There was much conversation at the end of last year as South Carolina had a rough time with six losses – several of them terrible losses where Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks lost games that looked like sure wins with just a few minutes to go. The result was speculation that Spurrier, who is now 70 years old, might hang it up.
And that speculation has not abated, even though Spurrier has returned for this year and deflected conversation about how close he came to retiring after last year and whether he might be considering retirement now.
Spurrier said that South Crolina’s win over Miami in the Independence Bowl “rejuvenated us” as the Gamecocks finished the season with a 7-6 record. This from a man who was dominating the SEC when he was head coach at Florida and who put together three consecutive 11-win seasons earlier in his career at South Carolina.
“I don’t know how close I came to walking away,” he said Tuesday in his time before the media at SEC Media Days in Hoover. He recounted the tough losses in blowing two-touchdown leads late in the fourth quarrter against Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri. He is remembered in part for his minute or so “press conference” following the loss to Tennessee in which he told reporters they had seen the game and didn’t need him to talk about it.
“I felt like getting away for a minute,” he said.
“Hopefully people can understand, some losses are tougher than others.”
He pointed out that he works out a lot, even during the season, and that he hasn’t been fired for losing or for cheating and so he can hang around.
“I breezed through 60 and I breezed through 65 and hopefully I can breeze through 70,” he said. “That retirement thing, I don’t think I’d be very good at it.”
Then he put the shoe on the other foot, pointing out that presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are 69.
As for coaches, he said, “None of us know how long we’re going to be here. All of us hope we’re going to be here a long time.
“We’ve got some coaches in our league may go to the NFL someday. [S]ome of those NFL teams can offer $15 million, $20 million a year to a coach. If one of them offered [Nick Saban], it would make that $7.2 million (Alabama pays him) look paltry to him, and they probably could.”
Spurrier then said he’d like to see oddsmaker Danny Sheridan put odds on which coaches might be coaching in the SEC four years from now.
So which coaches would one put odds on NOT being at their current SEC head jobs in four years?
Although age might be a factor, there are no SEC head football coaches who look as though they are over the hill.
The Vanderbilt coach, no matter who it is, would always be a good bet to be gone in short order. It’s hard to win there, which is a firing offense, and if one does well with the Commodores, as James Franklin did, he becomes a hot choice of a school (i.e., Penn State) that can pay more.
Spurrier’s protestation notwithstanding, he’d probably be high up.
A couple of things he said about himself probably apply to Saban. For one thing, Saban is very young for his 63 years. For another, he doesn’t seem the type to be retired. And he’s tried the NFL and didn’t seem to like it as much as college ball. As much as other coaches might wish otherwise, book Saban for another five or six years minimum at Alabama
For some reason people put Les Miles at LSU on the hot seat, but he’s continuing to build good football teams. Same for Mark Richt at Georgia. The relatively young guys – Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss, Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Bret Bielema at Arkansas, Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, Butch Jones at Tennessee, and Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M all seem to have things in hand at their schools.
Gary Pinkel at Missouri is about the same age as Saban, but he’s doing a fine job with the Tigers and will likely coach there as long as he pleases.
Jim McElwain at Florida could be in a precarious situation, particularly if his athletics director, Jeremy Foley, stays on the job. Foley is a quick on the trigger guy when it comes to changing coaches in all sports.
Mark Stoops at Kentucky might be a bit on the hot seat.
The bottom line: Don’t look for much change in what is a very strong stable of head football coaches in the SEC.