Talking season will never be the same in college football. If you want proof, tune in this week to the SEC football media days.
Love him or loathe him, Steve Spurrier was usually the star of the event, whether he was jabbing former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer about the BCS, cracking one-liners about his rivals or being the only head coach to leave Tim Tebow off his preseason All-SEC ballot.
"I guess it will be a little quieter down there this year," Spurrier told ESPN.com.
Talk about understatements. The whole sport will be a little quieter, and maybe a little less fun, too, now that Spurrier has walked away from coaching.
He won six SEC championships, a national championship, 25 straight SEC games from 1994 to '97, He won a Heisman Trophy at Florida as a player and he changed the way they played football in the SEC when he returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1990.
But the Head Ball Coach also talked as good a game as he coached and played one, and that's what made him so unique.
"Usually, I was just trying to give our fans a little something, and it was almost always in the offseason," Spurrier said. "That's why I called it talking season. None of it mattered a whole bunch. What mattered was what you did on the field."
Spurrier, 71, concedes that it will be surreal not being a part of SEC Media Days. His first one was all the way back in 1990. And, yes, he was also must-see TV back then. For much of the 1990s, the event was held in downtown Birmingham at the Sheraton Hotel and Medical Forum, which was amphitheater seating for the media. Spurrier would stand down at the bottom and hold court as only he could.
He was unfiltered, brash and brutally honest, a cleaner version of Richard Pryor. And always real.
"That's the thing. I was never trying to be anybody I wasn't," Spurrier said. "Most of the media boys who covered me understood that, and what I said was true. I didn't lie."
If Spurrier were to make a cameo appearance in Hoover, Alabama, this year (which he's not), what he might say is what he's been saying with increasing regularity since his abrupt resignation as South Carolina's coach last Oct. 13.
"It's not the way I wanted it to happen and not the way it should have happened," said Spurrier, who took the Gamecocks to national prominence and produced three straight 11-win seasons in 2011-13. "But the truth is that I was ineffective. I was in the way. The best thing for those players right then was for somebody else to come in and give it a shot. Maybe I should have hung on, and I know a lot of people have said I should have hung on for the rest of the year. But I was done, and I've never been any good at faking it.
"It's like I said. I sort of fired myself."
In retrospect, Spurrier admits he should have called it quits following the 2014 season when the Gamecocks won three of their last four games, including a win over Miami in the Independence Bowl, to salvage a 7-6 season.
"I thought we were going to have a good team, thought I was re-energized and in a place to help us have a good team, but I was wrong," Spurrier said. "So, sure, I regret how all of that went down, but there's nothing you can do about it now but keeping moving forward."
Spurrier is slowly getting used to retirement, although he's not real big on the word "retirement." He and his wife, Jerri, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with family and friends at a big celebration in Daytona Beach this weekend and have spent a lot of the summer at their home in Crescent Beach, Florida. They're still based in Elgin, South Carolina, which is right outside Columbia, and the plan is to go back and forth between both homes.
"People ask me all the time how this offseason has been different," said Spurrier, who was never renowned for putting in long hours during the offseason. "I tell them it's been the same as all the others except there was no spring practice, no getting ready for the upcoming season and no recruiting."
Still not overly reflective about his career, Spurrier is quick to tell you what one of his proudest accomplishments was as a coach — and it has nothing to do with winning games or championships.
"I'm glad that we were able to help get the players a little more money," Spurrier said. "That was important to me and something we should have already done with all the money that is being made out there now in college football by a lot of people, including coaches. I guess they have a name for it, full cost of attendance, but I don't care what they call it as long as the players get a little piece of the pie. I hope it keeps going up."
At the 2011 SEC spring meetings, Spurrier famously proposed that coaches pay players on the travel squad $300 per game out of their own pocket so that the players could help parents with travel costs and other expenses. He estimated it would have cost coaches around $300,000, but chirped that they could afford it. He also passed his proposal around to the 11 other coaches in the league and told them that if they didn't sign it, he was going to "tell the media boys" which coaches refused to sign.
"I remember talking to [current SEC commissioner] Greg Sankey about all that and him saying that would never happen," Spurrier recalled. "I knew they were never going to let coaches pay players, and they can call it whatever they want, but at least we helped get them a little money."
Even with his travel this summer, Spurrier admits he still gets a little bored. There's only so much golf he can play, and he's anything but the sit-around-and-relax kind of guy. He has been invited again to play in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe later this month and is quick to take a shot at himself.
"I just hope I can play a little better than I did last year," said Spurrier, who came in 74th, although he did finish ahead of Notre Dame's Brian Kelly.
Spurrier has also found time to film a new Dr Pepper commercial, and he'll probably pop up somewhere this fall on television, either as a college football analyst or maybe even on a talk show. Could you imagine Spurrier and Paul Finebaum trading barbs?
"I've got to find something to do … and I will," Spurrier said.