'He was always kind of Cocky,' sign says


Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.

Facts

Tonight's Game

  • WHAT: UCF at South Carolina
  • WHEN: 7:30 tonight
  • ON TV: ESPN

  • COLUMBIA, S.C. - His visor in place and his sunglasses reflecting the bright South Carolina sunshine, Stephen Orr Spurrier put his team through its final walk-through in preparation for his Gamecock debut.
    A summer of discontent behind him, the remnants of the mess left mostly washed away, Spurrier was teaching again.
    "You've got to know where the end zone is," he shouted at quarterback Blake Mitchell after a slant pass sailed high over the fence in the north end zone. And they ran it again, and it was right on target.
    Spurrier suddenly spotted a pair of out-of-state sportswriters and said, "Who let you turkeys in? We need to get security out here."
    He was joking because his mood is good. It usually is for a coach who has yet to lose a game in his new job. But it's more than that for the former Florida coach. He's just so happy to be back coaching college ball.
    Tonight, after a sabbatical from the college game that has lasted a couple of days shy of 44 months, he returns with a new team. Columbia is buzzing about the coach who once was the Gamecocks' nemesis.
    Billboards scream, "We've Got Spurrier" and "This is Spurrier Country." A sign at Addam's Bookstore reads, "He was always kind of Cocky."
    In his office Wednesday afternoon, he signed some footballs and joked, "I've signed so many autographs they aren't worth anything up here."
    In the summer, Spurrier cut the top out of his floppy hat because it was too hot for Crescent Beach. Those hats, called "Spur's Lid", are flying off the selves, the proceeds going to USC women's athletics. Golf coach Puggy Blackmon walks in with a bottle of wine he and a friend are selling for charity called "Cock 'n' Fire Cabernet."
    Everything the ball coach touches turns to gold and he's hoping to do that with the reason he is here - his football team. And that's why he needs tonight.
    After so many compliments, his mug on the front page of the local paper every day for two months, national stories in print and on TV, there may not be a coach in America who needs to coach a game.
    "I'm tired of reading about myself," he said, looking out his window at the Columbia skyline. "The attention needs to be on the players."
    He pointed to the State Fairgrounds. "Look, they're setting up for Big & Rich," he said.
    The country stars will play before tonight's game. ESPN is here in full force. You almost get the feeling Spurrier would rather be opening on Pay Per View until he finds out what kind of team he has.
    "I'm not sure how we'll play," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be ready."
    His team has been depleted by suspensions and dismissals from the rocky off-season left behind by former coach Lou Holtz. South Carolina's top three running backs are true freshmen. The coaching staff has guarded optimism and it doesn't hurt to be opening against a Central Florida team that went 0-11 last season.
    The Gamecocks are three-touchdown favorites, something Spurrier was used to at Florida. But in this town, you wonder if a 21-point win is below the bar set by zealous fans who have been mired in the stench of mediocrity for so many years.
    It's been so crazy that Spurrier has told his players he feels bad about all of the attention that has been focused on him. Already he has made an impact - instituting a class attendance policy, upgrading the nutrition requirements for his players and even lobbying for the state to start a no-smoking policy in South Carolina restaurants.
    "People are always coming up to me and thanking me for coming here," he said. "They shouldn't be thanking me. I tell them I'm the lucky one."
    You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053.

    Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top