BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
So it's done: After a stellar career in which he won 72 percent of his games, chalked up a staggering overall record of 228-89-2 and innovated offensive football, the head ball coach is calling it a career (it's a resignation, not a retirement per the man himself). Steve Spurrier, known as much for his quick wit as teaching his quarterbacks the quick release, now heads to the golf course 4-5 times a week. Where will the former Florida and South Carolina coach wind up in the SEC pantheon of coaching greats? I have to put him on my Mount Rushmore! So then: How about my top four SEC football coaches of all time as we look at how some of the all-time greats fared in conference play.
Here you have it, my Mount Rushmore of SEC Coaches: Paul Bryant, Nick Saban, Robert Neyland and Steve Spurrier. Let's crunch the numbers, combining the records for each coach at every SEC stop he made.
Paul "Bear" Bryant, Kentucky (1946-53), Alabama (1958-82):
SEC Record: 150-46-9
14 SEC Titles
6 National Championships
12-time SEC Coach Of The Year
Nick Saban, LSU (2000-04), Alabama (2007-present):
SEC Record: 87-25
5 SEC Titles
4 National Championships
3-time SEC Coach Of The Year
Robert Neyland, Tennessee (1926-34, 1936-40, 1946-52):
SEC Record: 62-15-5
5 SEC Titles
4 National Championships
4-time SEC Coach Of The Year
Steve Spurrier, Florida (1990-2001), South Carolina (2005-2015):
SEC Record: 131-52
6 SEC Titles
1 National Championship
9-Time SEC Coach Of The Year
While one may argue that the last spot on that Mount Rushmore could go to the likes of Vince Dooley, Johnny Vaught, Shug Jordan or Frank Thomas, Spurrier re-invented offensive football. At times he was a thorn in the side of great coaches like Saban, Fulmer, Miles and Malzahn. In a ten year stretch in the Swamp, Spurrier's Gators went 122-27-1. He won a national championship as a coach, a Heisman Trophy as a player (Florida, 1966) and had more one-liners than Rodney Dangerfield. His final comments at Tuesday's news conference as he announced he was "resigning"? "OK, let's get moving, I've had enough here." Classic and honest Spurrier, who reminded the media, "I was the best coach for South Carolina when I took this job, but I'm not now. When it starts to head south, it's time to get out."
So there you have my Mount Rushmore of the all-time best coaches in SEC football history, and lest you are concerned that I forgot your favorite coach? Here are my honorable mentions:
Johnny Vaught, Ole Miss: 106-39-10 in the SEC, Vaught won 3 national titles, 6 SEC titles, and was named SEC Coach Of The Year 6 times.
Vince Dooley, Georgia: 104-42-4 in the SEC, Dooley won 1 national title, 6 SEC titles and was named SEC Coach Of The Year 5 times.
Frank Thomas, Alabama: 56-15-3 in the SEC, Thomas won 2 national titles, 4 SEC titles and was named SEC Coach Of The Year in 1945
Shug Jordan, Auburn: 99-65-4 in the SEC, Jordan won 1 national title, 1 SEC title and was named SEC Coach Of The Year 4 times.
Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee: 96-33 in the SEC, Fulmer won 1 national title, 2 SEC titles and was named SEC Coach Of The Year in 1998.
Urban Meyer, Florida: 36-12 in the SEC, Meyer won 2 national titles in 6 seasons at UF and 2 SEC titles in that short span.
Pat Dye, Auburn: 99-34-4 in the SEC, Dye's run in the 80's was superb as he won 4 SEC titles and 3 SEC Coach Of The Year awards.
Johnny Majors, Tennessee: 116-62-8 in the SEC, Majors won a national championship and 3 SEC titles.
Les Miles, LSU: 106-29 in the SEC, Miles has won a national championship with perhaps more to come.
These are (and were) all fine men and all fine coaches, but only four can grab the Mount Rushmore tag. Steve Spurrier has always been one of my favorites, as he was so much different than the average buttoned up, tight-lipped coaches of the past several decades. And remember that behind all of those famous quips such as, "You can't spell citrus without U-T", and "FSU stands for Free Shoes University", was a ball coach who liked to see his players pitch it and catch it. He brought innovation to a sport and helped the SEC become a giant.
Bryant, Saban, Neyland and Spurrier. Were there (and are there) four better coaches in Southeastern Conference football history? Tell me what you think!