Steve Spurrier is calling it a career. Most in this situation would be getting killed for quitting on their program and setting a bad example by pulling the plug on a season, but the ol' ball coach has earned the right to decide when he wants to walk away.
So what if this feels like he's running away shrieking from the dumpster fire the Gamecocks have become this season? Spurrier has had enough success to get away with tossing his visor into the flames early.
When he was asked about retirement before the season began, the spry 70-year-old talked about hanging around through the decade. Due to the pressure recruiting puts on a program to promote stability and maintain it, he really had only two options in terms of an exit plan. Option A would've included appointing a designated successor, slowly handing off responsibilities and yielding control while collecting on a retirement tour. The second option, as unexpected as it seems, was to yank off the band-aid quickly and leave immediately. He's spent.
The Gamecocks may be in chaos for a few years, but ultimately, he'll have to trust that restoring the program's reputation during a terrific decade-long run will suffice to keep it from falling entirely off the map. Spurrier leaves as the all-time winningest coach in school history at both South Carolina and his alma mater, Florida. This will be a losing season, his first since he opened his head coaching career at Duke back in 1987. The way it's ending is undoubtedly a disappointment. Resigning immediately and retiring is akin to smashing the glass and reaching for the fire extinguisher for the ol' ball coach's sanity's sake.
Cue the carousel, coaching changes come early
Spurrier never intended for it to end like this, but the alternative is coaching the season out, losing to Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers in the final game and failing to make a bowl for only the second time since he arrived (2007) at South Carolina. His final game ended up being a 21-point road loss at LSU that was moved from Columbia to Baton Rouge due to flooding. Because they were displaced and the preparation was so off, Spurrier's Gamecocks really had no chance. To make matters worse, true freshman Lorenzo Nunez, by far the team's top QB, sat with a sprained throwing shoulder. Former walk-on Perry Orth ends up being Spurrier's last starting quarterback, a far cry from Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews or even Stephen Garcia or Connor Shaw.
Now it sounds like Nunez will also miss this weekend's home game against Vanderbilt, which means South Carolina could lose outright to the only SEC team on its remaining schedule that it can realistically beat. Spurrier wanted no part of that.
The Gamecocks have already been outscored 147-76 in four conference losses and still face trips to Texas A&M and Tennessee in addition to a home date with Florida. Spurrier is cutting his losses, sparing himself the indignity of potentially losing to Vandy, an opponent he's beaten six straight times. He won't have to watch Kevin Sumlin run up the score on him in Texas or fall victim to a Tennessee program he once terrorized and trash talked.
Spurrier is giving up his front row seat to watching the much improved Gators ride into town with a new head coach now walking in his former footsteps. He won't have to see Swinney, who he had beaten five straight times prior to last year's loss, get in one last lick. This is walking away for pride's sake, and it wouldn't be like the Spurrier we've come to know to let his shield of bravado be melted away by being foolishly prideful and sticking around. Why give any of his rivals the satisfaction? .
He saw Bobby Bowden pushed out at FSU. His old punching bag Philip Fulmer at Tennessee was ran out of town too. Here, he's the one stepping down, doing it so abruptly that it gave the college football world whiplash. Who can get away with pulling something like this? Kansas State's Bill Snyder and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer lead a very short list.
The iconic Spurrier managed to get the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore to play at South Carolina. Although it's been a down year, he'll leave his successor some talent in the cupboard and a program that's in a better place than it was when he inherited it. He won 86 games in 10-plus years and had consecutive 11-win seasons from '11-'13, making the Gamecocks relevant. As he steps down, only Bear Bryant has won more SEC games. As strange as it sounds,Spurrier can quit with his head held high.
You'll definitely hear critics pipe up over the next few days and accuse Spurrier of bailing on South Carolina when it needs him most, but contrast his departure with the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian at USC, Randy Edsall at Maryland and Dan McCarney at North Texas. Spurrier got unprecedented results and hung around for over a full decade. Edsall underachieved drastically. Sarkisian did less with more talent and departs as perhaps the most wasteful coach in USC history. That he leaves in disgrace due to a drinking problem serves to mask what an awful job he did in every area but recruiting.
McCarney's record at UNT in Denton was 0-5 this season. His Mean Green was outscored 246-74 following a 66-7 loss to FCS member Portland State that spelled the end of his tenure. Edsall was embarrassed by his AD and left hung out to dry after a 2-4 start. Never mind that he put together back-to-back winning seasons that ended in bowl losses. He played scapegoat and sacrificial lamb too perfectly. Same goes with Sark. USC AD Pat Haden wouldn't have had as easy a time firing a coach who didn't come up short on the field. Instead, patience and compassion went out the window.
