HOOVER, Ala. — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier brought his proverbial A-game to SEC Media Days on Tuesday, offering a wide-range of spontaneous quips and colorful stories to the large contingent of SEC journalists.
Here’s a sampling of Spurrier hightlights from his morning session in the so-called Big Room of the Hyatt-Wynfrey hotel:
On the excitement level of SEC Media Days: "We’re ready for talking season. That’s what we’re all doing now — talking."
On the home opener with Texas A&M (Aug. 28): "Our fans will be pumped up, fired up, screaming and yelling and ready to go."
On fifth-year quarterback Dylan Thompson enjoying the starting reins for the first time: "He’s got to pack his entire college career into one season."
On the state of the Florida program when he arrived in 1990: "The (talent core) was already there. There was no recruiting to do for the first two years … they were ready to play."
On the delicate nature of dealing with big-money school boosters: "The head coach’s responsibilities is to get to know the boosters — they’re very important."
Spurrier then shared a story, without provocation, about how one of South Carolina’s most prominent boosters flew him to the Bahamas in a private jet. Big-money boosters are "sort of like an owner of an NFL team — they put the money up. The best part is, they don’t tell you what to do — they’re kind of owners from a distance."
On the recent trend of developing trophies for annual ‘rivalry’ games: "I don’t know if you can have a trophy for every game, like the Big Ten does."
On former Gamecocks QB Stephen Garcia’s budding media career: "I saw him on tv last night … he’s got his long hair back, looks like he’s been enjoying Duck Dynasty."
"Stephen’s a good guy" … and the 2010 upset of No. 1 Alabama (a 35-21 victory for South Carolina) is "still the game they all talk about in Columbia. Stephen had the game of his life."
On landing his first head-coaching job with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits at age 37, and surviving through the years: "I’m pretty fortunate, very blessed to still be a head coach. It was (my first) chance to be a head coach."
On moving from the USFL to college ball in the mid-1980s: "I was lucky to get the job at Duke — there wasn’t anybody out there after me" after the USFL experience.
On the bitter feud between Texas and Texas A&M, resulting in a discontinuation of the schools’ annual showdown: "It’s a shame Texas and Texas A&M don’t play each other — I don’t mind saying that … I think that’s sad."
"They’re in-state rivals — the fans want to see that."
On the great perspective that South Carolina fans have with their program: "Our fans realize there’s more to life than winning an SEC championship."
On beating Clemson five straight seasons (2009-13): "If you ask our fans at South Carolina, the majority of them — I can assure you — would rather beat Clemson than win the SEC."
… "Personally, I’d rather win the SEC."
On being an advocate for football and basketball players getting more scholarship perks than student-athletes in other sports: "They deserve a little more, and I think the (SEC Commissioner Mike Slive) has addressed that."
On dealing with players who want to leave school early for the NFL draft: "Any time one of them tells me he wants to go pro, I shake and his hand and say ‘good luck.’"
On Auburn’s amazing turnaround from 2012 (0-8 in SEC play) to 2013 (winning the SEC title, falling just short of a national championship): "Gus Malzahn is one of the best coaches in the country — not just the SEC — everybody knows that. … "Him and I are very good friends, and we don’t necessarily look forward to that game." (Oct. 25 at Auburn)
In his South Carolina tenure, Spurrier stands at 0-5 against Auburn: "We’ll go in there with a plan and try to upset them … nobody picked Missouri (East) and Auburn (West) to win their divisions last year — that’s why they play the games."
On the sport’s transformation to the College Football Playoff: "I do like the idea of four teams — it gives teams with a little tougher schedule a chance to make it."
On what what’s left for Spurrier to accomplish as South Carolina’s coach: "We’ve won a lot of games and division, too (in 2010). But no SEC titles … there’s still plenty out there. Gosh, where Auburn came from last year, there’s a lot of schools that can make (the College Football Playoff). Maybe we can be one of those four teams and go from there."
On the odd notion of beating the eventual SEC East champion for three straight seasons (2011-13): "We need those teams in the East Division to lose (one more) game."
On the specter of being the only SEC coach in history to lead two different programs for at least 10 years: "Obviously, you never know what your path in life will lead to. After Florida, I thought I’d coach in the NFL for five or six years (and then retire).
"That was the plan … and after a while, you figure out, ‘that was a bad idea.’"
On going from the Washington Redskins to South Carolina: "I was available, and the (Gamecocks) were the only ones to offer me a job … I wanted to go out a winner — not a loser."
Let’s conclude with three Spurrier gems:
On the notion of Texas A&M and South Carolina naming the annual victor’s trophy after James Bonham, a South Carolina student who, according to legend, would become a hero at the Battle of the Alamo: "I’m from Tennessee. I was always taught the hero of the Alamo was Davy Crockett. (The trophy honor) was a surprise to me, but I’m sure that Bonham guy was a hero (too)."
On Nick Saban’s recruiting dominance at Alabama: "They’ve done extremely well — no question about it. … Of the last six years, they’ve had the No. 1 class in college football, which has to make (Saban) the greatest recruiter in the history of college football.
… "As long as they recruit like that, they’re always to going to be the favorites (in the SEC)."
At Florida (1990-2001), "I had (only) two No. 1 classes." But "at Alabama, they just keep signing ’em year after year after year, and I give ’em credit for that. They’re going to be the favorites — they have to be!"
On the buzz of South Carolina working on the nation’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class for 2015: "Of course, Alabama is No. 1."