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Spurrier still may be a thorn in Georgia's side

The Georgia Bulldog football team did something Saturday that their basketball counterparts will unlikely accomplish this winter. The Bulldogs scored 62 points on the Kentucky Wildcats.

Perhaps the biggest buzz among the crowd in Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium during the game came with the announcement of scores from other SEC games. Vanderbilt led the Florida Gators for a good portion of the first half. Florida went on to defeat Vandy 34-17.

Fans could not help but wonder if Florida would fire coach Ron Zook again if the Gators lost to the lowly Commodores. We all know that Zook got the inevitable axe after Mississippi State beat Florida three weeks ago. Zook agreed to finish out the season, but would it have been a surprise if Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley handed him a second pink slip had Vanderbilt won? Would Zook have been forced to take a taxi home from Nashville?

The Florida players and some in the media questioned why Zook had to be fired with four games left in the season, including big rivals Georgia and Florida State. Why couldn't Foley have waited until after the finale against Florida State to send Zook packing?

To me, the answer was simple. What if Florida went on to beat Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and FSU? That would have made it very difficult justifying the firing of a coach that led a team to an 8-3 record. Only a gift handed to the Tennessee Volunteers by SEC officials in September would have prevented Florida from being 9-2. Gator fans would have been between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Florida fans have despised Zook since the day former coach Steve Spurrier resigned almost three years ago. They disliked Zook even before they knew he would become their head coach. They were going to hate anyone that replaced Spurrier unless that coach went undefeated every year.

Even when Spurrier went to the NFL's Washington Redskins there was an undercurrent that once he won a Super Bowl he'd come back home to Gainesville and lead the Gators back to glory. When he failed miserably and quit the NFL after a two-year trial that undercurrent became a tidal wave. The problem was the fans not only drowned in the storm surge, but so did the Florida football program. There wasn't a life raft anywhere that would have saved Ron Zook.

Steve Spurrier notified the University of Florida last week that he would not be returning to The Swamp to resume dominance of the SEC. He gave them permission to look elsewhere for a new coach. In so doing he expressed it in a manner that will hopefully give the new hire at least a slim chance of being accepted by the Gator faithful. Of course winning the national championship in 2005 will be the only way to guarantee a complete embrace.

Many fans of college football expressed surprise that Spurrier declined the chance to again torment Georgia, Tennessee and the rest of the SEC. I, for one, was not surprised. Why would a 60-year-old millionaire want to return to begging teenagers to play for old state U?

Much is made of Spurrier's fondness for golf. I don't think the love of golf kept Mr. Spurrier from making a comeback either. Whatever his reasons were for leaving Florida, at least one probably still exists.

As a Georgia fan, contrary to popular opinion, I was not shaking in my boots over Spurrier's possible return. In fact I would have enjoyed seeing how it played out. I may still get that chance. Many that follow college football speculate that both South Carolina and Georgia Tech will be courting Mr. Spurrier in the near future. If he ends up at either, or both, of those schools and accomplishes just half of what he did at Florida he definitely deserves "Evil Genius" engraved on his headstone.

And a side note to all Florida Gator fans. Give your new coach a chance. A big football school named Alabama suffered "legenditis" for years and is still paying for it. I haven't enjoyed seeing that happen and I won't enjoy it happening to you either.



Web posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004


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