As the Florida athletic department transitions into a new era, it will have its most famous alum along for the ride.
Friday morning, we learned Steve Spurrier is headed back to Gainesville to serve as an ambassador and consultant under athletic director Jeremy Foley… and whoever takes over the program from Foley this autumn.
Friday afternoon, we learned how Florida’s former Heisman Trophy winner and championship-winning coach is going to help the program move forward.
“I knew my coaching career, someday, is gonna be over,” Spurrier explained. “And I wanted to do something. I didn’t want to be a retired dude and do nothing. And I wanted to be associated with my alma mater, the University of Florida.”
Spurrier said that talks with Florida coach Jim McElwain and Foley about a potential return to Gainesville began a few months back, but things didn’t get serious until the end of July.
But the Head Ball Coach recalled McElwain’s not-so-subtle pitch for a return to the Gators long before this recent push.
“It started with Jim McElwain a year and a half ago,” Spurrier recalled. “We were down at the Outback Bowl, and Jim had us all out onstage, along with Jon Gruden and his brother Jay Gruden. One of the people asked Coach Mac if he was looking forward to coaching against me last year. And he said, ‘I’m looking forward to when he retires and he comes down to Gainesville and helps the Gators a little bit.'”
Spurrier indicated that his wife is searching for homes in Crescent Beach, Fla., which will be the couple’s new headquarters after spending the last decade in South Carolina.
“This, we felt, was a really good time to make the move,” he said. “Get it over with today, and get on to making Florida the best it can be.”
Florida’s athletic department has been exemplary on the field, court, track, etc. since Spurrier arrived as football coach in 1990 and Foley took over as director in 1992.
This spring, Foley announced he will be stepping down from his post on Oct. 1. An eight-person search firm has not yet produced a winning candidate for replacement, though reports recently surfaced that Florida has a leading candidate: Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, who previously served in SEC roles as Mississippi State’s AD and Kentucky’s associate AD.
Will Spurrier have much of a role in deciding the department’s future?
“I’m not involved whatsoever,” he said with a laugh. “If they asked me, I’d tell Jeremy he oughta hang around two or three more years, but I don’t know exactly where the search is right now.”
— Florida Gators (@FloridaGators) July 29, 2016