Steve Spurrier has told University of Florida officials that he is interested in discussing a possible return to coach the Gators, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Wednesday night.
In addition, Florida officials have now given Spurrier two weeks to determine if he wants the job, although no formal offer has been given and no details such as salary have been discussed, Mortensen reports.
Still, these are the most significant indications yet that the job is essentially Spurrier's if he wants it.
The university issued a statement Thursday that athletic director Jeremy Foley has begun a nationwide search and will compile a list of candidates, then Foley and Florida president Bernie Machen will consider the candidates.
The school stated that no decision will be made until the regular season is over (Nov. 20 at Florida State), adding that Foley and Machen expect to interview several candidates and to make a selection by mid-December.
The Florida job opened Monday when coach Ron Zook was fired after two-plus years. Zook and his staff will finish out the season; according to one report, the university will buy out Zook's contract at $450,000 for each of the remaining years.
Spurrier was one of the most successful offensive coaches in college history, going 122-27-1 in Florida with a high-powered pass-oriented offense that often produced lopsided scores.
He abruptly quit the Gators in January 2002 because he wanted to give his Fun 'n Gun offense a try in the NFL. In what he later admitted was a mistake, Spurrier brought several ex-Florida players to the Redskins for his first season, during which he went 7-9 while making five changes at starting quarterback.
Spurrier lasted only one more season in Washington. He resigned on Dec. 30, 2003, three days after the Redskins finished 5-11. At the time he left the Gators for the pros, his five-year, $25 million contract was the richest ever for an NFL coach.
The Gators are 20-13 under Zook with four games remaining -- that's just 14 losses fewer than Spurrier had in 12 seasons with the Gators. Zook was Spurrier's defensive
coordinator for three seasons.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Spurrier's defensive coordinator for three seasons at Florida before leaving for the Sooners job in 1999, issued a statement Wednesday indicating that he has no interest in succeeding Zook.
The decision to fire Zook was met with derision in the locker room. Players strongly defended Zook and chastised Foley for the timing of the move.
If Spurrier does return, he would be interested in having Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pellini on his staff, a source told ESPN college football analyst Jim Donnan.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.