TBT: 50 Years of Steve Spurrier Swagger

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Coming off what many observers would label a disappointing 7-6 campaign, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier made various comments this spring and winter that suggest the Head Ball Coach may ride off into the sunset sooner than later.

The 70-year-old Spurrier made an off-the-cuff remark about coaching “two or three more years,” which raised red flags for Gamecock recruits. He later called 2014 a “decent” campaign. Such comments are the first signs that the always spry Steve Spurrier’s many years in the game might be catching up to him.

Truth is, we’re so accustomed to a Steve Spurrier who will fire off zingers and demonstrate the utmost competitiveness, the slightest indication of fatigue is striking.

Heading into his 11th season at South Carolina, he still shows signs of the swagger we’ve come to expect of the HBC. Signs were still present amid last year’s tumble from three straight seasons for 11 wins, too. South Carolina beat Georgia in a classic, 38-35 contest that literally came down to a few inches.

Perhaps in the context of beating Georgia, Spurrier’s comments on 2014 being a “decent” season for South Carolina have more gravity. After all, as he himself said immediately following the win: “Some wins are better than others.”

No one has felt the brunt of Steve Spurrier’s swagger, either verbally or on the field, quite like Georgia. Spurrier made a sport of tweaking the Bulldogs during his tenure as Florida Gators head coach in the 1990s, firing off barbs at former Georgia head coach Ray Goff with the same gusto HBC swings a golf club.

Spurrier once famously responded to being asked if Florida would Georgia with the reply, “Is Ray Goff still coaching there?” Of course, Spurrier won 11 of 12 games against Georgia, including going unbeaten in Goff’s time there.

Steve Spurrier is friends with Ric Flair, and it’s debatable who cuts a better, antagonizing promo on his rivals.

Comparing Spurrier to Flair, one thing is for sure: the Head Ball Coach’s swagger predates the Nature Boy’s by a good 15 years. Flair won his first NWA World Championship by beating Harley Race, a decade-and-a-half after Steve Spurrier cemented his place in college football lore.

When Spurrier played quarterback for the Gators in the mid-1960s, the Georgia Bulldogs became the Dusty Rhodes to his Flair.

Spurrier is the only active head coach to ever win the Heisman Trophy, hoisting the hardware 49 years ago. He finished the 1966 campaign with 16 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards passing — a remarkable number in the era.

But Spurrier also lost to Georgia and legendary head coach Vince Dooley that season, which dropped Spurrier to 1-2 in his varsity career vs. the Bulldogs.

But in true Steve Spurrier fashion, he pointed out to Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union last fall that the Gators freshmen team walloped Georgia’s in 1963.

“Must have been about 45-12 or something like that,” Spurrier said, via Smits. “We handled them pretty good. As a player they give me credit for being 1-2 in games against Georgia but it’s really 2-2.”

If Georgia is Spurrier’s Dusty Rhodes, Clemson’s become the Head Ball Coach’s Ricky Steamboat in the last few years. Spurrier still has plenty of one-liners for the folks in Athens, including Mark Richt, but the Bulldogs are spared the level of derision HBC unleashes on the in-state rival Tigers at any given opportunity.

Last year’s 35-17 Clemson win snapped a five-year South Carolina win streak in the series, giving Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney his first win over Steve Spurrier. Of course, when pal Ric Flair lost a match, he never stopped reminding rivals he was limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’, kiss-stealin’, wheelin’ and dealin’.

We’ll know Steve Spurrier still has his swagger this year if, like his comments on his 2-2 playing record vs. Georgia, he reminds the media this year of his overall mark against Clemson. The Gamecocks need that old Spurrier swagger to take the coach “from Pluto” on another ride on Space Mountain, after all.