Reality check! Someone please take a reality check!
Someone tell me please how it is that Steve Spurrier has betrayed the Gators by taking the job at South Carolina?
Oh, I know. It's because he's now trying to destroy the Gators. Oh wait. I like this one. It's because he wants to get back at Jeremy Foley. Wait, this one's even better. It's because he owes us. We made him what he is, therefore he has to remain loyal to us.
Give me a break.
I'm one of those people who waited till next year a lot longer than most of you reading this have been alive. I spent my life waiting for next year and until Stevie Wonder came back to Gainesville to coach the Gators, I thought I would always be waiting till next year. He gave us 122 wins in 10 years, a national championship and eight Southeastern Conference championships. Yeah, I know. Officially it's six, but if the SEC can't take away the SEC title that Alabama won by cheating back in 1999, then I refuse to count 1990 anything but an SEC title for Spurrier and the Gators.
When I started going to Gator games over 40 years ago, all I ever wanted was to once, just once, not have to wait till next year. When I finally didn't have to wait till next year in 1984 and 1985, we were in the NCAA jailhouse, so it was back to business as usual, which meant forever hoping for what never happened.
Steve Spurrier gave Florida the three most exciting years of football when he was a player back in the 1960s. We didn't win the SEC or the national championship, but he won the Heisman Trophy and to a school that had never won anything, that was pretty darn good. What he did back then was pave the way for all the success that UF has had in the decades since. As a coach he made us the perennial power we had never been before. We were constantly in the top ten, usually in the top five, and you could just about pencil in ten wins a year. You can count on one hand the number of coaches who averaged 10 wins a year for 12 years.
When Spurrier left after the 2002 season, for reasons I've never understood, there has been a mounting hatefest in some circles. I can't understand it. Suddenly, our fans have decided he really wasn't that good of a coach. And though the reasons he left are a bit cloudy to this day, there are those who seem to think he owed us something when he walked away.
He owed us nothing when he left. He gave us the best 12 years we ever had. He won big. He won often. He did it clean. We never went on probation or even came close to it.
But now that he's decided to coach again, and at South Carolina of all places, I am to believe that Steve Spurrier has betrayed me and all of the Gator nation? I'm supposed to believe that he is disloyal and that his number should be taken down off the wall in the south end zone of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium?
Yeah, right. That makes a lot of sense. That rates right up there on the logic meter with Elvis is still alive and running a gas station on the upper Michigan peninsula.
When Ron Zook was fired, everyone assumed Spurrier would be coming home to coach the Gators. That made sense. He was not coaching. He has a home in Gainesville. He wants to coach again. The Gators need a coach. Connect the dots.
Well, if the move made so much sense, then why won't he be the coach next year? To find out those reasons, talk to either Steve and Jeri Spurrier, or Jeremy Foley and Bernie Machen. They are probably the only four people on the planet who actually know for sure why that won't happen. Some have been quick to blame Spurrier for his ego getting in the way and an equal number seem of the opinion that Foley and Machen just didn't want a 60-year-old coach even if his name was Spurrier. There could be some measure of truth in both trains of thought.
Stevie Wonder does have an ego large enough to merit a bid for statehood, but I also know that if his ego were really that out of control, then why didn't he force the issue at UF? Believe me, the big money people were ready to pen their signatures on some very large checks. If Spurrier had forced the issue, he would be the next coach and there isn't one damn thing that Machen and Foley could have done about it. You can book that.
I believe that Spurrier made the decision he wants to coach this year. I believe he asked Machen and Foley to make a decision quickly and when it became obvious to him that they were not willing to pull the trigger, he pulled his name, choosing to move along. I don' think he did it out of anger or too much pride. I just think he wants to coach and if Florida is not interested, there are jobs out there that he can get. I also believe that Machen wanted Urban Meyer all along. I believe that Foley had some names on his own list whom he thought were intriguing enough that he wasn't willing to commit to SOS. Because of that, I believe Spurrier withdrew to pursue other jobs.
I don't blame Spurrier and the more I think of it, I find it difficult to blame either Machen or Foley. Yes, I wanted Spurrier to return, but I also understand that it's not my decision and the people who make the decision for the University of Florida have to go with their gut instinct about what's best for the school. Whoever they choose to be the next football coach is the coach I will support.
There are Gators who are claiming that if Spurrier really loved Florida, he would have taken the job at North Carolina or Texas. Well, last I checked, they have coaches at both those schools. Bill Bunting's job has been saved at UNC and Mack Brown's not going anywhere. So tell me where else he would have coached? Kentucky? Illinois? And while we're here, please tell me why it is that we have the right to tell Steve Spurrier where it is acceptable to coach?
I've also heard that since Spurrier has plenty of money that he shouldn't coach for a school that has to play Florida. Say what?
He wants to coach. Money is not the issue. It it were he would have taken Wayne Huizenga's calls about coming down to Miami where he could have made more money than the gross domestic product of Haiti.
If Spurrier were a former programmer for Apple who after being away for three years decided for a variety of reasons against returning to Apple, then took a job with Microsoft, how many sanctimonious outbursts would there be? Everyone would say he has to do what's best for him and that he has to go where he's happiest. That's life.
And that's what this is. Life. Somehow, though, some folks think that because it's football, it's more than life. Somehow because it's football, it transcends life and it makes Steve Spurrier into a Gator-hating traitor. Somehow, because this is football, the rules are different. Somehow, because this is football, Spurrier has to answer not only to God, his family and to himself, but also to Gator fans? Pulllllleeeeeezzzzze.
He's taken a job at South Carolina. Does that mean he hates the Gators? No. It just means that he'll be trying to do something that no coach has ever done there, which is to win big and win big consistently. I hope he succeeds in getting South Carolina a lot of 10-1 records with that one loss being to the Gators. But whatever he does, win or lose, I'll always pull for Steve Spurrier. I was a Gator before Spurrier ever came to Florida, but because he came to Florida and because he accomplished so much, I will always be grateful to him. No matter where he's coaching.