South Carolina Gamecocks Top 3 Football Coaches


The University of South Carolina has seen at least fourteen head football coaches since it fielded its very first football team on Christmas Eve of 1892. Before 1928 is a bit shrouded in mystery. The team had no coach in some years, and in others they were coached by the Board of Trustees itself. Here, we examine the top three South Carolina football coaches of the school’s 123 years of gridiron. These coaches are not based on wins alone, but how they brought tradition to a team that lacked it for over half a century.

Bronze Medal: Lou Holtz

Coach Brad Scott lead the Gamecocks to a win on the road versus LSU and their first bowl win in school history, all in the same 1994 season. However, wins steadily declined after this until the Gamecocks lost all but the season opener in the 1998 season. Coach Scott was fired following this season, and former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz came out of retirement to coach the desperate team. The roster in 1999 was in such horrible shape, however, that the Gamecocks won not a single game. In 2000, however, the Gamecocks made the third-best turnaround of all-time in college football by going 8-4 with a win over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Outback Bowl. The following season, the Gamecocks posted a 9-3 record. Up to this time, this was the second-best season record in school history. However, the next two seasons yielded only five wins. In 2004, the Gamecocks went 6-5, but Lou Holtz’ last game was marked by the infamous brawl at Clemson. Even so, Lou Holtz revived what seemed like a dying or dead program. That takes leadership.

Silver Medal: Joe Morrison

The Ohio native Joe Morrison led the Aggies of New Mexico to a 10-1 season in 1982. The following year, South Carolina snatched him up like a hot biscuit. His first season at Carolina yielded a 5-6 record, but it was an extremely significant year in reference to South Carolina’s current tradition. It was during this season that the Gamecocks began playing Einleitung, the theme from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, as an anthem before taking the field. 1984 produced the best record the Gamecocks had ever held up to this time in school history, 10-2. It was a record that would stand for well over two decades. It was during this season that the Gamecocks were arguably closest they’ve ever been to a national title, and certainly the closest they’ve been to being ranked the best team in the nation in a poll. However, a heartbreaking upset by the U.S. Naval Academy spoiled the Gamecock’s chances of playing in the Orange Bowl. The Gamecocks fell to Oklahoma State in the Gator Bowl. The next two seasons were long and rough, and Coach Morrison decided another dose of tradition was needed. In the 1984 season, he had worn an entirely black outfit, and in 1987 the team took to donning black jerseys. It proved to be the charm, as the Gamecocks posted back-to-back eight win seasons in 1987 and ’88. Expectations were high for 1989, but Coach Morrison passed away from congestive heart failure on February 5, 1989 after a game of racquetball.

Gold Medal: Steve Spurrier

After Lou Holtz retired for good from coaching in 2004, Steve Spurrier, known throughout the nation as the Head Ball Coach, took the reins. He had earlier considered returning to coach the Florida Gators after their own coach retired, but he decided against it, stating that twelve years with the Gators was “long enough.” Most predictions believed that the Gamecocks would not post a winning season in 2005. Spurrier lead the Gamecocks to a 7-5 record and rattled off a five SEC-game winning streak. The Gamecocks beat the Gators for the first time since the Great Depression and defeated the Volunteers for the first time in Knoxville. In 2006, Spurrier defeated the Bulldogs of Mississippi State in Starkville, something he had never managed while at Florida. That same year, the Gamecocks went 8-5. All five losses were to ranked opponents. In 2007, the Gamecocks rose to #4 in the polls, but stumbled down the last half of the season, eventually going 6-6. ’08 and ’09 were respectable seasons, but in 2010, South Carolina shook up the SEC and the nation by defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide was ranked #1, and fell to the Gamecocks in a stunning upset in Columbia. Though the Gamecocks suffered an upset of their own the next week in Kentucky, the Gamecocks clinched the SEC East in a victory over Florida. The team had high hopes in the SEC championship game, as they would have a re-match with Auburn. The Tigers had barely scraped by the Gamecocks earlier in the season, and the Gamecocks were eager for vengeance. However, it was not so. The Gamecocks were defeated in horrible fashion. A subsequent bowl game against Florida State was another loss. The Gamecocks went 9-5. In 2011, The Gamecocks and their new quarterback Connor Shaw broke Joe Morrison’s 1984 record by going 11-2. The Gamecocks led the East up until a loss to Arkansas late in the season in which Shaw suffered a concussion. The Gamecocks defeated Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. In 2012, The Gamecocks again went 11-2. The Gamecocks rose to #3 after crushing Georgia, but lost a nail-biter to LSU in Baton Rouge. The Gamecocks were clobbered the next week by Florida, but righted themselves and won out. Again, it was not enough to take the SEC east. In 2013, the Gamecocks stumbled early with a loss to Georgia, but kept pushing on. They pushed hard, until October, when the Gamecocks lost in a stunning upset to the Tennessee Volunteers. This was compounded by what at first was thought to be a season-ending injury for Connor Shaw. But Spurrier and Shaw atoned the next week by upsetting #5 Mizzou in one quarter and two overtimes. Immediately after whooping rival Clemson for the fifth straight year, the Gamecocks rushed to watch the last quarter of Texas A&M vs. Mizzou. If Mizzou fell, the Gamecocks would go to the title game. But it was not so. High hopes abounded for 2014, but a harsh loss of talent meant the Gamecocks would go 7-6. In spite of this, the Gamecock faithful know that with Spurrier at the helm, there remains hope for the future.