Spurrier: 'This wasn't a fun two days'

Published: Friday, July 24, 2009 at 5:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 24, 2009 at 5:14 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. Here's the funny thing ... I called it.

Tebow-gate had taken on a life of its own, a growing monster in the Summer of Stupid. We had figured out Steve Spurrier, the uber-Gator, was the one coach who left Tim Tebow off his ballot.

"Watch, he'll blame Jamie Speronis," I said.

Speronis is the longtime right-hand man to Spurrier and the director of football operations at South Carolina. Today, he has tire tracks on his back from being thrown under the bus.

Spurrier went from room to room at SEC Media Days and apologized for voting for Jevan Snead. He said Speronis filled out the ballot and he glanced at it and signed off on it.

"I saw in the paper that one coach didn't vote for Tim Tebow," Spurrier said. "I said that was either a dumb or careless mistake not having Tim Tebow on the ballot. Some guy did not vote for Tim Tebow, who was that?"

Turns out it was him.

He called me later in the day to insist he wasn't "trying to throw Jamie under the bus." And that the South Carolina sports information director will fill out the ballot from now on because Speronis has enough to do. Spurrier said he has never filled out a preseason All-SEC ballot himself.

"We got a lot of national press off this but for the wrong reason," he said. "This wasn't a fun two days."

The same coach who once called out the commissioner of the league at these meetings stood at the podium and apologized profusely for leaving Tebow off his ballot. He apologized to Tebow, to the Gator Nation, to a potted plant in the atrium. You almost expected him to apologize for "Free Shoes University." If Phil Fulmer had still been around he'd have taken back those Citrus Bowl digs.

This is a different Spur-Dog. This is, as he called himself, "a 7-and-6 coach."

This is the guy who kicked a field goal down 31-7 in the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl.

He even said Friday he regretted some of the things he has said in the past.

"I didn't sleep worth a damn last night thinking about it," he said of Tebow-gate. "I'm embarrassed, I really am. I apologize to Tim and all Gators."

Now, I know what you're thinking. You want to believe it was an honest mistake because to think that one Gator Heisman Trophy winner didn't vote for another Gator Heisman winner makes you nauseous. How could he leave off his ballot a guy who has been responsible for 665 yards and 11 touchdowns against South Carolina over the last three seasons?

And why is this a big deal in the first place?

Well, it would only have been a big deal if one of three coaches left Tebow off their ballots Mark Richt, Lane Kiffin or Spurrier. (Kiffin brought his ballot to Hoover to prove he voted for Tebow). And Spurrier seemed like the least likely of those because, well, Tebow and Florida have put half-a-hundred on him two years in a row. And there's that whole Gator for life thing.

"It's my fault," he said.

So he called the league and asked them to change it. Now, Tebow is a unanimous pick.

The world is right again.

That this became such a big story tells you how little news came out of SEC Media Days.

The real news was that the swagger is gone from Stephen Orr Spurrier. I could still see it through those two disastrous years with the Redskins and the seven-win seasons at South Carolina. It was still there, barely poking its head out but visible to those who know him best.

I could see it as clearly as I could see the bus bearing down on Speronis.

But the Spurrier Swagger wasn't there Friday. Instead, I just felt bad for the guy.

He was truly embarrassed about something that blew up the way things blow up at these events. And he's not that thrilled with what he has accomplished at South Carolina.

These are not the best of times for Spurrier. Certainly, Friday was not one of his best days.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com.

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