The Martin Chronicles: Does Florida-Georgia matter anymore?

I miss the old days when Florida and Georgia fans hated each other and the game always mattered. These days it feels more like a Shriner’s Convention in Salt Lake City. 

In the scheme of things today, has this onetime Blockbuster gone the way of the movie rental store of the same name?

Well, yes – and no.

One Big Cocktail Party is still in the making for the Red and Black, because Georgians declare this beach blanket bingo week, lining the East coast from the Golden Isles to the First Coast of St. Augustine.

As Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity calls it, “The Greatest Rivalry in College Sports at a neutral site.” For Bulldog Nation it’s like a holiday – for a whole week.

“It’s a week long event for Georgia fans and a one-day event for Gator fans,” said McGarity. He should know. He spent time on both sides as assistant athletic to Florida’s Jeremy Foley before becoming Georgia AD.

“This will by my 37th Georgia-Florida game,” McGarity said this week. “And there is nothing quite like it.

“It’s sort of like a homecoming. So many generations of family and friends gather at the same parking lot, in the same vicinity, or on the same place by the ocean … they have for years.”

Indeed, time was when Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville was the top of the food chain, pure gourmet, with a 5-star rival rating. Not so much anymore.

Here on a November Halloween weekend, there should be angst in the air for either Florida or Georgia faithful – or both.

In a season of Slobber-knocker Saturdays full of fabulous wall-to-wall football feasts, we roll into

Weekend #10 anticipating that November will be the filet mignon of the main course. Because Novembers bring the finest cuisine of all: Blood rivalries.

 This one is short on juice.

 What was once tabbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is looking more like One for The Road. Cynical Gator followers can’t get this weekend over soon enough so they can see who’s going to take Will Muschamp’s job.

Given that these programs have become so interwoven, with a former Bulldog player coaching the Gators and a one-time Florida assistant athletic director as AD at Georgia, it held great promise as a Family Feud Border War Uprising. 

It’s even difficult to get up a good hate anymore.

Remember when Vince Dooley virtually owned the Gators and drug them through the mud with a 51-0 drubbing in 1968? When Steve Spurrier arrived in Gainesville and completely reversed that momentum by winning 11 out of 12 games over Georgia and ringing up 52 points on the Sanford Stadium Scoreboard as payback? When Urban Meyer wrote in his book that Florida would avenge Georgia’s entire team running on the field after a touchdown for what was later call “The Gator Stomp”? And the following year Meyer called two straight time outs with a big lead just so Mark Richt and his team could get a good visual of that scoreboard?

And even though Meyer posted a 5-1 record against Georgia, the last decade Richt has gone 5-5 against Florida and Georgia has the upper hand again.

The rivalry has, indeed, seemed somewhat irrelevant the last three seasons of the decade — which is why Georgia owns a 10-game edge in the series. Muschamp has lost all three times to his alma mater.

There is this major geographical issue for Saturday’s game. The Bulldogs are going North, the Gators South. Check that: Georgia appears to be headed West toward Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Florida could wind up staying home for holidays if it doesn’t turn things around. With a 3-3 record, a loss to Georgia would put them in a position of needing at least three wins out of the remaining four games that include both South Carolina and Florida State.

Georgia, though dropped to 11th in the new world order rankings, is sitting in a good position to be a sniper because the Bulldogs have a crack yet at Auburn. And by that time, it’s likely suspended running back Todd Gurley might be back. The way it looks, Richt’s 6-1 team will also be the one with a shot to knock off the SEC West winner in the league championship game, which would be a virtual lock to the Final Four.

And then there is this weekend, with about the only thing left for the Gators to play for is pride, or maybe future consideration for Will Muschamp’s career – if not at Florida, somewhere.

In my mind it’s going to be a rout unless Florida finds some magic in freshman quarterback Treon Harris and Jeremy Pruitt’s improving defense reverts to its early season Swiss cheese imitation. Maybe a three-touchdown victory for the Dawgs?

The wise guys in Las Vegas don’t see it that way. Apparently some money has come in on the Gators, who are only a 12-½ point underdog.

Strange things have been known to happen when these teams meet – see Run Lindsay Run, Apple to Washington, Fourth And Dumb and Half A Hundred in Athens.

For history’s sake this great college football spectacle can’t die a death of irrelevance.

After all this is Florida-Georgia. And it always matters.

*     *     *

LIKE IT OR NOT, FSU DESERVES PROPS

The word that best describes Florida State’s 2014 campaign is “resiliency.”

When the Seminoles fell behind 24-7 Thursday night in Louisville, half the world began relish The Fallen as if this was a morality play and not a football game.

Blowing up the game in the final four minutes to win 42-31, FSU rescued its playoff hopes which would have surely gone awry with a loss.

