.
Spurrier left South Carolina midway through the 2015 campaign following a loss to LSU.
“If I would have been smart, I would have resigned, quit, retired – whatever you want to call it – about two weeks after we beat Miami,” Spurrier said. “I made a mistake coming back.”
The 2014 appearance was Spurrier’s second at the I-Bowl with South Carolina. The Gamecocks fell to Missouri, 38-31, to cap his first season in Columbia (2005).
Not only was the 2014 I-Bowl victory a boost for South Carolina (the program's fourth straight bowl win), it helped the 1966 Heisman winner even the score against the Hurricanes.
“It was my last big win,” said Spurrier, who coached at Florida from 1990-2001. “It was big for me, for South Carolina, and for the Gators. (The Gators) don’t like losing to Miami. In 2000, they beat us (Florida) in the Sugar Bowl. Back in those days, (Miami) would brag about stuff like that – rub it in a little bit.
“Florida and Miami have a little bit of a rivalry. I’m 1-1 against Miami now.”
Spurrier enjoyed his time in Shreveport this time around, too. Tuesday, the avid golfer spent the day at 265, the David Toms Golf Academy. Spurrier first met Toms on a Saturday when LSU visited Columbia, and was brought up to speed on how Shreveport’s 13-time winner on the PGA Tour is attempting to uphold a tradition of local golf success.
“265 is an excellent place,” Spurrier said. “I understand there are a lot of good golfers coming out of Shreveport – a lot of young guys who can really play. It will be interesting to watch.
“Obviously, what David does out there is the way to do it. Shaun Webb is an excellent teaching pro. If you want to be a pro golfer, or a college golfer, I suggest you go out there.”
The day of golf allowed two-time College Football Hall of Famer – inducted in 1986 for his accomplishments as a player at the University of Florida; will be enshrined as a head coach this year – to catch up with former pupil Brock Berlin. The ex-Evangel star played under Spurrier at Florida for two years before transferring to the University of Miami.
“It was really neat seeing Brock yesterday – we spent about three hours together,” Spurrier said. “We talked about those years (at Florida). In 2001, I think he set a record – as a backup quarterback, he threw a touchdown pass in the first seven games. Tuesday, he told me, ‘Coach, you always said, If you put me in, you’d let me play.’”
Berlin, stuck behind Heisman candidate Rex Grossman, requested a transfer to rival Miami prior to Spurrier’s departure for the NFL.
“When we signed Brock, we didn’t know Rex was going to be that good,” Spurrier said. “I said, ‘You can go anywhere you want’ – the same thing I’ve told any player who wanted to transfer. He went down to Miami and ended up playing very well down there.”
Following Wednesday’s luncheon, Spurrier met with local media and revealed his biggest regret.
“I should have stayed at Florida longer,” said Spurrier, now an ambassador and consultant for the Gators. “I was only there 12 years. Then, I didn’t think I’d coach past 60. I was 57 and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll coach in the NFL five years and hang it up.’ It didn’t work out (with the Redskins), but it gave me a chance to go to South Carolina.”
Spurrier led the Gators to six SEC championships, and an outright national title in 1996. He coached a Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Danny Wuerffel, in 1996. He finished with a 228-89-2 college coaching record, and stands as the winningest coach in the history of two programs -- Florida and South Carolina. He was named the ACC Coach of the Year twice and the SEC Coach of the Year seven times.
Like winning, Spurrier has long been known for his savage verbal barbs. Naturally, nothing appeared to be off limits Wednesday, as local purple-and-gold supporters found out before their lunch had settled.
When talking about the different approaches to winning football, Spurrier delivered this theory: “You can have a bunch of good ball players and not win -- all you LSU fans know about that."
The Head Ball Coach hasn’t lost a thing off his fast ball.
Roy Lang III, The Times