Nov. 17, 2000
By EDDIE PELLS
AP Sports Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – They are leaders on opposite ends of a
rivalry, polarized personalities who meet once a year in a game that almost always tilts the balance of power in both their state and the nation.
It comes as something of a surprise, then, to learn that Bobby Bowden
and Steve Spurrier actually like each other.
They meet Saturday, when No. 4 Florida (9-1) plays No. 3 Florida State
(10-1) in a game that, again, has major national title implications.
“Surprisingly, it’s good,” Bowden said of his relationship with
Spurrier. “People would think, `Oh, they can’t stand each other.’ That’s not true. When I’m around him, I enjoy him.”
Then, realizing the thousands of loyal Seminoles fans who might think
that notion deplorable, Bowden jokingly put his hands together in prayer.
“Forgive me Lord,” he said.
Indeed, Bowden – always folksy, self-deprecating and charming – can
laugh at himself, even at the most tense of times.
Spurrier is more of a needler, an acerbic wit with a tell-it-like-it-is
personality that only a Gators fan could love.
Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer once described Spurrier as great to be
around, “until you put a microphone in front of him.” Of his own relationships with opposing coaches, Spurrier said: “I get along with most coaches now. Those that probably used to say nasty things about me aren’t coaching anymore.”
Count Bowden among those Spurrier gets along with.
Spurrier said he and Bowden always enjoy a pleasant visit when they get
together at an annual coaches’ meeting each February. Spurrier was among the first to send Bowden a congratulatory note when the Seminoles won the
national title last year.
“I think I’ve got an excellent relationship with coach Bowden,”
Spurrier said. “That’s about like I do with all the coaches.”
But for all the backslapping, this has always been a battle of wits
between Bowden, the riverboat gambler, and Spurrier, the evil genius.
Each believes coaching does matter just as much as talent, and both
take pride in adding new wrinkles – Florida’s Sugar Bowl shotgun in 1996, Florida State’s eight-man defensive backfield in 1998 – or a trick play for this big
They’ve also become masters of mind games – even though Bowden loves to
claim he’s so inconsequential that he has elevator music pumped into his
headsets, and Spurrier takes offense at the notion that he would float his
two-quarterback idea more for the sake of gamesmanship than necessity.
Bowden has gotten the better of this rivalry over the past decade. He
holds a 7-4-1 advantage over Spurrier and will own the first three-game winning streak between the coaches with a victory Saturday.
“I don’t know why it happens,” Bowden deadpanned. “We’ve just played
better when we had to. We just score on more plays than they do. It works
It’s not such a laughing matter to Spurrier, at least not lately. When
he arrived at Florida in 1990, one of the first things he said was that the
Gators should have the best football program in the state.
He’s pulled that off in a handful of seasons, and helped turn a
less-than-scintillating series into one of the best rivalries in the
It has also become one of Bowden’s favorite games.
“It’s between this one and Middle Tennessee,” Bowden said. “Sometimes I
like those where I’m favored by 47. It’s a lot more relaxing.”