Spurrier's journey takes him from legend to enemy

Who woulda thunk it? Shoot, right up until the press conference I had a little voice inside me saying, "he'll back out at the last minute. There's no way he will sign up to try and beat the Gators every year".

It turns out the voice inside my head was that of an idiot. Steve Spurrier did what to many of us was the unthinkable. He took a job in the SEC Eastern Division where IF he has great success he will have to ruin Florida's season. The man who had Gator fans naming their kids for him for the better part of 40 years will instead have Gator partisans naming their tumors for him.

While I don't begrudge anyone the right to do whatever he or she wants to do, this is going to be very strange. And it is going to make the second week of November part more interesting than it has ever has been before.

Spurrier's decision also adds a layer of intrigue to the UF coaching search and the expectations for the next head man. Whether it works out with Urban Meyer or becomes someone else the new coach must realize one thing. A Florida schedule that already includes Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and FSU now has another must-win game.

A Cynic's View Of Clemson/South Carolina Bowl Ban

It seems most pundits around the country are applauding South Carolina and Clemson for banning their teams from bowl games in the aftermath of the disgraceful fights at their season ending game. Punishments were warranted, but I think each school had ulterior motives for their self imposed sanction.

Clemson was dreading a second trip to Boise to play in a blizzard (something called the Humanitarian Bowl which is played on the Boise State smurf turf) and lose more than $300K, like they did in 2002. A bizarre season that included beating Miami and losing to Duke would have inspired about 500 fans, tops, to make the trip to the northwest. The ban actually saves Clemson money.

South Carolina was on the verge of a coaching change, but with the NCAA limits on coaching staff sizes, there was a limit to what the new staff could do while the old guard was preparing for the trip to either Nashville or Shreveport. Now Spurrier can put together a staff and spend December recruiting. Ironically, it's an advantage Ron Zook didn't get three years ago. Carolina is going to have to pay about $800K to skip the game since the SEC does not have any spare teams to fulfill its bowl contracts.

If the schools are truly contrite about the players' behavior in the game, they should hand down about 15 suspensions each for the 2005 season opener. Or better yet, suspend each participant from next year's rematch.

More On Moron Athletes

The Indiana Pacers are a shell of the legit NBA contender they were just a week ago. We witness a near riot in the state of South Carolina. A baseball player throws a chair into the stands. Latrell Sprewell points out how hard it is to feed a family on $10 million a year. And on it goes.

We all have our theories about the problems with athletes in this country and what if anything can be done about it. And I have mine.

It has long been my position that the biggest problem with athletes behaving badly is the lack of deterrence to that behavior. A baseball player gets suspended for charging the mound, he might miss five games (with pay) but also gets to appeal the suspension and, in essence choose when to serve his time. College football rules basically mean no more than one missed game for throwing a punch. Is there anyone out there who doesn't believe Peter Warrick, Jamie Richardson, Lawrence Phillips and others get off easy because of their status?

If you want to see fewer incidents like we have seen lately we have to be prepared to inflict much harsher penalties for violent acts. Our society is screwed up when first time drug offenders often get stiffer penalties than first time rapists do. Similarly our sports world is screwed up when Mo Collins misses half a season for taking $500 from a perspective agent, yet none of the violent acts between South Carolina and Clemson will generate anything similar in terms of time on the sidelines.

Several E-Mail Bag Items

Bill writes, "Listening to Steve Spurrier speak at his news conference was surreal. That one of his stated goals was to beat Florida was beyond surreal, it was paranormal."

I don't know if e.s.p. is involved, but it is a situation that many Gators still have trouble coping with. I remain convinced Steve made the right call not to try and reprise his first tour of duty in Gainesville. I also think that had Miami beaten North Carolina, S-O-S would be a Tar Heel, not a Gamecock.

RSS writes, "Why did it take so long for someone to realize Corey Bailey was a day late and a dollar short and we need Kyle Jackson back at safety?"

Can't answer that one because anyone who follows this column knows I was Kyle Jackson's most ardent supporter form day one. Coaches like familiarity and most will go with a "5" they have been with rather than a "6" that is new, even when that new "6" has is a potential "10." It has been my primary criticism of this staff going back to last year. Too much playing time for average veterans at the expense of more gifted newcomers. Maybe it was great for morale, but I believe it cost Florida several wins in the last two years. And we all know what that eventual cost turned out to be.

Charlie writes, "did the Gators win their last three games because of the firing of Coach Zook?"

Ah the million dollar question. Did this team play better after the firing because the pressure and speculation was over with? I think you can make that case, but frankly I do not know.

I do know this; Florida did not play all that much better in the last four weeks. They lost to Georgia, played so-so in beating a weakened Vandy team that lost Jay Cutler early. The Gators did play a complete game against South Carolina, and then beat the weakest FSU team in 15 years by seven points with the 'Noles having some shots as the end zone to tie it late.

I'm not trying to diminish what was done. Under the circumstances, the Gators deserve a world of credit. However, if not for the history of failure in Tallahassee, this finishing stretch would not be viewed as such a big deal.

Hope you had a Happy thanksgiving. Next week, I'm passing out some season awards.

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com .

I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.

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