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Jones: Steve Spurrier's early exit self-serving

Steve Spurrier wanted to make it perfectly clear.

"I'm not retiring," Spurrier said. "I'm resigning. Get that part straight."

Actually, let's really get it straight. Spurrier quit.

Six games into his 11th season as the Head Ball Coach at the University of South Carolina, the former Gators coach walked away from his team.

"I'll just be the former Head Ball Coach," he said.

Sounds strange. As does his resignation. Why now?

Spurrier tried to explain.

"I feel like this day was coming," he said. "It's inevitable. It's coming. I didn't plan on going out this way. I planned on going out on the shoulder pads of the team coming out of the Georgia Dome after winning an SEC championship. It didn't work out that way."

It didn't work out that way, and Spurrier couldn't stand it. He looked at the Gamecocks' 2-4 record, didn't see many victories left on the remaining schedule and made darn sure that he wasn't going to finish his fabulous career by going 3-9.

No way.

"My answer has always been the same: If it starts going south, starts going bad, then I need to get out," Spurrier said. "It's time for me to get out of the way and give somebody else a go at it."

It's time to get out and let somebody else take the blame for it.

Spurrier is 70 years old and, just like he did in Gainesville, he turned South Carolina into a football school that matters on the national landscape. He will go down among the greatest college football coaches who ever lived. He has put as much into college football as he has gotten out of it. And all of that, I suppose, allows him to go out however he wants.

But don't you wish he had stuck it out for another couple of months, even if he didn't win another game?

Assuming his health — and the health of those extremely close to him — is not an issue and the real impetus for this resignation, Spurrier owed it to his team to help it through a losing season just as if it were a winning one.

In a sport where players are taught to never give up, to fight until the very end, to never say die, Spurrier's resignation seems to go against everything football coaches preach and demand.

Some see Spurrier's decision as a way of doing what's best for the players and the program. But it feels as if he is doing just the opposite: putting himself and his desires ahead of all else. It feels as if he is saying, "Yikes, this is getting ugly. You're on your own, fellas. I'm going golfing."

This final chapter perfectly captures Spurrier's career.

Never dull. Always entertaining. Edgy. Controversial. And compelling.

Whether he was running up the score, throwing his visor or lobbing verbal grenades at rival schools, you couldn't take your eyes off Spurrier and wonder why he did what he did and said what he said.

Spurrier's ultra-competitive nature is unmatched. He hates to lose. He cannot stomach failure. He loves to win and to rub it in while doing so.

He enjoys making others uncomfortable, whether it be on the football field, in the post-game news conference and, by all accounts, pretty much everywhere else.

He can be witty and charismatic and folksy. But he also can be stubborn, sarcastic, arrogant, crotchety and, occasionally, mean just for the sake of being mean.

Sounds like a bully, doesn't it?

That's what Spurrier could be at times during his long coaching career — a bully.

You wonder if, now that the bully is getting his, he decided to get out before the likes of Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Clemson could get in some long overdue payback.

Tuesday's resignation will not be his legacy. We will remember the long journey more than the final step.

We will remember "The Kick" that won him the Heisman Trophy at Florida back in 1966. We will remember his brief time quarterbacking the lovable loser Bucs. We will remember his successful stint as head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the old USFL.

We will remember how, for a moment, he pulled off the improbable by making football relevant at a basketball school such as Duke.

Mostly we will remember his glorious 12-year run as coach of the Gators that featured nine 10-win seasons, six SEC championships and the 1996 national championship.

No matter where he started or where he ended, Spurrier is Florida football.

He won and he won fairly and cleanly. It should never be forgotten that his programs have never been stained by serious NCAA sanctions or even whispers.

His teams, especially his Fun 'n' Gun offenses, were a blast to watch. Come to think it, pretty much everything Spurrier did was must-see. He is the most interesting coach in the history of the game, and there will never be another quite like him.

He said what he wanted and did what he wanted and that's why, deep down, we loved that Spurrier was a part of college football.

I just wish he could have remained a part of it for two more months.

South Carolina  football coach Steve Spurrier at Tuesday's news conference to announce his resignation. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro) SCRS110

South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier at Tuesday's news conference to announce his resignation. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro) SCRS110

Jones: Steve Spurrier's early exit self-serving 10/13/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 8:58pm]
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