Spurrier Withdraws From Florida Coach Search

Thursday, November 4th 2004, 12:53 pm
By: News On 6

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Steve Spurrier felt his time with the Florida Gators had passed.

After spending more than a week thinking about it, Spurrier decided Thursday to remove his name from consideration to replace Ron Zook.

``He said he's done his thing here and he just thinks it's better for us to go find a coach who will be here for the next 10 or 15 years,'' athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

The Gators won six Southeastern Conference championships and the 1996 national title under Spurrier. He posted 122 victories over 12 seasons, tormented opponents with his offensive flair and witty one-liners, and left town with the best winning percentage in league history.

Zook, who was hired in 2002 when Spurrier left to coach the Washington Redskins, was fired last week after the latest in a series of embarrassing losses. Spurrier, who quit the Redskins after two losing seasons, was widely considered the leading candidate for the open job.

Foley and Spurrier exchanged several phone messages this week, trying to set up an interview with school president Bernie Machen after the season.

``They were obviously making an effort to meet with me,'' Spurrier said in a statement.

But Spurrier's latest message ended all speculation about returning to his alma mater, Foley said.

``When I departed three years ago, there were several reasons why I believed it was time to move on,'' Spurrier said. ``Other than simply wanting to coach in the NFL someday, I also believed that 12 years at Florida was probably long enough. Many people in football believe that around 10-12 years in the same job is about the maximum time a coach should stay.''

Some close to the 59-year-old Spurrier say he doesn't want his coaching career to end on a losing note, and predict he will give the NFL another shot. It could come soon.

With Thursday's announcement there was almost immediate speculation that Spurrier would end up in Miami with the Dolphins _ even though Dave Wannstedt has not been fired.

``I have not been offered any coaching job by any team, and I'm not searching for one,'' Spurrier said.

Spurrier's decision, though, should make Florida's coaching search easier.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Utah's Urban Meyer and Cal's Jeff Tedford are considered other possible candidates.

Stoops, who spent three seasons as Spurrier's defensive coordinator at Florida, has repeatedly denied any interest in the Gators job. But a university source speaking on the condition of anonymity said Stoops might reconsider with Spurrier out of the picture.

Machen hired Meyer at Utah in December 2002, and Meyer's diverse offense would be welcomed in Gainesville after Zook failed with his NFL-style approach. But Meyer has no ties to Florida, which would make recruiting tough.

Tedford has spent his entire career on the West Coast, but he could be the perfect blend between Spurrier and Zook. His quarterback-tailored system has turned Cal into one of the top offenses in the nation, and his recruiting efforts match anyone in the country.

Florida wants to have a coach in place by mid-December.