Belief in your guy

There are too many different ‘reasons' floating around as to why Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley has not wanted to make a quick decision and rid Florida of their head football coach. A current 5-7 season that looks to get worse has many Gator fans at wits end about the leader of their favorite program and its direction. Foley said what he needed to say Wednesday about the situation.

For better or for worse, Jeremy Foley announced that Will Muschamp is and will be the head coach at the University of Florida for the foreseeable future. In Foley's mind, there is only way this thing can head and that is in a positive direction for the program.

"As athletic director, I'm a thousand percent convinced that Will Muschamp is the guy to lead this football program," Foley voiced on the internal athletic site devoted for Gator athletics. "Nothing has changed in what we feel about Will Muschamp from the day we hired him.

Foley went a step further qualifying his remarks to make everyone understand this wasn't a token statement, this was something he was serious about and to him, for all the right reasons.

"We will get better under Will Muschamp's leadership,'' Foley said. "This is not the quote-unquote dreaded ‘vote of confidence.' This is just how we all feel around here. We have a strong faith and a strong belief in his capabilities, in his leadership skills, in his ability to evaluate what needs to be fixed."

Those beliefs and capabilities led Foley to hire Muschamp to clean up a ‘broken program', the words used by Florida's former head coach Urban Meyer after leaving the school.

A broken program included a locker room that had more than its fair share of miscreants when Muschamp arrived. The number of arrests of players on the squad by the previous regime was something embarrassing to all levels of the University. Some of those issues continued while under Muschamp's watch, but he did the tough thing and the right thing by finally removing most of those issues from his football program.

The number of off the field incidents have declined pretty dramatically in the last year and dismissals of the problem athletes have been the norm when they do happen. That is a far cry from the last regime as we have continued to find out.

This is something that University of Florida President Bernie Machen is sure to be happy about, a guy who was likely the biggest Meyer fan when the coach arrived in 2005.

"I want the Gator Nation to know that I have full confidence in Coach Muschamp and his leadership of the football program,'' Machen said to Scott Carter of Gatorzone.com on Wednesday.

The last thing Foley and company want to do is alienate the fan base at Florida. There is little doubt that the fan base is fractured a bit with the current circumstances, namely the record of the football team.

"Everyone around here wants the same thing,'' Foley continued. "We want to do what is right for the University of Florida. We understand that this football season has not gone the way any of us wanted it to go, certainly not the way our fans wanted it to go, and most of all, not the way Will Muschamp wanted it to go.

"We have a history of being successful, we have a history of fixing things when they need to be fixed, and that is what is going to happen here, and Coach Muschamp is the one that will fix it."

Foley has plenty of positives to lean on with Muschamp. Having fought through the locker room cleanup, a continuous fight through a transition of offenses to try and bring the kind of players he wants to run the type of offense he wants, having fought to an 11-2 record only a year ago that included wins over four top 10 teams, having earned SEC Coach of the Year honors in 2012. All of these point to a man, in Foley's eyes that is capable of righting the ship and getting the program back on a winning track.

The loss this past weekend is a symptom of a season of terrible injuries and other issues within the team, but Foley believes Muschamp is a man that can straighten it out when his team is at full strength. Most importantly, Foley understands the outcry from the fans on the current situation.

"I understand the passion and the disappointment,'' Foley said. "But at the end of the day, we've got great fans, they love the Gators and their passion makes this place special. They are hurting, they want the program to be successful and we feel that hurt."

"Go back to a year ago: we're 11-1 and beat four teams in the Top 10 and he was SEC Coach of the Year. I don't think that was a fluke. I think coaching had a lot to do with that. We'll stay the course here. We'll get it right. We're not going to let Gator fans down. We want the same thing they want."

With the caustic nature of things, the statements made above by Foley were needed. The feeling of the unknown that comes without a statement like this could be costly in recruiting circles and the future further disenchantment of the fan base. But, Foley did what he had to do. There is little doubt with the way this message was portrayed that anything outside of some off the field issue with Muschamp, he is the coach at Florida for the future.

It may actually be the easier way out for Foley not to take this stance. Some have questioned that his ego is in the way for making a change, and that he doesn't want to admit defeat for his choice of Muschamp three years ago. Foley had more than a year to think about Muschamp with Meyer's quick retirement and return in 2010. With all of that time, Muschamp was his choice. But, it seems to me that it would be easier to bring in a new guy that would bring with him all the excitement of a new hire and blame Muschamp for the issues that the team has gone through.

Instead, Foley has made it quite clear. He believes that Muschamp is the guy to lead this program to a long successful future. In Foley's mind, Muschamp is better than a quick fix. He's a guy that has done what he has to do to clean up the program, a guy that has shown he can win against the best teams in the country and put his team on the cusp of playing for a national championship, and a guy that has quite publicly stated that he knows there are issues on the team and they will do whatever is possible to fix them as soon as they can.

Now Mr. Foley has to say to Mr. Muschamp, "the ball is in your court". Muschamp has to prove it to the guy that has trusted him into getting this program back on the big stage. Muschamp will likely have to make some decisions that Foley didn't make in this venture… some tough decisions. But, Foley evidently believes those tough decisions will come, and at the benefit of the football program.


Fightin Gators Top Stories