By Brian Shaffer Independent Florida Alligator
Gainesville, FL (U-WIRE) -- The name Steve Spurrier evokes great emotion from the people of Gainesville, Fla.

It was an emotion of hope when he took the head coaching position at UF in 1990. It was one of pride when he led the Gators to the 1996 national championship. But now, after hearing that their former beloved coach is taking over at South Carolina, the people of Gainesville run the gamut from angry to indifferent to almost relieved.

Rumors of a storybook Spurrier return to the Gators sideline began swirling almost immediately following the Oct. 25 announcement of former coach Ron Zook's firing. At that press conference, UF athletics director Jeremy Foley insisted that he and Spurrier had not suffered a personal falling out and that Spurrier was certainly up for consideration to replace Zook.

However, Spurrier soon issued a statement that he was withdrawing himself from consideration at UF. Fans quickly began to speculate whether his statement was sincere, or if he had dropped out of the running due to the way Foley and UF president Bernie Machen handled the situation.

"I think [he didn't return because] he felt the reasons he left Florida in the first place were still valid," UF historian Norm Carlson said. "He was here for 12 years and he accomplished a heck of a lot. I think that is the reason he issued the statement a couple of weeks ago withdrawing from the position. He felt that the reasons had been validated."

While the reasons that Spurrier balked at the opportunity to fill the Gators coaching vacancy are up for debate locally, some UF boosters are not happy with the way it was handled by the school's administration.

"As a booster and lifelong Florida fan, I am disappointed in our university for not being able to put a deal together with Steve," said Larry Martin, a Bull Gator from Ocala. "I'm also disappointed in [Spurrier] that he has now decided to coach against the University of Florida instead of for us... It has been a real tough thing for us to digest and to swallow. When you think about how much he means to the university and to the UF fans, it almost feels like we've been slapped in the face."

Spurrier's landing in Columbia and not in Gainesville may have incited Gators boosters, however, current UF students continue to ride high following a victory against in-state rival Florida State and are still preoccupied by the turmoil surrounding Zook.

When Zook was fired in midseason, Zook loyalists were few and far between. But after three consecutive wins to finish out the season, Zook has received a groundswell of local support.

"I'm actually almost tired of hearing about [Spurrier]," said Jesse Colston, a fourth-year Industrial Engineering student. "I'm more curious as to where Ron Zook is going to end up than to where Spurrier ended up, to tell you the truth. My first reaction was that I wanted Spurrier to come back. But I doubted that he would and I'm glad that he decided to go in a different direction."

Foley issued a statement regarding Spurrier's decision to take the Game****s job, and as expected, he wished him well with one small catch.

"Coach Spurrier has obviously meant a lot to the University of Florida and Southeastern Conference football," Foley said. "His time here at Florida was very, very special. He left the Florida program to pursue other challenges and this is the latest in his pursuit for something new. We wish him well and the best of luck in every game except for one."

(C) 2004 Independent Florida Alligator via U-WIRE