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1. Steve Spurrier
Posted Nov 20, 2005 by Carl Lisciandrello
Updated Nov 23, 2005 at 07:36 PM
’‘You know what FSU stands for, don’t you? Free Shoes University.’’ - Florida coach Steve Spurrier to the Polk County Gator Club, 1994
These things happen in football rivalries, especially Florida-FSU. Coaches talk to boosters, cracking a few funny lines, trying to liven up the partisan crowd. There are Gator jokes. There are Seminole jokes.
This one ran deeper, drawing criticism from UF administrators and FSU fans alike.
Steve Spurrier, who was entering his fifth season coaching the Gators, never took back his words.
In fact, he elaborated on the point.
Rewind to the summer of 1994. FSU, coming off its first national championship, was the subject of a Sports Illustrated cover story, which detailed an after-hours shopping spree for Seminole players, arranged by agents, at a Tallahassee Foot Locker store. The fallout: Four players were suspended. The NCAA investigated.
And Spurrier poured gasoline on the flames.
One day after he referred to FSU as ‘‘Free Shoes University’’ before the Polk County Gator Club, Spurrier was interviewed by Florida Today, a newspaper in Melbourne.
‘‘We’ve always heard rumors about them,’’ Spurrier said. ‘‘We’ve always suspected. They’ve beaten us four out of five years in recruiting. Heck, maybe they’re the greatest recruiters in the world. But maybe there are other reasons that those guys go there. Those guys always say they feel ‘more comfortable’ going to FSU. Well, maybe we’re starting to realize what that ‘more comfortable’ means.’‘
Meanwhile, Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley, aware that UF had well-publicized bouts with the NCAA during the 1980s (including the stripping of the 1984 SEC title), winced when he heard Spurrier’s remarks.
‘‘We should not be making those comments,’’ Foley said. ‘‘We’ve been there before. We know what it’s like from the other side.’‘
Spurrier, undaunted, addressed the subject again as fall practice began.
‘‘I don’t really think I say all that much,’’ Spurrier said. ‘‘It just gets interpreted stronger because no other coaches say anything.’‘
And this: ‘‘It used to be I was the most hated Gator in Tallahassee. Now it’s the investi-gator.’‘
Miami coach Dennis Erickson, an innocent bystander, said Spurrier was a ‘‘great football coach at the University of Florida, but he can’t shut up.’‘
When the Gators and Seminoles prepared for the 1994 game in Tallahassee, Spurrier was asked about his comments, nearly six months earlier.
‘‘Let’s get this straight,’’ he said. ‘‘We are playing Free Shoes U. this week and you can quote me on that. I’m not one who will say something, then back off it now.’‘
Then FSU coach Bobby Bowden wearily weighed in.
‘‘The shoes were free, but we’ve paid a heckuva price for it,’’ Bowden said. ‘‘So Steve’s halfway right.’‘