Steve Spurrier spent two hours holding court on the Paul Finebaum Show Wednesday afternoon. If you didn’t catch the Head Ball Coach, he was as candid as always and even took a chance to goose Alabama a little bit over the number of national championships they claim to have earned in Tuscaloosa. Here are excerpts from Spurrier Unplugged:
Spurrier on Joe Paterno: “He was treated the most unfairly of any coach ever. He had nothing to do with that scandal, nothing at all. Amazingly what they did to him was completely wrong. I hope they restore [the statue]. I heard they’re having talks about having the statue back and they should do that, they really should.”
Spurrier on Alabama national championships: “I was there speaking at their high school clinic two weeks ago. They’ve won 16 national championships, you know that? They claim 16. One of them was in there, they had a 9-2 record. ... They had three or four national champs back in the old days.”
Spurrier on turning down Alabama in 2006: “Mal Moore called me. I had just taken the job at South Carolina and had just been there one year. I told him, ‘I’m committed to these guys and this is where I’m going to finish up. I really get a thrill from doing things that have never been done before.’ ... I told Mal Moore, ‘I said listen, you don’t want me there. I’m not going to come there. Hang with Coach Saban.’ He had already turned it down and said, ‘I’m staying at Miami.’ I said, ‘Go back to him. I think he’d rather be at Alabama than at Miami,’ because I had a two-year run in the pros also, and sure enough, Mal went back and convinced him he needed to come to Alabama.”
Spurrier on taking down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State capitol: “I was at an event mixed with blacks and whites, and it was a leadership group of some type. I said, ‘I wish our state would take the Confederate flag down because it is offensive. It is offensive to a group of people. We don’t need it. Put it in a museum somewhere or what have you.’ It took a very unfortunate, cowardly act by a guy to kill those nine people down in Charleston for Governor [Nikki] Haley to go ahead and make sure our state did get rid of it from the capitol there. I’m all for doing what’s right and what’s fair for everyone. It’s a shame maybe we didn’t do it earlier.”
Spurrier on the best two jobs in the SEC: “I think Georgia and LSU are basically the best two. Of course, Nick Saban Alabama the best right now. But as far as recruiting advantages, LSU doesn’t have much competition in their state, and Georgia pretty much should own their state there.”
THE STATE OF THE SEC EAST NATION
With Florida winning the SEC East in 2015 and Tennessee on the verge of being relevant again, it seems like it is almost old times in the SEC East again. Georgia, of course, is enthusiastic about its new coach, but even if Mark Richt was still on the sideline, the faithful would be crowing that this is the year. Does any program approach Georgia’s lead in near national championships? Meanwhile, reality has set in at Missouri, which shocked the world by getting to Atlanta twice. Spurrier’s gone and Muschamp is in at South Carolina and it’s like old times at Kentucky and Vanderbilt, which are back to their losing ways after a brief run of Music City Bowl championships.
So, now that spring has sprung here is the current state of the SEC East Nation:
FLORIDA: The spin masters on the recruiting trail are trying to convince kids that Florida’s SEC East title was a fluke, simply the result of some lucky breaks, McElwain inheriting a bunch of talented kids and Georgia losing Nick Chubb to injury. Well, Florida was lucky to win a couple of games. Mac did inherit a bunch of talented kids and Georgia did lose Nick Chubb. Mac also outcoached everybody else in the division because that was a Florida team that was predicted to struggle just to break even. And this year? Well, the Gators have everything in place to be better than they were last year starting with more speed and more talent. The quarterback will certainly be taller and if either Luke Del Rio or Austin Appleby can remember to throw the ball to the guys wearing the same color shirts, the UF offense is going to be rather good. Over on the defensive side of the ball, the Gators are going to be scary if they can mount a pass rush because no one has a better secondary and Jarrad Davis just might prove to be one of the 2-3 best linebackers in the country.
Georgia: You can go all the way back to the Ray Goff years and Georgia was always as talented a team as you could find in the SEC and the faithful were all set to make reservations to wherever the national championship game was going to be played. Yeah, but how many times did they actually make reservations to a national title game? Reality check time, Bulldogs. You haven’t been relevant except in your own minds since Herschel left after three glorious years and just because Kirby Smart is the new head coach doesn’t mean you’ll be relevant this year. Jacob Eason won’t start the year at QB – you can almost bank on that – but at some point he will take over unless Greyson Lambert does the unthinkable and actually masters something thrown more than 4 yards downfield. But no matter who is the QB someone has to get open and catch the ball. Receivers, you see, are in short supply. The defense will be good, but not as good as the one in Gainesville, which is why, at best, it will be another one of those near national championship years at Uga.
Kentucky: Good old Rich Brooks. You could count on him to get the Wildcats a 3-day weekend in Nashville in late December for the Music City Bowl. Four bowls in a row! Bear Bryant didn’t even do that. Of course, Bear walked away from UK because he didn’t think they wanted football to be as good as basketball. Mark Stoops would love for football to be as good as UK basketball, but to know why it isn’t just pay attention to the NFL and NBA Drafts. A bad Kentucky football team will have no one drafted by the NFL. What amounts to a bad (for) Kentucky basketball team will probably have three lottery picks when the NBA drafts. If Stoops can’t get the Wildcats to a bowl, they’ll probably fire him, but why? They aren’t going to get anyone better. It’s Kentucky. It’s football – not basketball – that we’re talking about.
