University of Florida

Steve Spurrier back in his Gainesville glory as Gators ambassador

Steve Spurrier, center, poses with legendary coaches Bobby Bowden (front) and Howard Schnellenbeger for the cover of the Miami Herald’s 2001 college football special section.
Steve Spurrier, center, poses with legendary coaches Bobby Bowden (front) and Howard Schnellenbeger for the cover of the Miami Herald’s 2001 college football special section. Miami Herald staff photo

Steve Spurrier is officially back with the Gators after being named ambassador and consultant for the University of Florida athletic department on Friday.

Spurrier was the coach at Florida from 1990-2001 before leaving to try his hand at coaching in the NFL.

Before officially being introduced by outgoing athletic director Jeremy Foley on Friday afternoon, Spurrier confirmed to reporters that he had resigned from a similar position he had held at South Carolina since abruptly resigning as the Gamecocks’ coach last season.

Spurrier said he and his wife, Jerri, had lived in Gainesville longer than anywhere else and a return to the college town seemed to be a natural move.

“I wanted to do something,” Spurrier said. “I did not want to be a retired dude and do nothing. ... It’s a wonderful invitation. Hopefully, I can do something to help the Gators.”

The Gators added Spurrier’s name to Florida Field in early June.

The unveiling of Steve Spurrier-Florida Field will come in the Gators’ season opener against UMass on Sept. 3.

“It’s a great day for the Gator Nation to be able to welcome Coach Spurrier back home,” Foley said in a statement.

“He has served as a tremendous ambassador to the university and the athletic department for 50-plus years and it’s only fitting that at this point in his career he is back in Gainesville. Being a Gator has always meant so much to Coach Spurrier, but it means just as much to us to have him come home.”

Said Gators coach Jim McElwain: “I look forward to visiting with him on a lot of occasions and picking his brain on a number of issues. It’s a credit to Jeremy to get him back home where he belongs. More than anything, I look forward to actually talking to him and being around him rather than just saying hello to his statue on my way to work every day.”

Spurrier, who grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee, began as a student at Florida in 1963 and became the Gators’ starting quarterback a year later.

Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 1966 and was a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1967. Spurrier spent 10 seasons in the NFL, including one with the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976.

“My wife, Jerri, and I are extremely thrilled to be returning home to our alma mater and to Gainesville, where we met on campus over 50 years ago,” Spurrier said in a statement.

“I will try my best to promote and assist in any way I can to help the Gators to continue to be one of the very best athletic programs in America. I admire what Coach McElwain and his staff accomplished last year. I’m anxious to watch the Gator football team as they strive to be the best in the SEC and the nation in the years ahead.”

Spurrier is best known for his prowess on the sidelines.

After retiring as a player, Spurrier went into coaching. His first head coaching job came with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits in 1983. After that team folded, he took over at Duke and led the Blue Devils to an Atlantic Coast Conference title.

Spurrier then returned to Gainesville in 1990 and turned the Gators’ fortunes around.

In 1991, the Gators won their first Southeastern Conference title. Florida captured the 1996 national championship with a victory over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

A five-time SEC Coach of the Year, Spurrier left the Gators following the 2001 season and signed a five-year deal worth $25 million to coach the Washington Redskins.

Spurrier resigned from the Redskins after just two years, took a break from coaching in 2004 and returned by landing at South Carolina.

Spurrier coached the Gamecocks for 11 years before retiring midway through last season after a 2-4 start.

South Carolina president Harris Pastides told The State (Columbia, South Carolina) that he wished Spurrier well.

“We wish Coach Spurrier all the best in his future endeavors and appreciate the time he gave to us as a coach, colleague, friend and university ambassador,” Pastides said.

“Steve will always be a Gamecock fan; he’s made that clear. He elevated our football program to a new level, and we will forever be grateful. Coach Spurrier has a well-established legacy at several schools and will go down as one of the sport’s greatest. I believe we got the best that the Head Ball Coach had to give.”

Said Spurrier: “I also want to say thanks to the University of South Carolina for allowing me to be their coach from 2005 to 2015. Also, a special thanks to all of the Gamecock players, coaches and fans that allowed our teams to set so many school records. I will now pull for South Carolina to win every game but one, just as I did when I pulled for Florida to win every game but one as the Gamecocks coach.”