In the business of college football, loyalty is often imaginary. Winning is all that matters. You're only as good as your last success. Spurrier knew there wouldn't be many good times ahead and cut his losses instead. His body of work trumps all else, including an unceremonious exit. The farewell tour wasn't necessary. Thanks for the memories, Coach.
NCAA Football Week 6 recap snapshot
1. TCU 52 Kansas State 45, 2. Tennessee 38 Georgia 31, 3. Utah 30 Cal 24
1. Luke Falk, Washington St.: 50-74 505 yds 5 TDs at Oregon, 2. Trevone Boykin, TCU: 20-30 301 yds 2 TD, 11-124 rushing yds, 2 TD vs. Texas, 3. Josh Dobbs 25-42 312 yds 3 TD, 118 rushing yds, 2 TD vs Georgia.
1. TCU WR Josh Doctson caught a 55-yd TD pass from Boykin with 1:10 left to snap a 45-45 tie in Manhattan. 2. Utah stops Cal QB Jared Goff on 4th and 5 from the 21-yard-line to remain unbeaten when Boobie Hobbs made a great play to break up a would-be first down. The Utes secondary dominated with five interceptions. 3. FSU's Dalvin Cook made it clear that he was 100 percent, running 72 yards to open the scoring against rival Miami, part of a 222-yard rushing night in a 29-24 win
Best coaching jobs:
1. Coming off an embarrassing loss to TCU, Texas head coach Charlie Strong got his Longhorns to regroup and deliver their best performance of the season in a shocking upset of Oklahoma. 2. With a 38-0 rout of Northwestern, head coach Jim Harbaugh registered his third consecutive shutout and provided an eye-opening win over the undefeated Wildcats in Ann Arbor. 3. Although the Ducks look like a shell of themselves, going into Eugene and emerging with a win the way Washington State's Mike Leach managed in a 45-38 comeback OT win at Autzen Stadium is a terrific victory.
Worst coaching jobs:
1. As stated above, North Texas' McCarney lost 66-7 at home to Portland State in a result that can only mean one thing -- his team quit on him. 2. UCF's George O'Leary remained winless despite getting starting QB Justin Holman back, falling 40-13 at home to UConn. Considering he let UConn head coach Bob Diaco become the subject of national ridicule by claiming no knowledge of the silly CIvil Conflict rivalry the new Huskies coach wanted him to embrace, it serves O'Leary right that he got embarrassed at home. Expect him to step down at season's end. 3. Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter saw his team outscored 49-7 over the last three quarters in a 56-14 loss to a Utah State squad forced to play backup Kent Myers for the injured Chuckie Keeton..
Close calls and bad beats:
This one hurt. Central Michigan and Western Michigan put on a great show in Kalamazoo, but I was on the Broncos side against the Chippewas and tasted a nasty beat. Laying 5, Western was up all afternoon and led 31-19 entering the 4th, but allowed the Chips to claw back into it. Leading 41-39 as they looked to run out the clock, WMU got inside the 10-yard line and passed on a field goal on 4th and 3, going for the game-clinching first down. Top WR Corey Davis made a great grab at the goal line to get the first down, but was clearly down short of breaking the plane. With the first down secured, the Broncos just took knees to run out the clock on a 41-39 win. It was definitely a cover that got away.
Pitt was laying somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-9 at home against Virginia and dominated the first quarter, leading 17-3. It was the type of game where it looked like they could and should go up double-digits and maintain a firm grip on the cover, but ended up winning just 26-19.
Wisconsin and Nebraska played a teeter-totter game that could've gone either way and featured multiple lead changes inside the final five minutes as the cursed 'Huskers lost for the third time this season on the game's final play. Kicker Rafael Gaglianone, who had missed a 39-yarder with 1:26 left. Nebraska failed to get a first down, the Badgers utilized their timeouts correctly and Gaglianone came through from 46 yards. Wisconsin was favored anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 and won 23-21. Money line works best for small road favorites.
Oklahoma State's OT win at West Virginia, Notre Dame laying two TDs against Navy, BYU -9.5 against ECU and Florida State laying 6-ish against Miami all came down to the final few minutes as drama ruled Saturday night. TCU nearly got a backdoor cover they had no business flirting with on Kansas State, but went into victory formation after recovering a Wildcats fumble inside the 5-yard line.
The cover that you're telling your friends about for weeks came thanks to Troy, which was getting 30/31 at Mississippi State and trailed 45-14 in a game where they were down 38-0 at the half. The Bulldogs clearly took their foot off the gas, but still had Troy beat until the Trojans sent out kicker Jed Solomon to make a 21-yard field goal with just 27 seconds to go, covering the spread (45-17) and aggravating all chalk-eaters.
Georgia RB Nick Chubb (Knee, OFY), USC C Max Tuerk (Knee, OFY), UCLA WR/S Mossi Johnson (Knee/OFY), Wisconsin Austin Traylor (Arm, Out 4-8 weeks)
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