Schmidt: Florida still searching for coach

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 9, 2004

What a mess. Florida dismissed head football coach Ron Zook in the middle of the season last week. This week former coach and godfather of the program Steve Spurrier told Florida he wasn’t interested in the coaching job, despite reportedly being offered a salary that was about $5 million per year.

Steve Spurrier isn’t interested. Uh-oh. What now?

The powers that be at Florida are probably trying to figure out what hit them. Ron Zook may not have been the best choice to replace Spurrier. He lost too many games (including to Mississippi State) and never really had the confidence of Florida’s fans, who expect nothing less than a national title run every year.

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But now, after firing Zook in the middle of a season in a move that has created considerable controversy, the big men at Florida find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Zook’s dismissal came halfway through the year for one reason: Florida thought it could convince Spurrier to take the job. With the Gators’ messiah back in place, everything would be OK again.

At least there’s plenty of time to go shopping for a new head coach before the heart of the recruiting season this winter.

As for Spurrier, why should he take the job?

Spurrier will probably coach again. It’s in his blood. Football has been his job and his passion his entire life. He’s not so old he couldn’t start again at a college program and build a national champion.

But for the moment he can indulge another passion: golf. Spurrier has millions and millions of dollars in the bank from years of seven-figure salaries. He can afford to take time off from the coaching profession to take it easy and wait for the right opportunity to come along.

Spurrier mocked NFL head coaches who spent all their time in the office doing work and spent nights sleeping on cots at the practice facility. That wasn’t his style. He likes to show up for practice, do some film study and game-planning and still squeeze in a round of golf.

I still believe he will coach again, almost certainly in the college ranks. College football is what he knows best, where he fits best. Steve Spurrier tried the NFL with the Redskins and things didn’t work out. His Fun ‘n’ Gun offensive system wasn’t nearly as effective against professional defenses as it was in the NFL.

He made questionable personnel decisions like the release of Pro-Bowl running back Steven Davis. And, more important than anything, he realized that making a winning NFL team is as much about good fortune as great ability.

But that’s not the case in the college ranks. Spurrier can recruit the best athletes in the country to play for him because he wins. It’s a cycle; win games, recruit good players, win more games, recruit better athletes.

The man got Duke football to win, after all. If you can do that, you can do anything.

But Florida’s old hat to him. He took his alma mater from mediocre to national champion. There’s no challenge left there for the &uot;old ballcoach.&uot;

Christian Schmidt is a sports writer with the The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at (601) 445-3633 or by e-mail at