Former Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier yesterday withdrew his name from consideration for the coaching vacancy at the University of Florida, where he led the Gators to six Southeastern Conference titles and the 1996 national championship.
Spurrier, who has been out of work since he quit his job with the Redskins in December, was considered the top candidate to replace Ron Zook, who was fired last month. Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner as the Gators' quarterback, won 122 games in 12 seasons at Florida before leaving for the NFL after the 2001 season.
"When I departed three years ago, there were several reasons why I believed it was time to move on," Spurrier said in a statement released yesterday by Florida's athletic department. "Other than simply wanting to coach in the NFL someday, I also believed that 12 years at Florida was probably long enough. Many people in football believe that around 10 [to] 12 years in the same job is about the maximum time a coach should stay."
Spurrier, 59, said yesterday that Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley had called him "several times this week trying to set up a meeting after the season with him and President Bernard Machen." Several sources close to Spurrier said yesterday that Spurrier is interested in returning to the NFL, possibly with the Miami Dolphins, and wants to move back to Florida after his youngest son, Scotty, graduates from Loudoun County High this spring.
Sources also cited Spurrier's relationship with Foley, which soured during his final months at Florida, as one of the reasons the coach isn't interested in replacing Zook.
Although Spurrier struggled in his two seasons with the Redskins -- his teams went 7-9 in 2002 and 5-11 last season -- Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga apparently is still interested in hiring Spurrier because of his enormous popularity in Florida. The Dolphins are off to their worst start in their 39-year history, with a 1-7 record going into Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals. If Spurrier doesn't get the Dolphins job, sources said he is prepared to sit out another football season.
Spurrier also has been mentioned among candidates for several perceived soon-to-be-open college jobs, from North Carolina to Texas, where John Bunting and Mack Brown are under pressure.
"I have not been offered any coaching job by any team, and I'm not searching for one," Spurrier said.
Spurrier's decision not to pursue the Florida job was a harsh blow for Gators fans, who hoped their beloved visor-wearing coach would return to his alma mater and lead it back to the top of the SEC. With a 4-4 record, the Gators need to win two of their last three games against Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida State to become eligible for their 14th consecutive bowl game.
Foley is expected to turn his attention to several young and up-and-coming college coaches, including Utah's Urban Meyer, California's Jeff Tedford, Louisville's Bobby Petrino and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. Stoops already has released a statement saying he isn't interested in the Florida job, but Gators boosters hope he'll reconsider now that Spurrier is out of the picture. Machen has said he hopes to name a coach by mid-December.
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.