There was a time when Steve Spurrier thought he might never say something like he did on Sunday night.
Spurrier, the South Carolina coach, was talking about his team's matchup in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 against Florida State — the school that caused him so much angst long ago when he was the quarterback at Florida, and not so long ago when he coached the Gators.
"I don't have any hatred toward those guys anymore," Spurrier, 65, said of the Seminoles. "I used to, obviously. We had a nice rivalry. You know, some years there they sort of tried to hurt the quarterback — I didn't like that very much. So that (was) irritating. But that's all history. That's way back — a long time ago."
Even so, the early prominent storyline of the Chick-fil-A Bowl isn't so much that FSU is playing South Carolina.
It's that the Seminoles are playing against Spurrier, the man who coined the phrase "Free Shoes U" after FSU's Foot Locker scandal — the man whose outspoken bravado toward the Seminoles helped make the FSU-Florida rivalry one of the nation's most intense during the 1990s.
"When I was a Gator — and I've been a Gator all my life, (though) I'm a Gamecock now — yeah, we didn't like FSU and they didn't like us," Spurrier said. "But I haven't coached at Florida in nine years now. So things have changed a little bit."
Perhaps things have changed for him. They likely haven't for FSU fans who can remember Spurrier's barbs the way people never forget their enemies.
Jimbo Fisher, the first-year FSU coach, grew up a Seminoles fan and understands well how Spurrier fits into FSU history.
"We all know Steve's a great competitor and I think that's what (gave) that (rivalry) such a great atmosphere," Fisher said.
And so it will be renewed again in Atlanta on Dec. 31. Not FSU-Florida. Something now far rarer: FSU-Spurrier.