Commentary: 'Head Ball Coach' has special relationship with Dawgs


Brad Stephens brings his own Southern flavored sports perspective and humor to Bartow Sports Zone. He is a Bartow County native and has his own law office in Cartersville, but he's mostly a Georgia Bulldogs' football fan.

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The Head Ball Coach. Everybody knows who that moniker describes – especially those of us clad in Red and Black.


If Mark Richt is the “dean” of SEC coaches, then Steve Spurrier is the “Prime Minister.” No coach in the league other than Nick Saban commands more media attention, divides fanbases and scares opposing teams quite like ol’ Steve. He is a man you have to account for, that you have to worry about and someone who never goes “gentle into that good night,” be it on the field or in front of a microphone.


At the ripe old age of 70, many believe that Spurrier will be riding off into the sunset sooner than later. It could be true. South Carolina seems to be on the downswing after some glory years. They lost to Kentucky last week in an uninspiring game where Spurrier’s offense could not get going. At times, he seems tired and bemused by his surroundings – kind of like a guy waiting to get off work so he can make his 5:30 tee time.


Georgia fans celebrate his impending retirement like Panama City Spring Break mixed with Mardi Gras. Spurrier has never hidden his hatred of Georgia nor his happiness when he beats the Dawgs, which has happened more often than not. He does not have seem to have this obsession with any other team.


Many say it dates back to 1966, when Spurrier and his Florida Gator team rolled into Jacksonville undefeated and the Dawgs crushed them, 27-10. This defeat knocked them out of a chance at the SEC title and a possible national title shot. It was Spurrier’s worst game of the season and legend has it that Georgia’s defensive linemen were merciless in their taunting, as were the fans. This day was never forgotten by The Head Ball Coach and when he took over the Florida program in 1990, he made no bones about it. (pun intended)


His days in Gainesville were marked by blowout wins at The World’s Largest Cocktail Party where his Gator teams simply manhandled Georgia. He went for fourth downs when the game was already over. He called deep pass plays in the fourth quarter when the score was lopsided, then called timeouts to prolong the misery. He was the first man to score 50 points in Sanford Stadium. All of this done with his trademark smirk and passive-aggressive comments to the media. This satisfaction drove Georgia people crazy.


Flash forward a few years and here we are. Spurrier left Florida for the Washington Redskins and unfortunately for him, his success did not translate in the NFL. He came back to the SEC in 2005. Georgia’s program launched itself out of the doldrums of the 1990’s and became relevant again. His early years at the helm in Columbia saw consecutive losses to Georgia, but the pendulum has swung back in Darth Visor’s favor with the Gamecocks winning four of the last five.


Despite the assuring words of the talking heads and the fact that Carolina’s starting quarterback is out, the Dawgs better be ready for war. A Spurrier-led team cannot ever be counted out and Dawg fans know it. It is a begrudging feeling to have that much respect for a rival coach, but one must acknowledge that the man is a winner and makes the game more interesting. Cast aside your emotions and think about it.


In these politically correct days of coachspeak, Spurrier is like an oasis in the desert. Watch any interview with any other SEC coach, it’s all boilerplate:


“We will get in the film room, prepare and get better.”


“We just have to keep preparing each week and commit ourselves to the goal of victory.”


“We just need to keep making plays and gaining positive yardage.” (Hello? I hate this new term. What does that even mean – positive yardage? Maybe someday a coach will get algebraic and say “Lose negative yardage.”)


Coaches say a thousand words without really conveying anything. It’s a boring and pointless exercise that wastes air time, if you ask me.


With Spurrier, you get exactly what you ask for, in plain English:


“I do feel badly for Arkansas. That’s no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that.” – in reference to South Carolina’s 52-7 victory over the Razorbacks in 2013.


“I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.” – on playing Georgia early in the season every year.


“In 12 years at Florida, I don’t think we ever signed a kid from the state of Alabama. Of course, we found out later that the scholarships they were giving out at Alabama were worth a whole lot more than ours.” – on recruiting the state of Alabama in the 1990’s.

You couple this attitude with his winning record and notoriety, you have a true character in the days of robotic coaches with no ability to verbalize their true thoughts. Occasionally, Les Miles will say something colorful. Will Muschamp was good for a quote or two. However, neither of these men have the same reputation nor draw the same water as Spurrier. It is a mystique that cannot be replicated.


The SEC will miss him when he decides to hang it up. It is sad to see the old coaches leave, regardless of how much you despised their tenures. I remember seeing longtime Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer’s last game in Athens in 2008. Georgia won the game easily and Tennessee fans were booing him as he left the field. He walked off the field arm-in-arm with his wife, as if he did not hear any of it.


I was so glad to see him go, yet I had to tip my hat to him. A worthy adversary deserves that much. Steve Spurrier is most definitely worthy and the best villain that has ever walked a sideline in the SEC. Whether this is his last game in Athens or not, I will tip my hat to him….and maybe throw a piece of ice at him right after.

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