Former Gators coach Ray Graves dead at 96

The Gators family lost an influential member on Friday. Former head coach and athletic director Ray Graves passed away at the age of 96.

"A tremendous influence on my life,'' South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said Friday in a released statement. "After my mother and dad, Coach Graves had the biggest influence on my life. I am so thankful for him. I had a chance yesterday to tell him I love him and I sincerely thank him for the influence he had on me."

Graves coached the Gators from 1960 to 1969 and was a huge reason why Spurrier coached at Florida. Graves went 70-31-4 in his tenure as head coach. He took over a program that was looking to make the next steps from a borderline top 25 program to a national contender. With the help of Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier under center, Graves led Florida to its first trips to the Sugar and Orange Bowl.

"We are truly saddened to hear of the passing of Ray Graves," Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said. "You can't put into words what he has meant to the Gator Nation and the countless lives he has touched from his players, coaches, friends and family. Like many others I was fortunate to have a personal relationship with him and will be forever grateful for our time together. God bless him and his family."