In preparation for the 2012 football season, national sports commentator and broadcaster Tim Brando visited Columbia to interview the Head Ball Coach himself, Steve Spurrier. The interview will air this Saturday, August 4, as the feature segment of an episode of "Football Saturdays in the South" airing locally at 1 p.m. on ABC Columbia.
The television show, in its ninth season, is a six-week magazine-style show centering around all aspects of football in the South, primarily SEC and ACC schools since that's where the show is syndicated.
"We always try to do a one-on-one sit down with one of the really big coaches who is involved with a team that we personally think has a chance to do very well that season," said Brando. "I think Steve [Spurrier]'s team is probably just under the radar of a lot of folks as a potential national championship contender. Because of that, and because I've known him a long time and knew he would give us a great interview, that's why we're here. As usual, he delivered the goods. It was a great interview. I think people will enjoy it."
Compared to the typical in-season feature, the preseason show's format allows them to go more in-depth with one coach or team instead of trying to cover multiple teams with a news-style show. Instead of just being able to talk for a few minutes focused almost entirely on that week's game or current events, Brando and Spurrier talked for almost 40 minutes about all aspects of his life and being a coach - his dad coaching him as a child, his days at Florida and his relationships with his players both at Florida and South Carolina.
"We'll have a hard time editing this one because Steve is so good and so candid about every aspect of his life," said Brando. "There wasn't a lot we didn't touch on."
The lengthy interview is understandable - the two had a lot to catch up on. They've known each other for almost 30 years since Spurrier's coaching days in the USFL, but Brando hasn't been to Columbia with the "Football Saturdays in the South" show since before Spurrier's first season at Carolina in 2005. The topics of discussion that year were much different - they played a few holes of golf during the interview while talking about Spurrier's time with the NFL's Washington Redskins, being excited to be back in college football and how it was a better fit for him, and what he hoped to accomplish at South Carolina.
Now, here we are in 2012 as Spurrier prepares for his eighth season leading the Gamecocks. He is 67 years old and just ten wins away from becoming the all-time winningest coach in the history of South Carolina Football. Brando thinks the legendary coach has found a new spring in his step.
"He knows how to win - he's always done that - but he has stayed fresh. He always seems to be in a great mood. He's always been upbeat. Now, he might have an issue he's not happy about, but after he's gotten it off his chest he goes back to being the good ol' Steve Spurrier he's always been," said Brando. "He may coach here another 10 years. I would have never thought that eight years ago when I was here. I would have thought by now he would have already been preparing to step out. But I think he's gone through a fountain of youth with some of the success of the program."
"He never wavered from goals that could be accomplished even when it looked like the deck was stacked against him...He's always thinking about what's the next "first" thing that can be accomplished at the program. And that was big to have the first 11-win season in the history of the school. He's probably had his mind on that since the moment he took the job."
A lot of media have questioned in the past few seasons whether Spurrier was frustrated by the Gamecocks' offense or whether he could win without the offensive firepower like what he had when he coached at Florida. Brando thinks the job Spurrier has done at South Carolina has changed a lot of opinions.
"We have a newfound respect for Steve's ability to find different ways to win...you have to just win football games. Steve used to bury people, win by 30 or 40. It wasn't a question of was Florida going to win it was how much are they going to beat you by. He's done it completely differently here and I don't think a lot of us knew he could do it that way. And now that he has, I think it has changed a lot of opinions. I think other than Paul Bear Bryant he is the most influential coach the Southeastern Conference has ever had. ... He becomes basically other than Bryant the winningest SEC Championship coach in the history of the league if he wins one [at South Carolina.] And I think that drives him, I think he wants that really badly. If he can get to that game, and it's just one game, I think he's got a real shot at it."
Tune in Saturday, August 4, on ABC Columbia at 1 p.m. to watch Spurrier and Brando's interview on "Football Saturdays in the South."
Extra notes - In addition to his conversation with Spurrier, Brando shared his thoughts on some of the top Gamecocks players to watch in 2012.
"They're going to be asking him to play every down and he's going to have to be more responsible for being involved in every play. Jadeveon Clowney can be the best player in the country at his position, but he's not yet, he's got to work to be that. He's the player to me that I'm going to be most focused on and seeing how he develops this year."
"Offensively, Connor Shaw played within himself, absolutely improved as much as he could improve when Steve came to him mid-season. He's only had a little bit of time to really develop under Steve with No. 1 reps. I think Steve can probably make him at least 20-25% better this season compared to last. I think that's a little scary if I'm getting ready to play South Carolina."
"Obviously Marcus Lattimore's return will get the lion's share of attention. That's what most of the national media will be focused on. How much of the old Marcus we'll see coming off that kind of injury. Steve seems to be pretty confident ... It used to be the type of injury that cost you more time away and could affect your career ... we'll see with Marcus if he still has that burst that he always had when he comes back."
And one final, very cool, note from Brando on the HBC:
"I don't rank coaches. Sporting News puts out a list, every columnist does ratings of coaches in the offseason to create conversation. I don't do that for a number of reasons. I'm not qualified to rank coaches, and more than anything else I have to have a relationship with all the coaches to do what I do so I'm not going to be rating them 1-12 or 1-14 in the SEC now. BUT I will say this, I have been asked the question, 'If you had to pick one coach to win one game in any scenario. Pick any coach in college football to win one game. Who would you want?' Steve Spurrier is that guy for me, always has been."