BLYTHEWOOD — True, most American males aren’t quite as physically effective at 70 as they were at 40, 50 or 60, at least not without prescription medication. Exceptions include reaching to pick up a check, though that’s more when the grandkids are in town and less with golf buddies.
There is no denying that Steve Spurrier is a senior citizen recruiting teenagers who weren’t alive when his Florida Gators won the 1996 national championship. South Carolina’s head football coach is older than Dabo Swinney (45) and Connor Shaw (23) combined.
But storylines about Spurrier nearing the end of his career just because he is one of the few major college coaches born during World War II are as off-target as a Tennessee Titans forward pass.
Ageless football truth: Coaching tenures are determined by wins and losses, not birthdays. If Spurrier quits in the next year or two, the retirement announcement will come after the Gamecocks have settled into the bottom half of the SEC East and he can’t stand the losing.
He sure doesn’t look 70. He works out like a high school track athlete. His sons Steve Jr. and Scotty are on the South Carolina coaching staff. This is a Spurrier family Camelot likely to keep going another half-decade or so, if the Gamecocks keep having winning seasons.
That “if” part is tethered to the disappointing 7-6 record in 2014 that followed three straight 11-2 seasons, and the grind of 2015.
“We think we have a very competitive team, and that’s as much as I’m willing to predict,” Spurrier said Wednesday after finishing in the winning foursome at his annual golf tournament at Cobblestone Park Golf Club.
Spurrier was way more feisty last week when he hastily called a news conference to rip Gamecock “enemies” using his age in team critiques.
Perhaps not coincidentally, South Carolina last weekend made headway on the recruiting trail, landing four commitments, including linebacker P.J. Blue, an Alabaman who picked the Gamecocks over Alabama.
The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has always been more comfortable on offense. Better to take the initiative than fend off questions.
The more Spurrier talks about himself, the more he takes pressure off of players. Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was the master at such deflection.
“He can handle it any way he wants but I thought it was a positive thing,” recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said of his father’s age-defying onslaught. “To have him come out kind of loud like that for our program, I kind of liked it.”
Spurrier Jr. said rival recruiters “constantly try to convey” Spurrier’s age to prospects. But, Spurrier Jr. added, such negative buzz has been out there for several years.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “We’re rolling forward.”
In any kind of SEC coaches free for all — hey, now that’s an idea for SEC Media Days 2016 — Spurrier isn’t even close to the first one out of the ring.
Start issuing garnet and black bumper stickers: “Our coach can beat up your coach.”
“(Spurrier) is just as involved as he’s always been, just as fired up as he’s always been,” South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said Wednesday.
Not surprisingly, Spurrier Jr. agreed.
“He’s sharp,” he said. “I’m amazed on the headset during the games at how well he knows down-and-distance, personnel, time on the clock and how well he can process every bit of that in one second.”
If anything, Spurrier is the victim of his greatest South Carolina success. But note that he was a better coach at 66, 67 and 68 than at 61, 62 or 63.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, 75, has won 38 games over the last four seasons.
Central Florida’s George O’Leary, 68, went 12-1 with a Fiesta Bowl win in 2013.
The only loss was to Spurrier.
A rematch is set for Sept. 26, a must-win for South Carolina between road games at Georgia and Missouri.
But while Spurrier is aging so well, why not mix in some humor? Former President Ronald Reagan took the initiative with a jab at Walter Mondale during a 1984 debate preceding an election in which the incumbent won 49 states.
“I will not make age an issue in this campaign,” said Reagan, 73. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Take that, Dabo.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff