Outback Bowl: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has longtime connections to Tampa Bay area

Steve Spurrier's history has intertwined with that of the Tampa Bay area off and on for more than three decades. Whether playing for the original Bucs, coaching on the Bandits sideline or flirting with the Bucs job, Spurrier, 63, has been part of area football since 1976. Friday, he returned to his local haunts as the South Carolina coach, preparing to lead his team against Iowa on Thursday in the Outback Bowl. On page 7C, we revisit Spurrier and his Tampa Bay connections.

The original Bucs

After nine lackluster years with the San Francisco 49ers, Spurrier became the Bucs' first starting quarterback in 1976, acquired for a second-round draft pick. His final NFL season is, for at least a few more hours, the only winless season in NFL history — he started 12 games in the Bucs' 0-14 debut. "It's the record," Spurrier said about having a sense of pride in the unmatched mark. "You've got to have the record." In town two weeks ago to promote the Outback Bowl, Spurrier said he thought this year's Lions, now 0-15, would pull off a win to avoid joining the Bucs in historic winlessness. "I think they're going to win one," Spurrier said. "Don't they play some teams that are out of it? They'll have more to play for than the other team." The Lions' last chance to avoid ignominy comes today at the Green Bay Packers.

The Bandits

Spurrier's first head coaching job came in the USFL, where his high-scoring offense helped the Tampa Bay Bandits to a 35-21 record in their three seasons. The Bandits couldn't get past the USFL quarterfinals but outperformed the Bucs in their short heyday. "This is where I got my first start as a head coach," Spurrier said. "When (owner John Bassett) hired me, I was an assistant coach at Duke, so a lot of people gave Mr. Bassett some grief for hiring an assistant college coach, saying, 'We're going to get clobbered, we're going to get killed in the USFL.' I think we had the lowest-paid team, and I know we had the lowest-paid coach, me, but that's all right. We came out of the box 4-0, so they all told him how smart he was at that point."

The Bucs job (almost)

After the USFL folded, Spurrier wanted the Bucs head coaching job in 1987, but it went to Ray Perkins instead. Spurrier said not getting the job actually helped him get his first college head coaching job at Duke. "Steve Sloan left Duke to go to Alabama as the AD, so I was able to go to Duke as the head coach in '87, so I wasn't shut out."

The Bucs job (almost again)

After Florida reached the national title game in 1995, losing badly to Nebraska, Spurrier strongly considered an offer to join the NFL ranks as Bucs head coach. He would ultimately stay in Gainesville, winning a national title the next season, while the Bucs turned to Tony Dungy — call it a win-win for both sides.

Another Spurrier returns

Spurrier made an appearance at Raymond James Stadium in 2004 when his son, Scotty, was considering playing football at USF. Scotty Spurrier, a 5-foot-4 receiver, eventually chose to attend Charleston Southern, where he did not play as a freshman. He transferred to South Carolina in 2006 as a walk-on and played briefly in one game last season.

The last time

Spurrier never played a college game in Tampa — his last season with the Gators was 1966, and UF played an annual game in Tampa from 1968 to 1974. The only time Spurrier has coached in Raymond James Stadium was in the 2002 NFL preseason, when his Redskins beat the Bucs 40-10 to improve to 4-0 that August. The Bucs would wind up as NFL champs, while Spurrier would go 7-9, following with a 5-11 season before resigning after two disappointing years in the NFL.

Fast facts

Outback Bowl

Who: Iowa (8-4) vs.

South Carolina (7-5)

When/where: 11 a.m.

Thursday; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Tickets: $65; through Ticketmaster at outlets and www.ticketmaster.com and by calling (813) 287-8844.

TV: ESPN

Outback Bowl: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has longtime connections to Tampa Bay area 12/27/08 [Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 9:41pm]

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