Back to school time for ol' ball coach

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Steve Spurrier might give his brash,
visor-throwing style an overhaul now that he has returned to
college football.

Spurrier took over at South Carolina on Tuesday, signing a
seven-year deal worth $1.25 million a season that could grow to
more than $2 million with incentives. He pledged to turn the
Gamecocks into the consistent champion he built for 12 seasons at

But the ol' ball coach comes back following a dose of humility,
after going 12-20 in two pitiful seasons as the Washington Redskins
coach in 2002 and 2003.

"Maybe I was a little arrogant. Maybe I ran my mouth more than
I should," Spurrier said. "Human nature comes down and causes you
maybe to feel you've got more answers than you really do when
you've got a real good team.

"So hopefully, I've learned some humility and great respect for
all coaches," he said.

Is this the same man who quipped you can't spell the Citrus Bowl
without UT (Tennessee)? Or called Florida State, "Free Shoes
University?" Or recounted how a Gator receiver told him it was
nice of Gamecocks fans to wear all black -- it was a "Black Out
Florida" effort -- so they could easily see the football in a 56-17
rout at Williams-Brice Stadium three seasons ago?

"When they see what he can do on the field, people will be
happy with him," said South Carolina assistant David Reaves, the
son of Spurrier's former assistant at Florida, John Reaves.

The 59-year-old Spurrier, who replaces Lou Holtz, led the Gators
to six Southeastern Conference titles and the 1996 national
championship. He seemingly could have stayed in Gainesville, Fla.,
forever, but abruptly resigned in 2001 and began a disastrous stint
with the Redskins.

Spurrier left the NFL after last season and then waited for the
right college job to open.

"You could see he was getting anxious," said his wife, Jerri.

There was a strong push from some Florida followers for Spurrier
to return to his old position at The Swamp after coach Ron Zook was
fired. But Spurrier pulled out of the running and said again
Tuesday that 12 years at the same university was enough.

When Holtz told athletic director Mike McGee he planned to
resign, South Carolina officials went after Spurrier. McGee
contacted Spurrier and negotiations were handled quickly.

Spurrier said the school's focus on him was appealing, unlike at
Florida, where he would have had to go through the interview

"Dr. McGee said, 'I'm going to exhaust my search with you
before I go to the next guy,' " Spurrier said. "He didn't have to
go to the next guy."

Spurrier met with his new team and found them eager and ready to
push forward.

"We've got everything here," Spurrier said. "I'd like to
borrow a phrase from the Boston Red Sox: Why not us? Why not the
University of South Carolina Gamecocks?"

Perhaps because the 67-year-old Holtz is the only coach to win
more than one bowl game in 111 seasons of South Carolina football.
The Gamecocks' lone championship came in 1969 as members of the
Atlantic Coast Conference.

But quarterback Ingle Martin said not to sell Spurrier short.
Martin was a Spurrier recruit at Florida who transferred to
Division I-AA Furman after the coach left for Washington.

"I wouldn't bet against him if he had both hands tied behind
his back at his execution," Martin said.

If Spurrier wants to win the SEC at South Carolina, he'll have to
get past his former team, which was 10-0 against the Gamecocks
while Spurrier was the Florida coach.

Those games figured to be tough on Spurrier, who said he is not
looking forward to his first matchup with his alma mater, next Nov.
12 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Spurrier went 20-13-1 in three seasons at Duke before taking
over at Florida in 1990. He posted 122 victories over 12 seasons,
tormented opponents with his offensive flair and witty one-liners,
and departed with the best winning percentage in league history.

The executive committee of the school trustees approved the deal
for Spurrier. Incentives include $250,000 for winning the Bowl
Championship Series, $100,000 for becoming national coach of the
year and $150,000 for winning the Southeastern Conference
championship game.

The contract has a $250,000 a year buyout clause for both sides.
Should Spurrier retire and not take another job, he owes the
university nothing.

"Maybe we're prejudiced now for Steve Spurrier," McGee said.
"That wasn't always the case."