The website is WeWantDan.com. Run by a so-called Florida football fan named Ray, the site calls for athletic director Jeremy Foley to fire head coach Will Muschamp and make the hiring of former Gator offensive coordinator and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen his priority. There are several holes in Ray’s logic, most prominent that Muschamp has six games remaining on the 2014 season and an athletic director who has his back, is in immediate danger of being fired. Additionally, there is that tiny matter of Mullen.
First, let’s talk about Muschamp. The Gators are 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC but still very much in control of their own destiny in the SEC East with a schedule that is, at worst, conducive to a 7-4 finish but 9-2, while improbable, is not out of the question. The Gators will be favored to win their remaining games with Missouri (this Saturday), Vanderbilt (on the road), South Carolina (homer) and Eastern Kentucky (non-conference, D1AA, home). The Georgia game in two weeks is a toss-up. This is the same Georgia team, after all, that struggled to beat Tennessee at home with Todd Gurley, the same Tennessee team the Gators beat at Neyland. With the possibility that Gurley’s career is finished for selling his autograph, the Gators could very well break their three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. That leaves Florida State and it’s anybody’s guess if Jameis Winston is still playing football for the Seminoles the last weekend in November. He’s tied to the same autograph sales outfit that got Gurley suspended and he’s got a hearing before the student conduct committee at FSU that could provide some legal entanglements if evidence is presented that coule cause Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs to re-open an alleged sexual assault case so there is a real possibility that Winston’s days at FSU are numbered. If Winston isn’t playing, the Seminoles are very vulnerable even in Tallahassee.
So 9-2, while a long shot, is not impossible for the Gators. And remember, the first game of the season (Idaho) was postponed so whatever record Florida finishes with, add one win to the total. There is absolutely zero possibility that the Gators would have lost that game.
That brings us to Foley, who very definitely wants Muschamp to succeed. Foley is determined to give Muschamp a fifth year, in part because he doesn’t want to send a signal to whoever might succeed Muschamp (in the event he’s fired) that he won’t be given adequate time to build a strong foundation for the program. Foley isn’t going to fire Muschamp during the season, so this is going to play itself out all the way to November. If Muschamp gets the Gators to Atlanta, he’s going to be the coach next year. Count on it. Even if Muschamp doesn’t get to Atlanta but goes 7-4 and the Gators lose white knucklers to Georgia and Florida State, you can all but count on Will coaching the Gators next year.
As for Mullen, there is every good possibility that he is going to be coaching in the national semifinals, which means his season might not end until January 12. He would not leave Mississippi State for any amount of money with the national championship on the line. He’s worked too hard to make Mississippi State relevant. He’s not dumb enough to hand his hard work off to someone else when he has the opportunity to prove to the world that it can be done at a place like Mississippi State. If he can win a national title at Mississippi State – if he can just get State to the semifinals – he will be able to name his price and name his job if he elects to leave Starkville.
But it won’t be for Florida. Not this year at least.
The first time I had a chance to talk to Mike Slive one-on-one was at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama in 2005. He didn’t recognize my face – I don’t know why, there were only about 1,000 reporters there that day – so he reached over, took the credential hanging around my neck in hand, and asked how to pronounce my first name properly. First impressions, they say, are the best impressions and I was impressed. From that point on, he never forgot my name and always acknowledged me each time we saw each other. He even gave me his cell phone number at the SEC Basketball Tournament in Tampa in 2009 and told me when is the best time to dial him up. At the SEC Baseball Tournament in 2012, his daughter was expecting to go into labor at any moment and he saw me waiting for him so that I could ask a question about the then futuristic SEC Network. He walked over, graciously informed me that he would probably be a lousy interview that day because he had so much on his mind and then proceeded to ask how I was doing and how my family was doing. He always asked those questions, not just with me but everyone he met. He has this way of making you feel you are important to him.
What I’ve just told you might seem small and petty, but it speaks volumes about the Mike Slive legacy as the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Mike has never thought he is too important to talk to any reporter or answer any question. A lot of SEC football coaches and sports information directors could take a cue from the commish because he always understood the importance the media plays in making the SEC the top sports conference top to bottom in the country. While all too many coaches and SIDs act as if they’re doing the media a favor by allowing four or five questions, Mike Slive will answer as many questions as time permits, even the dumb ones.
