The college football season is beginning to creep closer as August hits its second half. Tailgating, big games, and conference championships quickly approach the college football world and the anticipation nearly kills us. However, before we take our final look forward, I would like to look back at my Florida Gators.
Gator football has forever been my passion, the thing that keeps me going throughout school weeks in the fall. The reason I always put off my homework until Sunday and the reason why I can’t pay attention in class on Fridays.
It fills me with unspeakable joy when the blue and orange run out of tunnel at "the Swamp" on Saturdays. Good times and bad, I have many Gator memories that have stuck with me through the years and past Gator glory that I have learned and experienced via cousins, uncles, and ESPN Classic.
First, there's the Florida Football Renaissance, which began the day Steve Spurrier was named the "Ol' Ball Coach." Whether it was the six SEC championships, the "Fun 'n' Gun," the witty remarks, or that first national title, Spurrier inspired the Gator faithful week after week and turned Florida into a national power.
Regardless of where he coaches, Spurrier will always be revered throughout the Gator Nation.
Then "the Dark Ages" ensued. Shortly after Spurrier departed for the Washington Redskins and the NFL, athletic director Jeremy Foley hired Ron Zook as the new head football coach.
After failed attempts to hire Bob Stoops and Mike Shanahan, Foley selected Zook, an assistant coach who had stints at the college and pro levels, who was actually demoted by Spurrier while on his staff at Florida in the mid-90s.
Ron Zook was not received warmly by the Gator faithful (see fireronzook.com) and was never given a fair chance. However, he didn’t help himself out very much, losing numerous games that would have been certain victories in Spurrier’s tenure and often looked lost on the sidelines.
Three years and 14 losses later, Zook was out as Florida’s head football coach and up-and-coming coach Urban Meyer became Zook's successor.
While Zook struggled on the sideline at Florida, I will give him credit for one thing. That man can recruit. Wow. He brought in so much talent while at Florida it made fans’ heads spin. That’s why it seemed so inconceivable that Florida could be underachieving with this much talent.
Urban Meyer changed all that.
Meyer brought the Florida program back to national prominence, re-instilling Gator pride and confronting many players about their attitudes and lifestyles, on and off the field. He also brought with him a version of the revolutionary spread offense; a move some thought was risky for an SEC school.
However, Meyer came into Florida and did exactly what he did before at Bowling Green and Utah—win. Urban Meyer led the Gators to their first bowl win since Spurrier’s departure in 2001 and then proceeded to win the school’s second national championship.
Florida upset unbeaten No. 1 Ohio State 41-14 in the 2006 BCS Championship Game, relying heavily on a senior class originally recruited by Zook, a fact that Meyer acknowledged shortly after the win.
In conclusion, I will be writing a three-part series, naming the absolutely highest points and the dreadfully low points of the Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, and Urban Meyer tenures at Florida.
The lists for each coach will be a combination of games, awards, player accomplishments, and mental tactics used by these three men during their tenures at Florida. I invite you to read each part of the series and feel free to comment and give your opinions throughout, whether you are a Gator fan or not.
The first part of my series will highlight the glorious and eventful tenure of Steve Spurrier at Florida. So stay tuned! I will have it up on Bleacher Report in the next couple of days.
*On a side note, I’m glad to see Ron Zook doing well at Illinois. I never had a personal dislike for him and I, in no way, ever rooted for him to fail while at Florida. I guess you can say that Zook’s struggles at Florida are a testament to how good the SEC truly is.