Spurrier Has Tough Row To Hoe

August 14, 2005 by Dave Congrove

Update 10/15/15: Spurrier resigned after a 2-4 start to the 2015 season, including an 0-4 mark in the SEC. He quit as the winningest head coach in the program's history at 86-49, but with zero conference titles and only one divisional title that led to a 56-17 blowout loss to Auburn in 2010.

Not to say it can't be done, but Steve Spurrier has his work cut out for him in his bid to push South Carolina football to the upper echelon of the SEC. Spurrier is the fourth head coach the Gamecocks have hired with a national championship on his resume. History shows that South Carolina has been a bad career move for distinguished head coaches.

In 1908, Sol S. Metzger was 11-0-1 with Pennsylvania and claimed the national championship awarded by the Helms Athletic Foundation. He followed that up with winning stints at Oregon State and West Virginia before moving to South Carolina in 1920. While Metzger led the Gamecocks to a 5-1-2 season in 1921, he left the school with an unspectacular 5-year record of 26-18-2.

Paul Dietzel won a national championship with LSU in 1958 and was 46-24-3 in seven seasons in Baton Rouge. After a four-year stint with Army from 1962-1965 where he went 21-18-1, Dietzel moved to South Carolina. He spent nine seasons with the Gamecocks before leaving amid a growing "Get Rid Of Dietzel" movement. His record from 1966-1974 was just 42-53-1 with only three winning seasons, a high mark of 7-4 (twice) and a 1969 Peach Bowl loss to West Virginia as their only postseason appearance.

Fast-forward to Lou Holtz who, ironically, worked under Dietzel at South Carolina in the mid-60's before taking his first head-coaching job at William & Mary in 1970.

Holtz won a national championship in 1988 with Notre Dame and came to South Carolina eleven years later with a career coaching record of 216-95-7. But Holtz went 0-11 in his first season with the Gamecocks in 1999 and, when he retired after the 2004 season, his six-year record at the school was a pedestrian 33-37. Holtz produced just three winning seasons at South Carolina and his best records were a modest 8-4 in 2000 and 9-3 in 2001. Both of those seasons ended with Outback Bowl wins over Ohio State but the Gamecocks did no better than 5-3 in the conference. His teams were a collective 19-29 against conference opponents.

Holtz was 6-5 in his final season and, sadly, his last game featured a bench-clearing brawl with rival Clemson players. Left in his wake was a program reeling from player arrests and team dysfunction.

Now, Steve Spurrier takes a shot. The man who briefly gave life to Duke football in the late 1980's left Durham with a 20-13-1 record over three seasons. His short stint with the Blue Devils produced an ACC title and a loss at the All-American Bowl to Texas Tech in 1989. Spurrier's audition at Duke gave him enough clout to land a bigger head coaching job with his alma mater - the University of Florida.

With the Gators, the 1966 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback captured the 1996 national championship with a Sugar Bowl win over Florida State.

Now, just like Metzger, Dietzel and Holtz, Spurrier is faced with the task of taking South Carolina to a new level. History says you shouldn't hold your breath waiting for it to happen. Dietzel tried and left thoroughly defeated. Holtz tried and left with a tarnished reputation.

South Carolina has just eleven bowl appearances and three bowl wins in its history. They have just one 10-win season dating back to 1892 and their career mark in the SEC (1992-2004) is 37-66-1. In over 60 years of affiliation with the Southern Conference, ACC and SEC, the Gamecocks have just one conference championship. That came in 1969 during a season in which no other ACC team posted a winning record and the Gamecocks beat no one with a winning record.

Spurrier, indeed, has a tough row to hoe.

Note: This article was written on August 14, 2005 - prior to Steve Spurrier's debut as South Carolina's head coach on Sept. 1, 2005 against UCF.