COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier insists he’ll know when to say when.
He’s even more adamant that nobody will have to tell him when.
The reality is that the Head Ball Coach is nearing the end of a Hall of Fame coaching career. He’s already been enshrined as a player. Now, it’s time to write the final chapter on what’s been a brilliant coaching career.
Spurrier, who turns 65 next week, admits that it hasn’t gone exactly as planned at South Carolina. But he also says he hasn’t lost his edge, or his fire.
“My fire is going up,” Spurrier said. “Maybe it’s because [freshman quarterback] Connor Shaw is here and some of these other guys, these offensive linemen we’ve got coming in and [freshman running back] Marcus Lattimore, Cliff Matthews and Stephon Gilmore on defense. We’ve got some really good guys over there on defense that can play.
“Who knows what’s going to happen? But we still have hope we can win an SEC championship.”
One thing that won’t happen, according to Spurrier, is that he would ever allow the program to get to a level where he’s forced out or even fired.
“If it starts going bad, that’s when a coach who’s been there for a while … that’s when he’s got to say, ‘It’s just not working,’” Spurrier said. “One thing that’s important to me as a coach is that I never want to be fired. It may not bother a lot of people. But, personally, I’d like to retire from coaching and the university isn’t going to owe me a lot of money, because I’ll be finished. I don’t ever want to be paid for not working.
“I don’t know why I’m like that. Most people say, 'Get all you can. Get a long-term contract, and if they fire your ass, you’ve got a lot of money coming,' but I don’t want that. I walked away from that Redskins thing with a bunch of money on the table. But I didn’t get fired. I said, ‘I’ve had it here and you can have it,’ and they gave me a little chump money to leave.
“That’s important to me, to say that I coached a bunch of years and never got fired. There are very, very few coaches who can say that.”
Even though Spurrier might not have necessarily predicted an SEC championship by now, he did think the program would be further along heading into his sixth season.
The Gamecocks have lost six games in three of his five seasons, and each of the last two years have ended with ugly bowl losses where a lot of the players looked like they were just going through the motions.
“I thought we’d be further ahead, but we’ve made mistakes in recruiting,” Spurrier said. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes. We’ve not signed as many guys who turned out to be good players as we needed to. I think we had one offensive lineman drafted in the seventh round or so, but he wasn’t any great player. We ended up taking some guys we thought could play who ended up not playing very well. I’ve made some mistakes on quarterbacks, too. That’s on me.
“But what gives me hope is Connor Shaw, Marcus Lattimore, the freshman offensive linemen we signed, Kelcy Quarles and all the good, young defensive players we have here in the program. I’m excited for the future right now, and I’m hoping Stephen Garcia will change his ways a little bit and get fired up about being a great quarterback. That’s the position we have to get better at. And, again, I’ve not done a good enough job recruiting or coaching that position.”
Previously, Spurrier had said that 66 was about as long as he wanted to go, which would be one more year.
But he’s sort of backing off that now, at least publicly.
“I never thought I’d coach into my 60s,” he said. “I got to be 60 and said, ‘Wait a minute. I feel better now than I did when I was 40,’ because I work out more now than I did when I was 40.
“So maybe I’ll go four or five more years. I guess I’ve been saying that for 10 years now.”
As he’s aged, Spurrier has mellowed somewhat in terms of zinging his rivals. Spurrier, though, says age has nothing to do with it. He simply hasn’t been in a position lately to zing anybody.
The barbs between he and Lane Kiffin made for good theater last year when Kiffin was at Tennessee, but Kiffin’s now on the West Coast at Southern California.
Spurrier shrugged when asked if he were going to miss having Kiffin around in the SEC.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’d say the commissioner [Mike Slive] is probably the happiest guy that he’s gone,” Spurrier quipped. “Something tells me he’s sleeping a lot better.”