Tar Heel rivalry still fires up ex-Duke coach Steve Spurrier

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comAugust 25, 2013 

— Once a Dukie, always a Dukie. Twenty-four years removed from Durham, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier still revels in the thought of sticking another loss on North Carolina.

Spurrier, 4-0 all-time against North Carolina, greeted a question about his old rivalry with then-Tar Heels coach Mack Brown with a big grin Sunday.

“I’m a Dukie, also,” said Spurrier, whose sixth-ranked Gamecocks will host the Tar Heels on Thursday at Williams-Brice Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN). “I’m a Gator, a Dukie and now a Gamecock.

“Us Dukies, that was our big game. I doubt it was for North Carolina because Duke did not beat them that much. When I was there, we were fortunate enough to beat them more than they beat us.”

For once the bombastic Spurrier was understating. He’s never lost to the Tar Heels as a head coach: three times with Duke from 1987 through ’89 and once as Gamecocks coach in 2007. Spurrier’s teams outscored the Tar Heels in those meetings 122-54.

Much of that dominance was packed into a 41-0 blowout of the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill in 1989. That was Spurrier’s last season at Duke before moving to Florida, his alma mater. That one was personal. Spurrier did little to disguise his dislike for Brown, whom he had sarcastically call “Mr. Football” for Brown’s focus on recruiting and public relations.

Long after that game was decided, Spurrier was running double-reverses and flea-flickers. Post-game he posed with his players for a picture under the Kenan Stadium scoreboard. Asked if that was bad sportsmanship, Spurrier replied, “Why? I’ve got a better record on that field than (Brown) does.”

Brown left for Texas. Spurrier is now in Columbia, by way of Florida and the Washington Redskins. The thought of mixing it up with the Tar Heels on national television still gets his juices flowing.

“It’s a little special to coach against a team like that. Just like coaching here against Georgia,” Spurrier said at his weekly news conference. “Anytime you coach against a team that was special wherever you coached at, that’s a special game.”

Spurrier seemed relieved to talk about anything besides defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The gifted pass-rusher from Rock Hill – presumed No. 1 pick in next spring’s NFL draft – has seen such a crush of media attention that Spurrier has all but placed an embargo on the subject.

Clowney wasn’t scheduled for interviews along with other defensive players after Sunday’s practice. Spurrier seemed exasperated when asked about Clowney, except to volunteer that he was fastest among linemen in wind sprints Saturday (implying the star hasn’t grown complacent.)

Spurrier did volunteer one more Clowney observation: that it’s crucial his defensive coaches come up with alternate schemes should opposing offenses pack three blockers on Clowney’s side of the formation. That could mean flipping him to the opposite side occasionally or rushing him more up the middle.

Spurrier was more engaged talking about North Carolina’s up-tempo offense, which he likened to Clemson’s. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Gamecocks have won their past four against the arch-rival Tigers. Spurrier said that while quick snap counts are trendy in college football, “there’s some merit to studying (the defense) up there, looking for a while.”

Asked about Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora, Spurrier said, “He’ll be a little more settled in his second year. I’m in Year 9, so I’m as settled as I’ll ever be.”

Then Spurrier volunteered that Thursday’s national-television appearance will be diluted a bit by a slew of NFL exhibitions.

“All those NFL games they play on Thursday are crowding in on our game,” the ol’ ball coach joked.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service