Steve Spurrier won a Heisman Trophy as a player at Florida. He then returned to his alma mater and made the Gator program one of the top five jobs in America.
But when Urban Meyer hoisted his second BCS crystal football in 2008, there were some who said the Gators newest coach had surpassed the older coach.
George Diaz of The Orlando Sentinel says a bit more time has proven that that was just not the case:
“Even now, as head coach at South Carolina, Spurrier channels the profile of the Perfect Gator: A blend of cockiness and charisma. A man who embraces all the darts and arrows. A man who loves to pile on, just because. What’s not to love?
This is why Spurrier — years after leaving — will forever be king of Florida football, while Urban Meyer is a bit like the emperor with no clothes.
Sure the two national titles are fancy ornaments on his resume, but Meyer’s legacy will forever be tarnished by the rest of his “accomplishments.” In simpler terms, he was nothing more than a hired mercenary who did his job, got sloppy, bored and disinterested, and helped dismantle a program he helped rebuild into a national power.”
Too strong? Not in my view. Spurrier tapped into the recruiting base of the Sunshine State like no other coach in Gator history. His personality — as well as his play-calling — gained the UF program national recognition.
All that has come since — whether it was won by Meyer or will be won by Muschamp — can be traced back to the moment Spurrier took a good Florida program often bathed in scandal and made it a great football program with a clean record.
While Meyer won, he didn’t leave things in as good of order as he found it. Tim Tebow — as we’ve written many times — was a once in a generation type of player who happened to pass through on his watch. And scandals and arrests and drama and turmoil returned to Gainesville on Meyer’s watch as well.
Meyer has one more national title than Spurrier, but without Spurrier first laying the foundation, it’s doubtful Meyer would have accomplished nearly as much as he did in the roughneck SEC.