HOOVER, Ala. — Steve Spurrier recently made news for insinuating that Alabama has underachieved under Nick Saban because they’ve sign the No. 1 recruiting class almost every year. He didn’t necessarily back off that stance at SEC Football Media Days when asked to clarify on Tuesday, though he was more complimentary of Saban’s ability to recruit than inability to win every game the Crimson Tide plays.
“They’ve done extremely well, there’s no question about that,” Spurrier said. “I just made a statement I think they’ve had five No. 1 recruiting classes in the last six years. That’s got to make him the greatest recruiter in the history of college. So arguably they’ve got the greatest collection of football players ever assembled on a college team. … So they’re the favorites. As long as they recruit like that they’re always going to be the best. Fortunately the team that plays the best is the team that wins, instead of maybe who all’s got the best players.”
Always one of the most entertaining coaches to speak here, Spurrier did not disappoint in his turn at the dais on Tuesday. But he has proven as good at winning games as he has gigging opponents.
South Carolina’s head ball coach is entering his 10th season with the Gamecocks, making his the first coach in SEC history to log at least 10 years with two different schools. He spent 12 seasons at the helm of his alma mater, Florida.
“I do still enjoy it,” Spurrier said in the main ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel. “I didn’t realize 10 in two places was a record. But I guess it is. Obviously you never know what your path in life is going to lead to. I left Florida thinking I was going to coach in the NFL five or six years and retire to the beach and travel around. That was a bad plan.”
Spurrier has won 72 percent of 187 games and a national championship as a college coach. After a failed two-year stint with the Washington Redskins, Spurrier was hired to rebuild South Carolina’s program in 2005.
“I was available and I was the only one they offered the job to,” Spurrier quipped. “I wanted to go out a winner, not a loser.”
He has done that. Spurrier has gone 77-39 with the Gamecocks and led them to three consecutive 11-2 seasons. But each season included a 6-2 mark in the SEC and they were unable to win the East. Winning South Carolina’s first overall SEC title is Spurrier’s passion.
“We’ve won a lot of games but only one division and no SECs,” the 69-year-old coach said. “So there’s a lot more we could do. … We tell our recruits, if you come here you can be on the first-ever SEC championship team, hopefully. We’ve been close but not close enough.”
Some think this could be the Gamecocks’ year to win the East again. The schedule sets up well, with Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee coming to Williams-Brice Stadium. But they lost a lot of talent off last year’s squad, including all-world defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelsey Quarles and quarterback Connor Shaw.
“We’ve got a pretty good team we think,” Spurrier said. “Most magazines have us nine, 10 or 11, somewhere in there. Hopefully we can live up to that.”
Some more fun and interesting comments from Spurrier:
On learning that South Carolina on Texas A&M will be playing for the Alamo Trophy, named for South Carolina-educated James Butler Bonham: “After hearing Bonham’s story, I’m sure he did some good things. But I always heard Davy Crockett was the hero of the Alamo, he and those 33 Tennessee guys who came in there and got killed and so forth.
Spurrier talked about South Carolina having one donor who had given the program more than $1 million when he got there. Now that number is 12 or 13, he said.
Of a recent trip in to go yachting in the Bahamas on the private jet of South Carolina donor Joe Rice: “I told him they’re like the owners of the team. They put up the money. The good thing about it, they don’t tell us what to do.”
On paying players: “Y’all all know I’m an advocate for giving some money to football and basketball players, those two sports. They bring in an awful lot of money for these schools.”