Notebook: Florida Wants to Keep LSU Rivalry

HOOVER, Ala. – SEC expansion forced scheduling changes that jeopardized most cross division rivalries. Through it all, Florida coach Will Muschamp and athletic director Jeremy Foley stood their ground on wanting the Florida-LSU rivalry to remain. Despite LSU perennially finishing the season near the top of the SEC West, Florida continues to push for LSU to stay as its permanent rival in SEC play.

"I think that Florida-LSU is good for our game," Will Muschamp said on Wednesday. "Les (Miles) has done a tremendous job at LSU. Urban (Meyer) did a great job at Florida. You really look at from '03 to now, you're looking at teams that have won three national championships, and LSU played for another one last year."

At the SEC head coaches meetings in Destin, Fla., during the spring, Steve Spurrier leaned over and reminded Muschamp of how things used to be. He talked about coaching at Florida and the importance of the Florida-Auburn rivalry. With the expected setup of conference play, there's no telling when Florida and Auburn could end up on the field together again.

"It's difficult for a player to come to Florida and not play a rival like that," Muschamp said.

Muschamp also pointed to the potential nine-game SEC schedule that Alabama head coach Nick Saban and others have talked about. The difference for Florida is an instate rivalry with Florida State that is not a conference team. It's easy for Alabama to plug the nine-game conference schedule in with their biggest rival being a conference game, but that wouldn't be the case with an ACC rival for Florida.

Between the nine-game schedule and the consistent push from Florida administration to keep the LSU game, Muschamp has already learned to back off and let the commissioner handle it.

"That's Commissioner Slive's job," Muschamp said. "It's his job to take the opinions from everybody of what is best for our school. That's why he takes all the information, looks at it and makes a great decision for our league. At the end of the day, we all support the decision."


The new playoff format doesn't being until 2014, but that didn't stop the questions about it at SEC Media Days. For Muschamp, the thought process was simple—as long as the bowl system was still in place, he would be in favor of it. He also noted that he didn't hate the previous system that was in use.

It all hinges on the usage of the bowls.

"The bowl system is a great reward for the student-athlete," Muschamp said. "It's a great reward for the coach and his wife to go someplace for three or four days, stay in a nice hotel and have nice meals. A lot of our young people, they don't get to do stuff like that. As long as they keep the bowl system within it, I think it's fine."

Muschamp also likes that the championship games don't drift too far into January. It's succinct and just one extra game to find a champion.


It was another days with the same question to the Florida head coach—"There's talk all the time of the Florida/Georgia game moving out of Jacksonville. What do you think?" With the press conference just about to end, a somewhat smirking Muschamp answered, as he had every time before, in favor of leaving the game as it is.

"I think it's a great tradition to leave it in Jacksonville," Muschamp said. "It's a great setting. Coming over the St. John's River, as a competitor, if that doesn't get your blood boiling, there's something wrong with you. You look at the tradition, the history of the game there. Coach Dooley never complained about it being there."


It's still the summer, but the impressions of Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis have been favorable. The late change wasn't enough to keep him at Utah. Davis was the offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins when Muschamp served as the defensive coordinator under Nick Saban.

The relationship stayed close, and it was an easy call when Frank Verducci left Gainesville.

"He's a guy that brings a much needed energy to the position," Muschamp said. "Our most improved unit this spring was our offensive line, which we needed to. We needed to take huge steps forward. A lot of that goes to Tim. He's a guy that really does a great job of relating with the college athlete."

Running back Mike Gillislee has already seen the improvement. The holes were bigger and the blocking was better in the spring as the senior running back worked out with the team.

"The offensive line, you can tell that their technique has gotten a lot better," Gillislee said. "The offensive line will be more productive because they're closer. When I see one offensive lineman, I see all of them. They're out there playing for each other."

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