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I Admit it, I Like the Old Ball Coach


Among the more bizarre statistics in recent Kentucky sports history is our complete ineptness with South Carolina/Steve Spurrier. The Old Ball Coach beat us like a drum at Florida and now beats us way too often at South Carolina, and seems to do so with unmitigated glee. For many that makes him a public enemy. But for me, it is different. The reality is that I actually really like the entertainment of Steve Spurrier and could even be considered somewhat of a fan. Whether it his decision to always wear a visor (a look I actually like), his constant look of pain and frustration on the sideline or his general absurd statements, Spurrier never ceases to entertain me. I have found myself rooting for South Carolina in non-UK games and I will watch any interview with Comrade Spurrier at any time, just to hear his comments. I am officially a Spurrier-phile.

It wasnt always like this. While at Florida, it was difficult to do anything but loathe Spurrier. The 1990s were full of 70-7 games against Florida, when Spurrier ran up the score, enjoyed doing it and then told you about it afterwards. He famously seemed to really detest Hal Mumme and got his rocks off watching the scoreboard light up against the well-coiffed UK coach. My favorite Spurrier moment of that era was the game that the Gators kept throwing on the last possession up something like 500 points, and when asked afterwards Spurrier said, “they kept throwing the ball to pad their stats, and I saw that and realized our stats were sufferin’.” If you were a UK fan, watching the games against Spurrier was the height of self-punishment and saying you were a fan of that style was equivalent to admitting you like Joe Wilson at an NAACP conference.

But towards the end of the Spurrier reign, the tide turned for me. I loved his fascination with making Tennessee fans mad, including his famous, “you cant spell Citrus Bowl without “UT”” line. I liked that in a sports world where fewer and fewer people say interesting things, he was a great quote. Then he went to the Redskins while I lived in DC and I got to hear his coaches’ shows every week, in which he would tell reporters that he was just going to “coach em up” and “throw that ball around there” before a big game against the Cowboys or Eagles. While he didnt win in DC, that mindset always made me laugh and assured that I would be a big fan. When he replaced the salivating Lou Holtz, South Carolina became my unofficial “team 2” in the SEC, and I must admit that when they arent playing UK, I pull for them in most contests.

Now having said all of that, it is time for the Cats to beat Spurrier. South Carolina is not a good enough program that they should own UK as they have the last nine years. We have lost to the Gamecocks in every way imaginable and in years that they had no business beating us (like maybe the last three). This year’s game is on the road and thus not a likely victory, but I would still love to see the Old Ball Coach get that expression of pain on his face, and throw down his visor just one time because of the Big Blue. But afterwards, win or lose, I will turn on Spurrier’s post-game press conference. He still is the most entertaining voice in SEC football and even when he beats us badly, he still makes me laugh. And that makes him a-ok in my book.

Article written by Matt Jones