COLUMBIA — Between practices and team events during South Carolina’s trip to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl last month, Steve Spurrier let athletics director Ray Tanner know how important his second home has become.
Gamecocks assistant salaries:
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward: $750,000
Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Shawn Elliott: $430,000
Receivers coach/passing game coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr.: $380,000
Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus: $295,000
Special teams coordinator Joe Robinson: $350,000
Running backs coach Everrette Sands: $250,000
Defensive line coach Deke Adams: $300,000
Linebackers coach Kirk Botkins: $300,000
Secondary coach Grady Brown: $250,000
They were talking about the future, about Spurrier’s plans after his inevitable retirement, when the Head Ball Coach said he wanted to stay in Columbia. Never mind if Florida is the place Spurrier attended school, the state where he spent most of his adult life. Almost a decade in the Palmetto State has left a permanent mark.
Tanner appreciated the sentiment. He started to brainstorm.
The result was a new career opportunity for Spurrier after his coaching days end. South Carolina’s board of trustees voted Thursday to give Spurrier the option to become a “special advisor” to Tanner and university president Harris Pastides following retirement.
“The idea for me and Dr. Pastides — if I may speak for him — is the fact that coach Spurrier was a Heisman Trophy winner, he’s an iconic coach, he’s a hall of famer,” Tanner said. “He’s been so important to this university and our football program. If he was going to remain here, when and if he ever does retire, that it would be a great opportunity for us to continue that relationship in some capacity.”
Tanner made one thing clear: Spurrier isn’t rushing into retirement.
South Carolina’s trustees voted Thursday to approve contract extensions and raises for Spurrier and his assistant coaches, which should keep the Gamecocks’ football staff intact for the first time since Spurrier was hired in 2005.
Spurrier became the ninth-highest paid coach in college football with a $700,000 raise, lifting his annual salary to $4 million. The Head Ball Coach also received a one-year extension, which will carry through the 2018 football season. Incentive bonuses for him and his staff also increased.
Spurrier is the fourth-highest paid coach in the SEC, behind Alabama’s Nick Saban, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and LSU’s Les Miles. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney earns $2,550,024 annually, and his contract expires after the 2017 season.
“It’s the marketplace,” Tanner said. “… We probably have been a little bit below the marketplace. This doesn’t put us at the top, but it changes it somewhat for our assistant coaches and for coach Spurrier.”
Spurrier will be 73 years old when his current contract expires. Regardless, Tanner does not expect Thursday’s extension to be Spurrier’s last as South Carolina’s coach.
No definitive timeline for Spurrier’s retirement has been set, Tanner said. With Spurrier still at the top of his profession, none needs to be.
“Age is just a number,” Tanner said. “He’s in great shape. He works out every day. I’m glad I’m not following him around. I don’t think anybody in this room would want to work out with him today. I feel very good about where he is, and I really mean that. Age is just a number when you’re talking about coach Spurrier.
“I hope he coaches, as I was chatting with him, he said ‘many, many years.’ He used ‘many’ two times. ‘Many, many years,’ and that’s all good with me.”
Contract discussions began shortly after South Carolina beat Clemson in late November, its fifth straight victory over the in-state rival. Tanner said Spurrier was mostly concerned for his assistant coaches from the beginning of their talks.
Each assistant coach received a two-year contract extension, except defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. Ward received a three-year extension that will expire following the 2016 season.
Each assistant coach also received a raise. Ward’s salary increased to $750,000, a $100,000 raise that would make him the ninth-highest paid coordinator in college football during 2013. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris earns $1.3 million annually, while defensive coordinator Brent Venables earns $800,000 annually.
The assistant coaches will earn a combined $3.3 million next year.
“We appreciate the attitude of our board of trustees in keeping our salaries competitive with the rest of the SEC,” Spurrier said in a statement released by the university. “We all hope to coach here many more years, and we still have some goals that have not been accomplished yet.”
South Carolina finished this season ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, its highest final ranking in program history. The Gamecocks also concluded their third straight season with an 11-2 record and six SEC wins.
The building of South Carolina’s football program is not complete. Despite the shiny accomplishments from the Spurrier era, the Gamecocks have yet to capture an elusive SEC title.
After Thursday, the school ensured Spurrier can be part of South Carolina football’s growth after he stops coaching, whenever that may be.
“I think he could make an impact for us on development calls,” Tanner said. “I don’t know too many donors in the country who would not be excited about having coach Spurrier visit for a lunch, or maybe a round of golf. I think he brings that kind of passion and enthusiasm.”