Steve Spurrier is notoriously quick witted, always prepared and 10 steps ahead of where you could even hope to be. So it’s little surprise the Head Ball Coach was ready for the moment he saw Dan Mullen on Monday morning .
The current Florida Gators Head Coach—who can’t help but draw comparisons personality wise to the merciless Spurrier—began the volley on Saturday, after the Gators put up 642 yards of offense in a 51-35 win over Ole Miss, the most yards Florida has ever put on a SEC opponent and currently second in FBS for average yards per game.
“I heard that it was a school record for offense. I would expect, when I get home, my neighbor Coach Spurrier right around the corner right there, I should have a really nice bottle of wine sitting on my desk if I broke one of his records offensively. That’s at least deserving of a nice bottle of wine.”
Within the hour, Spurrier told Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley, “tell Coach to win a SEC Championship and I’ll bring him two.”
Spurrier, of course, won six SEC Championships as coach of the Gators, along with the 1996 National Championship.
But Spurrier, king of the comeback and laughingly stabbing you with so many quick quips that you don’t even realize you’ve been cut until you’re standing in a puddle of blood, couldn’t let the moment pass. On Monday morning, while taking his stroll through the Gator football offices, Spurrier popped in to deliver a gift to Mullen.
A mini bottle of Sutter Home white wine. Average retail price?
Actually that’s not fair. They come in a pack of four, so one must purchase the full set for $6.99, plus tax.
Can two men who have accumulated quite a financial portfolio through the coaching ranks even call a $1.75, 6 oz. container of cheap alcohol a bottle of wine?
“It is actually a bottle and it is wine,” argued Mullen.
“I mean he didn't miss a beat. He was in here this morning, first time I saw him he had a bottle of wine for me. I called him out and he brought it."
Spurrier brings more than wine though—although that’s a plus. He’s become a fixture around the Gator offices since retiring from coaching at South Carolina and being named Ambassador for the athletic department…which is essentially a title that means he has his own office from which to base his hanging out in the facilities and can travel to speak on the athletic department’s behalf.
It was the worst kept secret in Gainesville that the previous coaching staff didn’t exactly welcome Spurrier’s input. He’d attempt to visit and offer advice, only to have it rebuffed. Which is why it was a breath of fresh air for everyone involved when Dan Mullen and staff made it clear Steve Spurrier had an open invitation to their time, meetings and playbook.
“I love having Coach Spurrier around because it’s, one, obviously to have a football person like that around the building and around all the time. I mean, I grew up a huge fan of him. Very rarely does he not walk in the room and put a smile of the face of everyone in the office,” reflects Mullen.
“He’ll come by, have some thoughts on different things, football thoughts for us. And I just love it. It’s always good that you have—since I’ve been here, he’s a guy that comes in and is not judgmental. I think as everybody knows, he’s not afraid to give you advice on different things, or speak his mind and give his thoughts.
“But he always does it to me in a very positive, constructive, helping way as a coach. I think it is great to have somebody like that around, just sticks his head in every once in a while, give his thoughts on what’s going on.”
Brian Johnson, Gators quarterback coach and newly promoted Offensive Coordinator, soaks up any moment Spurrier strolls through the door with his Tennessee drawl and new idea to revolutionize the Florida offense.
“You talk about guys that forget or probably have forgotten more football than you know, Steve Spurrier comes to mind. He’s accomplished a lot. Anytime you can pick his brain, get any knowledge, I think you’ve got to jump at that opportunity. We welcome him with open arms. I love it when he comes in there and draws up some plays for us. We put them in and they work. He is one of a kind, for sure. There’s nobody like him.”
The Ole Ball Coach’s affinity for scratching out plays for Mullen and staff was first seen in the HBO special, “College Football 24/7” which highlighted a Gators 2019 game week.
That’s a regular occurrence according to Mullen and Johnson. One in particular has made its way into their normal playbook.
Explains Mullen, “He’ll draw up some plays for us now. He’s got a bunch of plays…usually it’s not as much during the season. Sometimes offseason, he’ll review stuff and say ‘hey, we’ve run this before, or we’ve run that before.’ We put one of them in last year, we ran a bunch of times called ‘Spurrier’ because he gave it to us.”
Neither coach wants to reveal the details of the play since it’s still a normal part of their call sheet and lexicon. But since it’s aptly called “Spurrier” both coaches are happy to point out the obvious.
“If it’s named Spurrier you know it’s not a run play.”
The 75-year old is a football junkie though and as Johnson explains, is willing to talk ball with anyone in the Florida football offices.
“He will come in, not only in college football, but he’ll come in and talk about the pro games from that Sunday night and stuff that people are doing in the NFL as well. So just, it’s always great to talk ball with him.”
And for the time being, they’ll also talk a little wine.
On Thursday, after Scott Stricklin was named 2020 Athletic Director of the Year at Sports Business Award Show the night prior, Mullen went to visit the AD that brought him to Gainesville. He had the Spurrier bottle of wine with him and regifted the ironic trophy.
In the Florida Gators 112 seasons, they have a mere eight SEC Championships. Spurrier and Mullen have been a part of them all, either as head coach or offensive coordinator. If the Gators can achieve their goals of a 2020 SEC Championship this December and possibly a College Football Playoff berth, it’ll be the first that both have had a hand in together. That’ll be worth two bottles of wine.