Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO
GAINESVILLE - Every day he comes to work, Florida coach Urban Meyer sees Steve Spurrier.
Outside the locker room. In three separate spots inside The Swamp - which is the nickname Spurrier gave Florida Field. Not everywhere, but pretty darn close.
Spurrier's imprint on the Florida football program remains significant even five years after he abruptly left the program. It's something Meyer can't ignore, and he doesn't want to, either.
"I think an important part of this job is embracing it and not running from it," Meyer said. "I think it's a little bit of a burden. Probably not many coaches would admit that. I've got news for you. That shadow's going to be here for the next 50 years.
"... It's like saying Bo Schembechler, like saying Woody Hayes. Does Lloyd Carr have to deal with that? Sure. The one thing we have to do is embrace it. Do we cover up the names [in the stadium]? Absolutely not. That's why we came here to coach."
No matter what Meyer accomplishes at Florida, he will be measured by what Spurrier did: six SEC titles, the 1996 national title and 122 wins in 12 seasons.
"It's a little bit like that at most any school once they've had some success," Spurrier said. "And when that coach has similar success, that's about what he has to do to be successful. That's everywhere, though. Ohio State, the Michigans, Oklahoma and places where they are used to winning and winning championships."
SPURRIER LEGACY LIVES
When Steve Spurrier leads South Carolina against Florida on Saturday in Gainesville, he'll be looking for his second consecutive win over the Gators. But Spurrier has a long way to go with the Gamecocks before even approaching his accomplishments at Florida. Spurrier was the winningest coach in UF football history (122-27-1, from 1990-2001), and his imprint on the program can be seen in other ways:
The fiberglass replica gator head that sits in the rotunda outside the locker room was given to former Florida coach and player Steve Spurrier by Vince Gabinellie, the owner of a Gainesville company called Museum Services, following the Gators' first official Southeastern Conference title in 1991. According to Harry Robinson, Gabinellie's son-in-law and former employee at Museum Services, Garnette Bowman sculpted the head in clay, using the head of a model of an 11-foot, 6-inch alligator for scale. Robinson made a mold of Bowman's sculpture and then a fiberglass cast, which was painted and stained to produce a lifelike replica. Gabinellie presented it to Spurrier before the 1992 season, Robinson said. Spurrier liked it, and it was his idea to place it between the locker room and the players' entrance to Florida Field, UF historian Norm Carlson said. Urban Meyer valued the replica gator head so much that he took it off its pedestal and hid it before his first season. Meyer didn't want anyone to touch the head until they fully understood what it meant.
This is the one reminder of Spurrier's presence that Meyer can't help but see when he's on the sideline. Spurrier's No. 11 jersey is painted on the east side of the stadium, with the words "1966 HEISMAN TROPHY" printed to the right. Spurrier had a great year in '66, throwing for 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he clinched the Heisman with his foot. …