There is so much to like about Will Muschamp. He’s a very likable man, honest and very straightforward. He’s not into sugar coating things. When it comes to team discipline he’s about as good as it gets. He knows how to get kids to play hard for him and they understand they will (a) go to class; (b) act in a civilized and thoughtful manner to represent the University of Florida and (c) if they aren’t willing to play by his rules he’ll pat them on the back and give them a letter of recommendation to anywhere they think the grass is greener.
All those good qualities haven’t translated into the one thing that keeps you gainfully employed at Florida – winning and competing for championships. There are plenty of places where Muschamp’s 27-20 record through four years would have the faithful talking about making sure he was the coach for the next 20 years, but one of those places isn’t Florida. No matter the sport, you better win big at Florida but especially football since it is the engine that drives a $130 million athletic economy. When football does well, the entire Florida athletic economy does well and when the athletic economy is doing well, championships are won.
Muschamp hasn’t won nearly enough. The last time the Gators made it to Atlanta was 2009. They’ve only had a sniff of Atlanta in the four years Muschamp has been on the job at Florida. Sniffing isn’t good enough. You have to get there.
And as difficult as it has been from a won-loss standpoint, the tipping point might have been a look at the stands at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Too often in the four years Muschamp has been on the job there have been far too many empty seats. Did you see the south end zone Saturday when the Gators lost to South Carolina? Can you imagine how few people are actually going to be here next Saturday when Division IAA Eastern Kentucky comes to town? Did you know there are reports from Tallahassee that UF sent back something in the neighborhood of 2,000 tickets for the FSU game?
Fewer people in the stands not only means less revenue but it hurts recruiting as well. Back when The Swamp was packed every week, the joint was electric and it had an impact on recruiting. Think back to the FSU game in 2005. The Swamp was rocking and as loud as it has ever been which had an immediate impact on recruiting. Commitments began pouring in that night and it created a wave that didn’t end until US Army All-Americans Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes and Carl Johnson were all part of a class that helped UF win national titles in 2006 and 2008.
Muschamp could have bought himself more time on the job had the Gators played an exciting enough brand of ball to pack the stadium. That the offense was too often pedestrian to the point of down right boring and predictable to the point that even the casual observer could predict the next play has everything to do with why there have been so many empty seats that last four years. A 35-34 loss in which fans are on their feet from bell to bell will put fannies in seats. A slug it out 14-6 wins puts folks to sleep.
It’s said that winning cures all. Maybe the fans would have gotten used to grind it out football if the Gators won enough games. Maybe, but one thing for certain, they weren’t going to get used to grind it out losses and there were far too many of those.
Will Muschamp is a good guy and here’s hoping that the lessons learned in four years at UF will impact his philosophy enough that when he gets a second chance to be a head coach he won’t have to worry about the axe falling.
Here are 10 coaches I think would answer Jeremy Foley’s call and seriously consider becoming Florida’s head coach:
2. Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots: He was Tim Tebow’s head coach the first year with the Broncos and now he coordinates New England’s record-setting offense. He was a Saban GA at Michigan State. Age 38.
4. Mark Helfrich, Oregon: I can’t imagine Chip Kelly leaving the Eagles in the middle of a season that could wind up in the Super Bowl. If you can’t get Chip, get his designated successor at Oregon. They only pay him $2 million. 20-3 as a head coach. Age 41.
5. Jim McElwain, Colorado State: He was the offensive coordinator for three national championship teams at Alabama and he’s got Colorado State 9-1 this year and capable of playing with and beating most of the teams in the power five conferences. 21-15 as a head coach. Age 52.
6. Jim Mora Jr., UCLA: At UCLA he’s always going to be Southern Cal’s kid brother. He is from a defensive background but he fully understands the need for a dynamic offense. 27-10 as a head coach. Age 53.
7. Todd Haley, Pittsburgh Steelers: Haley played golf for UF during the 1980s. He’s been a head coach in the NFL (Kansas City Chiefs) and now runs an offense that ranks fourth in the NFL in passing and 15th in rushing. Age 47.
8. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: He’s winning at Arizona with the guys USC and UCLA pass over. With his offense and the speed that’s available in Florida, the Gators could be lethal. 144-96-2 as a head coach. Age 50.
9. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: He keeps recruiting outstanding offensive talent to Stillwater. Have you ever been to Stillwater? It’s not the end of the earth but there are signs that tell you it’s nearby. 82-43 as a head coach. Age 47.
10. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette: Remember 2012? It took a blocked punt on the last play of the game for the Gators to beat him and the Rajin Cajuns. He gets the first call if Dan Mullen ever decides to leave Mississippi State. He is 100-36 as a head coach. Age 46.
2. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers.
3. Charlie Strong, Texas
4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
5. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
6. Art Briles, Baylor
7. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
8. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
1. ALABAMA (9-1, 6-1 SEC): Alabama can be beaten but not in Tuscaloosa as Mississippi State found out and as Auburn will find out in two weeks.
2. MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-1, 5-1 SEC): The Bulldogs will look at the film of the Alabama game and kick themselves in the butt repeatedly for losing a very winnable game.
