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Gator bait?

Sports | Steve Spurrier could return as coach at Florida next season

Issue: "Post-party election blues?," Nov. 6, 2004

If the ol' ball coach wants his old job back, he probably can have it. When the University of Florida told head football coach Ron Zook he wouldn't be coaching the Gators in 2005, all eyes turned to Steve Spurrier. Nearly three years ago, Mr. Spurrier left his successful coaching career at Florida-which included a national championship in 1996-to join the Washington Redskins. After being repudiated on the field with two losing seasons, Mr. Spurrier resigned from his job with the Redskins. Mr. Spurrier's fun-and-gun offense proved a disaster in the NFL but has a proven track record in the college game. He sank into a cryptic holding pattern, insinuating his days of coaching in the NFL were over, but perhaps not his career as a head coach. Mr. Spurrier is available for the job and hasn't denied he's interested.

Asking Mr. Spurrier to return to the Gators makes sense for Florida. Both Johnny Majors (Pittsburgh) and John Robinson (USC) made comebacks with their previous schools. And when the ol' ball coach left to coach the Redskins (who were simply looking for the next Joe Gibbs), Florida turned to Ron Zook. Clearly Mr. Zook was no Mr. Spurrier. And Mr. Spurrier was no Mr. Gibbs. But just like the Redskins, who subsequently gave the job back to Mr. Gibbs, the Gators could return to the genuine article.

Easy as BCS

Bowl Championship Series abacus whizzes were left in late October to fathom the perennial BCS doomsday scenario. Seven teams, including five from major conferences, had perfect records entering the last Saturday of October. The formula-which calculates a rank based on records, media and computer poll ratings, strength of schedule, and other factors to determine which teams play in the biggest bowls-has proved valuable for injecting a bit of controversy into college football rankings. But after being tweaked and retweaked, the formula still can't possibly happily resolve a scenario with more than two undefeated teams. It's possible, though highly unlikely, the BCS could have to choose from seven undefeated schools. After games on Oct. 23, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Auburn, Miami, and USC remained unbeaten. Both Utah and Boise State stayed undefeated through the same period.

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Just how good is the Utah football team? The Utes would like the nation to find out on New Year's Day, 2005. If the Utes win all their games, they can become the first school from a middle-level conference to play in a BCS bowl. If Utah falters, Boise State also has a shot at a top bowl. The Fiesta Bowl stands as the most likely BCS destination for either school. Neither team will get a shot at the national championship game.

Around the Horn

• How desperate are the Chicago Bears to find a quarterback in the wake of Rex Grossman's season-ending injury? The Bears entertained the idea of signing former top pick Tim Couch, who hasn't latched on with a team since suffering an arm injury. For now, the Bears will make do with an unlikely starter, Craig Krenzel.

• Middle-distance running phenom Hicham El Guerrouj of Morroco announced he planned on retiring after making one last attempt at breaking the world record in the 5,000-meter run. The 30-year-old, already considered a legend in his sport, holds the world record in the 1,500, 2,000, and mile. In the 2004 Olympic Games, Mr. El Guerrouj became the first man in 80 years to win gold medals in the 1,500 and the 5,000 in one year.

• Could hockey's foothold in the American South be melting as quickly as ice in Florida? Two weeks into what would have been the NHL's season, hardly a talk-show host or newspaper columnist bothers to mention the season that slips away. Major-league baseball's 1994 strike was a national tragedy. Ten years later, the NHL's lockout is merely a national yawn.

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