Spurrier's shrinking shadow


South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier celebrates with Jared Cook (84) and Chris Smelley (7) after a 66-yard touchdown play against Arkansas. The former Gator coach brings his Gamecocks to Gainesville on Saturday.

The Associated Press
Published: Monday, November 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 12:16 a.m.

During interviews with the media Sunday night, Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen sat in a chair in the UF conference center. On the wall behind him, just over his right shoulder, hung a team photo of the 1996 national championship team on the field after the Gators’ 52-20 victory over Florida State in the Louisiana Superdome.

Facts

Next game

Who: No. 24 South Carolina (7-3) at No. 3 Florida (8-1)

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

On the air: CBS, AM-850

Standing in the middle of the photo was a smiling Steve Spurrier.

Someone suggested to Mullen that it looked like Spurrier was peering over his shoulder.

Mullen looked up at the photo and smiled.

“It feels like he’s always looking over your shoulder around here,” Mullen said.

Ah, it’s still there. The Spurrier shadow, the Spurrier specter. ... Whatever you want to call it.

Seven years after Spurrier’s departure, it may not seem as strong, but his presence can still be felt, still be seen — from his Heisman Trophy in the football complex, to his name in the Ring of Honor, to the one national title and six SEC championships under him that are remembered on the stadium wall.

Spurrier is a huge part of Florida football history, and that will never change no matter how many years pass, no matter how many coaches come and go, no matter how many other championships are won.

As Urban Meyer prepares to face off against Spurrier for the fourth time Saturday (and second time in The Swamp), he seems perfectly comfortable with Spurrier’s shadow, or whatever you want to call it.

“He’s one of the great coaches in college football history,” Meyer said Monday. “I admire Bo Schembechler, I admire Woody Hayes. ... I admire a winner (Spurrier) who did it the right way.

“You’re damn right. However, he’s the coach of the opposing team and we’re going to have a great football game. The good thing is there are no mixed messages at the University of Florida. You come into a team meeting, you talk about it and move on. That’s all there. It’s a great storyline. But we have two great teams playing Saturday.”

On Sunday, Spurrier downplayed his second return to Florida Field, saying it is an old story now.

Meyer said it’s probably a non-story to the Florida players, who were in grade school when Spurrier won his last SEC championship in 2000.

Meyer said he has no plans to talk to his players this week about Spurrier’s legacy at Florida.

“I did when I first got here,” Meyer said. “We built a brand new facility, and you see the SEC championships, the two crystal balls (for the national titles in 1996 and 2006). Our players are well aware of it.

“One of the negative things about the youth of America. ... I’m a big Bo Schembechler fan. I was reading a book on him and I was talking to a group and I said, ‘This is one of the greatest books.’ They had no idea who Bo Schembechler was.

“So, I’m not sure how much our guys are into history. They’re into the present, the future, which is fine. I don’t think it’s a big deal to our guys at all.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 374-5055 or at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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