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Return to Spurrier hardly a done deal

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  • Return to Spurrier hardly a done deal

    Oct. 27, 2004 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."

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Gators fans disheartened about Spurrier's choice
    by DJRamFan
    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....
    -11-26-2004, 08:22 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Spurrier wants to return to college ranks not the NFL
    by DJRamFan
    Nov. 10, 2004 wire reports

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Steve Spurrier wants to return to college coaching.


    Spurrier told several newspapers he has no intentions returning to the NFL, where he spent two losing seasons with the Washington Redskins.

    Spurrier left Florida in 2002 after 12 winning seasons, six Southeastern Conference championships and a national title. He went 12-20 with the Redskins and resigned after last season.

    "I probably decided then that I was done with the NFL," he told the Gainesville Sun. "It wasn't the lifestyle best for me. You don't have scout teams in the NFL. When I was at Florida, I worked with the quarterback every snap for two hours. It wasn't that way in the NFL."

    Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt resigned Tuesday, prompting speculation that Spurrier would bring his famed visor and playbook to South Florida. But Spurrier told Florida Today that NFL teams shouldn't even bother pursuing him.

    Steve Spurrier isn't interested in the Dolphins' job or any other NFL gig. (Getty Images)
    "I've said recently to several people that if I get back coaching, it will probably be a good college job somewhere," Spurrier said. "It seems like I'm better suited for that. I know I certainly had a lot more success in the college game than in the NFL. So if I return to coaching, I think that would probably be the best idea."

    Spurrier even took a shot at his NFL record.

    "Probably very few NFL teams would want me after the success I had," he said. "Some probably would say that in the right situation I could be successful. But if I had a choice, I'd lean toward the college game. Everybody has their own little niche. The college game was certainly a lot better success-wise for me."

    Spurrier withdrew his name from consideration to return to Gainesville, where Ron Zook was fired last month after two-plus seasons.

    Spurrier refused to reveal whether he would have taken the job had it been offered, but school president Bernie Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley weren't planning to extend any invitations without a full-blown search-and-interview process -- something Spurrier may have felt was a slap in the face considering his track record with the Gators.

    Now Spurrier could land elsewhere, maybe even with another SEC team.

    Spurrier said he would prefer to coach in a warm-weather climate. South Carolina? North Carolina? How about Texas?

    He declined to say whether he has spoken to any schools.

    "I can't answer all that. I can't answer all your questions. In the next two or three weeks, once the season is over, we'll see what happens," he told the Sun.

    -11-11-2004, 10:10 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Spurrier excited about SEC revival with Gamecocks
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 28, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    COLUMBIA, S.C. -- You really can't believe he's 60. On a random offseason weekday, Steve Spurrier is bounding around his office like a kid in Toys R Us.

    South Carolina fans hope Steve Spurrier can do for them what he did for Florida. (Getty Images)
    "Have you seen Cocky?" Spurrier says, flipping on the switch of a two-foot replica of the South Carolina mascot that begins dancing across a ledge.

    "I was lucky on the hair genes," he remarks after a reference to his perfectly coifed hair helmet that looks like it has been preserved since he won the Heisman in 1966 -- as a dashing senior.

    You simply can't believe he's 60. A doctor checked Spurrier's heart last year during his year off from football. It looked better than in 2003, his last year with the Washington Redskins. What was he doing different? Relaxing. Well, that and a new interest in the StairMaster.

    "It gets you huffin' and puffin'," says the smiling man who used to eat quarterbacks for lunch, even when they followed instructions.

    Lunch was served again in the spring. Spurrier, you see, reads everything. Not many people know that about him. Newspapers, TV, Internet. He likes to keep track of the condition of the program.

    After a scrimmage, quarterbacks Blake Mitchell and Antonio Heffner were asked how they thought they did. "Pretty good," they were basically quoted as saying.

    "You call that, 'pretty good?'" he shot back next time the three came together.

    Spurrier sat down his quarterbacks and showed them a film of Florida's 54-17 victory at South Carolina in 2001. Rex Grossman threw for 302 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Gators scored the last 44 points of the game.

    "It was a game we never punted," Spurrier said. "Now that's pretty good, not hitting one out of three. You guys have to understand what playing well means."

    This is the Spur Dog in full. At an age when a lot of men are counting the days to retirement, Spurrier is counting the days toward the opener in his new job.

    "Sometimes as a young coach in your 30s, you're trying to act like you're 45," Spurrier said. "When you get to be above 60 or so, you want to act like you're 45. Health-wise I feel like I can do more than I did at 45. Hopefully my mind is still as good as it was then.

    "I think it is."

