The Top 10 Steve Spurrier Troll Jobs of the Ol' Ball Coach's Career
How good of a troll is South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier? Here's all you need to know in one story:
After winning the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1—South Carolina's second in as many seasons—the Ol' Ball Coach was handed the trophy and a microphone and given a chance to address the remaining Gamecocks fans in the crowd.
"These two Capital One Bowls in a row are pretty nice," Spurrier said with the happy belligerence of a season ended properly. "But that State Championship ain't bad either!"
Spurrier was alluding, of course, to a fifth-consecutive win over South Carolina's in-state rival and annual whipping post, Clemson. The 31-17 victory took place more than a month before the Capital One Bowl, but Spurrier still managed to shoehorn a jab, unprompted, at Dabo Swinney's team before a national audience.
It was among the best troll jobs of the 2013 season.
And it didn't even crack this list.
Such is the breadth of Spurrier's troll-job resume, which spans more than 30 years, four head coaching jobs and three different levels of football. Starting mostly with his golden years at Florida in the mid-1990s, Spurrier has steadily gotten wilier and friskier with the media, better and more eager to troll.
The "State Championship" gag was close to perfect but hardly even considered for this list. Spurrier's 10 best troll jobs are consistently that much better—which is saying something.
He's not the @BR_CFB Twitter avatar for nothing...
10. Pitying Arkansas
The coldest troll jobs are feigned as sympathy.
Spurrier proved that in classic fashion after beating Arkansas 52-7 on Oct. 12 this past season. Instead of overt smack talk, the Ol' Ball Coach hit Bret Bielema's team with a biting bit of facetiousness.
"I do feel badly for Arkansas," Spurrier said, according to Josh Kendall of The State newspaper in Columbia. "That’s no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that."
Game. Set. Trolled.
9. Lane Kiffin: Gone but Not Forgotten
Before traveling to play Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Oct. 19 this past season, Spurrier took a not-so-subtle jab at a certain former Volunteers head coach.
"(This) will be the 14th time I've coached in Neyland Stadium," Spurrier said, according to Josh Kendall of The State. "I've coached there more than some of their head coaches."
Since Tennessee's hiring of Doug Dickey in 1964, the only head coach who didn't make it until his 14th home game was Lane Kiffin, who left the program after one season—on his own accord—to accept the same position at USC.
Now, four seasons later, Kiffin returns to the SEC as the new offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama.
Unless both teams make the conference championship game, South Carolina will not play the Tide in 2014. But do we really think that will stop Spurrier from picking fun at Kiffin during, say, SEC Media Days?
He's writing those jokes as we speak.
8. The Real Death Valley
There are a lot of good back-and-forths between Spurrier and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who have both proven willing—if not eager—to take playful shots at another these past few seasons.
This one, however, is the pinnacle.
More than two months before South Carolina and Clemson played in 2011, Spurrier said the following about the nickname "Death Valley," according to Travis Sawchik of The Post and Courier:
"Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley. (LSU’s stadium) is the Death Valley, isn’t it? Or is there another one? There’s two of them. That’s right. There’s two Death Valleys."
Clemson, of course, has nicknamed its stadium "Death Valley," just as LSU has. The conceit here being, for those who still don't get it, that LSU has been a much stronger football program and, thus, is more entitled to use the moniker.
To which Swinney replied, quite perfectly, "I can see where he might have a little confusion. Our guys have never been to USC. California is a long way from here."
To be honest, I would score that round 10-9 Swinney. At least he was not being a hypocrite. This, however, would be a lot higher than No. 8 on Swinney's list of greatest hits.
Still a solid showing from the OBC.
7. Dallas Is the New Georgia
Even when he moved onto bigger, better, (less successful), briefer pursuits with the Washington Redskins of the NFL, Spurrier never forgot about his favorite college punching bag: the Georgia Bulldogs.
Before his first professional season in 2002, Spurrier was asked whether he likened the Redskins' rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys to Florida's rivalry with Florida State. Instead, Spurrier was hoping it would remind him of something else.
"Hopefully [the Cowboys] will be our Georgia," said Spurrier, according to Bob Glauber of Newsday.
Spurrier's Gators beat Georgia 11 of 12 times during his career.
The Cowboys beat Spurrier in three of four meetings.
6. FSU: Free Shoes University
No need to waste time explaining this one.
The troll job speaks for itself.
According to the Associated Press (via the Deseret News), Spurrier in 1994 made light of allegations of recruiting violations at rival Florida State, saying that FSU stands for "Free Shoes University."
And he didn't stop there:
Spurrier told Florida Today of a "recruit's mom" who, four years ago, came to Gainesville after a recruiting visit to Tallahassee.
"She told me, 'The cars in your parking lot don't look as good as the ones at FSU.' I told her she was right and that ours are never going to look that good. I don't know how (FSU players) get new cars, but they have a way of getting them.
"There is a perception out there about them," he said. "And it's a perception around the country, not just me. Good things seem to happen to their players with regards to material things once they get there."
Spurrier has always kept his tongue in his cheek during troll jobs, especially when they involve insinuations of wrongdoing. He won't accuse you, in so many words, of committing an NCAA violation. Instead, he'll make a coy, flippant remark.