Let’s be honest: This is a troubled program and given that the ‘Noles keep on winning despite some poor judgment by their players is difficult for many to swallow.

Put it this way: FSU had better win on the field because it isn’t going to win any popularity contest.

Thursday night’s win was one of the most impressive comebacks I’ve ever seen, as FSU roared back to win its 24th straight – second only to FSU’s national championship rally for an 18-point deficit to overcome Auburn.

I agree with Jimbo Fisher – it was, indeed, a “fun game to watch,” unless you were a Louisville fan.

His off-the-field antics not withstanding, Jameis Winston is a remarkable football player with that “amnesia” attribute that coaches love to see in a cornerback after getting burned.

How many quarterbacks could throw three interceptions, stay the game – injured, by the way – and lead his team to a comeback victory with everything on the line?

It’s time to call it like it is: Jameis Winston is a great college quarterback. And he’s probably not going to repeat as a Heisman winner. However, unless he falls complete apart and I find out more about his personal comportment that dissuades me otherwise, he’s going to be on my Heisman ballot.

*     *     *

WHAT THE PLAYOFF COMMITTEE RANKINGS TAUGHT US:

 

Nothing really.

We knew the SEC was the best conference in the land, loaded on the side of the West. And it took all those film cutups, metrics, hours of meetings and processing data from the fourth corners of earth to find out that four of the five best teams in America are from the SEC West? Hello?

OK, so we were a little surprised to see Ole Miss up there at No. 4. But apparently this committee of 11 men and one woman didn’t get hung up on conference designations and showed that they cared more about which good teams beat other good teams as opposed to which ones had the least damaging loss.

 I predict most of us will be happy with the ultimate outcome after the next six weeks. But really, all the fuss about not having the ratings come out too soon was flawed thinking. I would have been fine with it in the first weekend of the season, because it’s still really only a beauty contest at this point.= 

Even now, this snapshot of the elite Final Four picture of Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss is inconclusive because they can’t wind up there. Either Auburn or Ole Miss will be gone after this weekend when they play each other. So it’s a faux rating, more like a daily weather forecast.

At least in the SEC, this will be decided on the field and not by computers or media polls or such.

*     *     *

SHORT YARDAGE:\

  • Florida fans pay up – most of you wagered that Georgia’s Todd Gurley would be reinstated before the game this weekend. We know now that’s not going to happen. But BTW, Nick Chubb is no bargain for the Gator defense, either.
  • Memo to Jimbo Fisher: Love your loyalty, but you can’t keep sounding like all your players who get in trouble are really Mother Teresa. You lose cred.
  • Give Florida AD Jeremy Foley credit: He’s stuck to his guns on Muschamp up until now, but I can’t imagine that he will retain him as coach. It’s just cheaper to fire Muschamp after the FSU game. But Foley’s coaching search info is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. He’s learned to elude the media, fans and even the Bull Gators and is keeping them all in the dark. Well done, Jeremy.

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Terry Bradshaw joins Buddy Martin on Southern Pigskin Radio Network

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Informative New Show Debuts Thursday August 28

As football season arrives, so also does a brand new radio show featuring Terry Bradshaw and a team of seasoned football experts from the Southern Pigskin Radio Network, including longtime broadcaster/columnist Buddy Martin.

The show makes its debut Thursday Aug. 28, 6-7 p.m.  on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and WOCA in Ocala/Marion County.

In North Central Florida, Martin will host The Southern Pigskin Tonight show weekly 6-7 p.m. Thursdays on 1370AM and 96.3FM. The show can also be heard on WOCA.com.

Teaming up with Martin are Tom Schmitz and Tom James from the daily Buddy Martin Sports Page show. They will go “In The Huddle” with Kevin Thomas, B.J. Bennett and Matt Osborne from the popular show Three And Out, heard weekdays 3-6 on 790AM and 103.7FM  in Brunswick, GA, 1400AM and 104.3 FM in Savannah/Hilton Head and 1350 in Blackshear/Waycross, GA.

Bennett is publisher of Southernpigskin.com and a well-known writer on college football, while Osborne specializes in recruiting and serves as editor of the website.

Bradshaw, the Emmy-winning Fox Studio Analyst and Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback, offers insights and predictions on the NFL and college football every week on the Terry Bradshaw Football Show segment, also hosted by Martin.

Leading media members, athletic directors, coaches, etc. around the South will also be part of the regular lineup.

