Open Practice… Kudos to Muschamp

It has been worth the wait and to tell you the truth, the wait is understood, at least from me. In this day and age of paranoia in college football, most of the big time programs have shut off access to view their practice entirely. That has been the case for Will Muschamp at Florida except for a few early spring practices in his three years. That all changes today and he deserves some credit.

There are millions of dollars at stake every year, heck every week, at major college football programs in the fall. A losing season brings so much pressure on a coaching staff and a program in general, it is understandable to a certain extent to want to close your doors and not let anyone else have a look to see what you are doing.

However, that thought was a far cry from the early 90's and before when small crowds of people would roam the sideline every week day at the practices for the Florida Gators, most just to get a look at the players and coaches they admire on Saturday afternoons.

Former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier cut off the in-season practice watching in the middle of his tenure here at Florida after a beat writer wrote about some of the plays he was running in practice especially designed against the Tennessee defense. When Spurrier read the report the next day, that was the start of closed practices during the season.

Still, spring practices were open and he would allow media and fans in to watch the start of fall practice, all the way up to game week.

During the Spurrier run of all those championships and 10+ win seasons, you would have a couple of hundred people visit the sideline during the week and several hundred on the weekend. The locals were the big winners here and these are the ones that become the rabid fans needed to sustain a program like Florida.

When Ron Zook arrived in 2002 he implemented the same schedule of public watching practice, but he added a little negative twist to it. Zook took out the three rows of bleacher seats on the sideline and he disallowed the use of chairs on the sideline, citing that the practice fields were a place to work not sit. That didn't sit well with some of the older locals and they took to the radio waves and the few message boards that were around about the change.

Zook was gone after three years and Urban Meyer came in. The bleacher seats returned, and the same schedule of viewing practice was sustained for a year or two,. Then Meyer felt it became a distraction to his players and didn't like every detail of practice being uttered all over the world via the Internet.

The change came a couple of years in and Meyer closed all but a few practices both in spring and in the Fall. Fans bemoaned the move, media did as well. He could care less. He was winning and winning big and folks would have to deal with it. They did while he was winning, but some continued to moan.

You could call Meyer paranoid for the move, but the fact is with cell phones, digital cameras, wireless Internet and the like, an entire practice could be posted on the internet for folks to watch and most of it before the players could shower after the practice.

Will Muschamp came aboard in 2011 and implemented Meyer's practice viewing schedule. He gave several reasons for it, namely players learning a new system and needing to get to know his players. He talked quite a bit in his first two years about the advantage he could use by keeping things under wraps while working in new coordinators.

Well, the coordinators are back. And so, Muschamp is now opening up practice. He kept it closed for the first two weeks while the young guys got adjusted, but we are going to be able to watch four of the next five appearances of the team on the field and so are the fans.

We should have as good a view as ever for the fans or media since Spurrier and before. He and the program have even made it a point to invite students out on the last day with games and prizes and encourage big attendance at the practice session.

Does it mean that they are feeling comfortable about this team and the way this team and program is going? Yes, I am sure it does to a certain extent. But, I think the bigger picture is back on Muschamp as a guy that doesn't care about the pettiness of things and is really an old-fashioned football coach.

They will undoubtedly have issues in the next four open days. If a player gets hurt on the practice field, it will hit the Internet faster than anyone can get ahold of the parents of the player that is hurt. There will be several guesses to the injury, mostly wrong of course, and you could have some upset parents if and when this happens.

And yet Muschamp continues to do the little things to endear himself to Gator fans. One more feather to his cap so far as the Florida head coach.

Practice is open starting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the lacrosse stadium.

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