Blog..For Steve Spurrier The Game Is Big
Since 1963 Steven Orr Spurrier wanted nothing more than to be wearing the Orange and White and playing in Knoxville. “The head ball coach,” is a regular visitor to the hills of Rocky Top - his own called home.
By: BE Coleman
It is a big week in the SEC East as two teams will decide who represents the division next month in Atlanta, while two former coaches go at it in Columbia, SC. with much higher stakes.
For Tennessee and its head coach Phillip Fulmer it is a victory or nothing. For South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier it is more complex. Spurrier would like to beat his home state for personal reasons, but should know that a victory is compromising.
Since 1963 Steven Orr Spurrier wanted nothing more than to be wearing the Orange and White and playing in Knoxville. Instead, he saw the Vols coaching staff at that time tell him they did not want to introduce a passing attack.
Florida picked him up for his punting skills, saw Spurrier was 600 miles from home and not happy to see the Vols change their offense from a single wing attack to one that featured a passer after telling him no, months before.
Back in the good old days, communication revolved around one phone in the Gator Sports Information Department, and pay phone outside the coaches’ office. For a boy from the hills of East Tennessee, it was a long, long train ride to get home.
Spurrier has often referred to Tennessee as “the program.” While coaching at his old alma mater, Spurrier often noted the Vols superior recruiting status and high level of incoming talent that annually chooses to play by the Tennessee River.
There is no secret that Spurrier would like to come home, and this may be his last opportunity to do it. The Fulmer-Spurrier rivalry toned down a notch after Spurrier made a final debut in the NFL.
It is mindful of the Woody Hayes – Bo Schembechler, Tom Osborne - Barry Switzer rivalries played out. But this time the stakes are quite higher in all respect. A win by Spurrier Saturday would likely bring an end to Fulmer’s run in Knoxville.
While Spurrier does not want to talk about ending Fulmer’s career, a win would certainly open the door for his name to placed high on top of a search list by UT’s Athletic Director Mike Hamilton.
Hamilton is all about setting things right, something that he proved when he brought Johnny Majors and Fulmer together in the same room for a DVD Reunion in 2003.
If it finds that the phone rings in Columbia, Spurrier has to take the call, it may be his last chance to go home and play before the people that mean the most to him.
Spurrier is always appreciative of the opportunity he got at Florida, but his blood is thicker than water. With his brother Graham keeping the home fires in Johnson City warm, should not have to be spoken when it comes to, “affairs of the heart.”
A win by Spurrier would shift all focus solely in the SEC towards him and Tennessee. The chatter will be voluminous as teams prepare for an SEC Title game that Hamilton can steal all the limelight from Atlanta and shift to Knoxville at season end.
The Tennessee fan base has clamored and contemplated for Spurrier to come home since his NFL appearance ended. The Vols have not been where they were in the 90’s playing against Spurrier coached teams.
Spurrier can open the door to go home if he chooses this week-end, a moral victory for a Carolina program that has only beaten Tennessee two times in sixteen seasons may be more than they wish to deal with in the final end.
Spurrier has owned Fulmer in the Tennessee coach’s 16 season run after spending the first four games in 1992 as an interim coach. The tally sheet being produced in Knoxville says 17 seasons, but simple addition and Johnny Majors say differently.
Since 1993 Spurrier has won contests in 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2000 and 05 against Fulmer. The Vols longtime coach won four times in his tenure - 97, 01, 06, 07 facing Spurrier coached teams. It is a must win game in 2008, without question.
An opening in Knoxville, an opportunity to finally go home, will find South Carolina scrambling to pull every string possible to keep Steven Orr Spurrier in Columbia, but it will be a hard road to hoe.
Carolina does not have the recruiting base, the name that Tennessee carries, nor the financial capital that is available in Tennessee. The bottom line more than anything is other places are not the one place Steve Spurrier calls his home.
“The head ball coach,” is a regular visitor to the hills of Rocky Top, and like Spurrier finds his brother Graham would like to change his personal license plate to reflect the two brothers united at home, where their fondest memories were forged.
For Spurrier, it certainly is a big game, perhaps coaching the game of his life. When any person’s wandering soul is presented with opportunity and the means, it is hard to say no, “I don’t want to go home,” after forty years of hope and waiting.
This game could mark that train ride back home for Spurrier to the top of Rocky Top.
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