Tales of the 1986 LSU football coaching search have been told in press rooms and bar rooms all over Baton Rouge for more than 30 years. In some variation, the story goes that Steve Spurrier—then the head coach of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits—was stood up at the airport by LSU brass.
The Head Ball Coach would go on to own the SEC at his alma mater in the 1990s, while LSU would suffer six consecutive losing seasons from 1989-1994.
Thursday, Spurrier was a guest on “Off the Bench” on 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge and told his side of the tale.
“I did interview,” Spurrier said. “They brought in a bunch of people. I think they had 20 prospective coaches come in and I was one of them. But I didn’t even make it back for the second round of interviews.
“They spent a lot of money bringing coaches in and out, I know that. And then they retained Mike Archer, who was the interim coach, so they wasted a bunch of money.”
Archer would replace Bill Arnsparger, who left to become the Athletic Director at Florida. Three years later, Arnsparger would hire Spurrier to lead the Gators.
“I never did interview well,” he said. “I wasn’t one of those coaches that would convince the athletic directors or the people doing the hiring about how hard I worked and how mean and tough our team’s going to be. I was just sort of, ‘Hey, here’s my track record. Here’s what we’ve done, what I’ve done as a coach and hopefully that’s good enough.’
“The ones that get head jobs are the ones that interview well. They tell that athletic director what they want to hear. Sometime those ADs—not always—they don’t look at your track record.”
Spurrier would win six SEC titles and the 1996 national championship during his 12 seasons in Gainesville. He would leave for Washington in the NFL following the 2001 season as the winningest coach in Florida history.
After a failed stint in the NFL, Spurrier would return to the SEC at South Carolina where he would retire during the 2015 season as the winningest coach in Gamecocks history.
It was recently announced that Spurrier will return to coaching in the newly formed Alliance of American Football as the head coach of the Orlando franchise, which is scheduled to begin play in the February 2019.
“I actually pull for LSU a lot,” Spurrier said. “Not all the time. Not when they’re playing the Gators, obviously, but, I pull for the Tigers a lot.”
It is fair to wonder how different the SEC record books might look had Spurrier been cheering for the Tigers from the home sideline.
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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