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This is ain’t your SEC anymore, Bear Bryant

http://www.southernpigskin.com/sec/the-martin-chronicles-the-new-ec/

Cashing in on new TV deal changes the SEC landscape

I love college football. As a Son of the South, I have feasted my eyes on the magnificent game they play in the Southeastern Conference for more than a half century. The Holy Land — places like Denny Stadium, Tiger Stadium and Neyland Stadium were our Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

Before there was the NFL or NBA or MLB, there were Paul Dietzel’s Chinese Bandits, Bear Bryant’s Runts at Alabama, Weepin’ Wally Butts’ Hairy Dawgs and Bowden Wyatt’s Tennessee Single Wing.

Where have you gone Billy Cannon and Lee Roy Jordan? Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker?

Sorry, this is not your SEC anymore, Bear. They don’t play for manhood or Southern Pride. It’s mainly about the cash. In a way it kinda always was, legal or otherwise. The stakes are just higher. And everybody wants a piece of the action now. We just wink and fake it better. And this Power Conference conglomerate makes it feel like college football is about to issue a new IPO. More like Wall Street instead of Main Street.

All this new brings new meaning to the Woodward-Bernstein Watergate mantra “follow the money.”

We should have seen it coming several years ago when the new SEC-ESPN deal guaranteed Vanderbilt more money than Notre Dame, which has its own network (NBC). SEC schools divided $300 million in TV dough this year. Compared to what’s on the table now, that could be chump change.

You can pretty much mark it down as a done deal: The SEC is leading the charge to form the Super Sixty-Five.

Never mind this Division IV stuff — it sounds like the bottom of the food chain. Let’s call it what it is truly morphing into: the National College Football League, or junior NFL. What’s next, annexing the University of London?

The economic model is genius. There are “franchises” mostly underwritten by state governments and funded by TV revenue. The workers (players) don’t get a salary and there is no free agency; players can’t change venues without a penalty.

And please don’t insult us by insisting on calling them “student athletes.” Yes they are students and yes they are athletes, but basically they are unpaid interns with free room and board. Actors on an HDTV stage, if you will, which is getting bigger and more lucrative everyday. Their day is coming because the Super Sixty-Five can no longer claim there’s not enough money to pay athletes a stipend.

As for you, the fan, thanks for coming and please drive carefully. Your loyalty is appreciated but will now be measured in contributions. Even though you’re not buying tickets with the same fervor, you do count in the Neilsen ratings, and I suppose the good news is that you get to binge-watch football.

Your passion is muted. Going to the stadium is not as compelling anymore and staying through all four quarters is a challenge. Besides, if there’s a better game on TV at home you can beat the crowd early.

Maybe you don’t go to the game at all. Break out the pom-poms in the family room. Sit back and watch, from College Game Day in the morning to the 11 p.m. West Coast game, crack a cold one or two, flip around the channels, snooze if you would like, tweet, text and Facebook your friends and enjoy selections from the menu that are about to get only better.

We’re not just talking about the new SEC network here. The new Super Sixty-Five will be bringing us more cross-sectional games, like baseball’s intra-league play. By the way, they’ll be moving more big games off campus in the future anyway. The good news is that the scheduling police now prohibit an all-cream puff home slate of sacrificial lambs needing paydays.

Notre Dame and Georgia are talking about a home-and-home series. Tennessee plays Oklahoma this year. Games like Florida-Michigan in 2015, played at a neutral site such as Jerry Jones World in Texas, offer bigger payoffs than the ever-shrinking box office of bowl games because revenue isn’t shared with conference members.

The college presidents are tapping into their kids’ piggy bank. Once athletic departments found several million in “tip money” to support academia, it became a required line item in the president’s budget. So since the foxes are guarding the henhouse, how can they not enjoy their own chicken dinner?

Let’s take the high road here and not completely rain on the new SEC season or disparage our version of The National Pasttime #DownHere.

On the flip side, the SEC will be showcased like Bono on the U2 360 Tour. What we have long held as true and sacred — that the SEC plays the strongest and best football — will be further evident to outsiders not from ’round here. Tickets will be easier to find.

Not that there’s anything un-American about capitalism. Many will say this bodes for a better SEC, stretched now into the TV markets of Texas and Missouri. Better facilities. More aligned academically. And most if all, nationally dominant in football like never before.

Others will always cling to the pastoral datelines of quaint destinations like Auburn and Athens and Oxford and Gainesville, where claiming territorial imperatives against fierce rivals has been as sweet as it ever needed to be.

Old or new however, the No. 1 goal of all die hard fans in 2014: To make Florida State’s one-year break in service of SEC national champions become a one-hit wonder.

