Image Credit: ESPNI
Just months after retiring as a head ball coach, Steve Spurrier has come full circle back to where it all started. The Florida Gators athletic department announced Friday that Spurrier will be rejoining his alma mater as “ambassador and consultant” for the entire athletic program.”
“My wife, Jerri, and I are extremely thrilled to be returning home to our alma mater, and to Gainesville where we met on campus over 50 years ago,” Spurrier, 71, said in a statement released by the program. “I’m very appreciative to Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, Head Coach Jim McElwain and Phil Pharr of Gator Boosters for their role in making this happen.”
After thanking South Carolina for his time there, Spurrier clarified where his allegiances once again exist.
“I will now pull for South Carolina to win every game but one, just as I did when I pulled for Florida to win every game but one as the Gamecock coach. I will try my best to promote and assist in any way I can to help the Gators to continue to be one of the very best athletic programs in America. I admire what Coach [Jim]McElwain and his staff accomplished last year. I’m anxious to watch the Gator football team as they strive to be the best in the SEC and the nation in the years ahead.”
According to Gators’ website, Spurrier’s role will include “serving as a mentor to UF coaches, as a representative at Gator Booster functions, as a bridge between former players and the school” as well as additional duties that have not yet been determined.
Spurrier returns to Florida 15 years after coaching the Gators for the last time. He spent two years with Washington in the NFL and 11 with South Carolina but has been out of work the last few months after resigning in the middle of the 2015 season.
The Head Ball Coach has been honored by the Gators three times since departing, first by being placed the the inaugural Ring of Honor class in 2006, second with a bronze statue in front of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and third in June when UF announced it would rename the stadium Steve Spurrier-Florida Field with an official unveiling set for Sept. 3.
“It’s a great day for the Gator Nation to be able to welcome Coach Spurrier back home,” athletic director Jeremy Foley, who himself steps down in October, said in a statement. “He has served as a tremendous ambassador to the University and the athletic department for 50-plus years and it’s only fitting that at this point in his career, he is back in Gainesville. Being a Gator has always meant so much to Coach Spurrier, but it means just as much to us have him come home.”
Florida head football coach Jim McElwain also welcomed Spurrier back into the fold with open arms.
“I look forward to visiting with him on a lot of occasions and picking his brain on a number of issues,” McElwain said. “It’s a credit to Jeremy to get him back home where he belongs. More than anything I look forward to actually talking to him and being around him rather than just saying hello to his statue on my way to work every day.”
Spurrier went 122-27-1 (87-12 SEC) while at Florida, leading the Gators to their first national title in the 1996 season; he also won six SEC championships and seven SEC East crowns. Spurrier was named SEC Coach of the Year at Florida five times and took the Gators to a second national title game, which it lost in the 1995 season, one year before he returned to the game and won.
He brought the Gators to the first five SEC Championship Games ever played and led the program to its first SEC title in 1991. Of course, his time at Florida will also be remembered for the introduction of the Fun ‘n’ Gun offense, which many believe helped revolutionize college football.
As a player, Spurrier was a two-time All-America First Team selection; he won the Heisman Trophy and Walter Camp Memorial Trophy in 1966, the same season he was named SEC Player of the Year. Spurrier compiled 4,848 passing yards and 37 touchdowns at Florida, but he did more than just throw the ball, also serving as the team’s punter and kicker on occasion.