He sat in his office looking much younger than his 55 years, yet
Steve Spurrier could see the end of his coaching career. This was
five days before Spurrier's Florida Gators would play Florida
State in last Saturday night's renewal of the highest-stakes
rivalry--intrastate or otherwise--in college football, and Spurrier
had recently agreed to a four-year extension of his contract,
through 2006, at an annual salary of $2.1 million. "I guess we'll
sign something at the end of the year," Spurrier said, waving his
hand across piles of paper on his desk.
The new deal will carry Spurrier into his 60s, and he swears he
won't work much longer than that. There are waves to surf and
golf courses to play. When the names Bowden and Paterno were
lobbed at him, men who are still coaching past 70, Spurrier
recoiled. "Not me," he said. "I'll be out long before that."
Who can blame him? Sure, he'd continue to reign over Gator
Nation, where SEC and national championships are an annual
possibility. Yet more years would mean more trips to Tallahassee
to play the hated Seminoles, more games like the one last
Saturday night, when No. 3 Florida State thrashed No. 4 Florida
30-7, slapping around the Gators as if they were Duke or Wake
Forest or some other ACC dog. Spurrier is 0-5-1 at the Seminoles'
Doak Campbell Stadium since taking over in Gainesville a decade
The Gators who ventured to Tallahassee last Saturday were a
young, improving team that had lost only at Mississippi State,
way back in September, and came into the game having clinched the
SEC East and with an outside shot at reaching the Orange Bowl
national title game. Florida, a 12-point underdog, seemed to have
caught a break when Florida State's 28-year-old senior
quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender, Chris Weinke, became
ill on Friday. "Woke up, started throwing up and didn't stop,"
Weinke said last Saturday night.
By Friday afternoon he was in an orthopedic clinic receiving
fluids intravenously. He didn't accompany his teammates on their
usual pre-home-game Friday-night trip to a Thomasville, Ga.,
hotel; instead he stayed at the house of one of the Seminoles'
doctors. By Saturday his nausea had abated enough that he ate
pancakes late in the morning. "When they stayed down, I tried
some turkey in the afternoon," Weinke said.
Upon arriving at the stadium more than two hours before kickoff,
the rest of the Florida State players found Weinke already in the
locker room. "He was smiling, wearing his team sweats, walking
around and looking O.K.," said senior tight end Ryan Sprague. In
one corner of the spacious dressing room, Weinke said he gathered
a small group of seniors and told them, "I'm fine, I'm ready to
go. Let everybody else know. Let's go out and do the job
tonight." He would validate his recovery by throwing for 353
yards and three touchdowns to keep himself in a tight Heisman
race with Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel.
Two of the Seminoles seniors whom Weinke included in his pregame
confab, wideout Marvin (Snoop) Minnis and cornerback Tay Cody,
also provided heroics. On the Monday before meeting the Gators,
Minnis had taped a picture of cocky--and talented--Florida
sophomore cornerback Lito Sheppard in his dressing cubicle. On
the picture, one of Minnis's teammates had scrawled in black
marker, EITHER HE'S GOING 2 EAT, OR YOU'RE GOING 2 EAT. Below
that: HE'S TRYING TO TAKE FOOD OFF TATYANA'S TABLE, a reference
to Minnis's 15-month-old daughter.
Snoop is apparently a sucker for nutritional motivation, because
he caught eight passes for two touchdowns and a career-high 187
yards. Seven of his catches came in the first half, including a
34-yard touchdown reception that gave the Seminoles a 14-7 lead
late in the first quarter. "They came out and played us
man-to-man, which was a major mistake," said Florida State
wideout Anquan Boldin, who also caught seven passes in the first
half. When the Gators switched to an embarrassingly soft zone in
the second half, Minnis beat that, too, floating deep for a
51-yard touchdown catch that put the Seminoles ahead 27-7 in the
Minnis, a wiry 6'1", 186 pounds, has caught a team-high 63 balls
this season for 11 touchdowns and 1,340 yards, the second-highest
single-season yardage total in Florida State history (behind Ron
Sellers's 1,496 in 1968). No player lobbied Weinke harder than
Minnis last January when Weinke was considering entering the NFL
draft. To that point Minnis had caught 52 passes in three seasons
but had always been a secondary option, behind Peter Warrick. "I
knew this year was my chance to catch a lot of balls," Minnis
said last Saturday night, "but I had to get Chris to come back. I
called him and said, 'Chris, man, you've got to stay. I'll do
anything, I'll wash your car. Anything.'"
