COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that he made the decision to resign as South Carolina’s coach because the team was heading in the wrong direction.
“We’ve slipped. It’s my fault. I’m the head coach,” he said at a news conference announcing his departure.
Spurrier said he started thinking about resigning Sunday morning, spoke to South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner that afternoon and told his team on Monday night that he was stepping down, effective immediately.
Spurrier said he felt he needed to step down because he doesn’t believe there is accountability with players if they know the coach won’t be back next year. He also said he was a recruiting liability.
He has never had a losing season in 25 years as a college coach, with stops at Duke from 1987 to 1989, at Florida from 1990 through 2001, and at South Carolina, where he has been since 2005.
South Carolina president Harris Pastides said he asked the coach to stay through the rest of the season, but Spurrier declined.
“[It’s] time for me to get out of the way and let someone else have a go at it,” Spurrier said. “I was the best coach for this job 11 years ago, but I’m not today.”
The Gamecocks are 2-4, and Spurrier is 0-4 in the SEC for the first time in his 23 seasons coaching in the conference.
Offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott will replace Spurrier as South Carolina’s coach. The Gamecocks host Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday.
“Our team is not in shambles, as some might say,” Elliott said. “Not sure the change is what they’ve needed, but the change is what they’ve got. Going to do everything we can to make the University of South Carolina proud of this football program.”
Spurrier considered leaving last December after the Gamecocks went 6-6 in the regular season, but the team beat Miami in the Independence Bowl, a victory that seemed to re-energize him.
He said this summer he planned to coach two or three more years, then extended that to four or five years when several recruits who had committed to South Carolina backed away before signing day in February.
Then in July, Spurrier held a defiant news conference, telling Gamecocks fans not to listen to “enemies” questioning his commitment level or implying he could no longer effectively coach at his age.
“We haven’t lost it,” Spurrier said in the summer. “We’ve got a dang good team.”
Things have quickly spiraled downward this season.
The Gamecocks lost to Kentucky at home in the season’s second week, then were blown out by SEC Eastern Division rival Georgia, 52-20, a week later.
Losses at Missouri and No. 6 LSU last week guaranteed Spurrier no better than a break-even season.
South Carolina’s inconsistency on offense this season has surely frustrated Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida who played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After beginning his coaching career in the USFL, and then leading Duke, he returned to the Swamp and took the Gators to a national championship with a high-flying, “fun-n-gun” attack.
The Gamecocks are 11th in total offense in the SEC, averaging 341 yards a game.
The Gamecocks went 11-2 each season from 2011 through 2013, led by quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Marcus Lattimore.
The Gamecocks have used three starting quarterbacks through the first half of this season, including former walk-on Perry Orth and a true freshman in Lorenzo Nunez.
Spurrier has won more games than any other coach at South Carolina and Florida. During his tenure at Florida, he led the Gators to six SEC titles and a national championship before leaving his alma mater to see what he could do in the NFL.
After two losing seasons with the Washington Redskins, he returned to the SEC with South Carolina in 2005 and turned the perennially mediocre Gamecocks into championship contenders.
Spurrier, who was 35-21 with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits from 1983 through 1985, started his college head coaching career at Duke. He has a 228-89-2 career record with the Blue Devils, Gators and Gamecocks.
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