3. OLE MISS (8-2, 4-2 SEC): The Rebels are seven points away from unbeaten. The next two weeks (at Arkansas and Mississippi State) will determine if it’s a great season or one that might have been.
4. Georgia (8-2, 6-2 SEC): You have to ask yourself how did these guys lose to South Carolina and Florida? It’s not a great mystery. It’s just Georgia. That kind of stuff happens.
5. AUBURN (7-3, 4-3 SEC): The magic has worn off. Auburn is still very good just not capable of turning on the magic like flipping a switch.
7. LSU (7-4, 3-4 SEC): You have Leonard Fournette in the backfield. How can he get the ball only five times in a game? This is what Les Miles should be asking his OC today. That and where the hell do we go to get a quarterback?
8. TEXAS A&M (7-4, 3-4 SEC): If Kevin Sumlin is smart, he will be on the horn with Will Muschamp offering at least $1.5 million to transform the defense into one that can actually get off the field occasionally.
10. Tennessee (5-5, 2-5 SEC): A win over Missouri or Vanderbilt sends the Vols bowling. Why did it take so long for Butch Jones to realize he had a dynamic quarterback in Josh Dobbs, who has more than 1,000 yards of offense and 11 touchdowns in three games on the job.
11. SOUTH CAROLINA (5-5, 3-5 SEC): After spending the entire season losing games in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks actually won one, although at the expense of Will Muschamp’s job. Steve Spurrier would be wise to offer Muschamp a job as the DC now that he’s available.
12. FLORIDA (5-4, 4-4 SEC): The Gators are back in the coach search game. If the first all isn’t to Bob Stoops there will be a lot of unhappy campers in the Gator Nation.
13. KENTUCKY (5-6, 2-6 SEC): Since scaring the bejabbers out of Mississippi State, it’s been completely downhill for the Wildcats, who have lost five in a row, three in blowout fashion. They can salvage a bowl if they can beat Louisville in two weeks.
14. VANDERBILT (3-7, 0-6 SEC): Vandy’s very bad season will only get worse. Mississippi State and Tennessee remain on the schedule.
(1) Florida State; (2) Alabama; (3) Oregon; (4) Mississippi State; (5) TCU; (6) Baylor; (7) Ohio State; (8) Ole Miss; (9) Georgia; (10) Michigan State; (11) UCLA; (12) Kansas State; (13) Arizona State; (14) Wisconsin; (15) Arizona; (16) Auburn; (17) Georgia Tech; (18) Marshall; (19) Missouri; (20) Utah; (21) Nebraska; (22) Colorado State; (23) Oklahoma; (24) Southern Cal; (25) Duke.
(1) Florida State; (2) Alabama; (3) Oregon; (4) Mississippi State; (5) Ohio State; (6) Baylor; (8) Ole Miss; (8) Georgia; (9) TCU; (10) UCLA; (11) Kansas State; (12) Arizona; (13) Arizona State; (14) Auburn; (15) Georgia Tech; (16) Michigan State; (17) Marshall; (18) Missouri; (19) Wisconsin; (20) Colorado State; (21) Oklahoma; (22) Utah; (23) Southern Cal; (24) Duke; (25) Nebraska.
The in crowd:
1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Saturday might have sealed the deal. He went off for 408 yards and four touchdowns against Nebraska. Think about what he would have gained if he had played the fourth quarter. For the season, Gordon has 1,909 yards and 23 touchdowns.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Having a week off could cost Mariota the Heisman. For the season, Mariota has 2,780 passing yards for 29 touchdowns and only two interceptions, plus 524 rushing yards for eight more scores.
3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Not only is Barrett moving up in the Heisman chase, he’s making for a difficult decision for Urban Meyer. What will Urb do about Braxton Miller? Against Minnesota, Barrett ran for 189 yards and one touchdown and threw for 200 more and three more. For the season he has 2,356 passing yards for 29 touchdowns and has run for 771 yards and nine TDs.
4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: He probably won’t win the Heisman but that 50 yard snag of a Blake Sims pass at the Mississippi State 1-yard line probably sealed the Biletnikoff Award. His numbers for the season are 87 catches, 1,303 yards and 11 touchdowns.
5. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: The three interceptions against Alabama cost him a shot at the Heisman. Prescott will be on the podium in New York, but he had to come up big against Bama to have a shot. He threw for 290 yards and ran for 82 more, but he missed open receivers when the game was on the line. For the season he has thrown for 2,521 yards and 20 touchdowns and run for 861 and 11 TDs.
The out crowd:
1. Jameis Winston, QB, FSU (character will count); (2) Trevone Boykin, TCU (the squeaker over Kansas hurt his chances); (3) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (69 yards while Gordon ran for 408 in their head to head); (4) Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (couple of bad games); (5) Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall (if only he played against good teams).
Who are the three coaches on top of your wish list to replace Will Muschamp?
One of the most disappointing musical events of the early 1970s was when Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up. They were together for five years, long enough to make seven albums but the band broke up over John Fogerty’s insistence of controlling the entire artistic output from songwriting to arranging and to scheduling tours, concerts, etc. The first song that got me listening was “Suzie Q” from their first album “Creedence Clearwater Revival.”