Florida renames field after former coach Steve Spurrier

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(wikipedia / MGN)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Florida is renaming its football field after former coach Steve Spurrier.

The university’s board of trustees approved the change Thursday, making it Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The board also approved a naming-rights deal for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The multi-use venue will be known as Exactech Arena for the next 10 years as a result of a $5.9 million sponsorship by the orthopaedic device company. Although the naming-rights deal works out to $590,000 annually, Florida got all the money up front to help offset the cost of a $64.5 million renovation to the O’Dome that’s currently taking place.

The football field modification recognizes Spurrier, the program’s first Heisman Trophy winner (1966) and the coach who led the Gators to their first national championship (1996), and keeps the tradition of Florida Field. Florida Field was rededicated in 1934 to the memory of Florida servicemen who died in World War I. A plaque was placed on the wall outside the old north end zone as a memorial.

Spurrier already has a Heisman statue outside the stadium and is a member of the program’s exclusive Ring of Honor.

Spurrier also nicknamed the stadium “The Swamp.” The Gators went 122-27-1 in 12 seasons under Spurrier, including 68-5 at home, and won six Southeastern Conference titles.

Florida will honor Spurrier at the 2016 season opener against Massachusetts during a ceremony that will include the unveiling of his namesake on the stadium.

Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley said the renaming was “an appropriate way to commemorate one the most legendary figures in Gator athletics history.”

“Coach Spurrier did more than win a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a bunch of games,” Foley added. “Coach Spurrier changed the culture of Florida athletics. We were an institution that always had a mantra of wait until next year and wouldn’t it be great to just win one championship. Coach changed all of that. The Gators won, won big and won with swagger.”

Spurrier called it the “most special honor” he’s ever received.

“I am humbled, honored, thankful and very appreciative that my alma mater, the University of Florida, believes that I am worthy and deserving to have my name placed on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as ‘The Swamp,'” Spurrier said, noting that he also met his wife, Jerri, at Florida. “The Swamp is a special place. Us coaches and players thoroughly enjoyed playing in front of our fans. We won a bunch of them there and only lost five and they were close ones.”

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