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Spurrier counting on history to repeat

HOOVER — Steve Spurrier was always good for throwing out a verbal barb to get under the skin of his opponents.

But something's happened to the ole ballcoach.

Spurrier arrived at the Southeastern Conference football media days a humble man as the new head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. He also had no barbs to throw out.

He even shared his heart with the media on Wednesday.

"It's good to be back," he said with his typical pained smile and a shrug of his shoulders. "I have missed you guys — even the ones that wrote not real nice things maybe about me. That's OK. It was a lot more fun hanging around the SEC than it was the other league (NFL) I was in a couple years."

After another failed attempt of coaching professional football, Spurrier is back where he belongs.

And even fellow coaches were elated to see the visored one return to the SEC.

Well, maybe elated is too strong of a description for Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer's reaction.

"When I first heard he was coming back I said, 'Oh crap,' or something like that," Fulmer said on Wednesday to a room full of laughter. "ŠI think he very much knows that he has got a real demanding job in front of him to (win), but if anybody can do it, he can."

Spurrier and his coaching staff certainly face an up-hill battle to turn the South Carolina program around.

Just a month away from the Gamecocks' opener with the University of Central Florida, Spurrier has had to deal with a 31-month NCAA probe which discovered at least six major violations during Lou Holtz' tenure in Columbia.

So for the second time in his years of coaching in the SEC, Spurrier will have to deal with NCAA probation. The penalty looks like it will be just as light as it was when he took over the Florida program in 1990.

So if Spurrier looked a little down in the mouth on Wednesday, he had a right to be.

Even with a dark cloud looming over Columbia, Spurrier always finds a way to turn a negative into a positive.

This time he's become an expert on the Chinese calendar.

The last time South Carolina won a conference championship was in 1969 when the Gamecocks went on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a 7-4 record.

"We were 6-0 in the ACC in 1969 — the year of the rooster," Spurrier quipped. "By the way, you know what that is, Chinese rooster. Every 12 years is the year of the rooster. Anyway, '05 is the year of the rooster, so don't bet too much against the Gamecocks. I'm just saying that we've got the rooster on our side."

Spurrier's gonna need more than just a rooster to give Gamecock fans something to crow about.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. You can e-mail at kevin.taylor@greenvilleadvocate.com or call (334) 383-9302 ext. 122.