In his first seven seasons at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier won two more games than he lost in the SEC.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky football fans are discouraged. There's apathy in the house. They're tired of hearing Steve Spurrier snicker and compliment their punter. UK fans are not looking for championships. They're looking for hope.
I don't blame them. As a group, they're as hardy as any unrewarded fans in college football.
But imagine how South Carolina fans must feel. The Gamecocks have a football stadium that seats nearly 13,000 more than Commonwealth Stadium. When you build a place that holds 80,000-plus, you're not playing to win the Capital One Bowl.
They have a football-obsessed state that produces players the way the Kennedy Bridge produces potholes.
I'm talking about legitimate four- and five-star monsters, guys who inspire fierce recruiting interest from Alabama and Louisiana State. You know the names – Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney.
The Gamecocks tried to buy their way to glory by making the Head Ball Coach their head ball coach in 2005. Steve Spurrier, the South Carolina edition, has been good. But he hasn't been nearly as good as Steve Spurrier, the Florida edition.
The Florida Spurrier was cutting-edge dominant. This Spurrier had won two more Southeastern Conference games than he had lost prior to this season. That's at a current price tag of $3.3 million per season.
Same thing happened with Lou Holtz, who won a national title at Notre Dame and then lost more than he won at South Carolina.
This is how many BCS bowl games the Gamecocks have made: The same number as Kentucky. It hasn't happened big for South Carolina.
It may happen this season. I realize that.
South Carolina fans certainly believe it is going to happen, now that the Gamecocks have won their first four. They come to Lexington Saturday ranked the nation's sixth-best team. They're favored to embarrass Kentucky by 20 ½ points. Nobody would blink if the margin was double that.
I began this column by recognizing that Kentucky football fans are discouraged and becoming apathetic. They've been sold hope and change for as long as I can remember.
But when you watch South Carolina roll into Lexington Saturday, remember this: It has taken Steve Spurrier, arguably the best college football coach in America in the Nineties, eight seasons to make the program soar at a football school in a football state.
That's not saying Kentucky needs to settle for mediocrity and five-win seasons. If the product doesn't improve, attendance will continue to shrink. Joker Phillips has to do better. A significant number of Kentucky fans don't believe that he can do better.
But the South Carolina timeline is significant. Tennessee hasn't been vintage Tennessee. Florida has backtracked from being Florida. And the Gamecocks, with Spurrier calling the plays, have won the SEC East once.
Spurrier is recruiting a home state that has sent the Gamecocks 13 four- and five-star players the last four seasons. During the same period, high school football in this state has sent Kentucky one four-star guy – Patrick Towles, the Wildcats' freshman quarterback.
Spurrier has never been shy taking shots at Alabama coach Nick Saban (says he needs to prove he can win a national title away from Alabama), Mark Richt of Georgia (says he likes playing the Bulldogs early because you can always count on guys being suspended) or Kentucky (says the Wildcats sure have a heckuva punter).
I'm surprised somebody hasn't written that the reason Spurrier signed a contract extension through the 2015 season is to ensure that he can coach in another Chick-fil-A Bowl.
South Carolina looks formidable this season, a team with a shot to beat Georgia and Florida in the East and make its way into the SEC championship game. You know what's at stake if the Gamecocks do that.
But remember: It's taken a great football coach in a great football state eight seasons to get there.
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
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