HOOVER, Ala. -- He was bold, brash and as cocky as ever. He joked at the expense of Tennessee and Arkansas -- mocking the notion that the two programs were pleased with 7-6 seasons -- while dismissing the critics who don’t think his team can contend this year in the SEC East.
While there had been some chatter about it, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, standing comfortably behind the podium throughout his SEC Media Days news conference, made it clear he’s not thinking about calling it quits just yet.
The retirement talk, for now, can be put to rest.
“Well, like I told people, I breezed right through age 60, breezed right through 65, and I’m going to try my best to breeze right on through 70,” said Spurrier, who became a septuagenarian in April. “I can still remember just about everything. So mentally, I think I’m the same as I was.”
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With seven decades of life behind him and 36 total seasons of coaching under his belt, Spurrier officially has hit the territory, much like former college football coaches Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, where his potential retirement will be a recurring story line. But on Tuesday, Spurrier did his best to downplay any exit strategy while pumping his team’s perceived positives in light of apparent limitations, the same issues that briefly caused Spurrier to think about his future in the first place.
Spurrier is set to coach a team returning only four starters on offense and six on defense. The Gamecocks finished the 2014 season with a 7-6 record and endured a five-game run in which he lost four games (Missouri, Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee) by a combined 18 points while giving up an average of 38.3 points per game defensively. Spurrier acknowledged that stretch’s struggles and admitted the toll caused him to consider his future.
“Listen, you ever lost four out of five, you had a chance to win, and two of them by two touchdowns?” Spurrier asked. “You’ve never lost the way we were losing. It wears on you a little bit.”
Following a win over Miami in the Independence Bowl, Spurrier said he felt “rejuvenated” and is now on a mission to put South Carolina among the top 10 again.
His players have taken notice, too.
“He’s out there dancing and doing foot drills in practice,” junior place-kicker Elliott Fry said. “I’m sure he’s just as wild and crazy as he was 20 years ago.”
Added junior linebacker Skai Moore, “It’s the same type of energy. I don’t think his energy changes. He’s an upbeat guy, comes out every morning for workouts and gives us a speech. He told us to get ready for the upcoming season.”
Junior receiver Pharoh Cooper said no one in the South Carolina locker room ever thought Spurrier was serious about retirement. When Spurrier told the team he’d be back, Cooper said the players took him at his word.
“We trust that he’s going to stay,” Cooper said. “We heard some stuff about him retiring last year. But we haven’t heard anything about him quitting or retiring. We’re not worried about that, we’re just worried about this season.”
Spurrier is the second-oldest FBS head coach behind 75-year-old Bill Snyder of Kansas State. Even though he experienced a down season a year ago, Spurrier is ready to go through the grind of another college football season, one that can get rugged in the SEC.
“That retirement thing, I don’t think I’d be very good at it,” Spurrier said. “I can go to the beach and stay four or five days, and ‘Hey, let’s get on out of here. We’ve been here long enough.’ None of us know how long we’re going to be here. None of us know. All of us coaches, we all hope to coach a long time.”