By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
HOOVER, Ala. – “He’s been in there long enough. I’ll get him out.”
As South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier jokingly burst into an interview room in which Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was participating in an interview, it was the latest reunion of two men who first met in 1999.
The first visit was an experience that the now first-year head coach of the Aggies will not soon forget.
Sumlin was the wide receivers coach at Purdue at the time, while Spurrier was in his heyday as the mastermind behind Florida’s high-powered offense of the 1990s that resulted in the school’s first-ever football national championship in 1996.
It proved to be a great learning experience for Sumlin, who was fresh off helping the Boilermakers to an Alamo Bowl appearance in 1998.
“We just came down and visited in the spring of 1999 and had the opportunity to watch practice for two or three days and see how he did things,” Sumlin said Tuesday. “It was really, really interesting to me as he was working in the shotgun and doing a lot of different things. It was an experience that I really learned a lot in and something that I will never forget.”
The two would cross paths many times over the next decade as Sumlin coached at Oklahoma from 2003-07, capping his career with the Sooners as their Co-Offensive Coordinator. During that time, he coached in two national championship games.
At Oklahoma, Sumlin worked under Bob Stoops, Florida’s defensive coordinator during that 1996 national championship run. Stoops friendship with Spurrier allowed Sumlin several opportunities to interact and learn from the legendary coach.
“Bob and Coach Spurrier are great friends,” Sumlin said. “We actually came out to visit him when I was at Oklahoma as an assistant coach too. It’s an honor to be in a league with a guy like that.”
In a twist of fate, South Carolina’s former athletics director Eric Hyman is now leading the Texas A&M athletics department.
“We add in the fact that the athletic director from there just came here, so it’s probably a little bit different than most situations,” Sumlin said. “I think we hit a home run in Eric Hyman and Coach Spurrier is a heck of a coach.”
Texas A&M and South Carolina do not face one another in football in 2012, but are expected to become permanent cross-division rivals beginning in 2013.