Stephen Orr Spurrier. SOS. Ol’ Ball Coach. Darth Visor. Whatever you want to call him, this football genius from Miami Beach, Florida made Gator bait of opposing defenses as a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and head ball coach. The man is a winner no matter where he goes and what he does. In high school, he was an All-American or all-state at football, basketball, and baseball. (I am surprised golf and visor throwing are not among that list). As quarterback for Ray Graves‘ Florida Gators from ’64 to ’66, he amassed 392/692 attempts, 4848 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and 442 yards rushing with an average rating of 123.7. Note: that is a high rating for the 1960s, when the average truly was closer to 100.0. He is remembered for waving off the placekicker in order to nail a 45-yarder to beat Auburn in his senior season. Steve won MVP honors in the 1966 Orange Bowl, even though his team lost to Missouri, 18-20. He was a 1st-team All-American in his junior and senior seasons.
Steve played in the NFL for 10 years before becoming QB coach under Doug Dickey in 1978. He was not picked up by Charley Pell in 1979, so he took his coaching talents to Georgia Tech, and Duke before becoming the youngest head football coach by taking the position at the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits. After the USFL dissolved, he turned the Duke football team into a winning program.
In 1989, the Old Ball Coach was invited to come home and revive his alma mater’s football program, a program that had been investigated twice by the NCAA in five years for infractions under Charley Pell and Galen Hall. Steven Orr Spurrier singlehandedly resurrected the mighty Gator football program and brought it to new levels of national prominence with a swagger that is now well renowned throughout the football landscape. In his 12-year tenure as Ol’ Ball Coach, he won the 1996 Bowl Alliance National Championship, six SEC Championships, was named SEC Coach of the Year five times, won at least 9 games every year he coached, finished in the final poll top fifteen every year, and was ranked every week except his first week as coach (202/203 polls).
He is credited with giving the nickname “The Swamp” to Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, revolutionizing SEC football with his Fun N’ Gun offense, and making SEC media days a hoot with his on-camera quips that came at the expense of Ray “Goof” Goff, the Tennessee Volunteers (“You can’t spell Citrus without ‘UT’ “), Payton Manning (“I know why he came back…he wanted to be the three time Citrus Bowl MVP”), and Florida State University (“Free Shoes University”, ” ‘Semis”).
Steven Orr Spurrier will always be remembered for his greatness as a Gator player and Gator coach…except on days he coaches against his alma mater. Gator bait!