Spurrier skips the bright lights

Posted at 10:26 am on 01/11/2016 by Buddy Martin
Once upon a time in a world far away, he was on the national stage with his team, high stepping to national dominance. Now resigned, whistle in moth balls, Steve Spurrier is somewhere between a fork in the road and a place to be named later.

He could have been in a ringside seat at University of Phoenix Stadium for the college football national championship game between Alabama and ClemsonMonday, leaning in on the ESPN set for the pre-game show. The network had extended an invite for the broadcast.


Instead, Spurrier will be in San Antonio, sans team, speaking to many of his former colleagues at the American Football Coaches Association about his 30 years along the dusty coaching trail.

Most guys would probably have blown off the convention in favor of the bright lights of the big stage. For Spurrier, the TV gig will still be there next fall if he choses that as a profession. 

Just like he has lived his whole life and navigated his coaching career, Spurrier is waiting for his “life to be directed” as he learned from the writings of John Wooden.

However, who wouldn’t like to hear his take on the matchup between two coaches and two teams he knows quite well? He certainly wouldn’t lack for opinions.

When I asked him what Clemson would need to beat Alabama, Spurrier said: “Fate.” And that speaks to his admonition to his own teams to always “give fate a chance.”

Oddly enough Spurrier has become friends with Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and a bit of a fan of his — even if not his rival Clemson.

If was, in fact, fate that brought Dabo the job as interim coach, as he succeeded the fired Tommy Bowden. At the same time, Spurrier acknowledged Saban’s coaching brilliance and the big advantage he has in recruiting at Alabama. But as he likes to point out, the team with the best players doesn’t always win.

I asked Spurrier if he agreed Saban should be crowned “the greatest coach of all-time” as some have suggested should Alabama beats Clemson for the title. He stopped short of that, saying only that Saban would be “one of the best” if he won a fifth national championship. (Spurrier also pointed out that his old coach at the Tampa Bay Bucs, John McKay, had won four at Southern Cal.)

But does Clemson have a legitimate shot? I couldn’t swear this, but just between the lines it was almost like Spurrier felt a bit of an upset in his bones, at the same time realizing that the odds are usually stacked in favor of the guy with the most firepower and talent.

“They’ve got an excellent quarterback, great young man, strong faith, reminds me a lot of Danny Wuerffel,” he said of DeShaun Watson and Clemson. “So you never know.”

As for his own future, Spurrier did confirm that he has a new office at University of South Carolina and is pondering an offer to stay around as a sort of ambassador/consultant. 

Over the past 15 months as I’ve been working with Steve on his autobiography, I’ve heard him say countless times that his was a ride of destiny, that he owes his success to right place/right time fate. And that is the message he said he would deliver to the coaches.

Apparently, just ike Dabo, whatever is next for Spurrier will be revealed by fate.

(Buddy Martin is co-writing Steve Spurrier’s autobiography, “Head Ball Coach: Doing It Differently. And Winning,” due for publication this fall by Blue Rider Press.

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