Return to Spurrier hardly a done deal
Oct. 27, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- All the trophies Steve Spurrier brought to Florida still line the hallways inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Six Southeastern Conference championships, two Heismans and a national title.
Spurrier's legacy remains -- and it always will.
He gave the program its first Heisman Trophy in 1966, its first SEC title in 1991 and its only national championship in 1996. He coached the Gators to 122 victories over 12 seasons, tormented opponents with his offensive flair and witty one-liners, and left town with the best winning percentage in league history.
So if Spurrier wants to coach at Florida again, is there anything that would prevent his return?
"Everybody thinks it's a done deal. It's not a done deal. It's not a slam dunk," said Tommy Donahoo, president of Gators Boosters Inc., which raises money for the school's athletic programs. "Spurrier can't just ask for the job and get it. There's certainly a contingency out there that wants him back, but there also are people upset with some of the things he did before."
For everything Spurrier would seemingly return to Gainesville -- credibility, victories and championships -- he also brings some baggage.
Many fans are still upset over the way Spurrier left Florida. He called athletic director Jeremy Foley from his beach house and dropped the news in the middle of the recruiting season.
His recruiting dropped the last few years -- he admitted he left the "cupboard somewhat bare" -- and he wanted to limit the number of stops he made on the annual tour of "Gator Clubs."
Speculation about his return has even prompted concerns about his age (is 59 older than ideal?) and his motivation (will he leave again for the NFL?).
Would players, fans, boosters, Foley and school president Bernie Machen be willing to trade potential problems for the chance to restore the Gators to the national elite? Would they be silly not to?
"It was hard for coach Zook to replace 'The Legend,"' center Mike Degory said. "And if 'The Legend' wants to come back, it's going to answer a lot of questions."
There's also Spurrier's relationship with school administrators to consider, and his lack of one with Machen.
As for Spurrier and Foley, the AD says the relationship hasn't soured.
"Steve Spurrier and I were friends before he was the head football coach at the University of Florida, we're friends today and we'll be friends forever," Foley said. "Did we always see eye to eye and stuff? No, but our friendship has never been better."
Spurrier has met Machen only once, at an SEC basketball tournament a few years ago. Still, Machen knows all about Spurrier's accomplishments and has been reminded about them a lot lately through e-mails.
He remains steadfast that a full-blown search-and-interview process be conducted after the season.
Utah coach Urban Meyer has been mentioned as a possible candidate because Machen hired him in December 2002.
But Meyer has no ties to Florida and certainly can't match the hardware collection Spurrier accumulated during his tenure.
"We have checks and balances in place now that we haven't had in the past," Donahoo said. "Dr. Machen is a very strong individual and he's going to make sure this coaching search is done properly. He's going to take a close look at the list of talent when the season is over. The decision could very well be Spurrier. But it's certainly not a done deal."