KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Steve Spurrier is back on Rocky Top, but he isn’t sure if he’ll receive a rocky reception Saturday when he’s honored as this year’s recipient of the Robert Neyland Award.
Spurrier will be introduced on the field in conjunction with Tennessee’s Orange and White spring football game, meaning many of the same fans Spurrier tormented over the years with his zingers and steady string of wins over Tennessee will be on hand in the Neyland Stadium stands.
Asked what kind of reception he thought he would get, Spurrier quipped, “Oh, I think I’ll be all right. I haven’t had a win in about three years now and certainly haven’t beaten Tennessee, so they’ll probably take it easy on me.”
Spurrier retired abruptly midway through last season at South Carolina after a Hall of Fame career that saw him become the winningest all-time coach at both Florida and South Carolina. He’s second only to Bear Bryant with 131 SEC victories.
The Neyland Award, presented by the Knoxville Quarterback Club, has been awarded since 1967 to honor the stadium's namesake. Spurrier will participate in several events over the weekend as part of the festivities. He played in a benefit golf tournament on Friday morning that also included former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who’s from nearby Alcoa, Tennessee.
Spurrier said the players he was partnered with in the golf tournament, all Tennessee fans, were quizzing him about some of his legendary barbs.
“They were asking me about all those things I said, the Citrus Bowl jokes and Free Shoes U. stuff,” Spurrier said. “I told them I always thought the best one didn’t have anything to do with Tennessee or FSU. It’s the one I said about preferring to play Georgia the second week of the season because you could always count on them having two or three good players suspended every year. Everybody said, ‘Did you really say that?’ and I said, ‘Yes, because it's true.’ ”
Spurrier was 8-4 against Tennessee when he was at Florida and 5-5 as South Carolina’s coach. When he was at Duke, Spurrier also split two games against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
The reality is Spurrier grew up cheering for the Vols. He lived in several small towns in Tennessee while his father, a Presbyterian minister, moved around to different churches, and then Spurrier went to high school in Johnson City, Tennessee. He told ESPN.com a few years ago he probably would have gone to Tennessee out of high school -- and was also recruited by then-Tennessee basketball coach Ray Mears -- but the Vols were still running the single-wing offense in football at the time, and Spurrier wanted to go somewhere they were going to throw the ball and chose Florida.