Steve Spurrier: The Legacy

Three thousand nine hundred and seventy-five days. 

The Spurrier Era lasted just shy of 11 years. 

What a ride it was.

It began with a brawl. Days after an bad performance between the whistles against Clemson and an embarrassing showing after them, the Gamecocks were without a head coach. Lou Holtz was retiring after going 11-12 in his final two seasons and South Carolina was in the market for a new head coach for the first time since 1998. 

The job didn't stay open long.

A day after Holtz stepped down, Steve Spurrier stepped up to the podium and invoked the rallying cry from that year's World Series champion, the Boston Red Sox.

Why not us? 

With Spurrier at the helm, South Carolina became ESPN's Thursday night favorite. Five snaps into the 2005 season against UCF, Blake Mitchell kicked off the Cock 'N' Fire offense with a 49-yard touchdown to Noah Whiteside. A Gamecock team that had thrown 12 touchdown passes in 2004 threw 20 in Spurrier's first season. South Carolina won five SEC games in a row, the longest streak the program had ever seen. The Gamecocks beat Tennessee in Knoxville on the night Peyton Manning had his jersey retired. They beat Florida in Columbia in Urban Meyer's first season. They finished 7-5, the team's best record since 2001. 

In 2006, Spurrier got Clemson for the first time as a Gamecock, watching his team rally from 14 points down to win 31-28. He then watched his quarterback outduel Kevin Kolb as the Gamecocks knocked off Art Briles and the Houston Cougars in a 44-36 shootout in the Liberty Bowl, South Carolina's first bowl win in five seasons.

2007 may have been the year that Spurrier realized he wasn't at Florida anymore. The Gamecocks stormed to a 6-1 start, including a 16-12 win over Georgia between the hedges, and a #6 national ranking before being upset by Vanderbilt and going 0-for-5 in their final five games of the year. South Carolina would miss out on the postseason for the first time in Spurrier's tenure. Eight years later, it hasn't happened again. 

A long-haired sword enthusiast of a quarterback was the story in 2008. The Gamecocks returned to the postseason, but were beat up by Iowa. Four years into his tenure, Spurrier was 28-22. Maybe the game had passed him by. Maybe winning at South Carolina was a job even the Head Ball Coach couldn't do.

The 2009 season saw the Gamecocks upset #4 Ole Miss on a Thursday night and knock off ACC division champion Clemson, but a humiliating 20-7 loss to UConn in Birmingham ended the season on a sour note. After five years in Columbia and average results, Spurrier needed a breakthrough. 

He found it in a freshman running back from Duncan. With an 18-year old he trusted to win games, Spurrier and the Gamecocks embarked on one of the most memorable seasons in program history. South Carolina beat Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Clemson, winning the SEC East and making the school's first ever appearance in the conference championship. 

2011 could have been the most tumultuous season of Spurrier's tenure. A quarterback battle turned into the dismissal of South Carolina's starter. Instead of crumbling, Spurrier's team soared, winning the most games in the history of the program. The Gamecocks capped the campaign by beating Clemson by 21 and Nebraska by 17, giving the school it's first 11-win season. 

2012 was more of the same. The Gamecocks climbed as high as #3 in the polls during the season, humiliated Georgia with College Gameday in town, knocked off Clemson on the road with a backup quarterback leading the offense, then rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Michigan for another 11-2 year. 

2013 nearly went off the rails several times. An early loss to Georgia, a comeback over Central Florida and a road loss to Tennessee provided plenty of questions about the Gamecocks. Then, the undersized quarterback that Spurrier turned into one of the most beloved players in program history led the Gamecocks to 17 points in 13 minutes against Missouri. The miracle in Columbia turned into six consecutive wins, including the fifth win in a row over Clemson and South Carolina's school-record 18th straight at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks knocked off Wisconsin on New Year's Day for their third consecutive 11-2 season.

Then, the slide began. 

It always comes eventually, but that didn't make things easier for fans or Spurrier to swallow. A record-setting offense was undercut by the worst defense in school history, leading to a 7-6 season in 2014, albeit one with a fourth straight bowl win, this one over Miami. 

2015 has not gone the way anyone in garnet and black wanted it to go. Spurrier said that when things "went bad," he would step aside. The time has come. Spurrier will be remembered partly for the final chapter and that's fair. He was at the helm and he made the decisions.

However, the last year and a half of average to bad does not erase the good. 

86 wins, 44 in the SEC. 72 games played while ranked in the top-25. 19 wins over ranked opponents. Nine bowl appearances. Five bowl wins. Six wins over Clemson. Five wins over Georgia. Five wins over Florida. Five wins over Tennessee. A division championship. 

Steve Spurrier was the greatest football coach in Gamecock history.

Just think about how incredibly surreal that sentence is.