How college football’s mighty can fall

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, January 3, 2009

It’s funny how quickly perceptions can change in the world of college football. The same coach that was a genius one season can be fired the next (Tommy Tuberville, anyone?). The same player that was beloved by a fan base one minute can be shunned the next (how much has Andre Smith’s reputation taken a hit without fans really even knowing what he did?).

But long-term perceptions are what matter in the long run, and one couldn’t help but wonder about that of Steve Spurrier as his South Carolina team was embarrassed by Iowa, 31-10, in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.

It wasn’t that long ago that Spurrier, while he was dominating the Southeastern Conference at his alma mater, Florida, was considered perhaps the second-best coach the conference had ever seen. After a couple of ill-fated seasons in the National Football League and now several so-so seasons in Columbus, S.C., no one seems to be enamored with Spurrier anymore.

The thing is, he’s still the same coach. If anything, Spurrier should be a better coach now than he was at Florida because of the experience he’s gained since then.

But his perception has withered. Spurrier did things in Gainesville, Fla., that no one had done before. But the Gators’ new coach, Urban Meyer, has a chance to bring a second national championship in three years to Florida (and if Meyer does that, the Gators will be the early favorite to make it three in four years if quarterback Tim Tebow returns). That’s something Spurrier never did.

So, was Spurrier an outstanding coach or is Florida an outstanding program? Does that make Meyer any less of a coach? Is it simply impossible to succeed at South Carolina? The answers are 1) probably a little of both, 2) maybe and 3) no.

Spurrier’s case proves that success in college football is always fleeting – and should be enjoyed when possible – because everyone is working every day to try and attain it.