Steve Spurrier Ambassador, Florida Gators Athletic Department
Former Florida Quarterback and Head Coach
I visited Gainesville, Florida, as a high school recruit in March of 1963. I left Johnson City, Tennessee, when it was about 40 degrees and arrived in Gainesville when it was around 72 degrees. Immediately, I knew this was a wonderful city and state to go to college, play football and hopefully, someday, live for a long time.
Being a student athlete here for four years was the best. Coach Graves, our head coach, and his staff were outstanding coaches and role models. My teammates are still some of my best friends in life.
I was fortunate to play 10 years in the NFL. My family would always return to Gainesville in the off-seasons to enjoy our friends, our church and Crescent Beach.
My path in life has taken me to several wonderful places to live. Now that my coaching career is history, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to return to the University of Florida and Gainesville to help promote our university and our city.
I see so many Gators that really enjoy retiring in Gainesville so they can not only attend lots of Gator games in all sports, but also enjoy the entertainment that our city provides.
- 1 NCAA TEAM TITLE (MEN’S OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD)
- 14 NCAA TITLES SINCE THE 2009-2010 SEASON, EQUALING THE NATION’S HIGH TOTAL IN THAT SPAN
- 12 TOP-10 NATIONAL FINISHES BY 2015-2016 TEAMS
- 6 GATORS COLLECTED 8 NCAA INDIVIDUAL TITLES IN 2016
- 6 CONFERENCE TITLES BY THE GATORS IN 2015-2016 (SEC GYMNASTICS, SOCCER, SOFTBALL, MEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING, WOMEN’S TENNIS, BIG EAST LACROSSE TITLE)
- 11 GATORS PICKED UP CONFERENCE PLAYER/ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARDS
- 4,000 HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE COMPLETED IN 2015-2016 BY 460 STUDENT-ATHLETES PARTNERING WITH 23 LOCAL SCHOOLS, 11 CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS, 48 REGULARLY-SCHEDULED UF HEALTH VISITS AND 22 NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Head Coach, University of Florida Men’s Basketball
Why Gainesville? That was an easy question for me and my family. For us it obviously centers around my work at the University of Florida. UF is one of the most elite athletic programs and public academic institutions, so we jumped at the chance to relocate here to Gainesville to be a part of that.
I always tell our recruits, when you come to Florida, you’ll be sitting in class not only with future leaders in business, science, law and medicine, but also next to future NFL players, a top-10 MLB draft pick, future Olympian swimmers, gymnasts and track athletes. You will be surrounded by academic and athletic excellence at UF.
My family has a special connection to the state of Florida, too.
I was born in Dunedin and even though my family moved away soon after I was born, we went back to the Cocoa Beach area every year for vacation, and still do to this day.
I played basketball at Ole Miss almost 20 years ago, and one day in my academic advisor’s office I flipped through the volleyball media guide sitting on the table. One of the players caught my eye. If you can believe it, her hometown was Dunedin, Florida. I knew then I had to meet her, so I sought Kira out at a social gathering soon after. Today, she and I have five young kids.
(On a side note, not only is Kira from Dunedin, but she played volleyball at Clearwater Central Catholic High School. My mom launched that volleyball program way back when my parents lived on Florida’s west coast. Talk about fate.)
Fast forward to the Spring of 2015, we had been living in Ruston, Louisiana, for four years and felt very much at home and content there at Louisiana Tech. We had a couple opportunities at larger schools the previous year, but the timing and the fit hadn’t been right.
Then one day we watched Billy Donovan, who I have always admired, giving his farewell press conference at the University of Florida. Later that day, I saw the 352 area code pop up on my phone and it was Jeremy Foley on the phone. A few days later, he was in my living room. I told Jeremy, “If you offer me the job, I’ll start driving to Gainesville.” He asked Kira and me if we’d like to take some time together to discuss it and look over the contract privately – we looked at each other and said no, we know we want to come to Gainesville.
We’re nearing two years here now and Kira and I and our kids absolutely love it. This is a wonderful place to raise a family, and we could not be happier. We love our neighbors, and every day we meet more amazing people. We are so proud to be part of this community and call Gainesville home.