Spurrier a no go for Vols
Posted: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 5:28 pm
By: By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Just imagine, 106,000 orange-clad Vols fans cheering for their beloved Tennessee. And trotting out to the sidelines under a neon visor, Tennessee coach Steve Spurrier.
It could have happened. South Carolina’s head coach said so Monday night after practice, had the Vols job come open four years back when Spurrier had flopped in the NFL and looked to return to the college game.
Now, with Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer set to end his tenure, Spurrier says he’ll only go back to Neyland Stadium as the opposing coach.
“This is going to be my last gig right here,” the 63-year-old Spurrier said Monday night.
Speculation about Spurrier, who grew up in Johnson City pulling for UT, taking over Tennessee had started on Internet message boards long before the Gamecocks placed the final straw on Fulmer’s broken back, 27-6, this past Saturday night.
On Monday, Fulmer said he accepted the university’s decision that he would not coach Tennessee after this season. He’ll receive the $6 million buyout negotiated for the contract extension he received last season.
“He’s probably, 16, 17 years there, probably long enough,” Spurrier said. “Wasn’t working very well. I think everybody understands, when it starts going bad, they got to make changes. We all know that.
“Congratulate him on hitting that lottery ticket, that’s a big ticket he got, a big one,” Spurrier said, smiling.
Call it a barb at Fulmer’s expense.
No one was better theater during the 1990s than Florida coach Spurrier. Fulmer was perhaps Spurrier’s biggest foil, enraging Vols fans everywhere.
Spurrier famously quipped, “You can’t spell Citrus without UT,” when it was the Gators on top of the SEC and the Vols settling for seconds.
Spurrier shot down the chance of him switching SEC Eastern Division clubs.
“No, no, no. They’ll hire a guy that wants to stay 10, 15 years, which is probably what they should do, really,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier’s name has come up before in connection to high-profile jobs. In 2006, reports had Spurrier the top target of Miami.
When news broke of the Hurricanes’ interest, Spurrier doubted it was true. “Who at Miami (said it), the president, the athletic director or some guy sleeping under the bridge down there?” he said.
Spurrier got a contract extension through 2012 worth about $1.75 million a year. Last month, South Carolina extended the contract of first-year defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and Spurrier took the occasion to say he planned to stay.
On that point, Spurrier’s views haven’t changed even if others find it hard to believe: He’s wants to bring South Carolina an SEC championship.
As for Tennessee, Spurrier’s certain it won’t be long before it too is contending again. “Schools with tremendous tradition usually don’t take too long to get back to the top,” he said. “Who knows. It’s a little different now with Florida and Georgia and so many teams are a lot better than they used to be from all over the conference.”