Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In this bowl, it's FSU vs. Spurrier

Steve Spurrier, now South Carolina’s coach, once wore a helmet as UF’s quarterback that pledged never to lose to FSU.

Getty Images (2005)

Steve Spurrier, now South Carolina’s coach, once wore a helmet as UF’s quarterback that pledged never to lose to FSU.

TALLAHASSEE — If Steve Spurrier isn't the most despised man in Florida State history, then T.K. Wetherell doesn't know who is. And Wetherell might know these things better than anyone.

He played for the Seminoles in the mid 1960s against Spurrier's Florida Gators. Years later, Wetherell became FSU's president. He struggled to identify a man who has inspired more rage among FSU supporters than Spurrier. Maybe Tim Tebow.

"But Spurrier made it so easy," Wetherell said. "And part of it is I think he wanted to make it easy."

FSU and South Carolina meet in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, but that might as well be the undercard. The main event is FSU vs. Spurrier, the Gamecocks' coach. The Seminoles and their old nemesis, bound by 46 years of history and hatred.

FSU fans might have thought nine years ago they had rid themselves of the man. That's when, after the 2001 season, Spurrier left Florida to coach the Washington Redskins.

In the final game he coached against FSU, Spurrier led the Gators to a 37-13 victory in Gainesville. In the days that followed, Spurrier accused the Seminoles' Darnell Dockett of trying to injure Florida players.

That prompted Dave Hart, a former FSU athletic director, to say: "It would probably be good if somebody just spanked (Spurrier) and put him to bed and hoped that he wakes up all grown up."

Dialogue like that wasn't all that uncommon back then, when the FSU-Florida rivalry was at its height and when Spurrier seemed to figure a new way to annoy the Seminoles and their loyalists every season.

The incidents and one-liners are well-documented. "Free Shoes University." Spurrier's accusations of dirty play against Danny Wuerffel. Doug Johnson firing a ball toward Bobby Bowden's head during a pregame brawl. And on and on it went.

"Everybody needs a villain," Wetherell said. "And if you don't have one, you can create one. Steve was always easy to create as a villain as he got older."

He was one when he was younger, too. Long before he coached at Florida, Spurrier was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at the school. He helped lead the Gators to two victories against Florida State in the mid 1960s. One was the infamous Lane Fenner game in 1966 when Fenner's late touchdown catch was incorrectly disallowed.

Two years earlier, Spurrier and the Gators lost to FSU for the first time. Longtime FSU supporters still remember what the Gators stuck on their helmets in practice in the days before that game: "Never, FSU, Never."

The message implied mighty Florida could never — and should never — lose to the likes of a former women's college that didn't begin playing football until 1949. That was the environment in which Spurrier arrived in Gainesville. And that was the attitude some say he carried to Florida when he became the coach there in 1990.

"When Spurrier came back in '90, we had come of age, and we'd become a national player on the national scene," said Charlie Barnes, executive director of Seminole Boosters. "And he brought with him when he returned that traditional Gator disrespect and looking down the nose at FSU. … It was that Gator arrogance left over from the '60s."

Spurrier helped transform the Seminoles-Gators rivalry into one of the nation's most passionate. Jimbo Fisher is in his first season as FSU's coach, but in the early '90s, he was a Seminoles fan. And a Spurrier fan, too. Fisher, a former quarterback, admired Spurrier's pass-oriented offense. He didn't mind the trash-talking, either.

"I used to laugh at it," Fisher said. "I used to wait and see what he had to say. He had some good ones. But a lot of it now, if you go back and think of some of it, I think a lot of it was to take some attention off players, put pressure on himself."

Spurrier said recently he did hate the Seminoles, but that day has passed. He emphasized how he's not at Florida anymore and that the history he shares with FSU is just that.

Seminoles fans might have mellowed, too. But there's a part of Spurrier that still represents what FSU supporters love to hate. It's the part of him deep down that's still a Gator — the part that 46 years ago might have inspired him to wear a sticker on his helmet: "Never, FSU, Never."

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Florida State vs. South Carolina

When/where: 7:30 p.m. Friday; Georgia Dome, Atlanta


In this bowl, it's FSU vs. Spurrier 12/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 7:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.