GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s hard to fathom how the landscape of SEC football might look if things had played out a little differently for Steve Spurrier early in his career.
During a radio interview on the Mississippi-based Out of Bounds with Bo Bounds program, Spurrier revealed that he was passed over for both the Mississippi State and LSU coaching jobs before landing at Duke before the 1987 season.
It started with a visit to Mississippi State in December 1986 to interview with then-Bulldogs athletic director Charlie Carr.
“It was during the Christmas break, I think, and we had a conversation and so forth. It didn’t work out,” Spurrier recalled. “I think he mentioned to people that I didn’t really act like I wanted it, and I probably didn’t go overboard with him. But I was after it because I didn’t have a job, that’s for dang sure.”
Mississippi State instead hired Alabama assistant coach Rockey Felker, who posted a record of 21-34 over five seasons.
— Out of Bounds (@bobounds) April 11, 2018
“I also visited LSU a couple of weeks after that, and I didn’t get invited back for the second interview there,” Spurrier added.
The Tigers hired from within, promoting defensive coordinator Mike Archer, who went 10-1-1 in his first season but lasted just three more seasons. LSU posted records of 4-7 and 5-6 in 1989-90, and Archer finished was 27-18-1 overall in his four seasons.
“I’m not a good interview,” Spurrier concluded while speaking on the radio show. “I’m not, I’m not a good interview because I don’t talk real mean and tough and I don’t have a lot of big, fancy words they like to hear. There’s a lot of athletic directors, all they go by is the interview. They don’t look at a guy’s track record. To me, if I was hiring somebody, I’ve got to see his track record. I don’t need to hear him talk, you know what I mean.
“But anyway, fortunately, the Duke job opened up about a month after that and I’d been there as an assistant coach and got a chance to go back to Duke for the ’87 season and was there three years before coming to Florida.”
As they say, the rest is history.
Spurrier, who had been the offensive coordinator at Duke from 1980-82 before leaving to coach the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, returned to the Blue Devils as head coach from 1987-89. His final team there won Duke’s first ACC championship since 1962, which is also still the program’s most recent conference title.
Then, of course, he compiled a 122-27-1 record at Florida, winning the program’s first national championship in 1996. And he’d make his mark again in the SEC at South Carolina, going 86-49 with three straight 11-win seasons from 2011-13.
It’s anybody’s guess as to what would have happened if either Mississippi State or LSU had hired him first.