This article was originally written by Scotty Gavlin and appeared in The Daily Gamecock on October 14, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
Of course, the Head Ball Coach is well-known throughout the landscape of college football. Some know him as a Heisman winner, some as a national championship winner, some as a pioneer that helped make the SEC the elite conference that it is today, but to us here in South Carolina, he’s known as something different.
Winless seasons and lower-level bowl games were the norm here at South Carolina. So was the occasional star athlete that would come to play, just to be overwhelmed by the lack of talent anywhere else on the field. The mindset, “If we lose every game but still beat Clemson, then I will be happy” was very popular among fans. Well, it was — until one man came in and said three powerful words that shook the Gamecock nation to its core: “Why not us?”
Those words would shape the landscape of and vision for South Carolina for the next 11 seasons.
After immediate success his first season, ending 7-5, people began to wonder.
Spurrier did not wonder for a moment, though, because he knew what was coming. In 2009, after signing two of the most influential recruits, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the team went 7-6 but showed lots of promise in those games.
The next year, no one knew what they were getting into when South Carolina signed tailback Marcus Lattimore. Obviously, he was a great player, but really he was one of the best people that have ever put on a Gamecocks jersey, and it is well-documented that Coach Spurrier played a big role in his signing. That season ended 9-5, in which we got to witness the defeat of a number one-ranked Alabama, and a visit to the Georgia dome for the SEC Championship.
This was just the beginning of what would be the best four-year stint in Gamecock football history, as the next three seasons would end with an impressive 11-2 record. Each saw South Carolina ranked in the top ten at the end of the season, and one year the Gamecocks ranked as high as number four. It was so much success all at once, and everyone wondered, “Where did this come from? Who knew this could happen?”
The answer to both of the statements is just a name: Steve Spurrier. For almost 11 seasons, Steve Spurrier allowed fans to forget the days of winless seasons and losing to Clemson. He allowed us to forget that South Carolina was not a historically good football team. He allowed us to forget that success was not supposed to happen here. He allowed us to feel relevant — that the games attended, watched on TV and celebrated by spending countless dollars on food, tailgates and merchandise were actually going to matter in the big picture of college football.
But what Spurrier allowed us to do more than anything else was let our dreams become a reality and let the 11-win seasons seem normal, because for so long losing records and missing bowl games were the norm. Despite how things played out, Coach Spurrier really took South Carolina fans on a ride that they never could have imagined on Nov. 23, 2004. It had its downs, but the majority of the ride was on its way up. Will we make it back to the top of college football? I do not know, but I like to think so and feel confident in that because of the way Spurrier has allowed me to think about this team.
It is a sad ending and an even harder goodbye, but I think the thing to do is be thankful that you got to be a part of the ride.