Steve Spurrier named The Swamp, but when will his name be on the stadium?

Running off at the typewriter. …

As my former Sentinel colleague Chris Harry of Gatorzone.com reminded me recently, it was exactly 20 years ago when I got the phone call from Steve Spurrier, who was then early in his tenure at the University of Florida, where he would become the second-greatest coach in Southeastern Conference history behind Bear Bryant.

"Got a story for you, Bianchi," Spurrier said.

As the hometown columnist at the Gainesville Sun, I was amazed at the marketing genius that was about to come from the mouth of The Head Ball Coach. His story idea was to start calling Florida Field "The Swamp" – a place where only Gators get out alive. I ran with the idea, wrote the column, Gator Nation embraced the nickname and Spurrier's brainstorm has magnificently morphed into one of college football's most recognized homefield advantages.

Ironically, UF's in-house marketing department at the time thought The Swamp was a dumb nickname and would never catch on. Shows how much real marketing people know. The Gators posted an incredible 68-5 record at The Swamp under Spurrier and are 126-18 at home in the 20 years since Spurrier came up with the nickname.

Now today, Spurrier, the head coach at South Carolina, returns once again to the place he put on the map as a player, a coach and a marketing savant. He named the stadium 20 years ago, but 20 years from now the stadium should have his name officially attached to it: "Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium."

Just call it "The Swamp" for short.

Short stuff: My top five nicknames for college football stadiums: (1) The Swamp (2) The Big House (3) Death Valley [Clemson version since they came up with it first] (4) Between the Hedges (5) Bounce House [OK, so UCF's stadium isn't very well-known, but it's a great nickname] … Mikey likes: Florida over Spurrier by 6, FSU over Miami by 30, UCF over Memphis by 32, Alabama over Tennessee by 100, West Virginia over Kansas State by 8, Saints over Bucs by 5, Raiders over Jaguars by 6, Steelers over Bengals by 4, Lance Armstrong over Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Ben Johnson and the East Germans by a million lies as the biggest drug cheat in sports history. …

The only thing better than the Yankees getting swept out of the playoffs are my mom's fried pork chops. … Did you see where Sentinel colleague George Diaz is going to be in a "Dancing With The Stars" event for a local charity? Great cause, but this is sure to be the most profane dancing exhibit Orlando has seen since Club Juana shut down. … I'm not saying the presidential debate got boringly contentious the other night, but it was like watching George Will and Bob Costas debate the infield fly rule. … The Who, the iconic rock band, will be in Orlando two weeks from today. When I asked UCF football coach George O'Leary earlier this week if he is a fan of The Who, he replied, "Who?" … O'Leary also admitted that sometimes he sleeps on a couch in his office. Two words, Coach: Murphy Bed. …

Wow, the NFL is actually catering to a younger demographic by choosing Beyonce to headline this year's Super Bowl Halftime Show. If the NFL was going to go with a female vocalist — considering the league's history of picking older acts to perform at the Super Bowl — I'm surprised the league didn't go with Liza Minnelli. … A Cleveland Browns fan dunked his head into a bucket of urine before last week's game and collected $450 from his "friends." Serious question: What would be worse: Dunking your head in urine or actually sitting through an entire Browns game? … Can you believe a man space-jumped out of a capsule and broke the sound barrier as he fell 127,000 feet to earth? According to experts, he plummeted almost as fast as Gene Chizik's coaching career. … A company is supposedly going to start marketing a brand new car that sells for only $3,000. Hey, isn't that the same one Kyle Petty drove when he was on the NASCAR circuit? … From the "I'm Afraid it's True" Dept.: There is now a sex tape on the Internet involving professional wrestling icon Hulk Hogan. My question: Did the dirty deed take place in a bedroom or a steel cage? … Last word: "The Obama campaign is releasing a new ad showing Americans whose financial situation has improved over the past four years. Unfortunately, the only person who appears in the ad is Mitt Romney." – Conan O'Brien.

Open Mike

Don't forget, you can click on OrlandoSentinel.com and read the wildly popular Open Mike blog and interactive extravaganza to get my freshest takes on what's happening in the world of sports. Here's a blog item I wrote earlier this week about how Will Muschamp could and should be coaching Texas right now instead of Florida.

Will Muschamp, before he became the head coach of the Florida Gators, was the official "coach-in-waiting" at Texas, but there was one problem:

Mack Brown, the coach in reality, had no intention of going anywhere.

In fact, by most accounts, Brown didn't like having a "coach-in-waiting" because he felt like the spoiled and sprawling UT fan base would want to shove him out at the first sign of his program sliding.

Well, guess what? Muschamp wasn't about to wait around for a job that might never materialize. He left for Florida and now, two years later, the Gators are national title contenders and Texas is left with a dilemma: Brown's program is predictably falling apart and there's no Muschamp there to pick up the pieces.

Muschamp is considered one of the premier defensive minds in all of football. And all you need to know about how far Texas's defense has fallen since he left came last Saturday when Oklahoma buried the Longhorns 66-21

Even though Texas was 5-7 in Muschamp's last year as defensive coordinator, it had nothing to do with Muschamp's side of the ball. The Longhorns ranked No. 6 nationally in total defense that season. Since Muschamp's departure, the Longhorns dropped to No. 11 last year in defense and this year have plunged to No. 99 in the country. We haven't seen such an overwhelmed defense in Texas since Davy Crockett and the boys got bull-rushed at the Alamo.

The bottom line is this: The Longhorns had a tremendous succession plan in place for Mack Brown, but Brown simply wasn't willing to go along with it.

It seems somewhat ironic that Brown is a Florida State graduate because it's looking more and more like he will suffer the same fate as FSU icon Bobby Bowden:

He will hang around too long and the program will continue to slide until he is forced out.

Mail bonding

Most interesting reader retorts, radio rabble, tangy tweets and message-board mockery of the week:

• On massive UCF defensive tackle Jose Jose supposedly being even heavier than his listed weight of 345 pounds: "That would make him Jose Jose Jose."

•On whether UF deserves to be No. 2 in the first BCS poll: "The Gators are the worst No. 2 since Ryan Leaf."

•On FSU coach Jimbo Fisher opening up the offense against Boston College a week after a conservative game plan contributed to the devastating loss at NC State: "This was akin to Jimbo offering up an apology and flowers to a very 'over it' fan base. You know what, Coach Jimbo, one game ain't gettin' you out of the doghouse this time."

Notable quotable:

In honor of Steve Spurrier returning to The Swamp on the 20th anniversary of him naming the stadium, three of my favorite Spurrier quotes:

When asked if his Florida team would beat Georgia one year: "Is Ray Goff still the head coach there?"

When making fun of Tennessee's penchant for playing in a second-tier bowl game in Orlando most every year: "You can't spell Citrus without UT."

When poking fun at a fire that burned 20 books at an Auburn University football dorm: "But the real tragedy was that 15 of them hadn't been colored yet."

mbianchi@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740 AM.

 

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