HOOVER, Ala. — Steve Spurrier doesn’t think he’d be very good at retirement.
“I can go to the beach and stay four or five days, and, then hey, let’s get on out of here,” said South Carolina’s head football coach. “We’ve been here long enough.”
Even at 70, there’s no slowing Spurrier, who’s still coaching, still exercising, still letting fly with one quip after another, and Tuesday still proved able to charm an SEC Media Days crowd curious as to why the league’s foremost septuagenarian has not yet hung up his visor.
He certainly seemed close to that last season, after an overtime loss to Tennessee that marked USC’s third fourth-quarter collapse. He left his postgame media conference without taking questions, he admitted the defeats took a toll on him, he sparked a debate over how much longer he might coach. He said he was on a two- to three-year plan, then on a four- to five-year plan, and in the end appeared rejuvenated by a bowl victory over Miami.
And Tuesday he was vintage Spurrier, spry and needling, giving as good as he got. “I figured a bunch of you guys would have retired by now,” he told a room full of reporters after taking to the dais. One after another, the questions came about his age and how much longer he wants to coach. One after another, Spurrier answered them as only he can.
“Somebody said, ‘Why are you still coaching?’ I said, ‘Well, I forgot to get fired, and I’m not going to cheat.’ That’s about the way you lose your job,” said Spurrier, entering his 11th season at USC. “You get fired for losing or you cheat, and then they get somebody else. So I’ve not done any of those to any extent big time, I guess.”
He said he works out more during the season than most coaches do. He said the addition of new coordinator Jon Hoke makes him believe the Gamecocks will be better on defense than they were in last season’s 7-6 campaign. He said his whole family is in Columbia except for one daughter Amy, who lives in Panama City, Fla. And she still came to every game last year.
“But the big thing is, we’re winning. That’s the big thing,” said Spurrier, who enjoyed three consecutive 11-win seasons before last year. “We’re winning, and it’s fun. And we still have never won an SEC (championship). Nobody gives us a chance this year, which is good. Stranger things have happened. We still have lofty goals. But we need to return to being a top-10 team. I don’t think we’re too far away from returning to that.”
Spurrier’s players don’t see their coach as someone who turned 70 in April. “Not at all,” said junior linebacker Skai Moore. “Coach seems like he’s in his early 20s to me. That’s how he reacts to the players. Just very lively, a player’s coach. We all love him.”
Moore said he never thought Spurrier would quit after last season. Neither did place-kicker Elliott Fry. “Absolutely not,” Fry said. “I don’t think that went through anybody’s head on the team at all.”
Spurrier said he breezed through 60 and 65, and “I’m going to try my best to breeze right on through 70,” he added. And he points out that he’s not alone.
“There’s a lot of coaches out there, we’re all similar age. Mike Krzyzewski just won the national championship (at Duke). I think there are two people running for president, Hillary (Clinton) and (Donald) Trump, they’re both within a year of me,” Spurrier told a small group of reporters before taking the stage.
“But age is just a number we all have on our birth certificate and so forth. If you’re able to think and move around and do what’s necessary, then you’re not too old. I don’t know what (the critics) are trying to say. Maybe they think I’ve done it long enough and been fortunate to win so much. But I’ve got a wonderful situation at South Carolina.”