Steve Spurrier is receiving yet another honor in college football circles this year and once again he’s more than willing to give Duke plenty of credit.
Already in the College Football Hall of Fame for his playing career at Florida that included a Heisman Trophy, Spurrier will be inducted into the same hall a second time for his coaching career this December.
That coaching career took off, Spurrier said, because Duke hired him on two different occasions in the 1980s.
“I’ll always be thankful and appreciative to Duke,” Spurrier said Saturday while attending Duke’s home game with Pittsburgh. “It’s always fun to be back here.”
Back in 1980, Duke coach Red Wilson hired Spurrier to be the Blue Devils offensive coordinator. Spurrier left to coach the Tampa Bay Bandits when the USFL started in 1983. But when that league folded, Duke athletics director Tom Butters hired him as the Blue Devils head coach.
Spurrier posted a 20-13-1 record at Duke, including the 1989 season when Duke and Virginia were ACC co-champions.
“Coach Red Wilson and Tom Butters both hired me in the ’80s,” Spurrier said, “or else I don’t know what I’d be doing now. Probably selling insurance for some of my buddies somewhere.”
The Blue Devils haven’t won an ACC title in football since Spurrier left to become Florida’s coach in 1990. Under current coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils won the ACC Coastal Division in 2013 before losing to Florida State in the ACC title game.
But Spurrier believes the Blue Devils now have the facilities and the commitment to football to compete.
“Hopefully we can get this program similar to Stanford,” Spurrier said. “Stanford, they are very competitive out in the Pac-12, and I certainly think Duke has a chance to be very competitive in the ACC.”
When Cutcliffe was offensive coordinator at Tennessee in the 1990s, he faced off against Spurrier’s Florida teams in games with national title implications. Though competitors, they grew to respect one another.
In 2007, when Cutcliffe interviewed for the Duke head coaching job, he and Spurrier spoke about what kind of challenge it was to win with the Blue Devils.
“When I was considering taking this job, he’s always been very, very fond of Duke, and I knew that,” Cutcliffe said. “He was encouraging in that regard, and he thought this could be a great fit and a great opportunity. He made no bones that I would be coming into something that wouldn’t be very easy. I have great respect for him.”
Now 72, Spurrier said he’s done with college and pro coaching. He does miss calling plays and coaching quarterbacks, though.
“I don’t want to be a head coach,” Spurrier said. “There’s too much involved with being a head coach. But if a high school or somewhere to coach quarterbacks or pitch the ball around, that might be something someday I might want to do again. But it would have to be the right situation. But major college ball, these guys they work 11 months a year now. It’s so different than it was back in the ’90s or even in the 2000s as far as the total number of hours these guys work.”