Feeding off their coach's confidence, Gamecock players now expect success. As a result, getting Carolina's fans on board is the next order of business. They have accepted mediocrity so graciously for so long that losing competitively is almost as satisfying as winning. Steve Spurrier
is determined to change that.
"The history there is not all that super-duper," he said, noting that Carolina has just four bowl wins and one league championship (an Atlantic Coast Conference title in '69) to show for 110 years of college football competition.
Spurrier had no problem instilling confidence as head coach at Florida in the 1990s. His Gator teams won big right away and quickly came to be known for their arrogance, as well as their ability.
South Carolina is a completely different situation, however. The Gamecocks were 1-10 in 1998 and 0-11 in '99, prompting head coach Lou Holtz to note that the program needed a "change in culture."
Asked at the recent SEC Media Days if the program still needs a culture change, Spurrier smiled.
"Well, I never said anything about changing the culture," he said. "That was Lou Holtz that said that. I said something about changing our attitude. Attitude ... that's my word."
Whether it's a culture or an attitude, Spurrier is still working to change it. The Gamecocks are 15-10 overall, 8-8 in SEC play under his watch. They have yet to play like an elite program but the Ol' Ball Coach wants them to at least THINK like an elite program.
"What we need to do is understand that the object of a football season is to try to win your conference championship," he said. "I really believe that."
Even if Carolina doesn't win the SEC this year, Spurrier wants his fan base to stop settling for moral victories instead of on-the-field victories.
"We're trying to get our fans in the mindset that you don't applaud our guys when we lose close games," he said. "You don't have to boo us or anything, but we don't need to be patted on the back for close losses. That's one thing we went through last year that, hopefully, we don't have to go through again."
Other than the expectation level, Spurrier is understandably thrilled with Carolina's boosters. They might be the most loyal fans in all of college football. They've supported their program through thick and thin – mostly thin – and their enthusiasm never seems to wane.
Spurrier appreciates this, and gives the fan base considerable credit for the Gamecocks' celebrated 2007 recruiting class.
"Our fans are super," he said. "Even though we lost those close games at home to Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn, the noise level was so great that recruits could say, 'Hey, South Carolina is as big a big-time atmosphere as these other SEC schools. And I can go there and maybe play a little quicker. It looks like they need a few more ball players. And maybe I can be on their first SEC championship team ever.'"
Steve Spurrier's first goal upon assuming the coaching reins at South Carolina two years ago was to upgrade the talent level. His second was to upgrade the expectation level.