I can't really put it all together in my head right now. We knew this moment would come, and it was pretty apparent that this moment was coming soon. But now that it's happened, I still can't quite believe it. The man that made Carolina football relevant is leaving. I don't know where else to start, so let's start at the beginning.
When Steve Spurrier got here, the South Carolina football program was a mess. We had marginal talent, poor facilities, and we had just come off an embarrassing brawl against our arch rivals from the Upstate. We were in the SEC, but we hardly had the look of a SEC team. The program, to say the least, was down.
And then Steve Spurrier accepted the job at South Carolina. It was a perfect match as he was coming off a rough venture into the NFL and we were looking for the guy that could finally turn the program around. Spurrier immediately provided a culture change. He ordered the taking down of all the "Beat Clemson" signs. He was appalled that Williams Brice had no garnet hue to it. So he got the USC Athletic Department to fix that as well. A couple years later when our fans applauded our team for their efforts in a 24-17 loss to the #2 Auburn Tigers, Spurrier immediately chastised the fanbase. He wanted the loser's mentality to be gone.
The results didn't come immediately. His first season he took us to the Independence Bowl and, with a loss to the Missouri Tigers, a 7-5 record in his inaugural season. However, he managed to beat Florida and Tennessee that first year. For the first time in a very long time, Carolina fans had reason to have some legitimate hope about our future. His second year looked about the same on paper, but we had some very close games against top competition. We just couldn't quite get over the hump. We got a bowl victory, and we thought that the 2007 season could have some big things in store.
We got off to a 6-1 start and a #6 ranking in 2007 behind the HBC. We thought we had finally arrived as a program. We were wrong. We finished that season with a 5 game losing streak, and then proceeded to go 7-6 the next year in 2008. And we wondered, "if Spurrier can't turn us around, then who can?"
However, in the 2009 season, we saw flashes of what we could be. We took down #4 Ole Miss at the beginning of the season and we stomped our rival Clemson to end the season. We saw the young talent that Spurrier had managed to accrue and we, as Carolina fans often do, saw limitless hope for our young football team.
In 2010 - 2013, that hope and loyalty was finally rewarded. On October 9th, 2010 we took down the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (the first time we had ever beaten a number 1 ranked team), we followed it up with a SEC East clinching performance in Gainesville, Florida. On October 6th, 2012, Spurrier led us to what is arguably our peak as a program. Gameday was in town and a thorough domination of the #5 UGA Bulldogs ensued. We reached our highest ranking as a program since the 1984 "Black Magic" season as we climbed all the way to #3.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to win the SEC East after we did it in 2010. After the 2013 season, which we ended as #4 in the country, the fall has been hard and fast. But Spurrier still showed us what we are capable of being. What we should be as a program. He gave us hope, but he largely followed through on that hope. The end has not been pretty. This is certainly not a storybook ending. No one thought it would or should end this way. But, as all things do, it had to come to an end one way or another.
No amount of words I write on this page can describe the appreciation I have for Steve Spurrier and what he has done for our football team and our great University. He is South Carolina football. As I said many times above he gave us hope and, I believe, what he accomplished here will continue to give us hope. He accomplished things that no one thought would ever be done here. When he arrived here in 2005 he gave us hope. And as he leaves us, and as he moves on to the next stage in his life in 2015, what he did here will continue to give us hope.
Thank you for everything, Steve.