A final jab at former UF coach Steve Spurrier

The time has come to renew an old intra-state rivalry with the beloved Florida Gators. Hurricane fans can taste victory. We can’t wait to see a baffled Rex Grossman stare through the wrong side of his helmet when William Joseph, Jonathan Vilma, and company give him the biggest beating he has witnessed in his three-year Gator career.
Yet, a Hurricane victory at the Gator’s expense will be missing the usual flare that all Gator opponents have come so accustomed to…that is, seeing the face of an angry and mossteve spurriert importantly, defeated Steve Spurrier.
The ‘Canes and Gators last met two seasons ago, in the 2001 Sugar Bowl. Miami stormed past Florida 37-20 in route to finishing the season ranked No. 2 in the nation. The win evened the historic Miami – Florida series at 25 apiece. However, the victory was the only game played between the perennial powers in the entire Steve Spurrier era at the University of Florida. And this, being a bowl game, was not scheduled.
The game was close early, as the ‘Canes only led 13-10 on a Jeremy Shockey touchdown reception and a Todd Sievers field goal. The second half was a different story. Florida struck first with a 36-yard Earnest Graham touchdown run, but would only add a field goal for the remainder of the game. Miami answered with a David Williams 19-yard touchdown reception, two more Sievers field goals, and a Najeh Davenport touchdown run to take home the victory.
I remember the disappointment in Spurrier’s face and tone of his voice at the press conference after the Sugar Bowl. Rumors circulated that he was going to leave the Gators for the NFL. He ripped his players, talking through the side of his mouth, but decided to come back. But why would he leave when he didn’t have to face Miami the next season? Spurrier was sure his 2001 team (ranked No. 1 in the preseason), led by Grossman, and standout receivers Jabar Gafney and Reche Caldwell would run away with an undefeated season and a National Championship. Yet, once again a Spurrier team choked – losing to a lackluster team in Auburn, and then losing a nail biter to SEC foe Tennessee.
Everyone was certain Spurrier would stick around for another chance at a title in 2002 with the Heisman hopeful Grossman returning and a boatload of more talent. Yet, Spurrier bolted to the NFL, taking the head-coaching job with the Washington Redskins.
Spurrier’s antagonistic feelings for Miami became clearly apparent when he decided to announce his Florida resignation and new job with the Redskins on January 4, 2001. Yes, the day after Miami won the National Championship. Spurrier could not cope with Miami’s success, so he did the next best thing…he stole the headlines from Miami’s undefeated season the following day.
It is a tad too convenient that Spurrier did not stay one more year. Did the fact that Miami was on the 2002 schedule have anything to do with it? I am not one to speculate, but if you look at Spurrier’s legacy, a victory at the expense of Miami is not and will not be a part of it. Well he could beat Miami, but that would mean he would have to fail in the NFL and be hired by a college who already has the ‘Canes on the schedule because we all know he would not dare to schedule us.
Spurrier was hired by his alma mater in 1990. The last two games between Miami and Florida prior to his hiring were both Hurricane victories. The ‘Canes beat UF 23-15 in 1986, and defeated the Gators 31-4 in 1987. Miami went on to win the 1987 National Championship.
Steve Spurrier understood if he wanted to win a National Championship that his team must not schedule the University of Miami. He got his title in 1996, but a Hurricane defeat was not included.
Spurrier finally buckled down after gaining confidence from his National Championship and signed a two-year deal to play Miami in a home-and-home series. However, Spurrier conveniently resigned before the 2002 season.
Spurrier knew that his Gators would have trouble defeating the ‘Canes, and he was not willing to take the chance of staying one more season if it meant not winning the National Championship.
Hurricane fans have waited 15 years to play a regular season contest against the Gators, and Steve Spurrier is no longer here to take the blame when they lose.
Regardless, tomorrow’s victory will still be sweet, and of course the hatred is still strong for the Gators. Yet, it is unfair that ‘Canes fans will not get to experience handing Steve Spurrier a loss on national television at his home field.
Brian Poliakoff can be reached at b.poliakoff@umiami.edu