More conspiracy theories than The Grassy Knoll

It's a conspiracy! <p> Yeah, that's the ticket! <p> Only a full fledged, carefully thought out, cleverly planned conspiracy could keep Steve Orr Spurrier from once again assuming his rightful mantle as the head of the Gator Nation. Only someone as sinister as Bernie Machen and as ruthless as Jeremy Foley could pull this one off.

Yeah, right.

Steve Spurrier won't return to the University of Florida as the head coach. He made the decision Thursday morning, deciding to withdraw his name from consideration, acknowledging that Machen and Foley had opened the door for him to return to the UF as head coach. Spurrier said he has no other coaching options at this moment and is not sure he will coach again, but he made it clear that it won't be at UF next year, thus ending a two week run of rumors that the deal was already done for a triumphal return to lead the Gators to a bevy of national championships.

Spurrier's withdrawal and explanation were the source of one conspiracy theory after another Thursday. Not since the tale of the gunman on the grassy knoll in Dallas have there been so many people convinced that there is a conspiracy here if only we will open our eyes. Here are six theories that top the list of hundreds from Thursday, theories that could better be described as six dogs that just won't hunt.

  1. THE BURY MY HEART AT TWISTED KNEE THEORY: This one is traced back to 2001 when Earnest Graham was injured in the Florida-FSU game. Spurrier accused FSU's Darnell Dockett of causing the injury by twisting Graham's knee in a pileup. Graham's knee was hurt so badly that he didn't play the next week against Tennessee, a game the Gators lost, preventing them from winning the Southeastern Conference championship and getting a shot at the national title. Spurrier never felt the UF administration supported his public anger at FSU after the injury. When he announced his retirement a couple of days after the Orange Bowl, Spurrier took a shot at Jeremy Foley and then UF president Charles Young by praising former UF president John Lombardi and noting how he (Spurrier) thought Lombardi would have stood up to FSU over the incident. So, Thursday's theory was that Spurrier finally had his chance to avenge Earnest Graham by spurning Jeremy Foley, that by saying no, this would cost Foley his job as athletic director and Machen look like a clone of Chucky the prez.

  2. THE ON THE EIGHTH DAY GOD CREATED STEVIE WONDER THEORY: In this theory, Spurrier's ego is so huge that he wouldn't pick a number and stand in line like everyone else. Rather than wait for the selection process to run its course, which would mean that Spurrier has to interview along with every Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino or Rich Rodriguez out there, Spurrier demands that he is moved to the head of the class. When his demand goes unmet, he throws his visor to the ground, stomps on it and walks out in a huff. Ascribers of this theory say that since Spurrier's ego is so monumental and that he actually thinks he is God's gift to coaching, he walked away rather than being lumped with mere coaching mortals who haven't a single national championship to their names.
  3. THE OLD YOU WON'T HAVE STEVIE WONDER TO KICK AROUND THEORY: This is one of my favorites. This theory says that Spurrier is still haunted by his unsuccessful two years in the National Football League, to the point that his self-confidence has taken a powder and he is afraid to step back into the coaching arena. Further, he won't ever coach again because he doesn't think he's still got it. So, rather than come back to Florida where he is welcomed with open arms but just might fail, Spurrier simply wimped out and said no before it ever got around to UF making him an offer.
  4. THE OLD DOUBLE SWITCHEROO THEORY: I am shocked that at 11 p.m. on Thursday night there are still people sending me instant messages claiming this one has legs. In this theory, Spurrier and Bobby Stoops are dual conspirators but with a slight twist. Spurrier, according to this theory, withdrew his name to open the door for Bobby Stoops to leave the University of Oklahoma for the UF job, and that by doing so this early in the coaching search, he sent a message to Wayne Huizenga with the Miami Dolphins that he is ready to succeed Dave Wannstedt. Spurrier gets to return to the NFL where he proves that the two years in Washington were just a fluke and Stoops gets to leave Norman, where winters are cold, for Florida where they are not.
  5. THE MINE'S BIGGER THEORY: This theory suggests that in an effort to prove that he's got every bit as much testosterone as the old ball coach and all the boosters who thoroughly supported his return to UF, that Machen said no and dared anyone to cross the line he drew in the dirt. In this theory, Machen actually knows that Spurrier would be the best fit as the football coach at UF, but rather than bring in a coach whose ego he perceives could apply for statehood, he shows who is the boss by making it impossible for Spurrier to return. Seeing that Machen isn't likely to budge, Spurrier and the boosters limp on off into the sunset under the guise of a wimpy withdrawal notice by Spurrier.
  6. THE AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG THEORY: If you believe this one, then Spurrier is withdrawing his name as a ploy to make Machen, Foley, the boosters and the entire Gator nation literally get down on our collective knees to beg his return. This one says that Spurrier doesn't feel enough love yet, and notes his own statement he made so many times throughout the years, "You never say never." So if we believe this one, until he feels that we, the unworthy, are pouring out our hearts and souls, begging his return, he will hold out.

There are other theories out there, some of them even more bizarre, but the fact is that if he doesn't want to coach at Florida, then Spurrier did a favor by withdrawing his name at this early stage of the search process. You can theorize all you want that it's because Spurrier felt slighted or that Machen and Foley conspired to keep Spurrier out, but for reasons that perhaps only Steve and Jeri Spurrier know for sure, he chose to withdraw.

Now the shadow of Spurrier is no longer a potential hangup in the selection process. There are a lot of bright and capable coaches out there, one of whom will be leading the Florida football program in 2005. With Spurrier looming as a possibility, coaches such as Oklahoma State's Les Miles, Utah's Urban Meyer, Boise State's Dan Hawkins, Louisville's Bobby Petrino or West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez might have never considered pursuing the Florida job. With Spurrier officially pulling his name out of the hat, those and other successful coaches can know that they won't be competing with a legend for a job that they might be capable of handling with great success.

If you know one thing about Steve Spurrier it is that his love for the University of Florida is never ending. I don't know why or when he actually decided that he didn't want to return, but I believe with all my heart that if he had pushed for it, he would get the job. It's easy to theorize that he wanted to be publicly welcomed like a conquering hero or that Machen and Foley made it too difficult, but I do know that the last thing in the world that Spurrier would do is bring shame on the university or make it impossible for the school to find the right coach.

I believe that the reasons he chose to withdraw are not as important as the timing. His early withdrawal tells me that he cares enough to give Machen and Foley a chance to find the right coach without having to convince everyone they talk to that they're interviewing only as a courtesy, that Stevie Wonder will be the choice when all is said and done.

So put an end to the theories why Stevie Wonder's not returning.

But, if you have a theory why it's going to be Les Miles or someone like that, I'm all ears.

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