• Ainslie Lee

What If: Spurrier had broken the CFB gender barrier?

Courtesy of Andrea Kavouklis

Thirty-five yards is 35 yards — no matter how you put it. Unless you’re a place kicker. 

Which way is the wind blowing? Is the opposing defense sending the house? Will the near-300-pound linebacker leap over the line? 

Is Steve Spurrier your holder? And is he offering you a spot on his team if you split the uprights? 

The second group of questions were two factors that Andrea Kavouklis was dealing with in the summer of 1996. 

Kavouklis, a place kicker out of East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, was the only female participant at Florida’s summer football camp in ‘96. And though this meant she and her mom were boarded up at a local hotel instead of the dorms, it didn’t mean she would be overlooked by the Head Ball Coach. 

In fact, that’s one thing Kavouklis never was: overlooked. 

In her freshman year at East Lake, she spent the spring athletic season on the tennis court -- with a tennis coach who doubled as the junior varsity football coach.

Earlier in the year, that same coach watched too many two-point conversions fail at the hands of a kicker-less roster. 

As Mullen says, "You have to be a baller to be No. 1". Courtesy of Andrea Kavouklis.

But that’s when he realized he was in the presence of a budding soccer star -- who just happened to be on the tennis roster, too.

Just as quickly as he could extend the invite, Kavouklis eagerly accepted the invitation to kick for the JV football team the following year.

“That really stirred up my feelings as a kid,” Kavouklis recalls. “Like, ‘why can’t I play football?’.”

Kavouklis kicked her way through a sophomore JV season before being promoted to varsity during her junior season. And as an incentive for good grades, one of her teammates’ fathers paid for East Lake players to go to the Gators’ summer football camp, so long as they had over a 3.0 GPA. 

And in 1996, that included Kavouklis. 

When Kavouklis and her mother arrived in Gainesville, after prior permission from Florida Football’s camp staff, East Lake’s kicker wasn’t shocked to find out she was the only female camper. 

“It was great having other teammates with me… it took away the nerves and discomfort,” Kavouklis says. “Of course all the other guys were definitely like, ‘Woah, what’s going on here?’, but everybody got over that… I was like a regular player there… a regular kicker, they’re already a little different anyways.”

Steve Spurrier extended a warm welcome to Kavouklis on day one of camp, telling her that he’d love to let her kick in a football game. In doing so, Spurrier would become the first Division I coach to have a female kicker play in a game -- something the Head Ball Coach didn’t neglect to mention. 

“That’s basically how he put it,” Kavouklis says. “It’s kinda funny, when I tell that story… non-Spurrier fans are like, ‘oh, it’s all about Spurrier’. And Spurrier fans are like ‘that’s so cool’.”

Nonetheless, Spurrier assured her that he’d follow up with her later in the multi-day camp and that they’d kick some field goals together. Little did she know what that would actually entail. 

Days later, in the middle of a water break, Spurrier pulled Kavouklis aside for her tryout -- that’s what it became, anyways. 

As Kavouklis recalls, the kick was from 30-35 yards out and she couldn’t use a tee. 

“If you make this, you’re coming to Florida and you’re kicking for me,” Spurrier told her while kneeling down holding the ball. 

“He held the ball for me. I kicked it. I made it,” Kavouklis says. “And he said, ‘That’s it, you’re coming to Florida.’.”

And if you ask the Head Ball Coach, he remembers it all, too. 

“Yeah, I remember that girl,” Spurrier told GatorBait. “She could kick an extra point… I thought it would be pretty neat to have a female kicker kick the first extra point. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a female in Division I to do it today.”

And truth be told, Kavouklis gave it some thought. 

During her senior year of high school, Kavouklis was recruited just like any of her male counterparts. The coaches kept in contact with her and her Florida State-loyal family took a visit to The Swamp during a recruiting weekend. 

“Keeping it in the back of my head… Am I going to do that? Do I want to do that? Do I want to go play soccer?,” Kavouklis asked herself. “Do I want to go to Florida? Do I want to go somewhere else?”

By her high school graduation, Kavouklis had decided to go to Florida. 

“My principal, as I walked across the stage, announced that I was going to go kick for Florida,” Kavouklis told GatorBait. “But deep down, even though I had signed all of the paperwork… I was still kind of unsure if that’s what I wanted to do.”

The internal battle returned for the Florida signee. 

“Do I want to pick Florida? Do I want to go kick for Steve and kick in a game?,” Kavouklis continued to ask herself. “I had some discomfort about that. Only because it was just because I was a girl. And I wasn’t in it for that. I just wanted to be like another kicker and be looked at equal to other kickers. I didn’t want to get that opportunity just because I was a girl.”

Kavouklis eventually decided to enroll at Florida State her freshman year, joining her older sister and twin brother. However, it wasn’t long before the near-place-kicker signed on to play soccer at the University of South Florida and finish out her undergrad. 

Though, let it be known, Kavouklis eventually found her way back to Gainesville, where she earned her masters degree in architecture. 

Thanks to the recession, Kavouklis ended up also getting a MBA from Carnegie Mellon -- paving the way to where she is today. 

Kavouklis is currently a Vice President at Wells Fargo and lives in Colorado with her husband Dan. 

Andrea and her husband Dan, now live in the mountains of Colorado. Photo by Lindsey Sevec Photography
Andrea and her husband Dan, now live in the mountains of Colorado. Photo by Lindsey Sevec Photography

When she reflects on that summer day at Florida Football’s summer camp, the 35 yards standing between her possible history and the internal conflicts that followed, she is sound with her decision:

“I don’t regret deciding not to take Steve up on his offer for my own sake whatsoever,” Kavouklis said in an email after her interview with GatorBait. “But a part of me wishes I could have helped Steve add that to his legacy.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was initially reported on by ESPN’s Andrea Adelson (then Andrea Szulszteyn) when she was a student at the University of Florida and writing for the Alligator in 1997. Read the original story HERE.

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