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Steve Spurrier’s Secret to Success

“Call me arrogant, cocky, crybaby, whiner or whatever names you like. At least they’re not calling us losers anymore. If people like you too much, it’s probably because they’re beating you.” – From Steve Spurrier’s resignation speech at Florida, Jan. 4, 2002

““Keep on playing and something good will happen.” — Steve Spurrier

By BUDDY MARTIN

ON THE EAST COAST OF FLORIDA: Bad news for South Carolina opponents: At age 69 in his 30th year as a head coach, Steve Spurrier has no intentions of retiring yet and, in fact, says it would also be premature to write off the Gamecocks or speak of them in past tense.
Spurrier doesn’t have a year in mind for retirement — says he thinks he has three years left on his contract and appears highly motivated to achieve at least one major goal that has eluded his Gamecocks: Winning an SEC title. “When I quit calling plays and start forgetting people’s names,” Spurrier said last fall, “then I’ll quit.”

Refreshed and eager to build on a four-year run of 42 wins, inspired about building his own version of the Pyramids in Columbia, Spurrier departed his beloved Florida East Coast beach house on his way to the Southeastern Conference meeting in Destin. Eager for Year Ten of Gamecock Nation-building to begin, he has that elusive SEC title is still in his crosshairs. “That’s something we haven’t done yet,” he recently told the media, “but we’ll try and see if we can get that done.”

We were sitting at the Florida beach on a tranquil cotton-candy spring afternoon recently, talking careers and playing “what if?” with the First Lady of South Carolina football, when the question came up about her husband. “I don’t know what Steve would have done if he hadn’t coached football,” Jerri Spurrier said. “We talk about that among our family all the time.”

I suggested Steve would have likely succeeded in some other field because of his high level of intelligence, ability to motivate people and his combustible, competitive spirit. Jerry semi-agreed, but also pointed out that working the toaster was probably testing the limits of his technological acumen.

Perhaps he could never have been a good investment banker, astronaut or Wall Street trader, but college football not yet being a video game, Spurrier will always have a chance to excel in moving bodies around on the football field like it was a human chessboard. And he does it masterfully, with aplomb, meeting challenge after challenge, no matter the landscape.

Football would have been much the poorer had Spurrier not decided to try his hand as an assistant at Florida, then Georgia Tech, then Duke – the latter of which would become the first real laboratory for the man once dubbed “The Mad Genius.”

For nearly three decades now, Spurrier has been one of the game’s most interesting and successful coaches, cracking wise at his foes and vanquishing them more than 70 percent of the time. All of that leads to a fascinating profile of a football man who defined three different eras.

So colorful and successful has Spurrier been that ESPN is working with Kenny Chesney to produce a 30-minute special, not unlike The Book of Manning 30 for 30. It should be a classic about the boy from Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn., although Steve has no idea of the theme. “They came down here (to the beach) and shot a bunch of stuff,” said Steve, “including some photos of my late parents – talked to family members. And they’re flying my daughter Amy up to Columbia to interview. But I’m not sure what the program is going to be.” We could all probably guess.

* * *

The enigma that is Steve Spurrier provokes passionate discourse. Depending on your point of view, The Ball Coach is either diabolical or delightful, vengeful or visionary, goofball or genius, Huckster or Houdini.

Former Gator teammate Allen Trammel knows the private side of his friend that few see. “He’s very humble when he’s around family and friends,” he said of Spurrier. “He knows everybody’s name, including the kids, and he’s a very considerate person. He’s fiercely loyal to the people he cares about.”

(Don’t let that out – it might blow the image of The Evil Genius.)

Say what you want to about him, but Spurrier’s body of work is downright Miss American — a beautiful thing to see in person if you are a Gator or Gamecock: Winner of more than 200 college football games, a national championship and a Heisman Trophy.

A triple legend, if you will, who has defined three eras as player and/or coach. Way back in the day, critics predicted what they perceived as Spurrier’s poor work ethic would preclude him from enjoying success as a coach.

This was the scouting report: Too busy looking for fun. Won’t burn the midnight oil studying film. Plays too much golf and spends too much time working on his tan instead of X’s and O’s. Relishes The Good Life — in modern terms, perhaps, a little too Johnny Manzielian in his day.

Pure heresy, according to the unwritten rules of the coaching handbook. After all, would a Bear Bryant have been caught dead playing Augusta National or sunbathing at the beach?

The traditionalists never understood the part about coaches not sleeping in their office overnight or going blind watching game film in order to be successful – that there was life away from football. Maybe that’s why the HBC isn’t burnt out at 69. “It’s not about age,” Spurrier insists. “It’s about your health.”

And your record. FYI, Spurrier’s 25-year college record is 219-79-2 for .733 percent.
The secret to his success? “Keep on playing and something good will happen,” is his favorite halftime speech.

* * *

I asked the Head Ball Coach, “what would you have done if you hadn’t decided one day in 1978 after watching a Florida football game that you wanted to be a coach?”

