Wiedmer: Spurrier hasn't lost his dagger for Big Orange

Wiedmer: Spurrier hasn't lost his dagger for Big Orange

July 25th, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Wednesday, July 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

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You never know what Steve Spurrier will say next.

The featured speaker at the Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee's fundraising dinner Saturday night at the Chattanoogan, the South Carolina football coach actually had a few kind words for former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer.

"They ought to put Coach Fulmer on an NCAA committee [to change college football]," said the Ol' Ball Coach, who often needled Fulmer when Spurrier was at Florida. "He's a common sense guy and they need some of that. We're really pretty good friends these days."

This wasn't the only time Spurrier mentioned the Big Orange, though it was his only reference to Fulmer.

He recalled helping defeat the Vols as a Duke assistant in 1982.

"One of my favorite wins as a coach," he said. "We were the opening game for the mighty Vols. It was the year of the World's Fair in Knoxville. They had Reggie White and Willie Gault. We had a quarterback named Ben Bennett. We won 25-24."

He told of South Carolina having never won in Neyland Stadium before he arrived in 2005, quickly adding, "We won there our very first season."

He also said of his success against UT during his time at Florida -- he was 8-4 against UT as the Gators boss -- "If you beat Tennessee in Knoxville, you've got to learn how to sing Rocky Top. We were fortunate enough to beat them a few times up there."

He even had a few words for UT's one-hit wonder coach Lane Kiffin when someone asked him about the current Southern Cal coach.

"I didn't think much of him, did you?" Spurrier fired back.

He then recalled Kiffin's infamous comment to Gamecocks All-American wideout Alshon Jeffery, the one where he told the player he'd "Be pumping gas one day," if he didn't sign with the Vols.

"Yeah, Alshon was laughing about that when we were getting ready to fly to Birmingham for SEC Media Days," the coach grinned."

Spurrier's smiles dried up, however, when discussing his crusade to pay players.

"[All-SEC running back] Marcus Lattimore doesn't have a car," he said. "He's probably had a $15-20 million impact on our school. But he can't get a car unless a bank qualifies him for a loan. I told him the other day, 'Go get a loan. I think you're a good risk.'"

Later he said, "These guys make it for us. Surely we can do something for them."

Of course, if he was going to discuss car loans, the coach who once said FSU stood for "Free Shoe U" (instead of Florida State University) couldn't resist a quick jab at The Ohio State University.

Said Spurrier of the Buckeyes' NCAA troubles, "Ohio State has a better car arrangement than we do."

Nor was he particularly fond of SEC commissioner Mike Slive's comments last week about the need to raise academic standards.

Brutally honest, Spurrier said, "Some of these guys are not academically capable of raising standards."

Hard to believe that Spurrier -- who enters the 2011 season with an overall college record of 186-73-2 (72 percent) at Duke, Florida and South Carolina -- was fired from his first two jobs after one season with each.

"When my pro career ended after 10 years I got a job on Doug Dickey's Florida staff," said Spurrier. "We got fired the next year. Then I got on Pepper Rodgers' staff at Georgia Tech. We all got fired again after that year. I was starting to think I was a bad luck charm or something."

But then the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner landed an assistant's gig at Duke, which led to a head coaching post with the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits, which caused Duke to hire Spurrier back as the head coach in 1987. He again beat the Vols in Knoxville in 1988. He would return to Florida, his alma mater, in 1990, where he would win the national championship six years later.

And given such sustained excellence, someone asked the 66-year-old native of Johnson City, Tenn., if he might be tempted to work as long as 84-year-old Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Especially since the Gamecocks are the preseason favorites to win the SEC East for the first time ever.

"I don't know about that," Spurrier said, shaking his head. "But I've been exercising and eating correctly for the last 35 years, so I might have a few more seasons in me."

Just what every Tennessee fan wants to hear.