I admit, I am a Steve Spurrier fan. I have memories of playing football with friends at school, each of us claiming to be the next Steve Spurrier, quarterback of our beloved Florida Gators. I was in the stands when he was the first starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and for his first head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL (his first kickoff was an onside kick). He brought glory for the first time to his alma mater and made it fun to be a Gator. The NFL was not really for him and I was delighted when he came to South Carolina. He actually did what Lou Holtz tried to do – he made Gamecock Football relevant in the SEC.
This season hasn’t gone well for the head ball coach. Some recruits that didn’t work out, a tough schedule, and a team that doesn’t seem to want to gel, told him it was time to go. Coach Spurrier announced his resignation today. Some people will say he quit on his team. But I listened on the radio to his resignation statement. There are some lessons there for every leader.
- He took responsibility. The Head Ball Coach has said all along as long he was winning, he would keep coaching. When the winning stopped, he took responsibility. He said “when you get my age, and you aren’t getting it done, it’s time to step aside and give someone else a chance.” Leaders take responsibility when things go wrong.
- He realized his time was done. Every leader has a finite amount of time with an organization. When you realize you aren’t able to reach the people on your team, when you can’t inspire passion, or can’t coach them to be effective, you are done. To stay is merely to mark time.
- He didn’t take the easy way out. Coach Spurrier must have known that if he resigned in mid-season there would lots of speculation. The president of the University and the Athletic Director offered to let him stay on until the end of the season. That would have been the easy way. Coach Spurrier knew that the best hope for his team was for him to be gone right away. It would give people a chance to rise to the challenge.
- He told his players first. The people closest to you, who do the work on the front lines deserve to know first. So Coach told his players first, knowing the word would leak, but also knowing they deserved to know first since they trusted him most.
- He cleared the decks for the next guy. As soon Coach Spurrier announced, all questions about the past were gone. Now, everything points to the future. Hope is more powerful than memory. Recruiting and motivation for USC just got easier.
So thanks Coach Spurrier. You made football fun. You also taught us about leadership. Even your decision to leave helps us.