In his first press conference as the Washington Redskins’ new coach, Steve Spurrier spoke of the difficulties in leaving Florida for the professional ranks.

“There are no Vanderbilts in the NFL,” he said at the time.

With the Commodores coming off a 7-6 record — including a second-consecutive victory over Spurrier’s South Carolina team— their first bowl win in 53 years and a third-place finish in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division, times have changed.

“Everybody in the conference that I know of has a tremendous respect for Vandy football now,” Spurrier said during the SEC’s football coaches’ spring teleconference.

“They’ve been very, very close to six or seven wins the last three, four, five years. This year, of course, they were able to do it. Their coaches have done a really good job, no question.”

Vanderbilt’s 2008 success, which included a No. 13 Associated Press ranking following a 5-0 start, may have caught college football followers across the country by surprise. Within the league, though, it’s been known for a while that the Commodores were on the come-up.