Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon. The Head Ball Coach enjoyed his greatest success while leading the Gators: six SEC championships and a national title in 1996.
Following his announcement, Florida’s current coach, Jim McElwain, and athletic director, Jeremy Foley, commented on Spurrier’s legacy.
“He changed the culture of this place,” Foley said. “I have been here a long, long time. When I first came here in 1976, all anybody wanted to do was win one Southeastern Conference championship. Obviously, he came here and changed that standard a little bit. He produced the championships. Obviously, he produced the first national championship and he did it the right way. He had fun doing it. I talked to Coach Spurrier this morning and we talked about how much fun we had when he was down here winning ball games. He changed it. He made this place a winner.”
Foley served as the university’s athletic director during Spurrier’s 11-year run with the program. During that time, Foley grew close to the Head Ball Coach, but also Spurrier as a person
“Obviously, college football loses a unique personality. A guy who did it the right way. He has been on that, doing it the right way. He is a tremendous offensive talent and it was fun to watch Coach Spurrier coach his ball players as he would say. You are going to miss that. You are going to miss probably one of the most unique personalities in the game, ever. A true winner and a class guy and we are proud to call him a Gator and I am proud to call him my friend.”
Nobody has been able to replicate the length of success at Florida that Spurrier enjoyed. Urban Meyer won two SEC championships and two national titles, but left the team after six seasons. McElwain is off to a 6-0 start this season, giving Gators fans hope for the future. McElwain weighed in on the man whose legacy looms large in Gainesville, Fla.
“First and foremost, let’s celebrate what this guy’s all about and what he’s all done,” McElwain said. “Not only with the game of football but with the impact he’s had in so many young guys’ lives along the way. You know what’s great is we’ve had so many former players that played for him and come back to the Gators. To see what he’s done – that’s something special. It’s truly a tribute and we’re going to miss him.
“Hopefully maybe now, when he steps back, maybe I can get him a chair in our office and I can learn from him.”
An offensive-minded coach in his own regard, McElwain admired Spurrier’s innovative coaching and his unique personality.
“He took some base principles and put it in his own terms, and he went and won with it,” McElwain said. “Even beyond that, it wasn’t just the offense. It had to do with all the players that had played for him. You talk to each and every one of them, and he’s a guy that they totally respect and had a major impact on their lives — it’s why we go into this business.
“He’s a guy I’ve studied from afar. He didn’t know who I was at the time — I’m just some kid from Montana who was trying to learn as much as I could. I will cherish the time we had sitting together while flying on an airplane over to Bristol, Conn., for the SEC Media Days. There were two and half hours there and back and for me, it was something special.
“He’s pretty good — I thought I was a witty guy but he put me to shame.”