“Insurance. Probably insurance. It would have been ‘Trammel/Spurrier Insurance,’” Spurrier said, glancing over at his longtime friend Trammel, an Orlando insurance executive/banker. However, coaching came along.

In retrospect there was no other way it could have happened. The way Springsteen was born to run, Steve Spurrier was born to coach.

* * *

In the 40-plus years I have been covering his games as player or coach, interviewing him at SEC Media Days, after a game, at his office or in his home, I have rarely seen him in a better place or mood than he was in late May, relaxing with Jerri at a condominium pool complex where his family owns units. He had a twinkle in his eye.

This cannot be good news for his rival coaches, over whom he holds a 13-3 advantage since 2009, including five straight wins over Clemson. As usual, our unscheduled, off-the-cuff conversation was rich and enlightening. Three of his four offspring and more than half his 12 grandchildren were along; sons Steve Jr. and Scottie and daughter Lisa Spurrier King. Daughter Amy Moody of Panama City was awaiting the arrival of her parents in Panama City the next day.

“Life is really, really good,” Spurrier said, deferring only a bit to his arthritic back with a quick stretch after hour nearly three-hour conversation.

Away from football, this is his element – the ocean, his family, a few friends and few rounds of golf. It is the one place he plants comfortably for a few weeks a year.

The same beach where he stood in December 1989 the night before accepting the Florida job, reflecting on the words of the UF alma mater, when nobody had any idea of the havoc he was about the wreak on the SEC for the next 12 years with the Fun ‘n Gun.

Where palm and pine are blowing, where southern seas are flowing…

Those words seem to perfectly describe his coaching philosophy – let it blow in the wind. The magic formula for winning 219 games? He always tells his team at halftime: “Keep playing and something good will happen.” The question is, does the HBC have one or two more in him and can the Gamecocks continue being good?

* * *

Many of the pollsters are picking South Carolina in the pre-season Top Ten, so the future still looks promising. Stud running back in Mike Davis. Maybe the best offensive line in the SEC, led by 6-8, 348-pound tackle Corey Robinson.

Though experienced and talented, quarterback Dylan Thompson still must follow in the footsteps of Connor Shaw, the school’s all-time winning signal caller. There are still some holes.

Except for Shaq Roland and Damiere Byrd, wide receivers depth is a question. The NFL’s No. 1 pick, Jadeveon Clowney and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles are gone. Defensive tackle J.T. Surratt is the only returning DL starter. Cornerback Victor Hampton also left early. But fret not ye Gamecocks. The top quarterback in Georgia, Lorenzo Nunez of Harrison High School, also committed to South Carolina over N.C. State.

“I don’t know why people think this is the end of something,” Spurrier recently said. “We’ve got a team that has a chance to be okay.”

If 2014 is “okay” or average when compared to the last 42 games, that means South Carolina is looking at a 10-win season with a shot at Spurrier’s second SEC East title. Even though they haven’t won the SEC East in three years, they’ve beaten the team that has.

* * *

The current landscape in Gainesville is a bit barren, although Jeremy Foley sounds upbeat about Muschamp’s ability to return the roar of the Gators.

Many disgruntled Gator fans have expressed a desire for change, including at least one high profile alumnus who was chastised for tweeting “it’s time for a change.” Many hard-core Florida fans have waved the white flag and turned.

Spurrier’s name still comes up. In fairness, the UF is reaching out for fans to help improve “the stadium experience” with a 12-person advisory board made up of ticket-holders. If Muschamp can win eight or more games, there can still be a turnaround.

People like David from Ocala want a quicker solution; he thinks somebody like Spurrier could bring back the magic to The Swamp immediately. “It was always so damn much fun when he was the Gator coach,” says the Ocala businessman, who just turned back six of the 10 tickets his family has owned for three generations. He says most of his tickets would go begging and would wind up in the trash.

“Why don’t we just go get Spurrier and let him finish up here? What’s it going to take — 10 million, 15 million?” One might argue that the Urban Meyer Era at Florida produced a better winning percentage and one more national championship. The difference is that Meyer was corporate, Spurrier was organic. I don’t hear too many Gator fans that are calling for Will Muschamp’s head also yearning for the return of the Urban Era.

That aside, others could say that no coach will ever impact the style of football’s most powerful conference, win as many SEC titles (6), score more points or make the game as much fun for the fans and media as Spurrier did at his alma mater. That’s why he is remembered and honored in a statue and on the stadium façade at Ben Hill Griffin. Baby Boomers still cling to joy that the homegrown Spurrier brought them and that 1996 national championship will always be their Casablanca.

* * *
As for that “vengeful description” – what may infuriate the opposition endears and ingratiates him with the home side. Thus that old saying: “Spurrier may be an SOB, but he’s our SOB.”

