This is such a great essay that I just had to blog the entire thing so I can have my own copy.


Steve Spurrier resigned Friday in Gainesville, Fla. In other news…

Steve Spurrier celebrated seven SEC titles, but the SEC is doing the celebrating now.

There were unconfirmed reports of confetti raining from downtown windows in Knoxville, Tenn. Phil Fulmer reportedly had a double chocolate sundae delivered to his office.

In Athens, Ga., sources say coach Mark Richt sprinted out of the Georgia football offices, tore off his clothes and danced naked with UGA VI between the hedges.

In Columbia, S.C., champagne corks allegedly flew through the mid-afternoon air like buckshot. South Carolina spokesmen denied reports that Lou Holtz and his entire staff formed a conga line and danced out of the office, saying something about a three-day bender.

In Tuscaloosa, Ala., schools were dismissed early, with no homework.

In Baton Rouge, La., Mardi Gras spontaneously commenced five weeks early.

In Nashville, Tenn., and Lexington, Ky., there were reports of wan smiles on normally downtrodden faces. There was hope for the hopeless and cheer for the cheerless, for the first time since the 1980s.

And in Tallahassee, Fla., word is that Bobby Bowden broke out the good stuff.

Friday was Liberation Day in the Southeastern Conference. It was Liberation Day for those accused leg-twisters, quarterback-hitters and Foot Locker bargain hunters at Free Shoes U. It was Liberation Day for every school that watched the Head Ballcoach of the Florida Gators put 63 on the scoreboard against it — then watched him throw, throw, throw for 70 in the last minutes.

Steve Superior has gone pro. The SEC is free at last, free at last, from the mouthy, merciless maestro who held it in thrall for a dozen dominant seasons.

That doesn’t mean the blue-and-orange occupying force will cede control of the league. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley is not the kind of guy who walks around without a Plan B in his back pocket — and his Plan B figures to be a Plan A for just about any other school in the country. (Prediction: He’ll have a much easier time than Notre Dame finding the right guy.)

But down in Dixie they’d much rather deal with the devil they don’t know than the one they know so well. Not even ol’ Scratch himself would be an unwelcome sideline sight in The Swamp after 12 years of the unbearable greatness of Stevie Boy.

It wasn’t just that Steve Spurrier beat everybody so often (122 times, and at least nine times every single fall at Florida).

It wasn’t just that his offense was so much more entertaining and productive than everybody else’s (the Fun’N’Gun will one day be remembered with the Oklahoma wishbone, the Woody Hayes T and the other signature attacks in college football history).

It was, bottom line, that Spurrier was such an unapologetic, outsized character about it all. He was cocky in victory, crabby in defeat and controversial at all times.

He toted the biggest personality in the game. Biggest ego, too. Wore the biggest target and lived to brag about it, week after week.

(You think it was coincidental that Spur Dog announced his resignation on the day the pollsters officially voted in-state rival Miami No. 1? You don’t think he knew which story would steal the headlines and commandeer the newscasts? You think he wasn’t on the 7th fairway somewhere, laughing while his pager and cell phone blew up?)

Nobody worked the needle like Spurrier.

He stuck it to Tennessee (4-8 against Spurrier). When the Gators kept relegating the Volunteers to the No. 2 SEC bowl tie-in, the Citrus, it was Spurrier who famously said, “You can’t spell Citrus without UT.”

He stuck it to Georgia (1-11 against Spurrier). He lampooned former coach and hopeless foil Ray Goff, whom he routinely referred to as Ray Goof. He also enjoyed pointing out all of Goff’s highly rated recruiting classes that somehow never translated into teams capable of beating Spurrier’s Gators.

He stuck it to Kentucky (0-12 against Spurrier). Rang up 73 on Bill Curry, who once chose not to retain Spurrier as an assistant at Georgia Tech. Rang up 50 or more three times on Hal Mumme, whom he gigged for being more interested in big stats than wins.

He stuck it to Vanderbilt (0-12 against Spurrier). Sent Dead Man Walking Woody Widenhofer to the showers this year with 71 on the scoreboard.

He stuck it to Mississippi State (2-4 against Spurrier). He ordered up a late touchdown in a 52-0 rout this year, then explained it as a bow to the wishes of a student manager who was mauled in the postgame mob scene at Starkville in 2000 when the Bulldogs upset the Gators.

He played jersey games with LSU (1-11 against Spurrier) when the Tigers wanted to wear their whites at home. He played war games with former Alabama (3-6 against Spurrier) coach Mike DuBose, sending him a letter accusing him of cheating. And he played incessant mind games with the Seminoles over the years, topped off by his charge of intentional injury in their game in Gainesville Nov. 17 — which led to the Quote of the Year in college sports, Florida State AD Dave Hart recommending a spanking and bedtime for Stevie Boy.

If there is an analogous coach in recent college history, it is Rick Pitino, the similarly brash and brilliant savior of Kentucky basketball.

Spurrier and Pitino both owned the ’90s in the SEC. Both remade probation-bound programs (and complained endlessly after being stuck with asterisks for their non-title title seasons in 1990-91). Both overwhelmed the league with innovative strategy. Both won national titles in 1996. Both entertained the fans and media and frosted the opposition.

Pitino pulled his boot off the SEC’s collective throat in ’97 for the pros. Now Spurrier is doing the same.

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