ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Steve Spurrier knows how Billy Donovan felt.
Just as Donovan did last week, Spurrier stunned University of Florida fans by bolting the school for the pros near the height of his popularity. And when Spurrier left his high paying NFL job after just two seasons, he gave some thought to returning to Gainesville before winding up at South Carolina. Donovan only took a couple of days to ditch the NBA and return to the Gators.
``Definitely I could understand what was happening,'' Spurrier said of Donovan's decision. ``To tell you the truth I sort of had some of the same feelings when I was flying up to the Redskins.''
Spurrier, now coach at South Carolina, appeared in Orlando to speak at an event for promoters of the city's two college bowl games.
He and Donovan are friends, and Spurrier said he talked with the basketball coach as Donovan wrestled with the decision.
``I didn't tell him anything. I said it's your call, pal, not mine,'' Spurrier said, chuckling. ``That's a decision I think every person individually has to make.''
Spurrier surprised the Redskins by resigning in late 2003 - just like Donovan surprised the Magic last week. Spurrier stepped down from Florida on Jan. 4, 2002, two days after the Gators beat Maryland in the Orange Bowl and finished third in the country.
Spurrier said he wanted a new challenge in the pros, just like Donovan said about the Magic job.
Unlike Donovan, Spurrier actually did coach in the pros. The Redskins were 12-20 under him in 2002 and 2003, delighting critics who said college coaches couldn't succeed at the next level.
Spurrier's pro team looked nothing like his feared Gators. The Redskins were undisciplined, setting a franchise record for penalties in his second season, and inept, losing their last two home games by a combined 58-7. His Fun 'n' Gun offense fizzled, and Spurrier knew it wasn't the right place for him. He lost more games in two years with the Redskins than in his last nine combined with the Gators.
The former Florida coach hinted when he left the NFL he'd return to Gainesville. But he didn't want to try to outdo all he had already done at Florida, and withdrew his name from consideration before the Gators hired Urban Meyer.
Spurrier said Donovan could try the NBA later.
``Ten years from now if he wants to go the NBA, he's a youngster,'' Spurrier said. ``He's got a lot of coaching left.''
Both he and Donovan were awarded big paychecks to leave Florida. Spurrier took a five-year, $25 million contract, then the richest ever given an NFL coach. He walked away from the deal with three years left.
Donovan's deal with Orlando paid $27.5 million over five years. He had the job less than a week before breaking the contract to stay in Gainesville, where he has won two straight NCAA titles.
Spurrier won one national championship and dominated the Southeastern Conference in his 12 years with Florida with 122 wins, six conference titles and a national championship in 1996.
He is 15-10 after two seasons at South Carolina.
Strangely, Spurrier's current school was the victim of a similar about-face in 1993, when Bobby Cremins left Georgia Tech for the Gamecocks and then changed his mind after two days.
Spurrier said he was actually playing golf with Cremins when he heard the Donovan news.
``Bobby said, 'I know how he felt,''' Spurrier said. ``So it happens a lot.''
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