(Semifinal voting will remain open until 11:55 PM EDT on Wednesday. Voting for the finals will run Thursday & Friday.)
Last week Charles Woodson took down Steve Spurrier's favorite son, defeating Danny Wuerffel in the quarterfinals with 72% of the vote. The disdain Tennessee fans have for the '97 Heisman Trophy winner is unique - I doubt any other fanbase of a Heisman runner-up cares so little for the guy who won - but equally unique is the success Steve Spurrier had against the Vols at Florida.
I'm just going to keep dropping this stat every month or so, because it's so incredible it can't ever be forgotten: between an October 1994 loss to Alabama and a November 1999 loss to Arkansas, the Vols went 1-4 against Florida and 37-0 against the rest of the SEC. When people tell you they knew the Vols were going to win it all in 1998 when they beat Florida, they're being honest.
Woodson and Spurrier both took things away from Peyton Manning, and are mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady around these parts. I'm not sure if anything other than a Tennessee player winning the Heisman Trophy will change that - torching the Wolverines 45-17 in the Citrus Bowl following the 2001 season certainly hasn't made Vol fans forget.
Meanwhile, Spurrier's time at South Carolina has created a strange phenomenon among some Tennessee fans. The way Spurrier beat the Vols and the things he said after the deed was done made him a completely unlikeable character during his time in Gainesville...but the Vols did beat him four times while he was there, including his last game on the Gator sideline in The Swamp. Maybe that December 2001 win gave Vol fans a measure of closure, and as Tennessee and South Carolina have split the six games since Spurrier returned to the SEC, maybe some have found the respect for Spurrier that continues to escape Woodson in Knoxville. For me personally, Spurrier's comments about Fulmer hitting the lottery when he was fired have kept him safely in the "refuse to respect no matter how many times he beats us" category, though his run last season did carry a hint of nostalgia. It's not that UT fans are nostalgic for a time when the Gators were beating us five years in a row (since we can live in the present and experience that same event)...maybe it's just nostalgia for a time that mattered more. I have few doubts that even if we ran this poll the day after the Heisman presentation in 1997, Steve Spurrier still would've won and won it easily. Since then the Vols scored two program defining wins over Spurrier's Gators in 1998 and 2001. Perhaps that helped even a score with Spurrier that can't ever really be settled with Woodson. Or perhaps Spurrier is still the greatest villain of all because he hurt Tennessee on Saturdays when games were actually being played.
Maybe your opinion on how much that Heisman truly mattered will determine your vote. Woodson's name will always live in infamy in Knoxville. For a time, Spurrier's name was not only the most infamous in Knoxville, but absolutely untouchable on top of that list. So how much, if anything, has changed for us in the ten years since Spurrier stood on the Gator sideline...and is it enough to make a difference for the man who stole a Heisman four years earlier?