Sports may be shut down right now, but there’s a chance we’ll play football later this year. And, for local Florida Gator fans, today has a reason to celebration.
It’s the ‘Ol Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier’s 75th birthday! (Can you believe it?)
He put the Gators on the map in the 1990s with a wide-open passing offense he called the “Fun ‘n Gun”, and well-timed barbs at rivals — he coined the phrase “Free Shoes U.” for FSU and maintained that you couldn’t spell Citrus Bowl, where the SEC runner-up has played its postseason game for years, without U-T, referring to the University of Tennessee. He gave the Swamp its name — “where Gators live” — and was known as much for his swagger and bravado as his winning percentage (228-89-2 in college).
Before starting his head coaching career in Gainesville he his head coaching career began in Tampa, actually, if you remember that far back, coaching the Tampa Bay Bandits of the old USFL spring league from 1983-85. He then coached Duke (1987-89) to its first ACC football title in 1989. After 12 years coaching the Gators he gave the NFL a try with Washington Redskins before going back to college and the SEC with South Carolina for a decade (2005-15).
But was a Gator treasure. He was UF’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 1966, and is only winner to coach a Heisman winner (Danny Wuerffel, 1996). His teams won six SEC championships, eight SEC Eastern Division titles between Florida and South Carolina, and of course that 1996 national championship with a 52-20 thumping of Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
And his trademark visor is now a fashion statement among the coaching ranks, including current Gators’ coach Dan Mullen.
Maybe he’d like a new hat for his birthday.
Happy Birthday, Coach Spurrier!