There is no doubt that he doesn’t forget when you cross him. Make no mistake, his steel-trap mind works two ways. There’s no problem with his memory. He can remember almost every play of every game, nearly every hole of any recent round of golf (including his playing partners) and most any competitor guilty of snubbing or disrespecting him or intentionally harming his players. Payback can be hell.

Although he rarely talks about it, the famed “echo of the whistle” controversy with Florida State in the 1996 regular season still sticks in his craw because the way the Seminoles late-hit and manhandled quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Over the years, mostly through NFL contacts, FSU players have admitted to him that Bobby Bowden and his defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews purposely knocked quarterbacks out. One former Seminole said Andrews took great delight that the Seminole defensive kayoed six QBs that year. Wuerffel came back from a beating in Tallahassee to lead the Gators to an SEC title and a national championship with a whopping 52-20 Sugar Bowl victory over the hated Seminoles.

Echo THAT whistle, Spurrier seemed to be saying. And he did have the last say.

Bowden isn’t the only one who has felt Spurrier’s sting. So have former Georgia coach Ray Goff, Bill Curry (who didn’t retain Steve at Georgia Tech) and Dabo Swinney, among others. Not saying Spurrier is holding a grudge because Bernie Machen declined to hire him back at Florida, but maybe there’s also a little message in the record if you’re scoring at home, President Machen. Please note that record has been 42-11 the last four years while Florida’s was going 30-21. His home record was 69-5 at Florida.

The Gamecocks’ all-time winning coach (77-39) also takes great delight in having beaten Clemson the last five years and quotes a South Carolina newspaper headline that reads: “Another Clemson class graduates without beating South Carolina.”

Zing! That’s the Ball Coach we know. Free Shoes University. Can’t spell Citrus without at UT. And one of my personal favorites: Having the cops handcuff him at Gamecock practice after Clowney was detained downtown because of a mistaken identity. Yeah, like there’s a Steve Spurrier look alike!

Sometimes he even takes playful pokes at his friends, like Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. Told after last year that Stoops became OU all-time winningest coach, Spurrier commented: “Yeah, but has he ever done it at two schools?”
Rim shot.

* * *

Money has never been the primary motivation with Spurrier, who will already could make over $13-$14 million the next three season in his current job and seems to have no interest in coaching anywhere else. He doesn’t even use an agent now. He did go for the big money once. When Daniel Snyder hired him as Redskins coach, the $25 million deal was the NFL’s biggest ever. Yet he walked away from the Redskins two years later for a settlement that Snyder described as “Chump Change.”

“I don’t ever want to be one of those coaches that gets paid for doing nothing,” Spurrier told me. His salary is unofficially listed at $4 million annually. “But I don’t need to be the highest paid guy. Just somewhere in the top five or so. I just ask for what’s fair.”

The pursuit of the SEC title hangs out there like a carrot for Spurrier, but another reason he keeps coaching at South Carolina is he enjoys having sons Steve Jr. (“Bubba”) and Scottie on his staff.

“Yeah, but that’s not the only reason,” said his son Steve Jr. “He’s very motivated to win and compete.” Bubba also agrees that taking a break from football – like golf and the beach — is a key to his dad’s regeneration of spirit every year. In fact, the whole family usually joins him. “It’s very refreshing for him,” says the younger Spurrier.

Over the past two decades, Steve Jr. has built a strong bond with his dad as a trusted advisor, and now as co-offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. “He allows me to give him my opinion,” said Steve Jr. “You know, let’s me weigh in a little bit. Next to mom, I’ve been around him more than anybody the last 20 years.”

His father has already made it known he’s not plotting to have his son succeed him when he’s done, although that can’t really be ruled out. I asked Bubba if it was time for him to become a head coach. “I’ve got a really, really good job here,” said the younger Spurrier.

And while he didn’t say it, the Gamecocks are also on a really, really good roll.

* * *

Of course, his rock is Jerri, whom he married as a college student when they eloped to Folkston, Ga. in September, 1966. “Who says I didn’t have a ‘destination’ wedding?” she laughed, pointing to the simple gold band still worn on her left hand. “Right out of the tackle box,” she said of the jewelry.

Of course if she wanted a big rock, she could have a diamond as big as Kim Kardashian’s. She is so NOT Kim Kardashian. Because they were married under the radar almost 48 years ago, Steve threw a big party at Hilton Head for their 40th anniversary and plans to do something similar in a couple of years. I didn’t want to ask, but could that also be a retirement party?

