Just (don't) do it!

10/27/2004 - Florida Gators

After the press conference was done, the cheering died down, it wouldn't be long until that sinking feeling rooted itself back into the stomach of Steve Spurrier. All the reasons he had left the University of Florida, left the college game, left this life, would come rushing back without a moment's notice. All of it. Rest assured, there will be that paralyzing moment when Spurrier would wonder to himself, "Did I ever really leave here?"

And that will make it so hard to ever get inspired for his old job again. No, it wouldn't be long upon his return that Spurrier will know in his heart one of the truths of sports that the Gator Nation would eventually see with its eyes.

Everyone wants to believe they can turn back the hands of time, make it like it was, but it just about never works that way in sports.

There is no re-creating the magic.

There is no going back again.

Before it all feels and looks and sounds the same back in Gainesville, Spurrier should spare himself the disappointment and politely decline the chance to reclaim his throne. If Spurrier must go back to school after his two seasons with the Washington Redskins, he should do so where the mountain feels like it hasn't been scaled, where the challenge is fresh. If not, Spurrier will be reminded quickly at Florida why he had grown so disillusioned, bored and frustrated with college football, and it will only be more pronounced for him upon his return from the pros.

The irony is that his old athletic director, Jeremy Foley, probably knows this to be true now, but understands that resistance is futile to the groundswell of support for Spurrier. Self-preservation dictates Foley must try to bring him back. Foley lost his political muscle to stop a Spurrier return on the sheer foolishness of bringing Ron Zook, a faceless, first-time head coach in to replace Spurrier.

Foley looked like one of those administrators who seemed to believe his own newspaper clips, convincing himself that he possessed the power of a star-maker. The hiring of Zook seemed to be his way of showing people how much smarter he was than the rest of them. As it turned out, those zealots with the Web sites and chat rooms did have it all figured out. Zook was a disaster, and Foley is no longer the Golden Boy Athletic Director.

What's more, it wouldn't be long until Foley was paying his basketball coach Billy Donovan a rock star wage for cover band music.

Now Florida feels like it has to hire Spurrier, and Spurrier probably feels like he has to take the job, but no one will end up thrilled with the sequel. All things considered, Spurrier might be wiser to wait for a different college job -- or maybe even a second chance as an NFL coach.

Talk to anyone who has ever made the leap from college to the pros -- famous head coaches to unassuming assistants to faceless scouts -- and they all seem to say the same thing: They never want to return to campus again.

Memphis' John Calipari never wanted to leave the NBA, and would still go back in a heartbeat if offered the opportunity. Louisville's Rick Pitino always plotted his return to the pros after leaving the Knicks, and probably still would love a shot post-Celtics somewhere down the line. More than that, Calipari and Pitino haven't exactly tore it up since returning to campus, either. There's a letdown there, a feeling that, "This is beneath me," and neither of them went back to the same school they left for the pros.

P.J. Carlesimo had the chance to take the Notre Dame job after he was fired in Portland and Golden State, but would rather stay an assistant in the pros. As one ex-college assistant now in the NBA told me, "If I had to do it to support my family, I guess I would, but I would never willing go back to college."

Life is so good in the pros and the money is even better. What's more, they love the singular focus of winning. There's a purity to it. No graduation rates, no waiting on an 17-year-old's SAT scores, no more second helping's of Mom's Famous Meatloaf on recruiting home visits.

Spurrier's ego wants the world to see he could win in the NFL. Or somewhere else in college football. He won the Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback, won the national championship as its coach, and in a lot of ways, he revolutionized the modern college passing game there. So, go back again? For what?

There's a part of Spurrier that has to be thriving on the way the Florida fandom is calling him home. The ego can be a powerful thing. He can go back to Gainesville and they'll call him, "Coach" again. And these guys want to be called "Coach", like a physician wants to be called "Doctor," and a Priest wants to be called "Father." In the pros, they don't call you coach. Everyone calls you by your name --- just Steve, or just Spurrier --- and he'll always be just, "Coach," in Gainesville.

Still, the novelty of returning to his old campus throne will wear off fast. Spurrier wouldn't fail upon his return, but his sequel could never meet everyone's expectations. After all, the days of him simply freelancing his way past the rest of the SEC are long gone. The conference caught up with him, and in some instances, passed him right by.

Everyone thinks he can climb back into a time capsule and bring back the Fun 'n Gun, but it won't happen. Spurrier will return to a world where he'll need to work harder, where he'll be searching for motivation, where there will be this nagging, knowing sense of, "Been there, done that."

Before it's too late, Steve Spurrier needs to understand: There's no going back again. There's no re-creating the magic. The man made his mark as an innovator. He should go back out into the coaching world, and innovate. We've already seen this play at the University of Florida.

Adrian Wojnarowski is a columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. His book, The Miracle Of St. Anthony: A Season With Coach Bob Hurley And Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty can be pre-ordered prior to its February 2005.