Originally created 11/23/04

S.C. hires Spurrier as football coach



COLUMBIA, S.C. Ñ Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina on Tuesday, returning to the college ranks after a three-year absence.

The former Florida coach replaces Lou Holtz, who retired Monday. Spurrier got a seven-year deal worth $1.25 million a season that could go over $2 million with incentives.

Spurrier led the Gators to a national championship in 1996 and six Southeastern Conference titles before abruptly resigning in 2001 to join the Washington Redskins. But he had little success in the NFL, going 12-20 before leaving.

The ol' ball coach is ready to make South Carolina a winner.

"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?"

Spurrier wants to win a conference championship, something Holtz never did in his six seasons at the school. But he has to get past his former team, which was 10-0 against South Carolina while Spurrier was the Gators 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.

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," athletic director Mike McGee said. "That wasn't always the case."

There was much speculation that Spurrier would return to Florida next season, following the recent firing of Ron Zook. But Spurrier pulled out of the running, saying 12 years at one school was enough.

Spurrier, 59, 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 67-year-old Holtz retired Monday after 33 seasons, with 249 victories, eighth-most in Division I-A, and a reputation for turning stumbling programs into winners. At each of his six schools Ñ William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina Ñ Holtz went to bowl games by his second season.

His greatest accomplishment came in 1988, when he led Notre Dame to the national title only three seasons after the disastrous Gerry Faust era ended.

His latest reconstruction project at South Carolina was nearly as remarkable. He came out of retirement in 1998 at age 61 to rebuild the Gamecocks. After going 0-11 his first season in Columbia, Holtz brought South Carolina to its best two-year mark in history (17-7) and won consecutive Outback Bowls.

"I don't know where I'm going to go. I don't know what I'm going to do. I have faith in the Lord to let him lead me. As long as my family's with me, everything else will be OK," Holtz said. "But I do feel confident leaving here that the football program is on a firm foundation."