NEW YORK CITY — It was a cold night on the streets of a city that hadn’t even thought about sleep yet. Every 10 seconds or so someone leaned on a horn and steam drifted out of manhole covers like it was a movie set.
Under the 107-year-old Queensboro Bridge, in an event space fit for a royal wedding, the guest list poured in from the chill into a place that couldn’t have been more warm.
There, at Guastavino’s, where black-and-white clad wait staff members walked around with trays of hors d’oeuvres on perfect white plates, it was truly a night of too many stars if you were a college football fan.
Is that Dabo Swinney over there? Doesn’t he have something better to do?
Not really. Because even as the Clemson coach gets ready for his third consecutive College Football Playoff Game against Alabama, he wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
Even if it meant hearing the guest of honor during his speech say, “Upsets happen, Syracuse beat Clemson this year.”
Swinney took time off from a busy schedule. So did new Florida coach Dan Mullen. Bob Stoops was there with his wife Carol. Is that Doug Dickey regaling a couple of media boys with stories?
“I always said Duke has the smartest people,” the former UF and Tennessee coach said. “Florida fired Steve, Georgia Tech fired Steve, Duke hired Steve. That proves it.”
Dickey, in his final year at Florida in 1979, hired an unknown coach who needed a job. My, what he started. Spurrier turned his first coaching job into a double Hall of Fame career.
On Tuesday night, the Head Ball Coach was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for the second time. Spurrier was one of the 12 inductees at the stuffier black-tie affair in New York, but none of them can breathe the rarefied air shared by only four people in the history of the sport.
Spurrier, now 72, was inducted as a player in 1986. Only three other men have made it as both a player and a coach — Bowden Wyatt, Amos Alonzo Stagg and Bobby Dodd.
So it was a pretty big deal Monday night, big enough for the University Athletic Association to throw this glitzy bash and invite a Who’s Who of football, especially Gator football.
Danny Wuerffel gave a nice talk that included the joke he has told about 500 time about Spurrier once telling him, “It’s not your fault, it’s my fault for putting you in the game.”
Scott Stricklin, the UF athletic director, was the emcee for the evening’s brief talking portion of the event (how viral would a picture of Stoops and Stricklin talking have gone two weeks ago?)
Perhaps the most poignant speech came from former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who talked about the culture at Florida.
“It all changed when Steve Spurrier walked through the door in 1990, actually December of 1989,” Foley said. “It affected the entire athletic program. He was a winner and I’ll never forget him canceling a football practice so his players could go watch our women play for a tennis national championship.
“He’s the reason our culture is what it is.”
It may be simplistic to give Spurrier that much credit, but Florida won nine national titles before he became the coach and 30 since.
The culture threw a heck of a wing-ding for him Monday night and the huge room was filled with former players, former coaches, friends and families, all wearing name tags that bore his signature.
He had 10 of his 14 grandchildren there, all of his four children and they all got together for a picture near the end of the evening with the No. 1 Spurrier, Steve’s wife Jerri whom Wuerffel said should be in her own Hall of Fame.
If there was a Hall of Fame for hugs, she’d be in it.
As the night wore down and the Florida-FSU basketball game flickered on big screens around the room, the staff at Guastavino’s began to encourage people to move toward the doors. Nobody really wanted to leave because there were more stories to be told.
In the background, you could barely hear the song coming over the sound system. “Dreamville” by Tom Petty, the favorite son’s homage to Gainesville.
“And the air smelled good
Born in Miami Beach, raised in Johnson City, Tenn., played in San Francisco, coached in Durham, N.C., Atlanta, Tampa and Columbia, S.C., and now honored again in the Big Apple.
But there is nobody more Gainesville than Stephen Orr Spurrier.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
Editor’s note: Article has been updated to correct where Spurrier grew up.