The ‘Evil Genius’ comes back to the Swamp in a week. Yes, it is now ok for Gator fans to call him Evil or Stevil or whatever you want, this week he is the enemy. And as much as Steve Spurrier wants to bring his South Carolina Gamecocks into Gainesville and win, you can tell he still holds a high regard for the place that holds so many memories for him.
At his teleconference, Spurrier sounded a little deflated. He just came off a rough loss at home to a top ranked Arkansas team and had a chance to be the spoiler in front of a national television audience. As deflated as he was, he certainly sounded sincere when he offered up a job well done for his alma mater.
“Congratulations to the Gators on their first division title since 2000,” Spurrier said to the first Florida based reporter that asked a question. A little while later he added, “The Gators clinching the division in Urban Meyer’s second year is pretty doggone good. Certainly they have a chance to win the conference against whoever they play on the other side.”
There were no lack of accomplishments for Spurrier at Florida, he was a seven time SEC Champion and a national champion as a coach and he won the Heisman trophy as a player. His legacy will live on forever.
This is the first time he will come back and coach against his alma mater in the Swamp, a place he named himself when he was the coach. All of that will not be a distraction for “The Ole Ball Coach”. He has already been in town this year to get that stuff out of the way.
“I was fortunate to be able to go down there twice this year,” he said. “The ‘96 National Championship team was honored and the University of Florida established a ring of honor of which I was inducted. It was neat and nice and certainly I am honored. That stadium represents my coaching career pretty much. The highlights of my coaching career are on that wall down there.
“But, when you have 80-100 plays running through your mind and trying to get one in there at the right time and trying to get your quarterback not to fumble or throw interceptions, there are a lot of things to (occupy) my mind.”
The week will be full of questions about coming back to Gainesville. Playing the Gators is something everyone wants to see where he stands with. Spurrier brushes all of that off now as he doesn’t consider the game itself that important in the big scheme of things.
“I am sure there will be a little bit of that,” he said. “The game isn’t quite as big now because Florida has already clinched the division. Basically we are just playing to win a ball game. We will do the same things we did last year as far as the weekly media stuff. I don’t think it will be a distraction.”
Spurrier understand that there is some pressure for Urban Meyer at Florida. Spurrier thinks that is the cauldron a coach enters when he goes to a big time program that has been previously established.
“It’s a little bit like that at almost any school,” Spurrier said. “Once they have had success, it doesn’t matter how good the coach is. When that coach has similar success that is about what he has to do to be considered successful. That’s everywhere, at Ohio State, Michigan, and Oklahoma, places where they are used to winning championships, that’s the way it is at all those schools.”
He still gets asked all the questions about the Florida administration spurning him for the job as the Gator Head Coach for a second tenure even with supposed pressure from alumni. Spurrier says it was a mutual separation and one that was probably the best decision for both parties.
“I don’t believe there was any pressure to hire me back at all,” he said. “When I left I did not ever think I would return. I thought I would coach five or six years in the NFL, retire, then go to the beach and play golf. After a year off I felt like I wanted to coach again and I didn’t think it was best and the people at Florida didn’t think it was best that I return. If you look at the past it doesn’t nearly work out as best as it did the first time.”
In the meantime, he is enjoying what he is doing in South Carolina and plans on making the Gamecocks a contender in the near future.
“This is the challenge here at South Carolina and this is exciting for me to try and do some things that have never been done,” he said. “We are in the process of possibly having a big time recruiting class so we will be on the same level as some of the other schools in the SEC.”
In his best Vince Dooley imitation, Spurrier downplayed the chances of his Gamecocks coming into Gainesville and leaving with an upset. There is no extra incentive he says, another win would be great but it would take a little help.
“The only prospect that would excite us all is that South Carolina has never won down there,” Spurrier said. “We won in Knoxville for the first time ever last year. If we got a bunch of breaks and Florida fumbles a bunch and doesn’t play very well, that will give us a chance to win one down there for the first time.”
Something tells me he will bring his 80-100 ball plays down to Gainesville and have his team ready to play a tough game next week. Don’t let all the nice words fool you Gator fans—the “Evil Genius” wants to win this one bad.