Steve Spurrier's visor legacy: An exhaustive investigation


Legendary coach Steve Spurrier made his mark on college football in a variety of ways. He's renowned for his offensive innovation and is one of the most quotable coaches of all time.

But there was one other defining characteristic that stood out, front and center. The visor.

"Identity, I think is really important," Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN.com a few years ago. "And I think some of the coaches that wear visors, like Coach Spurrier ... I kid about that all the time, like I want to be like him and I'm going to wear a visor. But it's part of his identity. It's what he's always done. And I think that's important."

Spurrier popped the top when he became the head coach at Florida because of the heat and humidity in Gainesville. The headgear choice was an extension of his other passion.

"Well, I've always worn a visor on the golf course," Spurrier said in 2012. "When I got to Florida, it was only natural to get some visors with the Gator logo on it, and so forth. That's when I really started wearing it, in 1990."

He told the Golf Channel last month that the visor had another strategic advantage: It didn't get as many grass stains as a hat when he sent it flying.

But he also has put aside any suggestion that he was a trailblazer.

"If you look way back in the '60s, Vince Lombardi wore a visor when they played in the L.A. Coliseum one time," Spurrier said last year. "It was a hot day, and he had a visor on. I remember a picture of that. I think a lot of coaches have worn occasionally the visor, so I wasn't the first to do it, that's for sure."

True, he wasn't the first. But he's surely the first to wear one with his own signature on it.

That swagger, that style, it all adds up to someone who young coaches looked up to. So we examined coaches who were known primarily for their work in college done under the cover of their visors, and set out to answer the question of our generation:

Did your favorite visor-sporting coach begin wearing it as an homage to the Head Ball Coach?

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: YES

"When I became a high school coach, I kind of wanted to be like Steve Spurrier, and he wore a visor. Hats don't look good on my little head. That's the truth. When I started high school coaching, that's where it really originated. I used to try to throw it like he does, too. I try not to do that now." -- ESPN.com, 2012

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: NO

"If it's really hot, I kind of prefer a visor," Gundy told the Oklahoman in 2005. "Now, my hair doesn't really fit it. My wife is always giving me a hard time, saying my hair sticks up four inches through it."

Interestingly, Gundy only started wearing the visor after becoming the Cowboys' head coach, because visors were previously banned by OSU head coach Les Miles when Gundy was the offensive coordinator.

"I can only tell you visors were not allowed while I was coaching at Oklahoma State, only because, frankly, it was an identity the opponents had," Miles told CBSSports.com, referring to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

"I'm not concerned with who does what," Mike Gundy said after lifting the ban upon becoming head coach. "Guys on their staff probably wear boxers, does that mean we can't wear boxers?"

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles coach, former Oregon coach: NO

"I just like visors." -- ESPN.com, 2011

Lane Kiffin, Alabama offensive coordinator: YES

On why he wears a visor: "Spurrier. Growing up and watching him, I was always intrigued by him, watching him at Florida. You know, just the way he ran the offense and his confidence and his visor ... and he doesn't know that story." -- ESPN.com, 2012

Gus Malzahn, Auburn: YES

"I used to wear just a regular hat, a boring hat. He was wearing a visor way back before anybody else was and I was coaching high school. I thought that was pretty cool, so I started wearing a visor." -- AL.com, 2013, 2014

Spurrier repaid the compliment to two of his young proteges.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: YES

"I grew up a big fan of Steve Spurrier, so I always thought that was kind of cool that he had the visor on. So when I started coaching, I started with the visor." -- ESPN.com, 2012

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: NO

This one came as a bit of a surprise, since Stoops served as the HBC's defensive coordinator at Florida and cites him as a mentor. But Stoops began wearing the visor before then, when he was an assistant at Kansas State under Bill Snyder. Stoops may have picked it up from fellow assistant and longtime visor enthusiast Jim Leavitt, who told The Oklahoman in 2008 that he wore it "because we couldn't afford the rest of the hat."

As for Stoops, he had a pretty simple explanation of his headwear decision: "Feels better than a hat."

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: NO

"I was actually at Oklahoma, and I had been a hat guy, and there's a shortage of hats in Oklahoma. There's a whole lot more visors available at practice than hats. I actually started wearing a visor there. They didn't have any hats at practice every day, and I just started wearing one, and I've just been wearing one ever since." -- ESPN.com, 2012

Gary Patterson has been wearing a visor at TCU for years. Same with Gary Pinkel at Missouri: "It helps me set my headset right," he said in 2012. "That's why I wear it."

Larry Fedora at North Carolina has never explained himself, at least not in ready evidence. Nor has Brian Kelly at Notre Dame or Ken Niumatalolo of Navy.

But the strongest fashion statement may be from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "If the sun is a factor on our sidelines, I prefer a hat," he told ESPN in 2011.

"It is my belief that a visor should only be worn by the 'Head Ball Coach.'"