COLUMBIA — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier will likely match Paul “Bear” Bryant this weekend for most wins at two different Southeastern Conference schools.
A victory against Wofford on Saturday will tie Spurrier with Rex Enright for the most wins by a Gamecocks coach with 64. Spurrier remains the winningest coach in Florida history with 122 victories. Bryant holds the records for most wins at Alabama (232) and at Kentucky (60).
Bryant and Spurrier rank 1-2 in several categories in the SEC record book.
Spurrier is second with 122 SEC victories, 37 behind Bryant.
His six SEC titles are eight behind Bryant.
“I haven’t thought about that. I’ll let you do all those kind things,” Spurrier said of the comparison.
The two have more in common than simply bringing distinct headgear to the sidelines, whether it is Bryant’s houndstooth hat or Spurrier’s visor.
Their careers are mirror images in some ways.
Kentucky was Bryant’s first long term head coaching job. He took a team with no football tradition and led them to their first bowl in 1947 and one of only two SEC titles the school has ever won when the Wildcats captured the crown in 1950. He took over Alabama in 1958, boosting a program that continues to be successful today.
Spurrier immediately built Florida into an SEC powerhouse and sustained their dominance for 12 years. The school has stayed mostly at the top since he left.
“I was lucky to be there at the right time and the right place,” Spurrier said of his time at Florida. “That is what coaching is all about -- get somewhere at the right time, at the right place with some good players.”
Spurrier arrived at South Carolina before the 2005 season.
He promised when he was introduced to Gamecocks fans that he would take over the win record one day, but said Tuesday he just wanted to assure fans he would be in Columbia a long time. He hasn’t achieved his main goal of leading South Carolina to its first SEC title, but he feels like the pieces are in place.
The school’s lack of football success still motivates him Spurrier.
“We’re in the South and the tradition was not all that great, was not all that super. Nowhere to go but up. I like those situations,” Spurrier said. “A whole bunch of firsts we can achieve at South Carolina.”
With a win Saturday, Spurrier will reach 64 wins in 101 games and eight seasons. It took Enright 15 years and 140 games to record that many wins.
Ray Perkins played for Bryant the same time Spurrier was quarterback at Florida and later succeeded Bryant when he retired at Alabama. He said comparing the two coaches misses the point because football is so much different these days.
“I know there is nobody like coach Bryant,” said Perkins, who is coaching Jones County Junior College in Mississippi. “I don’t think anybody’s like coach Spurrier.”
Bryant and Spurrier never met as head coaches.
Spurrier took over at Duke in 1987, nearly five years after Bryant’s death. But they did meet once when Bryant was coach and Spurrier a player. Alabama beat Florida 17-14 in Tuscaloosa in 1964.
“I got my teeth knocked out in that game. That’s what I remember,” Spurrier said, recounting how a Crimson Tide defender caught him right under the chin back when players didn’t wear mouthpieces. “Spit it out and kept on playing. I left a tooth on the field there at Denny-Bryant.”