Over the years, many different debates on NC State Message boards have traveled so many tangents that it became hard to remember the original premise & topic. In light of NC State’s historical propensity to hire coaches that seem to struggle to deliver success on par with our peers, and desire to retain these coaches longer than other programs, the topic of “coaching” has long been a favorite amongst Wolfpackers.
I am a staunch free market capitalist who believes mightily in the power of individuals and innovation. I believe that each human is unique, and that special people have the ability to produce very special & unique results in different situations. All men were created equal, but all men do not perform equal.
This emphasis on the uniqueness of the individual manifests itself into many of my thoughts and philosophies relating to coaching in athletics. All coaches are not created equal and certainly do not all create the equal results; this is why coaches exist. If facilities, history, and all other components of success where the primary driver of success, then we would have no real need for coaches…and they certainly would not be valued at such a premium by the market as to command millions of dollars for their employment. If coaches generated as insignificant of an impact as many claim, they would be paid like professors by the market and we wouldn’t even know many of their names.
Yesterday, USA Today ran a feature focused on a particular coach that exemplified my point regarding the impact of an individual when they featured the best college football coach of the last 20 years – Steve Spurrier.
The University of South Carolina does not have the greatest of repuations with NC State fans. For years, the Gamecock-Wolfpack rivalry was quite fierce, sparked by visiting Gamecock fans making ECU Pirates look like men of the cloth and teaching Wolfpackers how to throw batteries, liquor bottles and punches at anything that wore the colors of the opposition. But the Wolfpack & Gamecocks no longer do battle and the ire that they boil in me has subsided – I now respect the hell out of South Carolina.
Maybe I’ve mellowed on our rivalry with USC because we don’t play them anymore? Maybe I’ve mellowed because my wife earned her undergraduate degree after spending four years in Columbia? But, maybe I’ve mellowed because I have matured and can’t help but appreciate effective management coupled with a innate motivation to succeed on the field of play.
Say what you want about the behavior of the Gamecoks’ visits of Carter-Finley twenty years ago, that doesn’t change the fact that South Carolina fans are as passionate, motivated, and supportive as any fan base in the country. Additionally, they translate their passion into action and demand results. I wonder what the Fayetteville Observer would think of that?
It is not like USC has a long history of football success. For some perspective – NC State holds a game advantage on the Cocks in approximately 50 head to head match ups. Additionally, USC has only played in 11 bowl games in their history and won their first bowl game in 1995; NC State has played in 23 bowl games in our history and matches USC’s 11 total appearances since 1989. In the late 1990s, the Charlotte Observer ran an analysis that compared stadium attendance to the number of wins over the last couple of seasons; the Gamecoks blew away the competition by miles because BOTH the numerator and denominator were such extremes — they had packed their 85,000+ seat stadium for years while winning almost nothing.
So, what did they do in Columbia in the face of their problems and lack of historical success? You can learn as much from USC about what they didn’t do, as you can from what they did. They didn’t wallow in their misery and make excuses about how tough it is to win in their current situation. They didn’t look back to their dearth of historical success and decided that they could never succeed. They didn’t let years of losing beat down their drive to succeed and marginalize their belief of their place in the world. They certainly never self-deprecated themselves asking “Who would ever want to coach us” as rationalizations to keep the underperformers on the University’s payroll longer than they deserved.
What they did was continue to strive for success by not hiding from making hard decisions. They fired coaches quick enough to keep optimistic energy in their community and keep those fans in the stands despite poor performance. They then hired Lou Holz, a college football legend. Go figure…Holtz beat Ohio State in two consecutive Outback Bowls (doubling the amount of bowl wins in the HISTORY of USC’s football program). Undoubtedly, Holtz generated “progress” which many fans mistakenly substitute for “success” in their individual assessments of performance. Then it was time for Holtz to hang it up. Thank God that USC didn’t allow the losers of the world to ask, “Who could we get? Why would anyone want to coach us?”
There are so many lessons in the Steve Spurrier situtation that I don’t know where to begin. I don’t have time to begin today. Perhaps you can discuss some of them in the comments section of this entry. I’ll leave you with some of the better quotes from the USA Today’s article:
It was all so predictable, wasn’t it? Just look at the wall full of success behind Steve Spurrier’s desk, featuring game balls and championship mementos. Of course, he was going to make South Carolina a winner.
Who didn’t see this coming?
Well, for one, Spurrier.
“Six and five,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “We thought 6-5 would be a wonderful season for this team.”
Spurrier, of course, is not alone. Few others predicted this, including Southeastern Conference media who picked South Carolina 4-7. In fact, many people thought his ego got the best of him when he took the South Carolina job last November and said the Gamecocks, who had never won an SEC title, could win an SEC title.
But Spurrier parachuted in and took a team with two walk-ons starting on the offensive line and one all-star caliber player on defense, rover Ko Simpson, and has South Carolina within a Kentucky upset of Georgia of playing in the SEC title game.
Asked if he had ever lost confidence in his abilities, Spurrier pointed to that wall in his office and the reminders of the 1996 national title at Florida and the improbable 1989 Atlantic Coast Conference title at Duke and his SEC titles with the Gators, and said, “I’ve still got those game balls and all those championships up there, so that reminds you something went right some time.”
But how did it go so right so quickly in Columbia?