COLUMBIA — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is just one win away from 200 victories in his college coaching career – a milestone he barely recognizes.
Spurrier counts his wins in the NFL and USFL, so in his mind he is going after victory No. 247 on Saturday when the No. 8 Gamecocks take on Alabama-Birmingham. And second, he knows there are 70 other coaches in all levels of college football who have hit this same milestone.
“There are a bunch of dudes who have won 200 games. I don’t know how you brag about that too much,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “That means you’ve coached quite a few years and fortunate enough to stay healthy and not get fired.”
In Division I football, only three active coaches – Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer (253), Texas’ Mack Brown (229), and Nevada’s Chris Ault (227) – have more wins than Spurrier.
In the 25 years since Spurrier coached his first college game, the 1966 Heisman trophy winner has changed only a little. The 67-year-old still gets along with a slight limp, even after off-season knee replacement surgery to fix the joint worn down by his 10 years at quarterback in the NFL.
He isn’t considered the innovator he was early in his career, when he revolutionized offenses in the Southeastern Conference with the Fun ‘N’ Gun at Florida. South Carolina threw for 397 yards in last week’s win over East Carolina, the best mark since Spurrier joined the Gamecocks. His teams threw for more than 400 yards nine times with the Gators.
Still, Spurrier remains a winner.
The fact he has won more games than any other coach in Florida’s history is no surprise. His 57 wins at South Carolina are second in school history, and he needs only seven more wins needed to top the Gamecocks’ list. Spurrier spent just three years at Duke, but his 20 victories are still sixth on the school’s all-time coaching list.
Spurrier has had three losing seasons in his career – 5-6 in 1987, his first season at Duke and both of his seasons during his stint with the Washington Redskins.
Judging from his past, win No. 200 seems inevitable this weekend against UAB. Spurrier is 45-0 in his college career against teams from outside the BCS.
“They are very talented,” Blazers coach Garrick McGee said of the Gamecocks. “They have one of the best football coaches sitting on the sidelines in the history of the game, which gives them credibility immediately.”
Randy Cuthbert sensed that winning aura from the moment Spurrier stepped into his living room in eastern Pennsylvania to talk to the teenager who was playing quarterback in high school. Spurrier told Cuthbert he could play running back, and in his scheme, that would involve a lot of catching passes too. Cuthbert ran for 1,023 yards his freshman year, helping Duke to the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1989, Spurrier’s last season with the Blue Devils.
Spurrier left for Florida, and Cuthbert figured the coach was at the start of a long, successful career.
“I would have a hard time seeing him do anything else. When you are that good at something and you like doing it so much, why would you do anything else?” said Cuthbert, who is teaching math and coaching high school football in Pennsylvania.
And Spurrier still takes special interest in his offenses. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington said Spurrier gets out on the practice field with his receivers.
“He’s a quarterback, so he coaches everybody. He’s out there telling us how to run our routes, telling us how many steps to take and not to peek,” Ellington said.
There are still milestones left for Spurrier after this weekend, although many of them don’t interest him. He is second in the SEC in all time league wins at 117, trailing only Alabama’s Bear Bryant at 159.
“If I wanted to try to go for that I would have stayed at Florida,” Spurrier said.
What he is most interested in is championships. Spurrier would love to add to the six SEC titles he won at Florida by becoming the first coach to ever win the league title at South Carolina.
The coach said, “If we can walk out of Atlanta a winner, I’ll be a happy Gamecock – someday.”