Missouri: Gary Pinkel could really coach but of course he’s gone now and Barry Odom is the new guy. Here’s the deal for Odom. He’s got to prove he can win at an SEC championship level with 2 and 3-star recruits that the rest of the league overlooked. Pinkel won because he was pretty good at it, but he had the advantage of years of experience. Odom doesn’t have the experience and because Mizzou went to consecutive SEC title games (2013-14) fans will expect him to win immediately. He won’t. The big question moving forward is how much time will the faithful and administration give a guy who’s never been a head coach before they decide it’s time to pull the plug?
South Carolina: Will Muschamp wasn’t South Carolina’s first choice to replace Steve Spurrier. He wasn’t the second or third choice either. But he is the head coach and this is his shot to prove that all those expectations of future greatness when he coordinated defenses for Nick Saban, Tommy Tuberville and Mack Brown are still true today. The good news for Gamecock faithful is that Muschamp can recruit and he’s loaded up a staff full of recruiters. The bad news is they couldn’t recruit enough talent this year for the Gamecocks to be relevant. At Florida, Will tested everybody’s patience. At South Carolina, it hasn’t been all that long ago that the Gamecocks won 41 games in four years, so patience in Columbia might be a little bit on the thin side. The folks will want to see progress this year. They’ll expect winning in 2017.
Tennessee: The Vols were within 17 points of an unbeaten season last year when they finished the season with six straight wins including a 45-6 beatdown of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Because they were so close to something special, Tennessee fans are sounding an awful lot like Georgia fans these days. They talk about what might have been and project that to mean what is going to be. With Georgia what is going to be never happens and there is every good reason to believe that the Vols will suffer the same fate next season and count this as one of those near national championships. Tennessee is loaded up with experience everywhere and they’ve brought in Bob Schoop to coach up the defense. Josh Dobbs is the most experienced QB in the SEC, but he’s spent the last couple of years dinking and dunking to the point that it’s always eight in the box. If it’s another eight in the box year, the 2016 Vols will be talking about another near national title in January.
Vanderbilt: It seems like old times for Vandy fans. After three years of James Franklin proving that Vandy would go to a bowl game and win 9 games in a season before donkeys would fly, the Commodores are right back where they started when someone named Robbie Caldwell proved the Peter Principle works even at the lowest levels. Vandy was a bottom feeder before Caldwell became the shocking replacement for Bobby Johnson as head coach but as bad as the Dores were under Johnson, they were worse under Caldwell. Derek Mason has been the HBC the last two years, two years that have taught us that just because you’ve seen ugly offense before doesn’t mean you’ve seen what Vanderbilt can put on the field under the guise of being an SEC offense. In plain terms that they can understand in all four corners of the great state of Tennessee, the Vandy offense has been dog’s butt ugly the last two years. Well, that’s an insult to all dogs with ugly butts but you get where I’m coming from. Mason is telling everybody the Dores are better and knocking on the door of going to a bowl, which isn’t exactly an accomplishment since there are about 800 bowl games and only 128 Division I teams. If Vandy only gets to 5 wins this year, Mason is gainfully employed for 2017. Anything less and it’s dicey.
UF SPRING SPORTS
Softball: The #1-ranked Gators (42-3, 12-3 SEC) broke loose for three runs in the bottom of the fifth on a solo homer by Amanda Lorenz and a 2-run double by Nicole DeWitt for a 3-0 win over #20 South Florida (39-11) Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium.
Kelly Barnhill, Aleshia Ocasio and Delanie Gourley combined to shut out USF, limiting the Bulls to four hits. Ocasio, who pitched innings 4-6 while striking out 4 and giving up 3 hits, improved to 15-1 on the season. Barnhill, gave up 1 hit and struck out 4 in innings 1-3 and Gourley got 2 strikeouts and a save in her only inning. The 4 strikeouts for Ocasio made her the third pitcher on the staff with more than 100 Ks for the season for the second straight year.
Next up for the Gators is #12 Georgia (37-10, 9-6 SEC), which comes to Gainesville for a 3-game SEC set starting Friday.
Lacrosse: The 2nd-ranked Gators set (15-1, 6-0 Big East) up a showdown for the regular season Big East women’s lacrosse championship Wednesday with a 17-5 win over Cincinnati behind 3 goals by Sammi Burgess. UConn (12-2, 6-0 Big East) will travel to Gainesville Saturday to face the Gators with the winner taking the regular season championship. Both Florida and UConn have qualified to play in the Big East Conference Tournament May 5-7 in Washington, DC.
Dwayne “Pearl” Washington died of a brain tumor. He was 52. During his days of tearing up the Big East at Syracuse, Pearl was worth twice the price of admission. He could shake. He could bake. He was 6-2 and somehow he could score inside on anyone in college basketball no matter how tall. As ESPN’s Dan O’Neil wrote, “He put on a show, but he was never a showboat.”
Georgia paid rapper Ludacris $65,000 for 15 minutes at halftime on G-Day last week. That’s nice work if you can get it.
Kentucky big man Marcus Lee says he will test the NBA waters but won’t hire an agent. He’s projected second round. If someone says they’ll draft him in the second round he needs to take them up on the offer. Another year in college isn’t going to make him that much better but it could change him from second rounder to not drafted.
The Minnesota Timberwolves did a smart thing by hiring Tom Thibodeau as its head coach and director of basketball operations.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
It’s Steve Spurrier’s opinion that LSU and Georgia are the two best football coaching jobs in the Southeastern Conference. How would you rate the football jobs in the SEC from top to bottom?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Thanks to the Palladium TV show “Live from Daryl’s House” I discovered Fitz and the Tantrums a couple of years ago. They will release their latest album “HandClap” on June 10th. Meanwhile, they will be playing at SunFest in West Palm Beach on April 30 if you’re in the neighborhood and want to catch a really great show. Today’s music is the band’s 2013 album, “More Than Just a Dream.”