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Steve Spurrier 'extremely thrilled' to return to alma mater Florida

Steve Spurrier is going home to his Florida roots.

The University of Florida announced Friday that Spurrier would return to his alma mater as ambassador and consultant for the Gators' athletic department. Spurrier had held a similar role at South Carolina, where he retired in October as head football coach.

Spurrier, 71, was already scheduled to be honored during the Gators' season opener this year when the football field will be renamed for him -- Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"My wife, Jerri, and I are extremely thrilled to be returning home to our alma mater, and to Gainesville where we met on campus over 50 years ago," Spurrier said. "I'm very appreciative to athletic director Jeremy Foley, head coach Jim McElwain and Phil Pharr of Gator Boosters for their role in making this happen.

"I also want to say thanks to the University of South Carolina for allowing me to be their coach from 2005 to 2015. Also a special thanks to all of the Gamecock players, coaches and fans that allowed our teams to set so many school records. I will now pull for South Carolina to win every game but one, just as I did when I pulled for Florida to win every game but one as the Gamecock coach. I will try my best to promote and assist in any way I can to help the Gators to continue to be one of the very best athletic programs in America. I admire what Coach McElwain and his staff accomplished last year. I'm anxious to watch the Gator football team as they strive to be the best in the SEC and the nation in the years ahead."

McElwain told ESPN.com earlier this month that Spurrier attended three of the Gators' practices during the spring, and McElwain said it was a treat to talk football with the Head Ball Coach after those practices.

"I look forward to visiting with him on a lot of occasions and picking his brain on a number of issues," McElwain said. "It's a credit to Jeremy to get him back home where he belongs. More than anything I look forward to actually talking to him and being around him rather than just saying hello to his statue on my way to work every day."

Spurrier was a Heisman Trophy quarterback for the Gators in 1966 and returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1990. He led Florida to its first SEC championship in football in 1991 and won six SEC titles in Gainesville, including a national title in 1996. He stepped away following the 2001 season and took the Washington Redskins' head coaching job.

The NFL didn't agree with Spurrier, and he returned to the college game in 2005 when he accepted the South Carolina head coaching job. Spurrier led the Gamecocks to unprecedented heights, including three straight 11-win seasons from 2011-13. He burned out toward the end and walked away during the middle of the 2015 season when South Carolina started 2-4. Spurrier said he, in effect, "fired himself."

"We are grateful for the impact that coach Spurrier had on our football program and on our university," South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said in a statement. "He has been a good friend to me and was a tremendous supporter of all of our programs during his tenure, which was the most successful era in school history. It was a pleasure to work with him and I enjoyed the many conversations we had over the years. We wish Coach and Jerri all the best as they return to their alma mater and the campus where they met over 50 years ago."

Steve and Jerri Spurrier celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary down in Florida earlier this month.

"It's a great day for the Gator Nation to be able to welcome Coach Spurrier back home," Foley said. "He has served as a tremendous ambassador to the university and the athletic department for 50-plus years and it's only fitting that at this point in his career, he is back in Gainesville. Being a Gator has always meant so much to Coach Spurrier, but it means just as much to us have him come home."