The State of the Spurrier Address

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The State of the Spurrier Address
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

The use of the word "excitement" and finding the phrase "a high pitched fervor" in the same sentence isn't at all uncommon for observers of the South Carolina Gamecock fan base.

It's an annual tradition, a feat quite frankly unmatched, for those fans to have unbridled optimism. 

Optimism, preceded by "cautious," isn't commonplace.

It's had its rightful place at times.

The days before their first victory against the Florida Gators back in November 2005 were a fitting occasion.

The mere thought they had a chance to compete for the SEC Eastern Division hasn't been an ideal time for anything other than a pessimistic view—including the 2002 season that followed one of their best seasons (9-4) in recent history.

A six-point loss to Georgia in 2002 kindled passions and comments that "they weren't that far away."

Three consecutive wins versus other SEC teams made fans dream of Atlanta. Ending the season with five consecutive losses quickly led to the ol' stand-by—"there's always next year."

Lou Holtz was hired for the 1999 season the Gamecock faithful believed they had that missing piece—a coach that knew how to win, knew how to motivate, and had been one of the select few that coached a team to a national championship.

Renewed optimism, quickly followed by abject failure as the 'Cocks were winless (0-11) in Holtz' first season.

Lou Holtz was able to bring a measure of success to Columbia. In his third season as head coach he led the Gamecocks to a 9-3 record, including an Outback Bowl victory over Ohio State. That season has its place in the South Carolina record books as the second most successful season in their history.

Yet, despite what seemed to be a foundation for success being built, it was soon followed by a program described as "out of control." It was a program that was in disarray.

There was no better evidence to be found than the concluding seconds of their annual game with Clemson that ended in an on-the-field brawl.

Reality set in.

This wasn't the state the fans, nor the administration of South Carolina, wanted for their football program. That fall afternoon, with the fight against Clemson, marked the end to the second stint Holtz had in Columbia.

The optimism was renewed again when the "Ol' Ball Coach" was hired. After all here was a coach that knew how to win, knew how to motivate, and had been one of the select few that had coached a team to a national championship.

Now, heading into Spurrier's fifth season, it's time to ask...

Is the program in better shape now that it was before he arrived? Just how solid of a program has Spurrier built at South Carolina?

The 2005 season seemed to indicate Spurrier had leveled the playing field in the SEC East to a degree. The Gamecocks enjoyed five SEC victories in a row, won their first game ever against Tennessee in Knoxville and were able to defeat Florida for the first time in the school's history.

But, if we fast-forward from 2005 to 2007 we saw a team that started 6-1, giving foundation for that ever-present optimism, only to finish with five straight losses. Even with a 6-6 record, the bowl committees shunned the Gamecocks, seeing a program that had taken a nose-dive.

Stuck right in the middle is a 3-5 SEC record for 2006—although it did represent one of the better years under Spurrier statistically.

Here we are today—a few months removed from another mediocre season under Spurrier.

The Gamecocks of 2008 did feature one of the top pass defenses in the nation that went right along with one of the worst offenses in the nation.

Lou Holtz had his highs, marked by the 2001 campaign ending with the bowl victory, and the lows.

Overall, a degree of success defined as average...mediocre.

Spurrier's teams have enjoyed their highs (2005) and their lows as well.

Overall, a degree of success defined as average...mediocre.

So, how do you define the program? Considering this marks the fifth season under Spurrier, is it safe to do so based on the wins and losses for this upcoming season?

If we look into the future we'll see history repeating itself: a season that could be very well defined by mediocrity.

Historically, when a team loses 50 percentage (or greater) of it's starters from the previous year, loses the same amount of lettermen and also returns an inexperienced quarterback they've only improved their record (versus the previous year) less than 10 percent of the time.

In other words, South Carolina's, Spurrier-led Gamecocks have a one in 10 chance of improving on last years 7-6 record.

Can Spurrier pull a rabbit out of his hat—er, visor?

It's entirely possible, I'm just not sure it's probable. Intangibles make me think he's got their program flying in the right direction. Sadly, the question remains how often those translate to wins.

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