* * *

So what would Spurrier be if he weren’t coaching? A showman perhaps? He brings pizzazz and panache to the game, as an iconoclast who laces his advocacy for change with a keen sense of irony and humor. If he were a country music star, his profile might look like this: A little Blake Shelton wise-ass humor, George Strait longevity for success and Keith Urban’s flair and good looks. “I love it!” exclaimed Trammel. “Perfect analogy!” Now all Spurrier needs is a hit song. How about, “Keep on playing and something good will happen!”? Are you listening Kenny Chesney?

http://www.southernpigskin.com/sec/the-martin-chronicles-spurriers-secret-to-success/

SouthernPigskin.com columnist Buddy Martin has written seven books on football, won an Emmy for his work with Terry Bradshaw and hosts Buddy Martin’s Sports Page weekdays at 5 pm on WOCA.com in North Central Florida.

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June 4, 2014 · 3:24 pm

‘Country Jim’ Kirk devoted his life to the community

By BUDDY MARTIN

He was a Hillbilly who came south to Alabama to pursue a spot on Alabama’s football team but would wind up at Florida State University on an accidental career path to broadcasting one busted shoulder later.

It was all about the fascination with the Talking Box.

Back in the hills of Tennessee about a decade earlier, Kirk had seen and heard his first radio through a screen door. Now he was on track to someday own his own radio stations.

Kirk joined a small station in Quincy to work for a man who had ideas of opening one in Ocala. Thus the seeds were planted for WMOP AM, and later, WFUZ FM. He would own them both before finally selling them off.

Jim says he instantly fell in love with Ocala and “I felt like I was born here after one day.” The community has loved him back for more than 60 years.

Back in the day, “research” meant walking the streets and talking with people, not Gallup Polls. During the days prior to launching the new station in Ocala, Kirk engaged folks with friendly banter around the courthouse square.

What he discovered was a thirst for country music, gospel and others voices. He gave them all of it — none more popular than he morning show host, “Country Jim,” who strummed his ukulele, sang, cracked jokes and offered up some Will Rogers-like wisdom.

Playing the uke was something he took up at FSU to impress the girls during his nighttime dormitory serenades which he also turned into a campus political campaign. In essence, Jim Kirk brought that act to Ocala and he sang his songs for over 40 years.

Very few people, if any, were ever more popular in the local media than Kirk. His presence was significant, especially when he started showing up at City Council meetings and rubbing shoulders with city leaders, which he soon parlayed into a high community profile. He lightened the mood of any room.

Kirk became one of them, launching an illustrious political campaign that included three terms as mayor – twice during critical times in the 1960s and again in the 1970s for the bicentennial. He also served two terms as councilman.

Jim married the girl he had met in high school, Elizabeth, known to Ocalans as “Biddie,” and they produced three sons and a daughter, plus five grandchildren. Russell, John and Richard live in Ocala; Deborah Ann lives in Raleigh, N.C. where she is a Presbyterian minister.

For a while, he was seemingly the only Seminole it town, but was never short on guile when it came to firing back at his Gator friends. Jim Kirk’s loyalty to FSU was akin to a three-piece suit that hangs around long enough to come back in style again, so when Bobby Bowden’s reign came in the 1980s and produced championships, Kirk was stylish.

The he became stylish again after the 2013 season when Jimbo Fisher’s ‘Noles won the national championship and quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy. Bragging rights got bigger.

“I’m not only happy about the Seminoles,” Kirk proudly beams, as if sticking the Seminole spear in Marion County soil, a la Chief Osceola, “but I’m happy about Ocala – the hotbed of Seminole supporters.”

And off we go.

Kirk is not only bullish on FSU, but bullish Ocala. He still maintains a small office behind the building of his former WMOP site and can look out his front door at Tuscawilla Park. His office is filled with artifacts from his past – more like a combination of Fibber McGee’s closet and a Jim Kirk Museum – much it mementoes or photos from his FSU past.

If the city goes through as planned to build Linear Park down the railroad tracks of Osceola Avenue there could be a trolley or rail car running right past his door.

“That is an exciting thing, with the walkway downtown,” says Kirk, who turns 87 this year. “They’re going to close this street and lead right to the activities center in the park.”

As he spoke, plans continued to unfold for the new home of the Ocala Symphony, the old Ocala Auditorium, which will be gutted and refurbished as a venue in the heart of the green space. Nearly 50 acres of green space, sometimes referred to as “Ocala’s Central Park.”

Being a preservationist and admirer of all things downtown, Kirk still seethes a little at the demolition of the courthouse and wants no part in the blame or credit of that decision. But he feels downtown has overcome that mistake and is headed in the right direction.

Although there have been some critics about the lack of leadership in the community, Kirk doesn’t agree and thinks it is “doing remarkably well.” He realizes the challenges we face of competing with larger city and hails the idea of the new Ocala 489 industrial park and the new deal with FedEx will attract other “classy” brands.

