- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina yesterday, returning to the college ranks after a three-year absence.

The former Washington Redskins coach replaces Lou Holtz, who retired Monday. Spurrier got a seven-year deal worth $1.25million a season that could go over $2million with incentives.

Spurrier led the Florida Gators to a national championship in 1996 and six Southeastern Conference titles in 12 seasons before abruptly resigning in January 2002 to join the Redskins.

But Spurrier had little success in the NFL, going 7-9 in his first season and 5-11 in 2003 before leaving with three years remaining on his contract. His Redskins lost 10 of their final 12 games last season.

Spurrier and his family have remained in Northern Virginia while his son Scotty finished his senior year of high school. But now the self-described Ball Coach is ready to make South Carolina a winner.

“We’ve got everything here,” Spurrier said. “I’d like to borrow a phrase from the Boston Red Sox: Why not us? Why not the University of South Carolina Gamecocks?”

Spurrier wants to win a conference championship, something Holtz never did in his six seasons. But he must get past his former team, which went 10-0 against South Carolina while Spurrier was Gators coach.

Those games figured to be tough on Spurrier, who said he is not looking forward to his first matchup with his alma mater Nov.12 at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium.

The executive committee of the school trustees approved the deal for Spurrier. Incentives include $250,000 for winning the Bowl Championship Series, $100,000 for becoming national coach of the year and $150,000 for winning the Southeastern Conference championship game.

The contract has a $250,000 a year buyout clause for both sides. Should Spurrier retire and not take another job, he owes the university nothing.

“Maybe we’re prejudiced now for Steve Spurrier,” athletic director Mike McGee said. “That wasn’t always the case.”

There was much speculation that Spurrier would return to Florida next season following the recent firing of Ron Zook. But Spurrier pulled out of the running, saying 12 years at one school was enough.

Spurrier, 59, went 20-13-1 in three seasons at Duke before taking over at Florida in 1990. He posted 122 victories over 12 seasons, tormented opponents with his offensive flair and witty one-liners and departed with the best winning percentage in league history.

Holtz retired Monday at 67 after 33 seasons with 249 victories, eighth-most in Division I-A, and a reputation for turning stumbling programs into winners. At each of his six schools — William & Mary, N.C. State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina — Holtz went to bowl games by his second season.

His greatest accomplishment came in 1988, when he led Notre Dame to the national title only three seasons after the disastrous Gerry Faust era ended.

His latest reconstruction project at South Carolina was nearly as remarkable. He came out of retirement in 1998 at 61 to rebuild the Gamecocks. After going 0-11 his first season in Columbia, Holtz brought South Carolina to its best two-year mark in history (17-7) and won consecutive Outback Bowls.

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