Spurrier will attend Gators' 1996 title team celebration

Updated: May 30, 2006, 9:26 PM ET
Associated Press

DESTIN, Fla. -- Steve Spurrier's return to The Swamp will happen earlier than anticipated.

The South Carolina coach said Tuesday he will be in Gainesville on Sept. 2 when Florida honors its 1996 national championship team.

The Gamecocks open their season against Mississippi State on Thursday, Aug. 31, making the Ol' Ball Coach available for the 10-year celebration two days later during Florida's season opener against Southern Mississippi.

"It's an opportunity to be with those players," Spurrier said at the Southeastern Conference's annual spring meetings. "That's one big reason you win championships is the ability to celebrate them later. Obviously a national championship is a memory of a lifetime. It will be wonderful to see the players, and personally I feel like I owe it to those players to come back, so that's a big reason I'll be down there."

Spurrier has attended all three reunions for Duke's 1989 team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship (1994, '99 and '04) and said he planned to do the same for the Gators.

Spurrier won the school's first Heisman Trophy in 1966, returned as coach in 1990 and won 122 games in 12 seasons. He received widespread credit for revolutionizing the conference with his innovative and wide-open passing attack and led the Gators to their only national title.

His Heisman Trophy is displayed outside Florida's locker room. So are photos of his six Southeastern Conference championship teams and the 1996 national championship trophy. His name and No. 11 jersey are painted inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

With Spurrier calling the plays, South Carolina upset the Gators 30-22 last year in Columbia, and his return to Gainesville Nov. 11 has been circled since he took the job more than a year ago.

The reaction he receives in November could be much different than the one he gets in September.

"I can't control all that," he said. "The fans at Florida have been wonderful to me and hopefully always will be. But I understand there's a few that are probably not very happy with me, but that's OK. We can't make everybody in the world happy, as we know."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press