Birds gotta fly.
Fish gotta swim.
And coaches, God bless them, have gotta coach.
And that, gentle readers, best explains why Steve Spurrier, the Head Ball Coach, is going back to coaching at the tender age of 72.
It was announced on Saturday that Spurrier will coach the Orlando franchise in the new Alliance of American Football, which will begin play on Feb. 9, 2019. It will be a spring league created to fill the void football fans feel in the months after the Super Bowl. And it was fitting that the first head coach revealed by the new league was Spurrier, who creates automatic buzz and gives the Alliance instant credibility.
When the HBC and I spoke late Saturday night he was smiling through the phone.
“Everybody has something that they’re good at and I have been fortunate to be blessed with coaching ability,” said the man who is one of only four in the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. “I’m fired up. So is (my wife) Jerri.”
Understand that for Spurrier the venue for his return to coaching matters. Spurrier had told everybody that he had no interest in going back to college coaching and the year-round insanity of the recruiting calendar. He certainly had no interest in going back to the NFL and dealing with its various problems.
Spurrier thought being the ambassador for the Florida athletics department would fill the void left by his mid-season resignation at South Carolina in 2015. Truth be told, it was difficult for one of the greatest offensive minds of this or any generation to sit in the Florida athletics directors box and watch the Gators stink to high heaven on offense.
For Spurrier, this is the perfect coaching job at this time in his life.
“It’s going to be like a 4-5 month deal. It won’t be year round,” said Spurrier, who won six SEC championships and a national championship in 12 years at Florida and then led South Carolina to three straight 11-win seasons in his 11 years in Columbia. “We think there are enough good players out there who don’t make it to the NFL. We’re just going to be out there having fun and trying to win some ball games.”
Spurrier admitted that he was a little skeptical when organizers Charlie Ebersol (son of famed NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol) and legendary NFL general manager Bill Polian came to him with the idea.
“Actually Jerri was more excited than I was,” said Spurrier. “But then I looked at the details.”
**–There will be only eight teams (all owned by the Alliance not individual owners) playing a 10-game schedule that starts in February and runs until the end of April.
“After the Super Bowl people still want to see some football,” said Spurrier. “There is a market for springtime football.”
**–The Alliance is well-funded with multiple investors and a contract to televise the games on the CBS Sports Network, the cable arm of CBS Sports.
**–In the interest of safety, there will be no kickoffs and no on-side kicks. After a score the other team will start its offense on its own 25-yard line. In place of the on-side kick, the trailing team will receive the option of taking the ball on its own 35-yard line and be given a fourth down and 10. If the team makes the first down it will retain possession. If it fails the opponent has the ball in good field position.
“I like all those things because it makes the game safer,” said Spurrier.
**–And here is something Spurrier really likes: No extra points. Teams will have to go for a two-point conversion after every touchdown.
The game will have a 30-second play clock instead of the current 40 seconds and official reviews will be limited.
“We’re going to move the game along because fans ought to be able to get in and out of there in two and a half hours,” said Spurrier.
The Alliance will try to structure the draft so that teams get players who played college ball in the same geographic region. The Orlando franchise would certainly want players who played collegiately at Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF and the other state schools.
“The point that I’m making to them is they should want it to be a lot more like the college game,” said Spurrier. “And we’ve got to get name guys. Guys like Johnny Manziel are looking for a place to play. Shoot, maybe we can get (Tim) Tebow if that baseball thing doesn’t work out.”
Nobody knows if this is going to work. The investors have been told it will be years before they make a profit. But everyone involved is banking on the belief that football is now a year-round sport and the 33 million who play fantasy football in this country will embrace the idea.
All I know is that in 2019 the HBC, who turns 73 on April 20, is going to be calling ball plays again.
And that’s a good thing.