Spurrier: It's Good to be Back

BIRMINGHAM, AL --- "It's good to be back. I've missed you guys." With those nine words, South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier began his State of Gamecock address to the flock of media writers who anxiously awaited to hear from the man known affectionately as "The Head Ball Coach." The Southeastern Conference tradition of Spurrier holding court in Birmingham had returned ...

Yes, Spurrier had us with every quip, every wrinkle of his brow. He was admittedly humbled, as you might expect from those Washington years. But, in many ways, he was the same old Stevie Wonder. He had us eating from his hands, and he knew it. From the start, Spurrier had captured everyone's attention, and he was hilarious.

"I appreciate all of you hanging around," Spurrier panned. "I figured everybody would be gone by now. Even those who wrote not real nice things maybe about me. That's okay. It was a lot more fun hanging around the SEC than the other league I was in a couple of years. "

Despite being the last coach to take the podium on the opening day, the crowd was ever present. Nobody dared miss out on this one.

"We're excited about this coming season," said Spurrier. "We were tremendously encouraged about the recruiting class we had this year. Some people said that you can't recruit in South Carolina, you can't beat Georgia and Tennessee and Florida for some players, but we did. So, we are excited to be there. Got a pretty good team ready to go."

One of the first questions that Spurrier addressed was the off-field problems that have plagued the Gamecocks in recent months. He didn't duck them. In typical Spurrier fashion, and unlike his former nemesis in Tallahassee, he took them on head on.

"We're going to do the program the right way there, and some things happened, the biggest thing happened when I guess our athletic director (Mike McGee) announced that there was not going to be a bowl game because of the fight with Clemson, which was a real nasty event for both schools," he explained. "It really was terrible. So some players took things out of the stadium. We had three players -- former players, who took some laptop computers. They have since been returned, but we had about five players who actually took their picture off of the wall. For some reason, they had all the players' pictures. Those guys got arrested for taking their picture off of the wall. They are part of the arrest group. I know that sometimes in college I probably personally did some things that I wasn't very proud of, but taking your picture off of the wall and bringing it back, I didn't think deserved quite the national punishment those guys got. But, anyway, those guys -- some of them, are back on the team."

Spurrier reflected often, very often, about his time at Florida. He recognizes that the game has changed, and he played a key role in helping dictate those changes. He too understands that it simply won't be as easy as it was in 1990. Spurrier turned the Gators into a juggernaut and the Bear rolled over in his grave. Spurrier's refined offensive system had taken the SEC from three yards and a cloud of dust to light years ahead of the country. However, imitation is the greatest form of flattery and Spurrier's offensive system has been somewhat mimicked and certainly studied.

"Now everybody has got fast players, and they disguise," Spurrier stated. "They are all over the place. You don't know what they are playing. It was a lot easier in the early 90's then it got to be a bit later. Although, Rex Grossman didn't have much trouble with them in 2001, but that was a special bunch."

"Well, one thing that I always get asked is what is the difference," Spurrier offered. "The biggest difference is that at college the head coach is the head coach of the team. (laughter) He runs the team. He's in control. He has authority over his team. Every organization does it a little differently, but every college team that I know of is not influenced by the AD or President. They don't come tell you what to do unless he's cheating or losing to much."

He was asked about Urban Meyer handling the pressures at Florida. Again, his reply was vintage Spurrier.

"He has an excellent track record. No reason to think that he's not going to do well there. But again, my job is not to promote all the coaches around the league," he said grinning. "That's your job. I am not here promoting them. That's your guys job right there."

Spurrier said that he doesn't feel that he was quite as arrogant as many members of the media thought. He explained that most of his jokes at the expense of rival Florida State were when he was speaking at Gator club meetings. Those jokes made the rounds all the way to Tallahassee and were picked up by the media as well. He said that he didn't do that on the 15 stops at South Carolina this summer, which probably disappointed the Gamecock faithful. It was a lesson that he had learned.

He joked that one school of thought echoed for years has him somewhat rethinking the whole process.

"My idea about that playoff changed a little bit," he said to laughter. "I don't have to worry about that right now. I still firmly believe that the playoff is the best way to make that happen, but since it isn't going to happen, I won't worry about that. I'm just glad they weren't doing that (BCS) back in '96 because we (Florida) would not have been in that final game. We count our good fortune that there wasn't a BCS back in 1996."

Spurrier also joked that the Gamecocks' fortunes might change sooner than most think.

"'05 is the Year of the Rooster, so don't bet too much against the Gamecocks even though we're underdogs," he quipped. "I am not. I'm just saying that '69 was a rooster year that we (South Carolina) won our only (ACC) championship and we have ot the rooster on our side. That's all I am saying. We got it really going for us now."

Never bet against Spurrier... especially when holding court.

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