Steve Spurrier has a permanent place in the hearts of Florida Gators, and now he’ll be honored with a permanent place at the University of Florida’s football stadium.
UF”s Board of Trustees announced that Spurrier’s name would be added to Florida Field, where he would be honored in a special ceremony at the Gators’ season opener game on September 3, 2016 against the University of Massachusetts.
The official name will be “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium” — a big name to be sure, but Spurrier’s impact on Gators football is unquestionably among the greatest in the program’s history.
A Heisman-winning quarterback for the team in the 1960s, Spurrier was most famous as a player not for a pass, but a kick. On October 29, 1966, the Gators were tied with Auburn 27-27, and the Gators were fourth-and-14 on Auburn’s 24-yard line, with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Spurrier made the game-winning kick and was awarded the Heisman Trophy a few weeks later.
Spurrier returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1990, and the Southeastern Conference would never be the same. From the high-scoring, pass-oiented “Fun ‘n’ Gun” offense, to the six SEC championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000) and UF’s first national championship in 1996, Gator football with Coach Spurrier was fast, fun, and victorious.
During Spurrier’s tenure as head coach, the Gators piled up a 122-27-1 record, making him the winningest coach in Florida history. They were nearly unbeatable at home, with a 63-5 record, leading Spurrier to nickname the stadium “The Swamp.” As Spurrier himself explained:
A swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. Only Gators get out alive.
In announcing the decision to name the field after Spurrier, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said that “Steve Spurrier came in here and changed the culture of our football program.”
We were an institution that always had a mantra of wait until next year and wouldn’t it be great to just win one championship.
Coach changed all of that. The Gators won, won big and won with swagger…his name needs to be on The Swamp.
UF released a video to promote the renaming and invited several former players to share their experiences with Coach Spurrier:
Spurrier said that he was “stunned” to hear the news and released the following statement:
I am humbled, honored, thankful and very appreciative that my alma mater, the University of Florida, believes that I am worthy and deserving to have my name placed on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as ‘The Swamp.’ I was blessed and fortunate to be recruited and then to play for the original ‘Bull Gator’ – Coach Ray Graves in the mid-60s. I was fortunate to play with outstanding and talented teammates that allowed our teams to have winning seasons and play in major bowl games and build lasting friendships for a lifetime.
A very special thanks to Coach Doug Dickey, who hired me as an assistant coach in 1978, and allowing me to enter the coaching profession. I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me. As the head coach in 1990, I inherited a team that was loaded with outstanding players, who were poised and ready to start winning SEC Championships. We have had many truly great All-American, All-SEC and solid wonderful team-oriented players at Florida and I can’t mention them all.
I must say that Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel were not only two of the greatest quarterbacks in school history, but they were outstanding, excellent, courageous leaders who guided their teams to six SEC championships and one national championship in 1996. The Swamp is a special place. We coaches and players thoroughly enjoyed playing in front of our fans. We won a bunch of them there and only lost five and they were close ones.
I also met my wife, Jerri Starr, at the University of Florida, she has been a tremendous influence on everything I’ve done since. Again, I say thanks to all of those who made this honor possible and I consider this to be the biggest, most special honor I have ever received.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.