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NFL must wait for Spurrier

Published Dec. 14, 1993
Updated Oct. 10, 2005

Steve Spurrier should not _ and will not _ quit as University of Florida football coach to become the inaugural headmaster of an NFL expansion team in either Jacksonville or Charlotte.

He's a Gator... for now.

By the late 1990s, the pros may become a sensible option for Spurrier. But not today. Not even if Charlotte offers a guaranteed 10-year, $15-million deal. Not even if Jacksonville promises Steve 10 percent ownership in a $140-million infant franchise.

Don't blame 'em for trying.

If I were proprietor of either the Panthers of North Carolina or the Jaguars of North Florida, I'd be throwing long green and high-carat diamonds at Spurrier's feet. I'd be blowing kisses at his wife, Jerri. I'd promise a spiffy job for Steve Jr., who's soon to graduate from Duke, where his dad formerly coached.

I'd lay a syrupy tease on a youthful, 48-year-old grandfather, saying: "Steve, you're an enormous hero in our area (applies in both Carolina and Florida). An offensive genius with an NFL-style passing game. We'll not only make you super rich, we'll provide tools for quick success. You could make the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the first expansion coach to achieve the Super Bowl."

Then, No. 11 must say, "No, thanks."

I'll attempt to explain.

Spurrier is never going to be compared to Winston Churchill as a world-class diplomat. He'll never win a Nobel Prize for patience or common sense. Steve is slow to commend his opponents but can be fast to antagonize them.

But above all, Spurrier is a blistering competitor. He would blind-side his mom to make a basketball layup. He'd practice a week to win a $2 golf bet. He'd spike the Christmas punch to be No. 1 in a family game of Trivial Pursuit.

Steve, the killer competitor...

That's reason No. 1 why the University of Florida's only Heisman Trophy recipient, his school's all-but-bronzed quarterback from 1964 to 1966, almost surely won't be bought or romanced into taking a seemingly paved-with-gold opportunity to be an NFL head coach in Charlotte or Jacksonville.

Spurrier can't bear to leave UF at a time when disciples of salty rival Florida State University might crow, "We chased you out of Gainesville, Old No. 11, because your Water Lizards just couldn't catch up to our 'Noles and our great coach, Bobby Bowden."

Not for many millions. Spurrier's current income is about $650,000 a year. Don't bet the Jags and/or Panthers won't throw seven figures at him. Spurrier is close to signing a contract extension through the year 2000 at about $800,000 per.

Someday there may well be an NFL scenario for Spurrier, a nine-year San Francisco 49ers quarterback (1967-75) who took the first painful snaps for 1976 NFL expansionist Tampa Bay.

What if, in the next few seasons, the Spurrier Gators win another Southeastern Conference championship or two? What if he beats FSU two or three straight? What if UF accomplishes the ultimate under Steve, becoming No. 1 in the country?

Then, if at age 52 or 53, Spurrier senses he has overwhelmingly conquered in Gainesville, an NFL coaching chance might surely tempt this killer competitor. Perhaps not in Jacksonville or Charlotte, but _ for fun, and daydreaming fodder _ what if Steve's ultimate pro-football tease in the later 1990s were to emerge from an NFL source that on Dec. 14, 1993, has zero interest in Spurrier, and vice versa?

Yep, the Buccaneers.

Here's a long-range Bucs scenario that has a far, far higher chance of becoming reality than do the current murmurs involving the NFL's new cats, the Jacksonville Jags and Carolina Panthers.

Revenge would be a motive.

Spurrier detests Hugh Culverhouse, the Bucs' ailing owner. Despite being Tampa Bay's first QB, Spurrier was ridiculously snubbed by Hugh in 1986. For three seasons, Steve had successfully (35-19) and entertainingly coached the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits. But in 1986 the neophyte league collapsed. Spurrier was sitting in Tampa, not homeless but jobless.

A hugely popular local figure, Steve craved an interview with the Bucs. He was eager to accept a secondary role, as offensive coordinator, for a comparative pittance of, say, $75,000 a year.

Culverhouse was stubborn and boneheaded. He wouldn't even consider Spurrier. With typical NFL/Hugh arrogance, the Bucs' owner wasn't about to lower himself to considering a coach _ even an offensive whiz _ from "the other league." Similar logic has helped keep the Bucs remain near the trunk of the NFL family tree for 18 seasons.

Spurrier, after months of limbo, was hired at Duke University, where he won an ACC championship against monumental odds. It was like winning the SEC at Vandy, or the Big Ten at Northwestern.

In 1990, Old No. 11 came home to UF, where his four-year record is a healthy 38-10 with a program that crashed onto the rocks of controversy in the late 1980s.

Spurrier's current Gators are SEC kings and prepping for a Sugar Bowl bout with 11-0 West Virginia. Wherever he has coached, Spurrier's teams have been famous for creative, record-crashing offense. A style that would seem primed for goodness in an all-too-staid NFL.

Maybe it's a long shot _ only 8-to-1 or so _ but my scenario is:

Steve Spurrier spurns the Jags and Panthers, staying at UF until his goals are more amply accomplished, including overtaking national hotshot FSU. Then, in the later '90s, with Hugh Culverhouse out of the Bucs' picture, and heirs having mercifully sold the team to local, well-committed new Tampa Bay ownership, Spurrier gets hired away from the Gators.

In a few more seasons, Old No. 11 might like nothing better _ at any price _ than to prove just how blind Hugh Culverhouse was in 1986, by snubbing Steve during the sad Leeman Bennett (4-28) coaching era in Tampa.

We'll wait, we'll see.