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Whither Spurrier?

With Florida out of the way, five places the Ol' Ball Coach could land

Posted: Friday November 5, 2004 11:50AM; Updated: Friday November 5, 2004 12:17PM
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Steve Spurrier
Steve Spurrier already has one ACC title on his resume, winning with Duke in 1989.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Now that the Ol' Ball Coach has decided against stepping back in time and returning to Florida (as recommended in this space a week ago, although I think it's safe to say Steve Spurrier wasn't acting on my advice), a new guessing game begins. Where will Spurrier surface? And when?

The Florida situation, however, bears one final look. When Ron Zook was fired on Oct. 25, Spurrier was reached by an Orlando Sentinel reporter at a golf tournament and, in a quote heard 'round Gator Nation and the college football universe, said, "I guess there will be some discussions. We'll see what happens.'' Eight days later Spurrier removed himself from consideration for the Gators' job, citing no desire to return to a place where he had worked at for 12 years and accomplished all that could be accomplished. In short: been there, done that.

But something smells funny. I'm not buying that it took Spurrier more than a week to realize you can't go home again. Maybe he needed to think on it a little. Or perhaps he wasn't thrilled Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley announced publicly that the job would involve multiple candidates -- only one of them being the Ball Coach -- and the process would last into December. I'm thinking if you're Foley and you want to bring back The Legend, you bring back the legend. You don't make him out-interview Urban Meyer. It's possible Spurrier felt the same way. He has an ego. So does Foley. And they didn't part on the best of terms in 2002.

If he wanted Spurrier, Foley should have offered him the job the same day he fired Zook. If Spurrier wanted it, he should have told Foley to hire him or get lost. Perhaps in essence that's what he did. Could they patch things up? Anything is possible. The Red Sox just won the World Series.

But let's assume the Florida deal is off. And that Spurrier isn't ready to play golf full-time. Here are some possibilities:

1. Miami Dolphins: How long can Dave Wannstedt last? The Dolphins are arguably the worst team in the NFL. Talk about a good fit for Spurrier. It's in the right state with the right weather, both for Spurrier's passing game and his golf game. But what did he learn from his failure with the Redskins? That the NFL ain't college football and you can't turn around a franchise just by wanting it to happen? That the Fun 'n' Gun doesn't work with the pros, where the weekly talent gap is far smaller than in the SEC? Or that you have to get into the right situation to win and that the Redskins were not the right situation? If he decides it's the latter, he might give the NFL another shot. Or if his ego demands it.

2. North Carolina: Now, here's the perfect fit. Tar Heels head coach John Bunting had a nice upset win over Miami last Saturday; the school is selling pieces of the goalposts on its Web site. In three-and-a-half years in Chapel Hill, Bunting is 17-28, but just 9-23 since finishing 8-5 in his first season. He's on the hot seat. North Carolina has the financial resources to pay Spurrier and to make a commitment to winning (the UNC weight room is like Club Med). Heck, the school opened its checkbook for Mack Brown, and he almost got the Heels over the top in the mid-'90s, but they kept running into Florida State at the peak of Bobby Bowden's dynasty.

Back then, Bowden told me, "There are only a few schools that are capable of winning the national championship. North Carolina is one of them.'' The weather in Chapel Hill is good enough to run a passing game and attract players from Florida. And it's not exactly foreign territory for Spurrier; he won an ACC title at Duke. Best of all, by winning at North Carolina, Spurrier would get the same type of adulation he got for resurrecting Florida. It would all be new and special and how many coaches get to play the savior twice in their careers?

3. Clemson: You can't help but wonder if the Clemson brass is asking itself why it gave head coach Tommy Bowden an extension through 2010 last year. Bowden is 42-28 at Clemson, respectable but clearly not good enough. A rally from 1-4 to 4-4 this year is probably smoke and mirrors. Clemson has North Carolina's weather and a better football history (not all of it good, see: Danny Ford and the NCAA), but not quite its financial resources. However, deep-pocketed boosters always have been central to the Tigers' success, and if Clemson had to buy out Bowden, it could find a way. Of course, from Spurrier's vantage point, success would not be new and special at Clemson. Tigers faithful would expect to win.

4. Washington: Keith Gilbertson announced he will resign at the end of the season. I'm guessing that even though Rick Neuheisel was cleared of wrongdoing by the NCAA, he won't return, either. But think of it this way: Neuheisel was always Spurrier with training wheels. Steve wears a visor, Rick wears a vest. Both are passing game geniuses with boyish good looks -- except Spurrier's college coaching resume is vastly more impressive. The Pac-10 loves to throw like no other conference in America and wouldn't you just pay a scalper to see what kind of game plan Spurrier cooks up against Pete Carroll's defense? Or watch a shootout between Spurrier and Cal's Jeff Tedford? Drawback: Sometimes it snows in Seattle, and that's lousy for body surfing.

5. Notre Dame: Go ahead, tell me your heart didn't flutter just a bit when you saw that I had typed those two words. Sure, Ty Willingham has two years left on his initial contract and Notre Dame always gives its head coaches five years (see: Gerry Faust and Bob Davie). But what would you bet, right now, that he'll be kept on longer than that? And just imagine: Notre Dame and Spurrier. Never mind the cold weather, the raw and windy November Saturdays. Notre Dame and Spurrier. I'd pay to see that, too.

But you have to think the Ol' Ball Coach would look best in powder blue.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden weighs in with a Viewpoint every Friday on SI.com.

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