With Steve Spurrier throwing his visor into the proverbial NFL coaching ring following an Orange Bowl rout of Maryland, it's not just the name of Florida's head coach that will be different next season.
The incoming recruits won't be quite as good, the team won't have the same swagger, the crowd won't be quite as loud and, rumor has it, the cheerleaders won't even be as pretty for the Gators next year.
You just can't replace Spurrier but, if I were to try, I'd definitely hire Ron Zook.
Well, at least after padding my frequent flyer miles by jetting to Norman, Okla., to be rejected by OU coach Bob Stoops, then sightseeing in Denver while getting turned down by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. New Orleans would be the perfect place to recover from jet lag and get the man I really wanted the entire time, and that's Zook.
Some people would ask me why I wouldn't just call up the men and find out if they actually wanted the job. They'd say that I'd be making my first two choices too public, that everyone would know that Zook was a distant third on my list, that I didn't think he was the best man for the job.
But to them, I say this - at least one man agrees with me, and that's Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley.
That was the weaving path he took before lassoing Zook, and he even said this at the press conference announcing Zook's hiring.
"I feel about this hire exactly the same way I felt when I hired (UF men's basketball coach) Billy Donovan. I am firmly convinced with his ability."
The following was also overheard at the press conference:
"Somebody do a resume check on this Donovan guy."
I have sources who tell me that I was 17th on his short list of candidates, and he was firmly convinced with my ability also.
But enough about my superior coaching ability, let's talk about a similarly talented coach named Spurrier.
Foley's exhausting and somewhat misguided efforts to replace him are in vain because you can't replace the coach who defines your program.
In Florida's 57 SEC seasons prior to Spurrier becoming coach, they had all the steeped football tradition of Vanderbilt. They had no conference championships, no ten-win seasons, one week ranked first nationally and six 300-plus point seasons.
During the Spurrier 12-year regime, the Gators collected six conference championships, nine 10-plus win seasons, 29 weeks ranked first nationally, scored 300-plus points every year and, oh yeah, they won a national title.
Best of all for Florida, though, other teams' fans hated the guy. If he were on fire, Tennessee fans wouldn't throw their glass of beer on him, though they'd love to as he ran through the tunnel at Neyland Stadium. It's hard to tell which former Florida coach draws as much ire from Vol backers: Spurrier or UT athletic director Doug Dickey.
That was the best thing for Florida. Love him or hate him, the Gators had a coach you knew and had to keep an eye on. He had a personality, and that personality fit his team. Nobody hates UT coach Phillip Fulmer. For the most part, people either are a fan or they don't care one way or another about the guy. They may hate the Vols, but Fulmer doesn't have the personality to elicit the same response from opposing fans Spurrier can. Fans on the other side of the country may not know Fulmer from their neighbor's garbage man, but you can bet they know Spurrier's scowl and feared his offense. They reveled in every Spurrier visor spike, and now the reign is over.
All people can enjoy right now with Zook is making fun of his name. "Throw the book at Zook" and "Cook Zook" are just some of the signs drunk, shirtless fans will be holding proudly above their heads next season. Foley just hopes those fans are Gators.
But if they are, I think he can take a free trip up to Knoxville with the bonus miles he earned on his cross-country trek earlier this month. The 17th man on his list will be waiting patiently, and I'm already getting decked out for his visit. Anybody got one of those Gator head hats?
Spurrier proves hard to replace
Published: Tue Jan 15, 2002 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 03:59 p.m.