“Spurrier: How the Ball Coach Taught the South to Play Football” by Ran Henry
Football (American), college, coaching, biography
November 14, 2014
3 of 5 stars (okay)
College football fans have seen his grimace underneath his visor many times. Steve Spurrier has made an art out of taking football programs that have had very little success and making them winners. He did this at Duke, Florida and now South Carolina. The legendary status of the “ball coach” grew in Florida when he took the Fun ‘n’ Gun offense to a new level, bringing a national championship to the university.
This book by Ran Henry chronicles how a son of a preacher from Tennessee became the ball coach that is either loved or hated by college football fans, depending on their loyalties. There is a lot of detailed research and stories about Spurrier’s childhood and high school playing days, when “Orr” (his middle name, which is used frequently throughout the book) became a schoolboy legend for his prowess in not only football but baseball and basketball as well.
We follow through to his college playing days, capped off by a Heisman Trophy award, then to his so-so professional career. These are not covered in the detail that his youth years are – indeed, the book was at 49% when the first chapter of his college days starts. That doesn’t leave a lot of space to cover the rest of Spurrier’s football career, both as a player and coach.
While the book covers every stop of the ball coach’s career, it didn’t seem to give the proper amount of coverage for each one, especially his time in the United States Football League with the Tampa Bay Bandits and his time at Duke University, where he got the students and alumni excited about a sport other than basketball. Even when the book starts out with a terrific passage about Florida versus Tennessee, it fizzles from there if the reader wants to find out more about how the legend grew for Spurrier in Florida as again this chapter of his career seems to be given short shrift.
However, like a furious fourth quarter comeback, the author does a wonderful job covering Spurrier’s resurrection of the South Carolina Gamecocks. The reader will learn everything about the coach during his time at South Carolina. Everything from politics (he believed the Confederate flag should not fly at the capital) to the relationships with his quarterbacks. The depth of these stories and how they result in the first football championship of any kind for the Gamecocks makes for great reading.
After spending so much time on Spurrier’s youth, I was worried that this book would not cover the topics about which I wanted to read about regarding the first man to coach a Heisman Trophy winner after winning it as a player. This was true for the most part, but just the stories from Columbia, South Carolina alone make this a book worth reading.
I wish to thank NetGalley for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Pace of the book:
This was a choppy read – it never seemed to get into a nice flow or groove where I was turning the pages quickly. I also found it difficult to keep up with all the different names thrown out at the same time.
Do I recommend?
Yes, but only if the reader wants to learn more about the young Steve Spurrier – the time when he was shaped into the man he would become by his father. If you are looking for more information about his playing and coaching career, this one didn’t cover as much of that time as expected, with the exception of his last three years at South Carolina.
Book Format Read: