It really is the house that Steve Spurrier built. If’s official now – Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Ben Hill Griffin’s name is on the side of the stadium and it should be. The contributions of Mr. Griffin and his family have had an integral part in the growth of Florida football and the entire athletic program, but make no mistake about it, the stadium is one of college football’s iconic cathedrals because of one Stephen Orr Spurrier. No one has had more impact on Florida football than Spurrier, first as the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who put the Gators on the national map, and then as the head ball coach who went 122-27-1 in 12 seasons, won a national championship in 1996, produced Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel and two Heisman runners-up (Wuerffel in 1995 and Rex Grossman in 2001), 6 SEC championships (including the first one that ever counted) and won at least 9 games every single year.
It wasn’t just that Spurrier won. It was how he won. He was, after all, the same guy as a coach that as a player the late, great Furman Bisher declared would be favored to escape at his own execution. He was Steve Superior and he brought swagger not only to the Gators on the field but to a Gator nation that no longer had to take a back seat to Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the other SEC blue bloods. He was the guy that awakened the sleeping giant that Bear Bryant had warned about during the 1960s. With Spurrier in charge, Florida was a factor every year in the SEC and nearly every year in the national championship picture.
There was no taking it easy when he won. He hung 50 on Georgia in Athens because it hadn’t been done before and in his very own way, evening the score for what Vince Dooley did when he had the Bulldogs kick a field goal to make the score 51-0 in the cold and rain in Jacksonville in 1968. That was the Spurrier way and everybody had to get used to it.
Other than Bear Bryant, no coach has ever had such an impact on the Southeastern Conference. When Spurrier came into the league in 1990, the SEC was known for the smashmouth style of Vince Dooley and the best defenses in the country. It only took one year for Spurrier to change the way the game was played in the SEC. In year one he took the Gators to a 9-2 record that was the best in the SEC but NCAA violations that occurred before even one player on that 1990 roster was enrolled kept UF from winning the conference. Spurrier, who has one of the longest memories in history, never forgot that the SEC punished kids who had nothing to do with the NCAA problems and that most of the schools in the league voted to keep UF from winning the SEC championship. Spurrier took particular delight in beating Georgia and Tennessee, who reportedly led the vote against UF.
Spurrier remains the most successful coach in Florida football history. Yes, Urban Meyer did win two national championships in three years but even Meyer will tell you that without the foundation that Spurrier laid for UF football, none of that would have been possible.
The University of Florida will honor Spurrier with the official name change on September 3 when the Gators open the season with UMass. Spurrier will be aw shucks on the outside, but on the inside he’ll be eating this up.
And every Gator fan should be eating it up, too.
THE KEY IS WINNING GAME ONE
In Kevin O’Sullivan’s 9-year career at the University of Florida, the Gators have a 4-1 record in NCAA Super Regional play. The common denominator in all four Super Regional championships is game one. When the Gators win the first game of the best-of-3 series, they have gone on to the College World Series each time. The one exception was 2009 when Southern Miss came to Gainesville and took out the Gators in two games.
Getting off to a great start will be key for the #1-seeded Gators (50-13) Saturday afternoon when they host arch-rival Florida State (40-20) in the Gainesville Super Regional at McKethan Stadium. Win game one and FSU would have to beat the Gators twice on Sunday to advance to the College World Series and that’s a difficult task when you consider the Seminoles are one of Florida’s home field victims this year (6-0 back on March 15). The Gators, who are 32-4 at home this season, own a 5-game winning streak over the Seminoles in Gainesville including last year’s NCAA Super Regional when UF advanced to Omaha with 13-5 and 11-4 wins.
It is expected that O’Sullivan will send SEC Pitcher of the Year Logan Shore (11-0, 2.44 ERA) to the mound to try to capture the all-important first game. Shore, who beat the Seminoles in game one of last year’s Super Regional, has won 16 straight games dating back to 2015. He has 29 career victories, just two behind career leader Marc (Exxon) Valdes. Shore was selected with the 47th overall pick by the Oakland Athletics in the Major League Baseball Draft.
The game two starter will probably be sophomore righty Alex Faedo (13-1, 3.19 ERA), who is tied for the national lead in victories. Faedo has struck out 117 batters in 93 innings while walking only 18 batters. Should the Gators need a game three O’Sullivan will probably go with lefty A.J. Puk (2-3, 3.21 ERA), who was picked by the Athletics with the #6 overall pick in the draft Thursday night although Dane Dunning (5-3, 2.50 ERA) could get the nod if hasn’t thrown in games one and two. Dunning was taken in the first round with the 29th pick by the Washington Nationals.
