I've had my share of controversial quotes aired or published. But in talking to the media, I always strove for accuracy, clarity, and honesty. And sometimes a little fun. A few quotes attributed to me, however, I did not say. Most I did. And all the silly jokes and funny comments were in the off-season.
Over the years I've saved certain special comments for Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee, and FSU. And I always stood behind the quotes I actually made.
Probably my favorite quote was a comment I made on why South Carolina always preferred playing Georgia early in the season.
I said, "I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended." Their AD, Greg McGarity, who I knew when he was at Florida, remarked: "How can you be mad at him for saying that? It's the truth!" A few Bulldog fans even came up to me and said, "I like that one!" Apparently, even our rivals sometimes agreed with my comments about their teams.
A lot of this back and forth began my first year at Florida in response to some of the stuff said by Georgia fans and coaches. And it sort of carried over to South Carolina.
Clemson was a natural target while I was at South Carolina and enjoyed trading light jabs with Dabo Swinney. Dabo and I seemed to enjoy going back and forth. Clemson, of course, has nicknamed its Memorial Stadium Death Valley. So just to have a little fun, I was talking to the media one day when I suggested there were several stadiums with that name -- one being LSU's in Baton Rouge.
I said, "Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley. That [LSU's] is the Death Valley, isn't it? Or is there another one? There's two of them? That's right, there's two Death Valleys. Was LSU the first one or the second one? They were first? Oh, okay."
Dabo fired back, saying for sure his stadium was "the original" Death Valley. And then he added: "I am pretty sure that is accurate, but I can see where he might have had a little confusion. Our guys have never been to USC. California is a long way from here. I can see where there might be a little confusion there -- two Death Valleys and two USCs, but there is only one real one. That is classic Spurrier. When he is winning, you can say anything you want. He is one of the best."
One quote I did not make, but that was originally attributed to me following our 34-13 win over Clemson in 2011: Todd Ellis, our play-by-play announcer, was actually the one who said, "We aren't LSU and we aren't Alabama. But we sure ain't Clemson."
Unfortunately, that quote got picked up on our official Twitter account and it was assumed I said it.
Coach Swinney fired back: "They ain't Alabama. They ain't LSU. And they're certainly not Clemson. That's why Carolina's in Chapel Hill and USC's in California and the university in this state always has been, always will be Clemson ... You can print that, tweet that, whatever."
Eventually my friend Dabo and I got that cleared up and now we can look back at it and laugh.
Then somehow Dabo and I got to talking about planets and he said about me: "He's from Pluto, and I'm from Mars."
And I responded: "Dabo probably thinks there's only, what, nine planets out there? I think I read where Pluto may not be considered one now." Since I also don't believe in going off the record, everything I said for print or broadcast was often quite candid. My quotes were not contrived. Sometimes they were just spontaneous.
Other times in the off-season when I spoke to alumni groups and told jokes, they were meant to stir up a little fun, or in some cases use humor to point out a discrepancy or a serious issue. Such as the shoe scandal in Tallahassee during Florida State's national championship season in 1993 when agents were found to have bought more than $6,000 worth of shoes for Seminoles players.
At a Gator Club meeting the next year, I said: "You know what FSU stands for, don't you? Free Shoes University." That one stuck.
A lot of times us coaches would use humorous stuff to fire up our fan bases in the off-season. I just enjoyed commenting and joking about our opponents. And they told jokes on us and it never bothered me. Including Bobby Bowden! You'll never see me upset when somebody says something about us.
So just like my visor, my quotes were very much a part of who I am and how I coached.
Sometimes it was a case of reacting to a question. One day in Hoover, Alabama, during SEC Media Days 2014, I was asked about the newly created trophy that would go to the winner of the South Carolina-Texas A&M game. The award is a bronze sculpture of James Bonham, a South Carolina student who would become a hero at the Battle of the Alamo. And so I remarked: "I don't know. I was raised in Tennessee and we were always taught that Davy Crockett was the hero of the Alamo."
A little later, after reading the story of James Bonham, I added: "I'm sure this guy Bonham was a hero and did a lot of good."
Truthfully, I don't look back at what I said unless it's called to my attention. But the editors of this book asked me to go over the list of my quotes they dug out for verification. And here are the ones that I claim:
At SEC Media Days 2015 when I had been asked so many times about retiring, I opened with this remark to the media: "A lot of familiar faces out there. I would've figured a bunch of you guys would have retired by now." On retirement: "Somebody said, 'Why are you still coaching?' I said, 'Well, I forgot to get fired, and I'm not going to cheat.' That's about the only way you lose your job: You get fired for losing or you cheat and then they get somebody else. I've not done any of those to any extent big-time, I guess."
On critics: "I know the critics are out there. That's why they're called 'critics.' They criticize everything. We gave them something to criticize [in 2014]."
On playing more than one quarterback: "I've been a coach to play two quarterbacks. You can win with two. Nothing in the rule book that says you have to play with one."
On managing players at my age, I made mention of Pope Francis, and it was one of my favorites: "They appointed this guy, and he's seventy-seven years old, and he's the leader of a billion people in the world. They call him the pope, and he replaced a guy that was eighty-five years old. So if he can be the leader of over a billion people worldwide, surely I can get eleven guys on the field."
An old joke I used many times at speaking engagements, about at a fire that burned twenty books at an Auburn University football dorm: "But the real tragedy was that fifteen hadn't been colored yet!"
To a photographer as our team posed in the Georgia Dome in December 1995 after winning our third of four consecutive SEC championships: "This is becoming our annual team picture."
A reporter asked who our punter Josh Korn was: "I'm not sure, but I think he's Jimmy Crack's brother."
Asked about a streaker who ran onto the field: "In my experience, I've learned women are better streakers."
Asked by Tennessee reporters how I felt being in "Big Orange Country": "I thought this was Vanderbilt country."
When Jadeveon Clowney got a speeding ticket: "I didn't know Jadeveon's car could go that fast. He doesn't have a pretty car like those FSU guys used to drive."
When the Gators were playing at Tennessee's newly refurbished Neyland Stadium facility, asked at halftime how loud it was: "It was really loud, possibly louder than the Swamp. And then the game started."
At a Gator Club meeting in Orlando in the summer of 1997 after Tennessee had played in the Citrus Bowl three straight years: "You can't spell Citrus Bowl without a UT in it."
After our kicker Josh Brown made a career-long forty-nine-yard field goal to beat Tennessee 16-15 at Neyland Stadium in 2005: "I've finally got a new line: 'God is smiling on the Gamecocks.'"
And finally, this next one is not my quote. It was a story written and told by writer Chris Harry, then with The Tampa Tribune. He and his wife had gone to the movies and their babysitter answered the phone when I called, for some reason I've forgotten. It went like this, according to Harry:
She asked, "Is this Coach Spurrier? This is Christine. I'm Jeff Mitchell's girlfriend." [Mitchell was one of our best our offensive linemen.]
"Jeff Mitchell's girlfriend?" I responded. "Jeff Mitchell jumped offsides today!"
I guess it's true. After all, we coaches take advantage of every teaching opportunity we can get!
From the upcoming book "Head Ball Coach" by Steve Spurrier, reprinted with permission from Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin USA. Click here for more information or to pre-order a copy.