One reason Minnis was ready for a breakout season was the
seasoning he'd gotten working against Cody in practice. The two
came to Tallahassee in the summer of 1996, arriving from
different worlds: Minnis from Miami and Cody from rural Georgia.
Yet they forged a friendship out of mutual respect, going at each
other day after day on the practice field. "Those are the
toughest battles I've ever fought," said Cody after intercepting
two passes, his fifth and sixth of the season, on Saturday and
returning them for a total of 93 yards.
If Minnis's career was stalled by the presence of an All-America
at his position, Cody's was nearly killed by his immaturity.
After starting 13 games as a sophomore in 1998, Cody was arrested
for marijuana possession last season and served a one-game
suspension in late October. He was warned that another such
transgression could mean the end of his career. "I needed to grow
up," Cody says. "That made me realize it." He has a crude tattoo
on the left side of his chest, the words THUG LIFE in bold, block
letters. "I got that when I was in ninth grade, back in the Tupac
era, and I thought it made me a man," Cody says. "I'm going to
get it removed soon."
Last spring Cody became the first person in his family to earn a
college degree, with a major in political science. In the dying
moments of Saturday's victory, Minnis and Cody, who is now a
graduate student studying sports management, found each other
behind the Florida State bench. While many in the stadium-record
crowd of 83,042 war-chanted and tomahawk-chopped in the 40[degree]
chill, Minnis grabbed Cody and shouted in his ear, "I'm going to
miss you!" Cody shouted back in kind, and the two embraced.
Moments later in the locker room Florida State coach Bobby Bowden
gave a brief speech. "I'm proud of you men," he said, according
to several players. "You should be proud of yourselves." His
words were significant as much for what they didn't address as
for what they did. Bowden didn't promise his 11-1 Seminoles that
they'd have a chance to defend their national title in the Orange
Bowl, because the issue is far too complex for simple
speechmaking. Florida State passed Miami to move into the No. 2
spot in this week's Bowl Championship Series rankings. However,
Miami plays its regular-season finale on Saturday at home against
Boston College and could jump back over the Seminoles with a
The situation is replete with the kind of passion that tests
common sense. Miami supporters argue that the Hurricanes should
be ranked ahead of Florida State because they beat the Seminoles
27-24 on Oct. 7. That logic, however, would dictate that
Washington, fourth in the BCS ratings, be placed ahead of Miami
because the Huskies beat the Hurricanes 34-29 on Sept. 9 and each
has only one loss. Top-ranked Oklahoma still must play Oklahoma
State this week before going to the Big 12 championship game on
Dec. 2--against Kansas State. Several one-loss teams could end up
fighting for two spots or for one spot opposite Oklahoma.
For the first time in the three-year history of the BCS, it could
get ugly. Bowden knows it. "See you at the Orange Bowl," a locker
room visitor shouted at Bowden in the small hours of Sunday
morning. "I hope so," Bowden yelled back. "All I can do now is
Now Hear This
This is probably the most significant Civil War since Lincoln
was in control.
--Oregon placekicker Josh Frankel, before the fifth-ranked Ducks'
23-13 loss to No. 8 Oregon State last Saturday.
The second play of the game, I was under center and everyone in
the stands was waving towels. I thought, Holy s---! I can't
believe I'm here. It probably looked on TV like I was checking
out the defense, but I was really saying to myself, What the hell
is going on?
--Texas quarterback Chris Simms, on his first college start, last
year against Texas A&M before 86,128 fans at Kyle Field.
I said, "If we're going to get married, I'm sorry, there's one
stipulation: You can't be a Carolina fan." I told her we might
have to sever the relationship.
--Clemson guard Will Merritt, an Easley, S.C., native whose
fiancee, Melissa Atkins, also of Easley, had rooted for South
Carolina. She's now a Tigers fan.
Reversal of Fortune
In 1961 Duke and North Carolina were tied 3-3 with 22 seconds
remaining. Duke intercepted a pass at its 20 and returned the
ball past midfield with six seconds left, whereupon the Blue
Devils benefited from a face-mask penalty against North Carolina
that moved the ball to the Tar Heels' 22-yard line. Billy
Reynolds then booted a 39-yarder for a 6-3 Duke win.