Spurrier settled at USC

Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 12:26 a.m.
SANDESTIN - Wearing a pink golf shirt, khakis and brown loafers without socks, the head ball coach reintroduced himself to the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday after a three-year absence.
Shaking hands with old acquaintances and members of the media who used to cover him, Steve Spurrier seemed at ease and right at home again at the first day of the SEC Spring Meetings.
With the exception of a touch of gray around his temples, it seemed almost as if nothing had changed since he was here last. But, of course, everything has changed.
When he enthusiastically talked about "we" and "us" during an afternoon press gathering, he was talking about South Carolina, not Florida. He has gone from Gator to Gamecock; and from unhappy NFL coach back to happy college coach.
The transformation seems complete now that's he settled in at South Carolina and Urban Meyer has done the same at Florida.
Looking fit and trim at age 60, Spurrier seems to have recaptured the old fire that two miserable years with the Washington Redskins had extinguished.
"I'm excited to be back," Spurrier said. "It's fun to be back coaching in the college game in the right environment. South Carolina is a wonderful environment to be the head coach.
"I certainly wasn't very happy (in the NFL). I was disappointed in myself. I have no one to blame but myself. I got myself into a situation that wasn't what I thought it was going to be or hoped it would be. It's fun being back in charge of the team. It's fun to be here and I'm appreciative.
"I don't know what kind of team we've got. I'm certainly not going to go to the the SEC Media Days (in Birmingham in July) and predict championships the way I did in 1990. I had a heck of a team at Florida in 1990, one of the most talented group of players we ever had there. We're not quite at that level. We've got a little building to do, but we should be competitive."
Spurrier was the first to mention Florida. It was a subject that would come up several more times during the 30-minute session with the media. Each time it did, he stayed away from saying anything controversial about the school where he won six SEC titles and a national championship.
A school that had an opening after Ron Zook was fired last October, but ended up filling it with Meyer after Spurrier decided to restart his college coaching career at a school in the same conference and same division, creating quite a stir among the Florida (and Spurrier) faithful.
"I wanted to coach again and after thinking it over, I do believe the direction Florida wanted to go was a little different than me, which is fine," Spurrier said. "The direction for me was better not to go back to Florida and try to do what we had already done there in 12 years.
"My record at Florida is history. It's in the books. I'm excited about starting a new record book at South Carolina."
Spurrier said he's made a long-term commitment to South Carolina (something many UF supporters were wondering if he could give UF if he did return).
"I've set a goal to be the winningest coach in South Carolina history," he said. "I need 65 wins. I said it for several reasons. I think it's a doable goal and I want recruits and prospects to know I plan on being there for seven to 10 years.
"I feel wonderful health wise. This is what I've thoroughly enjoyed doing in life. I think it's best for both schools (USC and UF), I really do."
Spurrier said he accepted the South Carolina job (and thereby pitting himself against his old school every season) because the resources and fan support are strong in Columbia and the school is in the SEC's Eastern Division - familiar territory for him.
"If I had my choice of every school, South Carolina may be the best, the perfect place to me to coach simply because it's in the SEC, it's in the Eastern Division. ... that's what I've been doing for a long time," he said. "All the resources are there to be successful.
"Plus, South Carolina has not achieved much, as we all know. No divisions. No SECs. No top 10s. We've got a lot of room up here to do things that have never been done before. That's the challenge and the fun part, doing something that's never been done; to do things that some people say can't be done. I've got that opportunity."
Spurrier understands that many UF supporters might be upset because the most successful coach in Gators history is now a conference rival. An enemy.
"A lot of Florida fans weren't particularly happy when I left or how I left," he said. "That's OK. I thought maybe I'd coach in the NFL five or six years and that would be it.
"After a couple of years, I needed to get out of there. I wanted to coach again. That's what I do. It's a lot more fun in life than acting retired for 10 months. I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Spurrier said he watched several UF games on television over the past three seasons, but didn't spend much time analyzing what was going on in Gainesville.
"I pulled for the Gators all the time," he said. "But, really, you worry about your own team a lot more."
As for the future of Florida football, Spurrier said he's met Meyer twice and talked to him on the phone.
"He's obviously got a heck of a record," he said. "He's a proven coach, no question about that."
Spurrier doesn't spend time contemplating UF football. For him, it's all about the Gamecocks now.
He said the SEC is stronger than when he left it three years ago and he's looking forward to the challenge of playing in Knoxville and Athens this season.
He skirted the issue about returning to The Swamp in 2006.
"I don't have to worry about that until next year," Spurrier said. "Really, we'll go one game at a time. The first team we're going to worry about is Central Florida (in this season's opener). In the meantime, we're going to worry about ourselves. That's our concern right now: Make South Carolina better."
  • NOTES: Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan said he'll probably have a better feel for what juniors Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson will do after they attend an NBA camp in Chicago this weekend and early next week. "I'll probably get some feedback from that. We're probably going to find out something after Chicago," Donovan said. Walsh and Roberson have applied for the NBA Draft, but neither has signed with an agent and both will have until June 21 to decide whether to return to UF or go pro. "Both guys have kept their eligibility," Donovan said. Donovan did have some breaking news on Walsh. He has shaved off his long, curly locks - a feature that's contributed to his status as a player fans love to hate around the SEC. "He's totally bald. He must be trying to fit in with (former UF player) Jason Williams," Donovan said.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu by calling 374-5022 or by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com.
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