By their own actions and words it would seem that both Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer were destined to be head coaches for the Gators. When Steve Spurrier finished his career at Florida in 1966 he had become the greatest Gator and arguably will never relinquish that distinction. In later years when Spurrier would come back to the Gators to coach with Doug Dickey and then became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits, it was inevitable that the brash young coach would one day lead the Gators. Winning a conference title in the ACC with Duke not only enhanced the possibilities that this would happen but it whet the appetite of hungry Gators. When he was hired it pulled together a Gator nation unlike any other time in Gator history.
Spring forward to a young Urban Meyer working for the Fightin Irish. Meyer was assigned by Lou Holtz to recruit the state of Florida for the Irish. By his own words the young Meyer found himself at Florida field one day. He had just driven into Gainesville to see what Florida was all about. He saw the campus and then entered the stadium and stood on Florida Field. It was a moment so surreal to him that he called his wife.
Midway through the 2004 season, fifteen years after a brash, confident and innovative Spurrier was looking at returning to Gainesville, Meyer found himself in the same situation. Two-time coach of the year, young confident and innovative Meyer would soon find himself standing in the middle of Florida Field right where the big "F" is emblazoned on the turf for each Gator game. Meyer remembered the previous time he had stood on this hallowed ground and destiny had been fulfilled once again.
While their paths to Gainesville were very different --- Spurrier the successful QB returning and Meyer the coach who had worked himself up hill year after year until as Shelley Meyer says, they had "reached the mountain top" --- both Spurrier and Meyer had been hired to their "dream jobs" while not even out of their forties.
While the personnel on the two teams (1990 and 2005) have many differences, the one big irony is Spurrier came to Gainesville with everyone wondering if he could find a QB who could throw, while Meyer has a QB that throws and people wonder if he can run.
But the real mirror of 1990 and 2005 is the mediocrity that each coach had to follow. The three seasons before Spurrier --- 20-16 overall --- are not spat upon like the three seasons before Meyer's arrival (23-15). Yet, even with Emmitt Smith, Florida's greatest running back ever, the Gators were 0-6 against UGA and FSU from 1987-1989. The three years preceding Meyer the Gator were 3-3 with the rivals and would have been 4-2 with anything less than a totally inept (some say corrupt) officiating crew in 2003 against the Noles.
However, the biggest similarity between the two teams of 1989 and 2004 was not the losing, but the way they lost. A three point loss to Auburn in 1989 was followed by a seven point loss to Ray Goff's Bulldogs (that's right Ray Goff), and that was followed by a third consecutive loss to the Noles (seven points). The 2004 and 1989 were two teams of different eras both with talent, but with a missing ingredient; a head coach that knew how to win and their own style in doing so.
All Gators, who were around in 1990, remember the doubts our opposing fans hurled our way. "This is the SEC" … "you can not win throwing the ball" … "Spurrier has never won against big time schools" … those were all the rage in 1990, much the same as it is now.
While I will not be so presumptive in stating that the SEC will have to change to keep up with the Gators like it did in the early 90's, I do believe that the offense of Urban Meyer will cause the defensive coordinators to spend more time in the film room and in future seasons coaches will be forced to recruit with Florida in mind, just as they had to in the early 90's.
Over the next few days we will look at the four games that may define the Gators' season and in retrospect we will see how these four games may mirror four games of 1990 and be a further example of destiny's fulfillment.