Florida will rename its football field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Steve Spurrier-Florida Field, the school announced Thursday. The news was broken in an original report from Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports and confirmed by Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel.
The school's official release makes the move seem like an honor that Spurrier did not anticipate he'd receive, which is entirely in keeping with who he is.
"We feel this was an appropriate way to commemorate one the most legendary figures in Gator athletics history," said Athletics Director Jeremy Foley. "Coach Spurrier did more than win a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a bunch of games. Coach Spurrier changed the culture of Florida athletics. We were an institution that always had a mantra of wait until next year and wouldn't it be great to just win one championship.
"Coach changed all of that. The Gators won, won big and won with swagger. As much as he impacted the football program, he changed the vibe in the entire athletic department. He and his wife, Jerri, were big supporters of the entire athletic department – giving advice to different coaches, attending other sporting events and even endowed a scholarship to support women's athletics."
Spurrier was aware the University Athletic Association planned to honor him during the 2016 season, but adding his name to the field caught the head ballcoach by surprise.
"I was stunned, really, when Jeremy called,'' Spurrier said. "I had no idea that was even being considered."
Spurrier's full statement is also the sort of gracious, sorta humble thing one might expect from the lion in winter — down to him remembering exactly how many games he lost at home as head coach.
"I am humbled, honored, thankful and very appreciative that my alma mater, the University of Florida, believes that I am worthy and deserving to have my name placed on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as 'The Swamp.'
I was blessed and fortunate to be recruited and then to play for the original 'Bull Gator' – Coach Ray Graves in the mid-60s. I was fortunate to play with outstanding and talented teammates that allowed our teams to have winning seasons and play in major bowl games and build lasting friendships for a lifetime.
A very special thanks to Coach Doug Dickey, who hired me as an assistant coach in 1978, and allowing me to enter the coaching profession. I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me.
As the head coach in 1990, I inherited a team that was loaded with outstanding players, who were poised and ready to start winning SEC Championships. We have had many truly great All-American, All-SEC and solid wonderful team-oriented players at Florida and I can't mention them all. I must say that Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel were not only two of the greatest quarterbacks in school history, but they were outstanding, excellent, courageous leaders who guided their teams to six SEC championships and one national championship in 1996.
The Swamp is a special place. We coaches and players thoroughly enjoyed playing in front of our fans. We won a bunch of them there and only lost five and they were close ones.
I also met my wife, Jerri Starr, at the University of Florida, she has been a tremendous influence on everything I've done since. Again, I say thanks to all of those who made this honor possible and I consider this to be the biggest, most special honor I have ever received."
While the official name will obviously be a little awkward, the name Florida Field dates to the stadium's opening in 1930, with "Ben Hill Griffin Stadium" added in 1989 to honor the Florida alumnus, one of the state's most powerful agriculture magnates and one of the school's biggest donors. It makes sense not to wipe away Florida Field's history, though Steve Spurrier Field (at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, even) would clearly have run off the tongue a bit more easily.
The timing for the renaming makes plenty of sense, too. The fall of 2016 marks 50 years since Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback (and kicker, and punter) in 1966, 20 years since Spurrier's Gators won the school's first national championship ... and 10 years since Florida escaped South Carolina in Spurrier's first game in The Swamp as the Gamecocks' head coach in another national championship season.
And Spurrier remains as singularly beloved as any figure in Florida sports; there's no good argument against his name being on the field. Spurrier will be in attendance at the official naming during a pregame ceremony for Florida's season opener on September 3.
Notably, Florida was not quite cruel enough to have such a ceremony prior to South Carolina's visit to Gainesville, especially given that Spurrier is technically still employed by that university after announcing his resignation as head coach in October 2015. But many of the Gamecocks will make that trip to a road stadium named after the coach who recruited them to Columbia.
Putting Spurrier's name on the field gives Florida the distinction of a playing surface named after the man who gave its stadium the enduring nickname — The Swamp — that is its most popular moniker.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium isn't The House That Steve Built, not really, though Spurrier's Gators never played in anything but Ben Hill. But The Swamp is The House That Steve Named — and, soon and forever, will be The House Named After Steve.