Growing up as a Kentucky football fan, I always despised Steve Spurrier. From the heyday of the Florida fun-n-gun offense, to his current stint at South Carolina, Spurrier has tormented Big Blue football followers like no other. Watching him grin slyly in that ever-present visor as he devised yet another bomb against some hapless Kentucky defensive back in the fourth quarter of a 50 point beat-down was irritating. Hearing him crow about it to the press afterwards, and knowing that my beloved Cats were powerless to shut him up, was even worse. But a funny thing has occurred over the years. My once volatile hatred for the visored one has dissipated. Spurrier has for me, and I think many others, become less an object of scorn, and more an endearing comedic character.
How can anyone not like this guy?
We live now in an era in which most football coaches are little more than programmed cliche machines. Joyless cyborgs like Alabama’s Nick Saban go to great lengths to avoid making provocative, or even thoughtful, comments about anything. It is the Belichickification of college football. In this stuffy and corporate environment, Spurrier’s loose cannon approach is refreshing. In Spurrier’s world, football is a game. And though the competition of big boy SEC football is clearly fierce, it is still at its core supposed to be fun. And for Spurrier, that fun is not limited to what takes place between the lines. Spurrier also enjoys the media room, and has used his microphone over the years as if he were starring in a perpetual Friars’ Club Roast of rival programs. So in celebration of our upcoming match up with the Ol’ Ball Coach, let’s take a look at a few of his finest digs.
(Historical note- During Spurrier’s Florida days, when the Gators absolutely owned the Vols, Florida would annually finish first in the SEC East while Tennesse would end up getting the consolation prize of a trip to the Citrus Bowl.)
* You can’t spell Citrus without UT.
* I know why Peyton came back for his senior year; he wanted to be a three-time Citrus Bowl MVP.
* (Asked about how loud Neyland Stadium was during a game with Tennessee) It was really loud, possibly louder than the Swamp, then the game started.
* Why is it that during recruiting season they sign all these great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players? I don’t understand that. What happens to them?
* I sort of always liked playing them (Georgia) that second game of the season because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.
* (Discussing a fire at Auburn library and the books that were burned) The real tragedy was that fifteen hadn’t been colored yet.
* In twelve years at Florida, I don’t think we ever signed a kid from the state of Alabama. Of course, we found out later that the scholarships they were giving out at Alabama were worth a whole lot more than ours.
ON FLORIDA STATE:
* You know what FSU stands for, don’t you? Free Shoes University.
* (Asked why it’s tougher to coach in the NFL) Because there are no Vanderbilts in the NFL.
* (Asked if he was surprised by a small crowd at Vanderbilt) Surprised? It’s Vandy. There must have been something good on TV.
ON MISSISSIPPI STATE:
* (After a 52-0 win) Their pass defense was number one in the nation going in, but it won’t be going out.
* We thought we had done something beating Clemson. And then Kentucky beat them…At one point in the year they were a dang good team. I don’t know exactly what happened to them.
* (Regarding Hal Mumme trying multiple onsides kicks against the Gators) If I had a defense like Hal Mumme has, I would be trying them on every kickoff.
* (After dismantling Kentucky 65-0) These sort of games don’t prove very much. All it proves is that we’re better than Kentucky.
Whether he’s drawing up ball plays, hanging out at practice in attire that would prevent him from entering any reputable Waffle House, or taping his weekly coach’s show after one too many Silver Bullets, Steve Spurrier is truly unique. Southeastern Conference football could be played for another millennium without reproducing Spurrier’s combination of coaching excellence and brazen indifference to the typical coach speak mentality of his colleagues. I used to be annoyed at Spurrier’s arrogant steps outside of the accepeted norms of modern college football. Maybe it is just nostalgia for an age in which coaches were also permitted to be flesh and blood human beings, or maybe it is in response to the walking dead personalities of guys like Saban and Urban Meyer, but I now happily admit that I am a fan. Of course, I reserve the right to temporarily suspend my fan club status if he runs it up on the Cats on Saturday night. But it won’t be long until he says something else entertaining, and I go back to relishing the time that we have left to watch and listen to this legendary character. After all, how can I stay mad at this guy…