There’s always a line of Georgia students, usually with a letter-by-letter slogan painted across each bare chest, camped in the front row for games at Sanford Stadium, right by the tunnel for the visitor’s locker room. Naturally, their job is to heckle the opposing team, and especially the opposing coach, when they make their entrance on those autumn afternoons.
It always seems that whenever Steve Spurrier walks onto that sideline, the boos have a bigger crescendo, the venom is a little more toxic. The hate that those of the Red and Black persuasion still carry toward the Visored One reaches uncharted levels.
“I don’t get near the hate from the Georgia side that I used to get,” Spurrier said earlier this week, as his No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks prepare to visit the No. 11 Bulldogs on Saturday. “It’s hard, you’ve got to realize, it’s hard for Georgia to really get mad at South Carolina. They’ve got so many teams they’re mad at or are mad at them, it’s hard to get another big rival for Georgia.”
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Spurrier pointed out that Georgia has so many other rivals — Florida, Auburn, Georgia Tech — that even when USC has won a few (the past three games), it still doesn’t approach true rivalry status. Of course, each team wants to win the game, because there are natives playing against the home-state team on each side and it’s huge in the race for the SEC East championship.
But wanting to win because you can’t stand the other team, or coach? No, Spurrier says.
Then again, he’s not on the other side.
Perhaps those students camped in the stands don’t remember, but there are plenty of other people at Georgia who do remember how Spurrier manhandled Georgia during his days coaching Florida. It was bad enough losing (often badly) to the Gators, but Spurrier would rub it in with one-liners, quips — and sometimes, a late touchdown.
In 1995, playing the annual Georgia-Florida game in Athens because Jacksonville’s stadium was being remodeled, Spurrier’s Gators were winning big against Ray Goff’s last team at Georgia. The story goes that one of Spurrier’s assistants, before the game, mentioned that nobody had ever scored 50 or more points at Sanford Stadium. Spurrier knew that his offense was capable of doing that, but told the assistant that it was more important to win the game. If 50 happened during the course of the game, so be it.
Leading 45-17 with five minutes to go, Spurrier had his backups in and the Gators were still passing. Final score — 52-17, still the most points an opponent has put on the Bulldogs in Athens.
“Steve is an outstanding football coach,” Goff said this week. “There’s no doubt about that. He has done an unbelievable job everywhere he’s gone. Regardless of what anyone thinks of him, he’s won. That’s what you hire coaches to do, to win.”
Goff, who Spurrier labeled “Ray Goof” during his tenure at Georgia, did not beat Spurrier in six tries, losing four of the games by at least 31 points. If anybody could mutter about how they couldn’t and still can’t stand the Head Ball Coach, it’s Goff.
He didn’t. While he did pass on a question asking if Spurrier has brought extra intensity to the rivalry, at Florida or USC (“I’m just going to laugh at that one,” he said), Goff knew what Spurrier was trying to do then, and wished him well now.
“He just wants to get your mind off the game,” Goff said. “Some of it’s just Steve being Steve. If you get too caught up in what he’s saying, and what he’s telling you that you got to do, the odds of you winning are getting lesser and lesser.”
Goff saw Spurrier at the funeral of former USC coach Jim Carlen last year and said that he is still friends with Spurrier’s wife, Jerri. He also sent congratulations when told that Spurrier had recently welcomed his 12th grandchild. There’s no hate, he said, echoing Spurrier’s comments.
“I just don’t sense the hatred between Georgia and South Carolina as there is between Georgia and Florida,” Spurrier said. “Georgia’s beaten us so many times, just recently we’ve been able to beat them a few times.
“(The half-a-hundred game) was a long time ago. Don’t hear much about that. Even the Tar Heels last week didn’t bring up the 41-0 game when we beat them at Duke one time. That one is about dead, too, I think.”
No hate. None of this “Spurrier is Georgia’s nemesis” talk. It’s all just ancient history, water under the bridge, sailed ships.
“Oh, yeah,” quarterback Connor Shaw said on Wednesday, when asked if he remembered the 1995 game (Shaw grew up a Florida fan). “We’ve mentioned that. Yeah, I remember that.”
Who mentioned it?
“Yeah, it was coach.”
SPURRIER VS. GEORGIA
Coach Steve Spurrier’s teams are 15-5 against the Bulldogs. Season-by-season results:
|1990||Florida 38, Georgia 7|
|1991||Florida 45, Georgia 13|
|1992||Florida 26, Georgia 24|
|1993||Florida 33, Georgia 26|
|1994||Florida 52, Georgia 14|
|1995||Florida 52, Georgia 17|
|1996||Florida 47, Georgia 7|
|1997||Georgia 37, Florida 17|
|1998||Florida 38, Georgia 7|
|1999||Florida 30, Georgia 14|
|2000||Florida 34, Georgia 23|
|2001||Florida 24, Georgia 10|
|2005||Georgia 17, USC 15|
|2006||Georgia 18, USC 0|
|2007||USC 16, Georgia 12|
|2008||Georgia 14, USC 7|
|2009||Georgia 41, USC 37|
|2010||USC 17, Georgia 6|
|2011||USC 45, Georgia 42|
|2012||USC 35, Georgia 7|