Ex-Razorback sets feelings aside

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Kirk Botkin was on Bobby Petrino's first staff at Arkansas. Now he's an assistant coach for South Carolina.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Kirk Botkin was on Bobby Petrino's first staff at Arkansas. Now he's an assistant coach for South Carolina.

— Twenty years after Kirk Botkin became Arkansas’ first All-SEC football player, he’ll coach against the Razorbacks today in Williams-Brice Stadium.

It’s also the site where Botkin and the Razorbacks won their first SEC game, 45-7 over South Carolina on Sept. 12, 1992.

Botkin, a first-team All-SEC tight end in 1992 and a member of Arkansas’ All-Decade Team for the 1990s, is in his first season as South Carolina’s linebackers coach.

“Arkansas is my alma mater and I love it, but I love my brother, too, and if I’m playing him I want to kick his butt,” Botkin said. “I want to win every game, no matter who’s on the other side.

“That’s just the way you’ve got to be as a competitor.”

Botkin also has coached against the Gamecocks as Arkansas’ outside linebackers and special teams coach for two seasons in 2008 and 2009 before he was fired by Bobby Petrino.

Being fired, Botkin said, is “just part of the business.” He declined to speak negatively about Petrino, who was fired as Arkansas’ coach in April for off-the-field issues.

“He had a different idea about stuff than I did, and he and I just didn’t see eye-to eye on some things,” Botkin said. “That’s the way it works sometimes.”

After playing in the NFL for four seasons, Botkin began his coaching career in 1999 at Sterling High School in his hometown of Baytown, Texas. He worked as a college assistant from 2000-2009, then returned to the high school ranks in 2010 as defensive coordinator at Texarkana, Texas.

Now he’s back in the SEC with the 7-2 Gamecocks, who are No. 8 in the BCS rankings.

“Coaching is coaching,” Botkin said. “The stadiums are bigger in some places, but it’s still all about football. You’re working with your kids to get them to do things the right way, teaching fundamentals.

“I played in the NFL and I’ve coached in high school and college, and I know there are good coaches at every level and there are bad coaches at every level. I’ve seen it firsthand. I know some high school coaches that probably could be coaching in the NFL, and I know some NFL coaches that probably shouldn’t be coaching on that level.”

When Lorenzo Ward was promoted to South Carolina’s defensive coordinator after last season, he called Botkin and offered him a job. The two worked together as assistants at Arkansas in 2008 before Ward left for South Carolina after one season.

After Botkin and Ward joined the Arkansas staff, they were roommates in an apartment for several weeks before their families moved to Fayetteville. They became good friends.

“We share a lot of the same philosophies on defense,” Botkin said. “So when Coach Ward gave me an opportunity, I said, ‘I’ll work for you any day,’ because he’s a good person and a dang good football coach.”

South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said Botkin has been a good hire.

“Kirk’s done an excellent job,” Spurrier said. “His linebackers have played well, and Kirk’s an excellent recruiter. So yeah, we’re fired up he’s with us.”

Botkin said he couldn’t be happier working for Spurrier, who has a 204-77-2 record in 273 seasons as a college head coach.

“Coach Spurrier is a great family man, and he loves his family and he loves football and he’s a competitor,” Botkin said. “He’s a guy who tells you exactly what he thinks and there’s nothing wishy-washy about it, and I appreciate that. I couldn’t ask for a better boss.”

Sports, Pages 23 on 11/10/2012