Coaching records: Kevin O’Sullivan, 394-186 (9 years); Mike Martin, 1,897-669-4 (37th year)
Gators at McKethan Stadium: 32-4
FSU away from Tallahassee: 11-11 (8-9 on the road, 3-2 neutral site)
Gators vs. FSU under Kevin O’Sullivan: 18-15 (won last 5 games and is 13-4 since the 2012 season)
Hitting: UF .281; FSU .300
Home runs: UF 50; FSU 57
Team ERA: UF 3.02; FSU 3.70
Walks allowed: UF 150; FSU 218
Strikeouts: UF 617; FSU 496
Errors: UF 43 (.982 fielding percentage); FSU 74 (.968 fielding percentage)
Leading hitters UF: Peter Alonso (.368, 12 HR, 55 RBI); Dalton Guthrie (.306, 1 HR, 22 RBI); Jonathan India (.310, 3 HR, 34 RBI); JJ Schwarz (.299, 6 HR, 54 RBI); Mike Rivera (.262, 9 HR, 47 RBI)
Leading hitters FSU: Jackson Lueck (.408, 4 HR, 35 RBI); John Sansone (.374, 9 HR, 65 RBI); Taylor Walls (.367, 6 HR, 45 RBI); Dylan Busby (.328, 14 HR, 55 RBI); Cal Raleigh (.308, 10 HR, 50 RBI)
Leading pitchers UF: RH Logan Shore (11-0, 2.44 ERA, 80 strikeouts/15 walks); RH Alex Faedo (13-1, 3.19 ERA, 117 strikeouts/18 walks); RH Dane Dunning (5-3, 2.50 ERA, 2 saves, 78 strikeouts/11 walks); RH Shaun Anderson (3-0, 1.05 ERA, 13 saves, 56 strikes/6 walks); LH A.J. Puk (2-3, 3.21 ERA, 95 strikeouts/31 walks); LH Kirby Snead (3-1, 2.78 ERA, 1 save, 33 strikeouts, 11 walks)
Leading pitchers FSU: RH Drew Carlton (7-3, 4.36 ERA, 71 strikeouts/23 walks); RH Jim Voyles (6-1, 2.50 ERA, 48 strikeouts/18 walks); RH Cole Sands (6-6, 4.21 ERA, 46 strikeouts, 31 walks); RH Mike Compton (5-3, 4.92 ERA, 32 strikeouts/19 walks); LH Tyler Holton (3-3, 2.92 ERA, 78 strikeouts/32 walks)
UF VS. FSU IN THE REGULAR SEASON
Florida 6, FSU 0/March 15, Gainesville
Peter Alonso and Nelson Maldonado homered to back up Dane Dunning, who gave the Gators 5-2/3 shutout innings. Dunning gave up 7 hits, walked one and struck out 5. Maldonado gave UF the only run it would need with a solo homer in the second and Alonso ripped a 2-run shot to left in the third as part of a 9-hit Florida attack.
Florida 3, FSU 2/March 29, Jacksonville
Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer and Shaun Anderson combined to limit the Seminoles to 7 hits while striking out 9 to lead the Gators. Kowar pitched 5 innings of 5-hit baseball, while Singer went 3 innings, allowing 2 hits. Shaun Anderson came on to pitch a perfect 9th for the save, striking out 2. Mike Rivera’s 2-run home was the big blow at the plate for the Gators but what proved to be the game-winner was a Buddy Reed triple down the right field line that scored Jonathan India.
Florida 8, FSU 2/April 12, Tallahassee
Dalton Guthrie, JJ Schwarz and Peter Alonso combined for 9 of Florida’s 12 hits and 5 RBI as the Gators scored 4 late runs to put away the Seminoles in the final game of the regular season series at Dick Howser Stadium. Guthrie had a run-scoring double in the 2nd and an RBI single in the 4th. Schwarz had RBI singles in the 5th and 9th innings and a solo homer in the 8th. Alonso scored a run, singled twice and added a double. Pitching was by committee as 5 Florida pitchers combined to limit the Seminoles to 6 hits. Control was somewhat of a problem as UF uncharacteristically walked six batters although they combined for 10 strikeouts.
FIVE GATORS DRAFTED
Five Gators were selected when the Major League Baseball Draft began Thursday night with lefty pitcher A.J. Puk and righty Dane Dunning going in the first round. Righthanded pitcher Logan Shore was taken in the second round along with center fielder Buddy Reed and first baseman Peter Alonso.
Puk, who was the #6 pick overall, and Shore, taken with the 47th pick, will start their professional careers with the Oakland Athletics, who drafted UF shortstop Richie Martin in the first round last year. Dunning was taken at #29 by the Washington Nationals while Reed went to the San Diego Padres with the 48th pick. Later in the second round, Alonso was taken by the New York Mets with the 64th overall pick.
The draft will continue through Saturday with RHP Shaun Anderson, 1B Peter Alonso and LHPs Kirby Smart and Scott Moss likely to be selected.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
From Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh: “They’re (NCAA) making these rules up as they go along. It’s really discouraging, but I think there’s a real prejudice against football in this country – at the pro level, the college level, the high school level, the Pee Wee level.”
Johnny Football’s lawyer says his client is planning to cut back on the partying so he can return to the NFL in 2016. Perhaps Jim Darnell would have been a teensy bit more reassuring had he said that Johnny Manziel has cleaned up his act and has turned his back on the party life.
Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman has a novel idea. Asked what he would do if he became president of the United States, Sherman told ESPN Radio in Seattle, “I’d stop spending billions of taxpayer dollars on stadiums and probably get us out of debt and maybe make the billionaires who actually benefit from the stadiums pay for them.” What a concept.
Starting in 2017, college football will allow coaches to use electronic devices and video in the press boxes during games and in the locker rooms at halftime. The NCAA would be smart to adapt the NFL rule that allows coaches to communicate from the sideline to the QB through the helmet.
Draymond Green didn’t spare anyone’s feelings after Golden State’s blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night. “We were extremely soft,” Green said. “We got bullied, punked, whatever word you can find for it.” The Warriors take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Championship Finals tonight in Cleveland.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
With all the fears over injuries and the push for soccer and other sports, is Jim Harbaugh right? Is there a growing prejudice against football in the United States?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When I think of Amy Winehouse, I think of what could have been. When she was sober, she was an incredible talent, a tremendous songwriter and soulful singer with an expressive childlike voice that was far better live than in studio. Winehouse, who won 7 Grammy Awards in her way too short life, died at 27 of alcohol poisoning. Today’s music is a 2007 concert she did in London.