TAMPA — Steve Spurrier's last Tampa bowl trip — a 31-10 loss to Iowa — was so humiliating, he reportedly pondered retirement.
That was four years, 37 victories, two quarterbacks and one division title ago. Now, the 67-year-old ball coach is returning, equipped with a bit of the old swagger and sound bites.
"We stunk it up and didn't play well (in that 2009 game)," Spurrier said. "I feel we're a completely different team than we were four years ago."
The Outback Bowl announced Sunday that Spurrier's 11th-ranked South Carolina squad (10-2) will face No. 19 Michigan (8-4) in the annual SEC-Big Ten clash on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium.
"This one's going to be a ball," Outback Bowl president/CEO Jim McVay said Sunday evening with his trademark glee.
"You've got Steve Spurrier … playing the high-profile Michigan Wolverines with a quarterback (Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson) from Florida who's one of the dynamic playmakers in the country."
The Outback, just behind the Capital One in the non-BCS bowl pecking order, typically takes an SEC East squad. It had no shot at Sugar Bowl-bound Florida and hosted SEC runner-up Georgia in last year's contest.
That left the Gamecocks and Vanderbilt as the East's lone remaining bowl-eligible teams, barring the Outback being able to snag a West squad.
"We talked about a lot of things, and there were some questions about certain teams that may or may not be available," McVay said.
"It just came out that this was the way that we wanted to go with South Carolina and Spurrier and (NFL-bound defensive end) Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks. (The SEC) has got six teams in the top (11), so how could you go wrong?"
Spurrier, who has never faced Michigan, has compiled a 37-15 record since that loss to Iowa. By contrast, Michigan coach Brady Hoke's last Outback trip — as a Wolverines assistant — ended triumphantly if not comically.
With roughly a minute to go in the 2003 contest, diminutive left-handed Florida receiver Vernell Brown took a reverse handoff and tossed a wobbly pass to the left flat toward quarterback Rex Grossman, the intended receiver.
Wolverines linebacker Victor Hobson picked it off, securing a 38-30 Wolverines win. But that was against Spurrier's UF successor, Ron Zook.
This time, Michigan gets Spurrier himself.
"(The Outback) made my final game as an assistant coach at Michigan … a very enjoyable and memorable experience," Hoke said in a statement. "The SEC is an excellent conference and we look forward to the challenge of facing them on New Year's Day."