How he treats the media is just one of the reasons Slive became the most powerful man in college sports. A former district judge in New Hampshire, Slive was the AD at Cornell as well as commissioner of the Great Midwest Conference and Conference USA before taking on the SEC job in 2002. Fair minded and tough, he’s also a forward thinker who first proposed a football playoff format (that was rejected) almost similar to the one being used this year back in 2007. SEC schools have won 67 national championships including eight football titles under Slive’s direction. Slive oversaw the expansion of the SEC to 14 teams by adding Texas A&M and Missouri when consensus opinion was the league would add Florida State and Clemson. The SEC Network was also his vision and baby. In its first year of operation, the network could mean as much as $30 million in additional revenue per school.
Slive has been head and shoulders the best conference commissioner in all of collegiate sports since 2002. Replacing him will be a monumental task.
1. Jeremy Foley, Athletic Director, University of Florida: Three things are very much in his favor: (1) He is the best bottom line athletic director in the country; (2) Florida is the ONLY school in the SEC since 1991 that hasn’t been hit with at least one major violation in any sport; and (3) his experience of running a program that produces national and conference championships in nearly every sport means he can give football its due without sacrificing the non-revenue sports.
2. Mark Womack, Executive Assistant Commissioner, Southeastern Conference: He’s been with the SEC since graduating from Alabama in 1978 and has worked just about every job imaginable with the SEC. He’s been Slive’s right hand man the last 10 years, knows the lay of the land and already has established relationships with both the athletic directors and presidents. He’s very well regarded by the folks at ESPN who run the SEC Network.
3. Wright Waters, Executive Director, Football Bowl Association Executive Committee: Formerly the commissioner of both the Sun Belt and Southern conferences, Waters has also served as the chairman of the Division I Championship Committee and as executive vice president of the Collegiate Commissioners Association. He might be a little long in the tooth but he’s a very powerful man.
4. Billy Payne, Chairman Centennial Holding Company: A former Georgia wide receiver, Payne is also the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club. He was the president and CEO of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He has a law degree from Georgia. His experience negotiating television deals (Olympics, Masters) as well as political connections (through Augusta National, Olympics) would be a huge asset.
5. Larry Scott. Commissioner, Pacific-12 Conference: A Harvard grad, Scott is a former touring pro on the tennis circuit who also served as the CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and president of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) prior to becoming the commissioner of the Pac-12. He’s overseen expansion to 12 teams (adding Colorado and Utah) and negotiated a huge TV contract for the conference. He is only 52 which works in his favor.
Missouri (4-2, 1-1 SEC) at Florida (3-2, 2-2 SEC): Florida is a 6-point favorite.
Furman (2-4) at South Carolina (3-3, 2-3 SEC): No line, Furman is a D1AA school.
#21 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC) at #7 Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Alabama is an 11.5-point favorite.
#10 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at Arkansas (3-3, 0-3 SEC): Georgia is a 3.5-point favorite on the road.
Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC) at #3 Ole Miss (6-0, 3-0 SEC): Ole Miss is a 16-point favorite.
Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC): LSU is a 9-point favorite.
In 1964, The Beatles had a #1 hit in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which stated money could buy all sorts of things but it can’t buy love. In 2014, Mississippi State is proving that while money can buy plenty it doesn’t necessarily buy a #1 college football ranking. According to the latest Associated Press rankings, Mississippi State ranks 58th among the 65 teams from the power conferences plus Notre Dame in football expenditures at $15.3 million. Contrast that to #6 Auburn, the team the Bulldogs beat last Saturday. The Tigers spent $36.3 million on football last year while #7 Alabama was the biggest spender of all at $41.6 million.
2. Florida State, $23.4 million (20)
3. Ole Miss, $25.2 million (13)
4. Baylor, $20.3 million (35)
5. Notre Dame, $32.4 million (3)
6. Auburn, $36.3 million (2)
7. Alabama, $41.6 million (1)
8. Michigan State, $20.6 million (34)
9. Oregon $21 million (32)
10. Georgia, $26.3 million (10)
Do you think Jameis Winston will last the season or do you think his football playing days at FSU are numbered?
Warren Haynes is one of the hardest working men in show biz. When he’s not touring with the Allman Brothers or fronting for Govt Mule, he tours with his own Warren Haynes Band. When he’s got free time, he tours with the surviving members of The Grateful Dead. Based out of Asheville, Haynes is one of Southern Rock and Roll’s true guitar legends. This is “River’s Gonna Rise” from his 2011 album “Man in Motion.”