Before he became the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, Urban Meyer led the Florida Gators to two national titles. Before that, The Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, was the only other coach in school history to lead the program to those heights.
The two former Gators coaches have quite a few things in common, which is why it makes sense that an Orlando radio host asked Spurrier to weigh in in the current Urban Meyer scandal.
Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer are the two best coaches in Florida Gator history
Steve Spurrier returned to his alma mater, the University of Florida, to coach the football team in 1990. The former Heisman-winning quarterback helped bring his Gators back to prominence, and the program became one of the best in college football in the ’90s.
Spurrier delivered the program’s first-ever national championship in 1996 and went to major bowl games in every season after his first. Following his 12 seasons in Gainesville, Spurrier left for the NFL with a 122-27 record.
Ron Zook took over for Spurrier, and the Florida program suffered. The team went 23-15 and lost all three bowl games it went to. When Zook left ahead of the 2004 Peach Bowl, Florida brought in the innovative offensive coach from Utah, Urban Meyer.
Meyer only stayed in Gainesville for six seasons but was incredibly successful. He went 65-15 as the head coach of the Gators and was 5-1 in bowl games. He also led the team to two national championships in 2006 and 2008.
Since Meyer left after the 2010 season, Florida hasn’t reached the heights it did under either him or Spurrier. With Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain, and Dan Mullen at the helm, the school hasn’t contended for the title, and, in 2013, the program had its first losing season since 1979.
Spurrier shared some advice with Meyer following the scandal
In addition to both being ex-Florida Gator coaches, Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier are also both restaurant owners. In August, The Head Ball Coach opened Spurrier’s Gridiron Grill in Gainesville, per WJHL.
On Friday, Spurrier joined Mike Bianchi’s Open Mike in 96.9 The Game in Orlando. The retired coach weighed in on the Urban Meyer scandal and shared his philosophy on interacting with fans at his restaurant:
Certainly at the restaurant, I’m always taking pictures with everybody so — hands on shoulders is my philosophy. Don’t even put your hands on their back anymore. But anyway, it was sad to see all that happen and, of course, everybody’s got a cell phone all over the country now, so I mean, as far as getting away with something, you can forget about that. But anyway, that was surprising to me. I didn’t know he would allow something like that to happen.Steve Spurrier on Urban Meyer
The host coaxed Spurrier into saying a little more, asking, “You’ve always taken the team flight home, right?” The coach confirmed he did and said it was “a little unusual too” that Meyer didn’t after last week’s Thursday Night Football loss for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Will the former Florida Gators coaches’ NFL careers end up the same way?
One more similarity between Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier is that they have both tried their hand in the NFL.
Spurrier jumped from the Gators to the now-Washington Football Team for the 2002 NFL season. While not an abject disaster, his tenure in the pros was not successful. He went 7-9 his first season and 5-11 the next before heading back to the SEC to coach the South Carolina Gamecocks.
During his time in the NFL, reports surfaced that he didn’t put in the hours that most pro coaches do. The coach’s “Fun ‘n’ Gun” offense also didn’t translate to the next level. Most of all, though, fans remember Spurrier for bringing in a host of ex-Gators — Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews, Reidel Anthony, Willie Jackson, Chris Doering, Jacquez Green — who also didn’t translate in the league.
Spurrier did, however, get off to a better start than Meyer. Washington won its first game of the Steve Spurrier Era against the Arizona Cardinals and Game 4 against the Tennessee Titans with losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers in between.
Meyer’s start is worse at 0-4, and Spurrier never had to contend with a scandal like Meyer is now. While the current Jaguars coach certainly set out to do better in the NFL than Spurrier, it now looks like he may not even make it two seasons like The Head Ball Coach did.
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference