Spurrier leaves 'The Swamp'

Saturday, January 5, 2002

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Steve Spurrier resigned Friday to pursue an NFL job, leaving the Gators after 12 years in which he turned them from losers into Fun 'N Gun winners.

Under Spurrier, the Gators won the 1996 national championship and six Southeastern Conference titles. Florida finished this season ranked No. 3 with a 10-2 record and a 56-23 victory over Maryland in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday night.

"I'm announcing my retirement today, Jan. 4, 2002, as head football coach at the University of Florida. I simply believe that 12 years as head coach at a major university in the SEC is long enough," the 56-year-old Spurrier said.

The school scheduled a 5 p.m. news conference, although Spurrier was not going to attend. He is expected to speak to reporters on Monday.

Spurrier compiled a 122-27-1 record, but as much as the numbers, it was the attitude that made Florida great.

He took the Gators, a team that had never won the SEC or won 10 games in a season, and made them winners. And he did it with style.

In a statement issued by the athletic department Friday, Spurrier said he was "not burned out, stressed out or mentally fatigued from coaching. I just feel my career as a college head coach after 15 years is complete and if the opportunity and challenge of coaching an NFL team happens, it is something I would like to pursue."

Spurrier always has hinted that an NFL job could appeal to him one day. He came close to signing a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995, saying it was a job that always intrigued him.

The Minnesota Vikings have an opening, because head coach Dennis Green was forced out Friday.

Spurrier, who won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback, loved throwing the ball and didn't mind running up the score. He shocked Southern football fans and the whole country when he started having success almost immediately with the Gators after three years as Duke's coach.

The Gators' fans loved him. Hardly anyone else could stand him, as they watched him flinging his visor, yelling at referees and generally acting more like a college kid than a 50-something coach.

"Call me arrogant, cocky, crybaby, whiner or whatever names you like," Spurrier said in a recent interview. "At least they're not calling us losers anymore. If people like you too much, it's probably because they're beating you."

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