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December 6, 2012

Hood: Good business decision



Awarding Steve Spurrier a two-year contract extension through the 2017 season shows that South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner obviously understands the business side of major college sports better than some people might think.

Keeping the 67-year old Spurrier on board for at least another five years is a shrewd business move from a number of different angles.

And the fact they were able to sign Spurrier for two more years without having to give him a raise from his $3.3 million salary is a bonus, although that might happen in the offseason, should USC beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl and finish the season with 11 wins for the second straight year.

First, the impact on recruiting should be overwhelmingly positive. Let's face it, opposing coaches in the SEC and within the Palmetto State have sought to use Spurrier's age against him in the annual battles over the top high school talent in the Southeast.

Prospects planning to sign with USC in February (including top quarterback prospect Connor Mitch) are now assured that the school is committed to Spurrier as coach for their entire careers as long as he wants to remain here.

Rumors and innuendo regarding retirement will always swirl around older coaches, and Spurrier is no different because that is the nature of the business, so the extension should erase the doubts for the time being.

It's the nature of the business, as ruthless as it is, that recruits will usually seek assurances from coaches that they'll be at the school for the duration of their careers. Spurrier can offer those assurances.

Second, while Spurrier has already been here for eight seasons (about five more than some national analysts predicted when he first took the job), the fact he could spend just as many years coaching at USC as he did at Florida (12 years) is astounding, but likely to happen.

Spurrier has brought much-needed stability to a job that has seen too little of it in the past 30 years. The six previous coaches lasted six years (Lou Holtz), five years (Brad Scott), five years (Sparky Woods), six years (Joe Morrison) and one year (Richard Bell). Morrison, of course, passed away before the start of the 1989 season, but the others either retired or were forced out.

In fact, only one coach (Rex Enright) in 119 years has led the Gamecocks for more than 10 years, and it took Enright two separate tenures to reach double figures. Then again, his tenures sandwiched USC's involvement in World War II, when the country had higher priorities than college football.

Here's something we haven't heard since USC joined the SEC in 1992: Spurrier will be tied with LSU's Les Miles for the third longest-serving coach in the SEC when the 2013 season begins. Only Georgia's Mark Richt and Missouri's Gary Pinkel have been working at their respective schools longer than Spurrier.

Eight of the 14 SEC coaches in 2013 will have been at their schools for three years or less. Advantage: USC.

Third, keeping Spurrier in tow will also guard against a "brain drain" when top assistants such as defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott and perhaps quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus inevitably accept head coaching jobs at other schools.

Since Spurrier took full reins of the USC program in late November 2004, three Gamecock assistants have left for head coaching jobs - Rick Stockstill (Middle Tennessee State), Eric Wolford (Youngstown State) and Ellis Johnson (Southern Miss).

When your coach is 67 years old, five years is a long time, so when news of the extension broke, one of the first questions many Gamecock fans asked was this one: Will Spurrier remain as USC coach through 2017 when the extended contract expires?

Unless USC wins the SEC championship in the next three years, I anticipate Spurrier will continue to coach through the end of the contract. This quote in the press release spoke volumes: "We have achieved a lot of goals but have not yet won the SEC championship. Hopefully, we can do that within the next couple of years."

Unless the bottom falls out in the next couple of years, which is very unlikely, Spurrier won't be fired. But he would be the first one to acknowledge that things weren't working and leave. So, until Spurrier says no more, he will continue coaching USC.

Since Spurrier became the Gamecocks' all-time winningest coach two weeks ago, the next goal is clear: One hundred wins at USC. Has any other college football coach won 100 games at two different institutions? Good question.

Right now, Spurrier is extremely happy coaching at USC. Thankfully, we've moved past the point of rumors arising annually about Spurrier leaving for another job. Five or six years ago, Spurrier's name would have surely been mentioned for some of these recent openings, particularly Auburn and Tennessee.

Had it been the former school, I'm sure at least one member of that media in the state of Alabama would have called and told me Spurrier to Auburn was a "done deal," similar to 2006 when Alabama pursued him for its vacancy.

But the national media, often the rocket fuel for coaching rumors, now realizes that Spurrier will finish his career at USC and has no interest in going elsewhere. So, you don't hear his name anymore.

If you have any questions about this feature or wish to discuss it, please visit The Insiders Forum, Gamecock Central's members-only message board for Gamecock fans.

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