Steve Spurrier says college football players 'deserve to go play the game'

Former Florida Gators coach believes playoff can go on without Big Ten, Pac-12
Steve Spurrier after Florida Gators won SEC championship in 1993
Posted at 9:22 PM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 21:26:10-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Steve Spurrier said he feels sorry for all the Big Ten Conference coaches and players who will miss out on football this fall.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN's "The Paul Finebaum Show," the 75-year-old retired Florida coach spoke about the "tumultuous" changes to college football in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Top among them is that the Big Ten and Pacific 12 Conference won't be playing sports in the fall.

Spurrier said he believes college football players are safer being around their coaches and teammates at their schools than not.

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The 1966 Heisman Trophy winner, who led the Gators to six Southeastern Conference championships from 1990-2001 and their first national title in 1996, said he doesn't think there can be fans in the stands this season but believes that football can be played this fall.

"I just wish college football would play during the fall like we always have," he said.

Steve Spurrier at 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship
Steve Spurrier on the sideline prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium, Monday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Clemson defeated Alabama 35-31.

Spurrier said he agrees with the SEC's decision to delay the start of the season and play a 10-game, conference-only schedule, believing the student-athletes "deserve to go play the game." He admitted that it will be "a little unusual" to crown a national champion without the participation of the Big Ten or Pac-12, but still believes the four-team College Football Playoff can go on between the champions of the remaining Power 5 conferences -- Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference and SEC -- and an at-large team.

"Everybody try to figure out who that fourth team is and then have us a good little playoff," Spurrier suggested.

Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have expressed an interest in trying to play football in the spring. But Spurrier, who has coached in two defunct professional spring football leagues, said he's opposed to the idea.

Steve Spurrier on sideline during Orlando Apollos game, February 2019
Orlando Apollos head coach Steve Spurrier watches from the sideline during the second half of an AAF game against the Atlanta Legends, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla.

"That time of the year belongs to basketball," he said.

Spurrier said not much has changed since March, when sports were abruptly halted and the NCAA basketball tournament was canceled for the first time ever. He wondered, in hindsight, whether March Madness could have existed in the absence of fans.

The SEC legend said he doesn't believe the Big Ten coaches who voiced their support of a fall season were really heard and hopes the Big Ten will reconsider its decision.

"I wish we would all play and go from there," Spurrier said.

That doesn't seem likely.