COLUMBIA, SC — In 2005, before he had coached a game at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier said he wanted to be the school’s winningest career coach.
In 2009, after averaging seven wins in his first five seasons with the Gamecocks, he was wondering if it would happen.
“It looked like it might take 10 or 12 years to get to 64,” Spurrier said. “We’ve had a good run here the last two years, and we’re having a good run now.”
That good run, 19 wins in the past 23 games, has Spurrier on the doorstep of history. His next win will be his 64th, tying Rex Enright for the most at South Carolina.
“When I got the job here, I just sort of checked out the history,” Spurrier said. “We’ve had some really good coaches here, guys with winning records. I guess Rex Enright is the only coach that has really coached more than about 10 years or so.”
Enright, who had two tenures at the school, set the record in 140 games. Spurrier will coach his 101st game against Wofford on Saturday. Spurrier announced his goal before his first game as a way of telling the team’s fans that he intended to stick around for a while, he said.
“Every time we play Georgia and Tennessee, I tell the guys, ‘This is one reason I came here, so we could coach against Georgia and Tennessee,’ because it is always fun if you can beat those guys and that was one reason, along with winning the SEC,” Spurrier said. “We’re in the South and the tradition was not all that great, was not all that super. Nowhere to go but up. I like those situations.”
Spurrier had a 142-40-2 career record and plenty of pocket change when he took the South Carolina job, risking his reputation as a career winner on a program that was below .500 (499-508-44) at the time.
“I had a few buddies say, ‘You can’t win there. Nobody else has. Why do you think you can?’ ” Spurrier said.
Spurrier’s answers were it was the state school in a state with plenty of high school talent, and “Why not?”
“If we could get it going the right way, certainly you think you can do it,” he said. “I thought, like some people thought, that here was a place that has not reached its potential yet. I was lucky to be there at the right time and the right place. That is what coaching is all about — get somewhere at the right time, at the right place with some good players.”
When Spurrier overtakes Enright, which could come as early as Nov. 24 against Clemson, he will join Bear Bryant as the only coaches with the most wins at two SEC schools. (Spurrier’s 122 victories at Florida are the most in Gators’ history. Bryant holds the records at Alabama and Kentucky.)
“We had our ups and downs, but we’re winning games now that we used to lose,” Spurrier said. “We’re winning games now, I don’t know why maybe. Winning breeds more winning. Unfortunately, losing does the same thing, as we all know. We still haven’t got it where we hope to have it someday.”