COLUMBIA SC - NOVEMBER 06: Head coach Steve Spurrier of the South Carolina Gamecocks cheers on his team during warm ups before the start of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 6 2010 in Columbia South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
You might have noticed the other day that tryptic linked to an Athlon story ranking Steve Spurrier ninth among active college coaches. At risk of sounding like a huge homer, I think it's worth emphasizing that I agree with tryptic that Spurrier is ranked far too low on this list.
We should begin by taking a look at the criteria Athlon uses in its column, which it states as follows:
Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference or nationally among the top 25.
That looks a lot like the kind of power ranking you see at Rivals, with some added points about the kind of resume the coach brings with him from his previous positions. That, to me, would suggest that Spurrier should be a shoe-in for a top-five ranking at Athlon. To be honest, when viewed in terms of career accomplishments, there's no reason that Spurrier shouldn't be at the top of the list, now that Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden are gone. His accomplishments include revolutionizing SEC offenses and winning a national title while he was at Florida. Moreover, while Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have more national titles, Spurrier still leads the heap in conference titles based on a probably unreplicable run of six in his eleven years in Gainesville. That probably says more than anything else about how good he was in his prime.
That said, you won't get any argument from me against ranking guys like Les Miles and Saban above Spurrier based on each coach's current powers. There's no doubt in my mind that Saban is the most effective of all active coaches, and that counts for a lot if you're weighing current performance heavily. Spurrier is good, but his tenure at USC has been shaky at times. Moreover, even if he seems to finally have us where he always wanted us, he's still yet to win an SEC Title at Carolina. He needs to do that before he can claim that his coaching prowess is on a level with the best of the best.
That said, Spurrier deserves much more credit for doing what he's done over the past two years than he's getting from the national media. A lot of commentators seem to fixate on how long it took Spurrier to get here. Some of Athlon's comments speak to that. It's true that it took longer than many thought it would, but to me, that says a lot more about how difficult this job is, particularly during a stretch of dominance for the SEC, than it does about Spurrier. In hindsight, we were probably too eager to believe that Spurrier would be able to turn things around quickly here, but it's not easy to reverse 100 years of poor results. That Spurrier has, in the end, been up to the task argues strongly for his inclusion among the top coaches in the game today.