As he approaches the 200 career win mark as a college head football coach, there is one accolade that rightfully belongs to Steve Spurrier - Dean of the SEC Coaches.
Despite twelve years at Florida and eight at Carolina, however, it's a title that is too-often denied him. Google search "Dean of the SEC" and you'll find Mark Richt's name associated with the title - based solely on the fact he has been in Athens for twelve straight seasons.
Maybe back in the day, the guy who had been at one school the longest was a fortiori the one with the most seasons in a league. Perhaps that's why tenure seems to be determinative for so many people in acknowledging a Dean. But while tenure in one location is extremely laudable, it shouldn't be the primary criteria in naming a Dean; instead, the recognition of one's status as "dean" of a conference's coaches should be based solely on the number of years as head coach in the league - not just at one stop. Under that criteria, which is the only one that makes sense, the honor belongs to Steve Spurrier.
Twenty seasons should trump twelve - unless we now live in a parallel universe.
This recognition doesn't even include Spurrier's three seasons as Duke's head coach, or his three seasons in the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits or his two season stint with Dan Snyder's Washington Redskins. He has been a head coach for 27 seasons out of the last 29 years. He first got into coaching as assistant in 1978. It's in his blood.
But you could look at it from other vantage points as well.
For example: no one in the SEC has been a collegiate head coach longer than Spurrier - who got his first head coaching slot at Duke in 1987 (after three years as HC of the USFL Tampa Bay franchise). The next three guys on the list in the SEC in terms of pure longevity are John L. Smith at Idaho (1989), Nick Saban at Toledo (1990) and Gary Pinkel at Toledo (1991). Everybody else is a baby.
By way of comparison Mark Richt got his first paying job as an assistant college coach only in 1989 at ECU - while Spurrier was at Duke - and a year before Spurrier took the Florida job in 1990.
Or how about this: of the nine other men who were SEC head coaches in 1990, only two are still even in coaching - Kentucky's Bill Curry - who is set to retire from Georgia State at the end of the season - and Watson Brown [Mack's older brother] formerly of Vanderbilt, who is head at Tennessee Tech. The other seven guys have all since long hung up their whistles - Gene Stallings, Pat Dye, Ray Goff, Mike Archer, Billy Brewer, Rockey Felker and Johnny Majors. Steve's old in-state rivals, Bobby Bowden, Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis are all retired too (although Erickson and Davis will likely make comebacks; Davis is an advisor for the Tampa Bay Bucs).
There's been so much turnover in the SEC that I'd have to contact the Elias Sports Bureau to determine just how many coaching changes there's been in the SEC since 1990. The HBC has seen most of them come and go.
A lot of people don't like Spurrier's barbs. Or the way he used to run up the score at Florida. They don't like his smirk. They think he whines.
Well, everyone's entitled to their own opinion. So what? When they write the 150th anniversary history of the SEC in 2088, there will be a lot if ink (bytes? - will we still use paper?) about Spurrier. What he did at UF in the 1990s is worthy of the Hall of Fame even if he doesn't win another game at Carolina. It still doesn't take away from the fact that man is truly the Dean of the SEC.
Nor does it take away in the least from Richt. He's had a Hall of Fame level career in Athens, and has enjoyed a lot of personal success against both Spurrier and South Carolina (as FSU's OC from 1994-200 and UGA's head coach since 2001). His Georgia Bulldogs will be favored to beat South Carolina this year; his squad may well compete for a national championship this year or next; certainly another SEC championship (or two or three) may still be in the cards for Coach Richt. His long-standing tenure in the Classic City is admirable.
And while many Carolina fans like to joke about "Saint Mark" and "Evil Richt," CMR is universally acknowledged as one of the good guys in college football. If we had possessed the sense the Almighty gave a turnip, USC should have hired him in 1994 instead of Brad Scott - it's crystal clear in hindsight who was the brains of the Noles' offensive operations during their '94 NC title run. So none of this should not be taken as an anti-Richt screed.
What I am saying, however, is that Spurrier rather than Richt is the true and rightful "Dean of the SEC." Coach Spurrier's seven SEC CotY awards (two earned in Columbia), one national championship, six outright league championships, and three division titles - plus seventeen bowl appearances out of the SEC and 117 SEC wins - only burnish his case. He is number one in all time wins at Florida, and fast approaching that same honor at South Carolina.
When Spurrier retires, then Richt will truly hold the moniker. Or if Richt has moved on before then, then it will be Coach Saban - if we rationally count his years at both LSU and Alabama. If the Sabanator and Les Miles are still coaching 20 years from now, are we really going to hold his seasons in Miami against Saban in naming a Dean? I don't think so. That is to say, unless Coach Richt comes back to another SEC school.
So, when it's all said and done until he retires, Steve Spurrier is - has been, and will be - the Dean of the SEC.