Telling tales on the Head Ball Coach

There are lots of great coaches in the SEC — some loved, some admired, some feared, some loathed. But no coach engenders as much heated debate as Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier is one of the most renowned coaches in NCAA history, known almost as well for his barbed comments and fierce temper as for his winning record.

I’ve never met Spurrier and perhaps that’s a blessing. I’m not afraid of much, but that sideline grimace of his is quite alarming. And the two people I know who’ve met him say he’s kind of intimidating in person, too.

One person who’s had a Spurrier encounter is my college roommate, Jill. Jill met Spurrier early one morning, as a dejected University of South Carolina football team waited to board its plane back to Columbia after an ill-fated appearance in the 2005 Independence Bowl(Note: Nearly all USC bowl appearances are ill-fated.)

As Jill tells it, the Shreveport, Louisiana, airport was nearly deserted when she and her husband and their then-10-year-old son Harrison arrived. Harrison — a born-and-bred Gamecocks fan — took the opportunity to ask the players to sign his Carolina cap. They kindly obliged, and just as Harrison was about to complete his mission, Spurrier entered the airport.

Jill says she’d never thought of Spurrier as particularly handsome, judging from his visored, sideline visage. But that morning, clad in an immaculately tailored suit and dark sunglasses — his teeth gleaming white against his tanned skin — he was every inch a movie star.

As the last player signed Harrison’s cap, Jill (desperate to give the team a supportive pat on the back) said: “It’s OK, guys; we’ll get ’em next year.” Suddenly, Spurrier the movie star was replaced by Spurrier the ticked-off coach. Well within earshot of his crushed team, he apologized to her for their poor play and for the fact that they’d let down the Gamecock faithful yet again. Talk about an awkward moment . . .

The second Spurrier encounter belonged to Chuck, one of my co-workers at Aflac who caddied for Spurrier at a golf event. Here’s the way that one went down:

“I walked up to him and said, ‘Glad to meet you, Mr. Spurrier’ and he said, ‘You can call me The Coach.’ I said, ‘Great, you can call me The Chuck.’ He didn’t think it was funny. And he didn’t tip me, either.”

See? Kind of scary, right?

Note to The Coach: If you happen to read this, contact me. You might be intimidating, but I wouldn’t say no to an interview. Besides, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, you’ve mellowed a bit: http://www.ajc.com/sports/uga/can-spurrier-be-133273.html


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