COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says his words to supporters this spring have been just as well received as those a year ago even when he tells fans to win consistently they will have to dig a little deeper into their wallets.
Spurrier has told Gamecock Club meetings this offseason that for South Carolina to compete on par with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, some of the Gamecocks' football facilities need a significant upgrade.
``I think most of them like'' the message, Spurrier said Tuesday.
Spurrier hears most often that many supporters and booster haven't been asked to improve facilities before and ``if that's what we need to do to play big-time football, let's go do it,'' the coach said.
The words are different than before Spurrier's first season when he told gleeful Gamecock fans that everything was here for South Carolina to succeed in football.
And succeed with Spurrier it did to a point.
The Gamecocks won a school-record five straight in the Southeastern Conference, including landmark victories over Tennessee and Florida. But Spurrier's team couldn't sustain as South Carolina fell to Clemson and to Missouri in the Independence Bowl, to finish 7-5 and outside the top 25.
``We pooped out there at the end,'' he said.
Part of the reason, Spurrier surmises, is South Carolina can't match the facilities of its SEC rivals. Without snazzy digs, top recruits look elsewhere and the Gamecocks remain in the wake of the league's best teams.
Gamecock fans were already hit with a $10 a game increase in season tickets for next season, the price going from $210 to $280.
Spurrier knows more money talk will alienate and anger some backers.
``There may be a few that say, 'Well, he's trying to use that as an excuse for getting his butt kicked by some teams,'' Spurrier said. ``I'm not trying to use any excuses. We sort of are what we are.''
Spurrier says first up in renovations are player dorm rooms. Spurrier wants to change carpets and put in new furniture and beds because what's in the rooms now look like they've been there 25 years. That work is expected to start in May.
Spurrier laid it out bluntly earlier this month before a Gamecock Club meeting in Greenville.
``Our message to the fans is that we have to improve our facilities, and yes, that means money,'' he said in The Greenville News last week. ``I'm not talking about 98 percent of our fans who contribute loyally every year and do all they can, I'm talking about the 2 percent of the wealthy who can step up and really make a difference for us.''
Other improvements Spurrier hopes to see are in the cafeteria, training areas and academic facilities. The school recently completed the Charles F. Crews Football Facility in the South End Zone area of Williams-Brice Stadium. The building has state of the art weight and meeting rooms, along with a trophy and memorabilia case honoring Gamecock football.
South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman is developing a facilities upgrade program that he plans to make public in June. He did not get into details of what might be ahead as far as improvements. But Hyman says he gets a sense that Gamecock supporters are generally in favor of bettering facilities.
Still, Hyman knows the reviews could change if people feel put upon in an economic climate where gas prices are approaching $3 a gallon in the state and the cost of just about everything has gone up.
Spurrier and Hyman feel the opportunity is there as long as South Carolina and its fans are bold enough to grab it.
``We have a window of opportunity with coach Spurrier and that window's not going to stay open forever,'' Hyman said.