<
>

Spurrier withdraws from Florida search

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If Steve Spurrier decides to coach
again, it won't be at his alma mater.
Spurrier withdrew his name from consideration Thursday to
replace Ron Zook, saying his time at Florida has passed.

The announcement relieves any reservations boosters and school
officials had regarding Spurrier's potential return. It also opens
up a coaching search that was widely considered Spurrier's to lose.
"He said he's done his thing here and he just thinks it's
better for us to go find a coach who will be here for the next 10
or 15 years," athletic director Jeremy Foley said.
The Gators won six Southeastern Conference championships and the
1996 national title under Spurrier. He posted 122 victories over 12
seasons, tormented opponents with his offensive flair and witty
one-liners, and left town with the best winning percentage in
league history.
Zook, hired in 2002 after Spurrier left to coach the Washington
Redskins, was fired last week after the latest in a series of
embarrassing losses -- a 38-31 defeat by lowly Mississippi State.
Spurrier quit the Redskins after two losing seasons, and
indicated last week he would consider a return to Gainesville.
Foley and Spurrier exchanged several phone messages, trying to
set up an interview with school president Bernie Machen after the
season.
"They were obviously making an effort to meet with me,"
Spurrier said in a statement.
But Spurrier's latest message ended all speculation about his
return.
"When I departed three years ago, there were several reasons
why I believed it was time to move on," Spurrier said. "Other
than simply wanting to coach in the NFL someday, I also believed
that 12 years at Florida was probably long enough. Many people in
football believe that around 10-12 years in the same job is about
the maximum time a coach should stay."
There had been concerns among some of the school's top boosters
that Spurrier's return would be a step back and eventually would
leave the program in another tough situation -- trying to replace a
legend.
They felt Spurrier would never be able to regain the glory of
the 1990s, and they openly questioned his desire to recruit and his
motivation for returning.
Some also were still upset over the way Spurrier left Florida:
calling Foley from his beach house and dropping the news in the
middle of the recruiting season.
Nonetheless, they knew there was a chance Spurrier's return
would restore credibility and championships to the program.
Now, that task will fall to someone else.
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Utah's Urban Meyer and Cal's Jeff Tedford
are considered other possible candidates.
Stoops, who spent three seasons as Spurrier's defensive
coordinator at Florida, has repeatedly denied any interest in the
Gators job. But Stoops might reconsider with his old boss out of
the mix.
Machen hired Meyer at Utah in December 2002, and Meyer's diverse
offense would be welcomed in Gainesville after Zook failed with his
NFL-style approach. But Meyer has no ties to Florida, which would
make recruiting tough.
Tedford has spent his entire career on the West Coast, but he
could be the perfect blend between Spurrier and Zook. His
quarterback-tailored system has turned Cal into one of the top
offenses in the nation, and his recruiting efforts match anyone
else's in the country.
Florida wants to have a coach in place by mid-December -- after a
full-blown search-and-interview process -- and the only thing that
seems certain is it won't be Spurrier.
Some close to the 59-year-old coach say he doesn't want his
career to end on a losing note and predict he will give the NFL
another shot. It could come soon.
With Thursday's announcement there was almost immediate talk
that Spurrier would end up in Miami with the Dolphins -- even though
Dave Wannstedt has not been fired.
"I have not been offered any coaching job by any team, and I'm
not searching for one," Spurrier said.