On sunny days as he putzes around his office, he looks out to delight at activity around the Tuscawilla Pond — fishermen dropping in line, people enjoying wildlife on their lunchtime. “I can sit here and watch it,” he says. “It’s very exciting. And I’m so proud the symphony people have taken over the auditorium. That would have destroyed my faith in humanity if they had taken that building down.”

It’s to say who was more blessed by the arrival of Jim Kirk – him or the community. Even Gator fans can’t deny that.

(Email Buddy at buddyshow@aol.com)

 

 

 

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Why I probably don’t miss the Masters these days as much as I should

 

It used to be my favorite place in all of sports – the photographer’s stand at Amen Corner on Sunday. For 35 years I felt blessed to be parked there, watching the leaders traipse around golf’s most famous real estate in America’s most famous golf venue.

With warm April sun splashing on my shoulder, brightly colored flowers framing the greens, and birds chirping in the Georgia woods, it always felt like I was part of the Masters landscape.

This year, as in the past two, I’ve been happily parked around my big screen HDTV during the Masters instead. And to be honest, it almost feels like I’m still there. Aside from the old friends and maybe the peach cobbler, I don’t really miss it at all.

Our dirty little secret: Every year when the leaders came through Amen Corner, almost every single journalist would scramble back to the press room to watch the final five or six holes on CBS anyway. You could never keep up with what was going on around the course if you didn’t.

The truth is, thanks to the late Frank Chirkinian of CBS, the Masters has become a made-for-TV event. Just as all of sports seems to be in the process of doing.

Yet, I read the other day that ESPN’s TV ratings for the current Masters were off by as much as 36 percent the first two days. That’s what missing Tiger Woods will do to the Nielsen ratings. Believe me, as the former media director of a Colorado PGA Tour event no longer in operation – The International – I can assure you the numbers are directly tied to high profile personalities like Woods.Tiger can make or break an event, although that’s never going to be the case with the sovereignty of the Masters. In our case he broke The International once he quit playing at Castle Pines because the TV ratings plummeted. (Ironically, the upcoming PGA Tour dates for the International were replaced by his AT&T event at Congressional in Washington, D.C.)

You can tell CBS is gagging a bit about the early ratings dropoff, although the golfing gods were fairly kind with the pairing of popular Bubba Watson and young 20-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth teeing off in Sunday’s finale. And venerable Freddie Couples still on the leader board.

Try as he may, my friend Jim Nantz can’t hype Jordan Spieth’s success big enough to convince us that he is the next Tiger. Although, like so many of you, I’m already a big fan of Spieth.

In fact, I gotta go now, because Spieth is teeing off at No. 1 and I’ll be able to see his shot better in my living room that I would standing at the No. 1 tee box.

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This Huskies-Gators Final Four matchup is about settling score, and a lucky bounce at Gampel Pavilion

The last team to beat the Gators before their 30-game winning streak is alive and is now in the way of a national title.  Remember that night in Storrs? How has this Gator transformation taken place since? Billy. Donovan.

Raise your hand if you truly thought, and believed, the Florida Gators would be going to the Final Four after the night of Dec. 2 at Gampel Pavilion when they lost to UConn because of a fluke rebound and subsequent putback by Shabazz Napier. Even Napier knew he was lucky. “I just felt I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time,” he admitted.

Fate owed one to the Gators and fate may have paved the way after the Huskies beat Michigan State, 60-55, for a trip to the semi finals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Napier’s buzzer beater against a banged up Florida squad that December night is a bitter memory for Gator fans:

http://www.alligator.org/sports/basketball/article_803a998e-5be1-11e3-908a-001a4bcf887a.html

In fairness, Napier is a stellar guard whose briliance shone again in UConn’s 60-55 win Sunday, as he scored 25 points.

When the Huskies and Gators meet in Texas, the matchup between Shabazz and the SEC Player of the Year, most valuable player in the SEC Tournament and MVP in the South Regional, Scottie Wilbiken, may the one for the ages. In the game at UConn, a banged up Wilbiken had to leave the court with three minutes to go. You think he might be just a little psyched about payback on a neutral court.

Beating the last team to defeat them would be sweet and seemingly prophetic, but winning against anybody would be all Billy Donovan’s team needs to wipe out the memory of The Lucky Bounce in Gampel Pavilion.

Did you see this Gator rejuvention coming after Dec. 2 ?

The odds of it happening were something less than a perfect bracket, but admittedly almost lottery-like.

Show of hands please?

I must admit I didn’t raise mine either.

We should all agree on this, however: No matter if Florida wins over UConn or wins or loses in the national championship game, Billy Donovan has done his best coaching job ever and now deserves a place among the elite in college hoops — maybe right behind his mentor Rick Pitino and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

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March 30, 2014 · 6:23 pm