    Consider that a warning shot. The college football world is on the edge of its cleats, waiting for The Tao of Steve to return to the game. That opener against Central Florida is now three days away. National television is moving...
    -08-29-2005, 05:07 PM
  • DJRamFan
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 1, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    CHICAGO -- Ron Zook knows his place in college football history. One of the most famous URLs in college football history is still only a couple of keystrokes away.

    Ron Zook brings a .621 winning percentage to Illinois after guiding the Gators to 7-4 in his final season. (Getty Images)

    "I took off from New Orleans, and before I landed in Gainesville, they had that," Zook said reminiscing (sort of) Monday at the Big Ten preseason media days. "(Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Bill Cowher told me, 'Man, you screwed this game up. Now everybody has 'Fire Bill Cowher.'

    "I said that's my legacy to coaching."

    Pretty much. For now. The infamous website now exists only to proclaim "VICTORY" in huge headline type through a doctored front page. Dwight Eisenhower is smiling out from a picture on A1, as if to suggest a battle of World War II proportions had been won.

    The going-out-of business-sale for gear ($9.99 for the thong panties, who knew?) is supposedly concluded. The site, in case you're wondering, supports the hiring of Urban Meyer and proclaims Saturdays are worth waking up for again, "with a Bloody Mary, of course."

    Coaches have been fired, run out of town and disgraced, but seldom all three, and practically never with a .621 winning percentage.

    Just so you know where this column is heading.

    What could have been called debuted Monday -- Zook, the new Illinois coach, taking some not-so-veiled shots at his old employers. Which was great. It's about time. The guy who delivered more filibusters than big victories at Florida isn't a boob or a fool. He's merely the latest guy-to-follow-the-guy, that unfortunate cradle of coaches that counts Bill Guthridge, Gary Gibbs and Gene Bartow among its exclusive group.

    In order, those three followed legends Dean Smith, Barry Switzer and John Wooden. Zook followed The OBC (Ol' Ball Coach), the Florida icon who won six SEC titles and a national championship. No, he wasn't athletic director Jeremy Foley's first choice. No, he had no head coaching experience. And yes, was literally fired up and running before he left the New Orleans Saints to touch down in Gainesville.

    But ...

    "What did you want me to do, tell them no?" Zook said.

    Exactly. What would you do if a super-rich major-college power dumped its football program in your lap? Delivered you from life of assistant coach servitude? Gave you that one chance that 99 percent of coaches never get?

    "People say, 'Why would you follow Steve Spurrier?'" Zook said....
    -08-02-2005, 01:31 PM
  • DJRamFan
    National TV Welcomes Spurrier Back to College
    by DJRamFan
    Cue the TV cameras and dig out the new visors. Steve Spurrier is back.

    Spurrier begins his South Carolina coaching career Thursday night against Central Florida. And befitting the return of one of college football's most charismatic personalities, a joyous party is planned for sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium.

    ESPN is basing its College GameDay show in town, along with profiling the Palmetto State in the network's continuing feature highlighting all 50 states. The country band Big & Rich will perform before the game.

    The main attraction, though, comes before kickoff when the 60-year-old Spurrier steps onto the field after three years away from the college game where his Florida teams once consistently contended for the national title.

    "We realize we have not done anything to earn the spotlight, but we'll take it," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, our play will prove that maybe we deserve it. So that's what we'll try and do Thursday night."

    Spurrier was involved the last time South Carolina enjoyed this sort of attention. Then, he was a bitter rival as Florida came to town and, with a 54-17 victory, ended the Gamecocks' bid for an SEC Eastern Division title in 2001.

    He left in true Spurrier style, poking fun at South Carolina's efforts to "Black Out Florida" - fans dressed in black to show unity - when he said one of his receivers mentioned it was "nice of them to wear all black so we can pick the ball out of the sky."

    Those same Gamecock supporters who angrily crumpled up Spurrier's jabs after reading the next day's newspaper have turned out in record numbers to support their newest star. The stadium has been sold out for weeks, fans came by the hundreds to watch routine summer practices and Spurrier has been cheered at every appearance.

    His new players are eating it up.

    Defensive end Orus Lambert says Spurrier's legacy in the SEC is the excitement and passion he generates. "We love it and we can't wait to play," he says.

    Spurrier has increased the school's exposure as well. He has been a one-man publicity machine for South Carolina this offseason, putting a happy face on the team's numerous problems - including criminal charges against several players and NCAA probation for violations during predecessor Lou Holtz's tenure.

    He has discussed losing desire near the end of his disappointing two years as Washington Redskins coach, of growing tired of golf during his year off and surprising many in college football by choosing to lead one of his favorite patsies from his Florida days. Spurrier's Gators were 10-0 against the Gamecocks.

    Through it all, Spurrier has grinned and vowed the Gamecocks indeed have what it takes to win a Southeastern Conference title - but maybe not right...
    -08-31-2005, 06:04 PM