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After all this time, Steve Spurrier still belongs to the Florida Gators

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He won the Heisman Trophy there. He won a national championship. As a player, and as a coach, he helped to change things.

Even after this time away, Steve Spurrier is the ultimate Gator.

Even now, he still looks odd in burgundy.

In college football, things change. And so, it is easy to wonder if Spurrier will ever be thought of as South Carolina’s coach, or just as a Florida alumnus working somewhere else.

Already, Spurrier is entering his 11th year at South Carolina. He coached only 12 at Florida. When you factor in that Spurrier allegedly told a recruit that he might coach six more seasons with the Gamecocks, it seems logical that, eventually, his legacy would change hands.

After all, he is still the Old Ballcoach. He still is a funny guy. He still can affect the game on Saturday.

But is he a Gator? Or a Gamecock? Think of it like this: A Florida freshman was four years old when Spurrier left.

Hey, Bear Bryant was once Kentucky’s coach, and Bobby Bowden was West Virginia’s. Nick Saban was LSU’s, and Jimmy Johnson was Oklahoma State’s. Usually, coaches are remembered for their greatest successes.

That’s what still binds Spurrier to Florida, where he has not coached since 2001. His greatest successes were with the Gators. In all 12 seasons, he won at least nine games. In eight of them, he finished the season in the AP Top 10. His teams won six SEC conference titles. He was a five-time SEC coach of the year there. In some ways, his swagger still defines the Florida program.

Spurrier’s South Carolina teams have been good. He has three top 10 finishes, and he won nine or more for four straight years. But he hasn’t quite elevated the Gamecocks as high as he did the Gators. Coupled with his playing success, given his statue outside the stadium, that’s going to link him with the Gators for a long time.

Even more than Urban Meyer, who won two championships, Spurrier is thought of as a Gator kind of guy.

In other words, it isn’t just time that will define which school you think of when you think of Spurrier.

It is success.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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