It always makes things that much funnier.
5. On Playing Georgia Early
More than anything else, Spurrier has always been the king of candor.
Asked how he felt about not getting to play Georgia as early as usual during 2012—South Carolina typically plays the Bulldogs in Week 2 but had the game moved for one season to Week 6—by Chris Low of ESPN.com, Spurrier said the following:
"I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended."
Herein lies the beauty of Spurrier's deportment: He says what every other coach is thinking but has too much supposed "etiquette"—a word fancy people use for "cowardice"—to vocalize in public.
Georgia, it would seem, actually does have players suspended at the start of every season. Just two years before that, for example, in one of the more notable cases, it was star receiver A.J. Green.
Every coach in college football makes these jokes behind closed doors, among their players and assistants, when they feel free enough to act like themselves.
But Spurrier knows no other way to feel.
4. Freezing Out Ron Morris
It's tough to say whether this was a troll job or full-on confrontation.
There's a difference between the two, albeit a subtle one, and Spurrier toes that line carefully in the video above. However, because of his strict refusal to make eye contact with the object of his outrage, I'm inclined to say it skews toward the former.
In short, the story goes like this:
Ron Morris is a writer for The State who is often critical of Spurrier's Gamecocks. In 2011, Spurrier took offense at an article claiming he "poached" two-sport star Bruce Ellington away from the basketball team, which he had led in scoring before leaving to play football.
During a weekly press conference, Spurrier goes on the tirade above and refuses to speak at the podium until Morris leaves the room. He then takes extra time out of his day and grants one-on-one media time to television crews in a separate room. This is a rare bit of access for a college head coach to afford, and it was given to everyone but Morris.
Was it a petty thing to do? Maaaaaaybe. Technically. Sure.
Still, whereas most coaches might simply play the guilt card by calling Morris out in front of everyone, Spurrier takes it one step further in a more calculated way.
It's one thing if Mom doesn't bring home dinner. It's another thing if you, after having done wrong, are the only one who doesn't get to eat.
Spurrier sent Morris to his room without supper.
3. Peyton Manning: Citrus Bowl Megastar
Spurrier has always had a complicated, patronizing relationship with the Capital One Bowl.
Formerly known as the Citrus Bowl, it has always felt like a consolation prize for SEC teams who think they should have reached grander heights. It's not a bad bowl by any means.
It's just not a great one, either.
One of Spurrier's earliest objects of jest was former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, who was just as big of a deal in college as he has been in the NFL. However, Manning was brandished early as someone who "couldn't win the big one," which was the result of two consecutive trips to the Citrus Bowl in 1996 and 1997.
Thus, when Manning opted to forego the NFL draft and return for his senior season in Knoxville, Spurrier unleashed one of his most famous quips of all time.
"I know why Peyton came back for his senior year," said the then-Florida head coach in a September 1997 issue of Sports Illustrated. "He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl."
Spurrier would then continue his stand-up act about Tennessee and the Citrus Bowl, saying that "you can't spell Citrus without U-T."
Even after Tennessee, sans Manning, won the first-ever BCS National Championship Game, Spurrier's words still ring hilarious.
2. Bullying Ray Goff
If Spurrier was Biff from Back to the Future, Ray Goff was George McFly. But the world of college football is not a movie script; it does not come equipped with a time-traveling DeLorean and plotted-out character reversals.
Spurrier never stopped bullying.
The Gators of the early 1990s made easy sport of Goff's teams at Georgia, and Spurrier was not shy about making his peer take note.
He once famously called him "Ray Goof," and Goff once broke custom by saying, per Jack Hairston of NOLA.com, that he'd "like to run into (Spurrier) some night down a dark alley."
(Note: In this way, Goff comes off like the meathead Biff and Spurrier like the crafty Marty McFly. This, I suppose, is why most neutral parties prefer rooting for the bully to the victim in this case.)
Of all the heckles from Spurrier to Goff, however, there is one that no doubt reigns supreme. When asked in 1995 if he thought Florida could beat Georgia for a seventh straight year, Spurrier said, according to Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports:
"Is Ray Goff still coaching there?"
On second thought, perhaps Goff was right to want to fight him.
1. Fire in the Auburn Dorms!
Spurrier troll jobs are a subjective science. Everybody has a different opinion on each one. Nos. 10-2 on this list are so close, in my judgment, that you could shuffle the order in any way without qualm.
But this, without fail, will always be my No. 1.
After reporting to Gators fans that a fire burned down 20 books in the dormitories at Auburn, Spurrier delivered this now-famous punchline, per Richard Demark in a December 1991 issue of Sports Illustrated:
"The real tragedy was that 15 hadn't been colored yet."
Simple. Offensive. Effective.
Spurrier was a Reddit commenter before the Internet Age—and a clever one at that. Even graduates and fans of Auburn University, the obvious butt of the joke, have to respect such a perfect burn.
(Perfect BURN! Get it??)
Ah, whatever. We can't all be as good as Spurrier.
In fact, almost none of us can.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT