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Spurrier decision reverberates at UF

Former assistant Bob Stoops has received a job offer from Jeremy Foley and Florida, according to several reports.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 6, 2002


GAINESVILLE -- One day after the stunning resignation of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier, the search for his successor was under way and the fallout was being assessed.

GAINESVILLE -- One day after the stunning resignation of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier, the search for his successor was under way and the fallout was being assessed.

Players pondered who would be hired to replace Spurrier and what their futures may hold. Assistant coaches are in limbo and fans and friends alike wondered what had driven Spurrier from the college ranks.

Speculation continued that former Florida defensive coordinator and current Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will replace Spurrier.

Fox Sports Net reported Saturday night and the Orlando Sentinel and Daily Oklahoman reported in today's editions that Stoops has been offered the job and a news conference introducing him could come quickly.

All reports placed the offer Stoops received as a multiyear deal for between $2-million and $3-million a year. He makes $2-million a year now; Spurrier made $2.1-million.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione met for two hours with Stoops, who coached the Sooners to a national championship two seasons ago. But Stoops emerged from the meeting noncommittal.

The Oklahoman reported on its Internet site that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley contacted Stoops before a Friday news conference was held to discuss Spurrier's resignation. Foley was not in Norman, Okla. -- at least not early Saturday afternoon -- but instead attended Florida's basketball game against South Carolina. No area hotels reported having Stoops registered as a guest.

Foley reiterated Saturday that he will not discuss specifics about the search or potential candidates. But he has indicated that the search will be quick -- the so-called dead period of recruiting ends Saturday -- which favors the hiring of Stoops.

The 41-year-old coach knows the area and is familiar with the campus and the Florida athletic program, having spent three years as defensive coordinator before coming to Oklahoma in December 1998, so a full-fledged interview would not be necessary.

As for the players, several have indicated they will leave for the NFL. Cornerback Lito Sheppard and receiver Jabar Gaffney said they will not be back, although a family member at Gaffney's home Saturday said his decision isn't final.

Backup quarterback Brock Berlin was expected to transfer, but his mother, Nancy, declined comment Saturday on whether his status had changed.

Junior receiver Reche Caldwell is expected to announce his decision Monday. His mother, Deborah, said her son's decision won't be affected by Spurrier's departure.

"It will be a final decision for him Monday," she said. "He hasn't made a decision. There are just a lot of rumors going around, but he hasn't made a final decision."

Offensive lineman Mike Pearson said he has prepared a statement, which is expected to be his decision to leave, and will release it this week.

Because staff continuity is especially crucial during the upcoming recruiting period, Florida is expected to extend the contract of all its assistant coaches up to six months.

Whatever Spurrier's future holds, university president Charles Young is leaving the door open for Spurrier's return.

"I think he's done with coaching (at Florida), but if there was something else he wanted to do in some other capacity that he thought he could make a contribution that would be fine and we'd welcome it," Young said Saturday.

In his prepared statement Friday, Spurrier said he wasn't burned out, but wanted to allow himself a chance to pursue NFL coaching options.

But in an Orange Bowl news conference two days before his decision to walk away, Spurrier may have given a glimpse of his psyche in the final days at Florida.

He spoke of Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen's 10-1 first season and commented that he knew from personal experience that life with the Terrapins would never be the same for Friedgen.

"Certainly the road up the hill is a lot more fun than when you're on top of the hill trying to hang on, but that's true in every sport and that's part of it," Spurrier said. "Once you reach a certain level, you try to at least do that or maybe even a little bit better. The first year, we won the SEC and we didn't get recognized, but we still won it, and that was sort of the standard for the rest of the way.

"Whatever you do, if you don't do that the next year, you've slipped a little bit," Spurrier added. "If you get worse, that's the only way to say it. Sometimes it's hard for people to understand. Next year, if Ralph doesn't win 10 or better, they are going to say, "What's happening Coach?' When you're able to win nine, 10, or 11 games, that's a little bit more fun than saying you won 10 a year for seven or eight and you're trying to win 10 again. The thrill is not quite what it was the first time you did it."

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