published Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Steve Spurrier makes 20th visit to SEC days

  • photo
    South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier reacts during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, at Williams-Brice Stadium, in Columbia, S.C.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

HOOVER, Ala. -- South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier started showing up at Southeastern Conference media days before Bill Clinton became president and before Macaulay Culkin starred in "Home Alone."

And before there was a South Carolina in the SEC.

Spurrier made a record 20th appearance Tuesday afternoon at the league extravaganza that began in 1985, and the 67-year-old is showing no signs of slowing. After leading the Florida Gators to six SEC championships and one national title from 1990 to 2001, Spurrier has guided the Gamecocks to their first SEC East title and to their first 11-win season in consecutive years.

"I feel blessed and fortunate to be here," Spurrier said. "We've had some good teams at South Carolina the last couple of years. That's probably why I'm still coaching. Our teams are getting better."

Three wins will give Spurrier 200 at the college level. He is the winningest football coach in Florida history by a mammoth margin with a 122-27-1 record, and adding 10 victories to his 55-35 mark in Columbia would make him the winningest coach at two league schools.

Spurrier's 116 career wins over SEC opposition ranks second only to Bear Bryant's 159 while at Alabama and Kentucky.

"For me, personally, he is a delight to work with," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. "He is not bashful, and he has been wonderfully successful. I am delighted for him. I know how much it means to him to be successful at South Carolina."

During his years at Florida, it was not uncommon for Spurrier to spend media days debating former commissioner Roy Kramer about the Bowl Championship Series. Within the past two years, he has floated the concept of paying players and using only division games to determine division champs, but each of those ideas fell flat under Slive's watch.

Spurrier made off-the-field headlines at Florida by needling rival league coaches such as Georgia's Ray Goff and Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer, and he occasionally has gotten off tangent this year to point out how Alabama's Nick Saban is winning big at a program that has won big before.

"If he could go to a place like Ole Miss and win, he would really be doing something," Spurrier said in the spring.

There is unquestioned cheer with Spurrier as a result of what he is accomplishing at South Carolina, which followed his two disappointing seasons with the NFL's Washington Redskins and a year away from coaching. His Gamecocks are 6-0 the past two seasons against East rivals Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, and they have defeated state rival Clemson three straight years.

"I think we would have had a week's celebration if we beat one of those four teams 10 years ago at South Carolina," he said. "Beating one of those four would have made for a good year."

South Carolina was ninth in last season's final Associated Press poll and returns seven offensive starters and six on defense. Quarterback Connor Shaw, tailback Marcus Lattimore and receiver Ace Sanders head those back on offense, while the defense returns the safety tandem of D.J. Swearinger and DeVonte Holloman, linebacker Shaq Wilson and the end combination of Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor.

The schedule is favorable in September, but October begins with consecutive games against Georgia, LSU and Florida, making the quest for yet another milestone season extremely challenging.

Then again, who's doubting Spurrier by this point?

"It's a tremendous feeling for all of us when you do something for the first time in school history," Spurrier said. "It is neat and fun for the players and fans and so forth. Beating Nebraska for that 11th win was special for all of us, it really was."

Said Slive: "He's one of the great football coaches in history."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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