On Monday, during somewhat of a farewell address in terms of an official press conference for Muschamp’s dismissal, University of Florida President Bernie Machen and Athletic Director Jeremy Foley sang the praises of Muschamp while Foley also acknowledged the necessity, as a program that has to win and compete for championships, to release the Gator head coach.
Machen went at it from the academic standpoint and the citizenship standpoint that you would expect from the school leader.
“From my perspective as president, I have treasured, literally treasured the last four years in working with Will,” Machen said. “He was asked to come here and build a program, a program built on character and on good academic values. He was asked to develop young men that would be a credit to the Gator nation. He has done that.
“Just looking at the academic performance of our student athletes, the APR is 979 this spring, which is 10 points above the national average for football. Will has had 68 players that are academic All SEC, he has graduated 44 players with degrees. The composite GPA this last spring was the highest in the history of our university for the sport of football. His players have been very active in the community, we're proud of that.
“I think you know about the off the field behavior of our athletes and I'm proud of how they represent themselves, their team and their university. Will and (wife) Carol and their families have been absolutely wonderful citizens in this unit. They are beloved by the people of this community and we feel like they are ours. Never have I worked with a coach in any sport over three different universities who has been more supportive of the university mission and what we're trying to accomplish. In the end, can you say that someone who has to leave has made a positive contribution, and the answer for that is definitely yes, for Will Muschamp. In fact, I would love for my son or my grandson to have the unit to be coached by Will Muschamp.”
Foley praised Muschamp as a guy that gave everything he had every day of his employment.
“Today was a tough, tough day on a lot of levels, very emotional day for a lot of people, including myself but certainly toughest on Will and his family. He gave his heart and soul to this program, he loves this university, as you all know he grew up following the Gators, he loves the Gators, and everybody in the program was in the fox hole with him.
“We respected him as a coach and as a person, and he respected all of us for the support we gave his program. He is as fine of a person as you could ever meet and a friend to all of us. Will Muschamp is a good, good person.
“On a personal level I will miss working with Will, he represents everything that is right about college athletics. That's not lip service that's the truth. The environment inside our building is the best it's ever been because of Will.”
Foley made the decision four years ago to hire Muschamp. It seemed like a quick decision just days after Urban Meyer resigned for the second year in a row, but it was a well thought out decision with over a year to figure out what he was looking for in a coach. As much as it didn’t work at Florida, Foley believes Muschamp is a guy that will find the right place and be a big time coach down the line.
“He's also a very good football coach, he has a track record,” Foley said. “He's won a lot of championships in his career; he will more, I promise you that. It just was not been working here as we all envisioned and certainly not as he envisioned when he came aboard four years ago. When things are not working as envisioned, you've got to make a difficult decision despite the tremendous effort he put in. That is why we're here today.”
Florida lost a miserable game to the Missouri Tigers 42-13 in which the Gators were plastered on offense and special teams. That was a game that really pushed things to where they were this weekend.
A couple of good games against the Georgia Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores caused a little more reflection on things as the team looked to be making significant progress. Inevitably a bad game on offense and special teams again on Saturday against South Carolina were the undoing of anything positive that happened recently and led to the official notice on Sunday and the meeting with Foley and Machen here.
“Certainly we’ve done a lot of evaluating after the Missouri game and talked about those things and ideally he would run the table,” Foley said. “It started out in a positive way by upsetting the Bulldogs and had positive momentum. We had to keep moving up the track, so to speak, like a roller coaster, going up, going up, going up and thought we were doing that and I know he thought that and Saturday was a step back and that's why we're here today. He had to show that type of progress, we talked about it all year long we were going to evaluate the season as it progressed and that's what we did.”
Muschamp found out shortly before members of the media started sharing his dismissal on the Internet. Foley said that Muschamp was very professional about it, much like he showed in front of the media Monday when he was absolutely gracious for the opportunity he had in Gainesville.
“Yesterday morning,” Foley replied when asked when he and Muschamp had the talk. “And just what you saw up here is what I got yesterday. You know as I said, emotional, difficult, cause we care about him so much, that's part of it. To say he was a pro would be an understatement. I said in my opening statements he's as good of a person as you ever want to be around, he gets it, he totally gets it. It was a hard conversation, as much as anything on a personal level. On the professional level it was as easy as it could be because of him.
The rest of the football staff will also have to go with the uncertainty of not knowing what their future holds. It is likely that at least two assistants will be retained if they want, but no one knows until a new head coach has been named and he decides who to keep.
“Obviously a tough situation for our staff, all good people, all good coaches, all good family men who have worked extremely hard to fix this thing for the Florida Gators,” Foley said. “On behalf of our program I want to thank them for their efforts and as I said, very tough for them and we're going to do everything we can to assist them during this transition. At the end of the day this can be a tough business when you're not winning and we all get that.”
Under Foley the University Athletic Association has always tried to be fair in this situation and especially when it comes to compensation and them possibly losing a paycheck for a while.
“Will's contract will be honored, payment over time and the assistant coaches will be honored,” Foley said. “The only difference between Will and the assistant coaches is the assistants have mitigation, if they get jobs that releases us from our burden of paying them. Again, the University of Florida respects the job those folks have done for us, they have worked really hard. Nobody wants to be here today, but they have families, they're people and we care about them and we will treat them right. We've always done that.”
Muschamp will coach through the rest of the season and then if the Gators make a bowl game, he will step down. Foley hasn’t decided who would run the ship in his absence under those circumstances, but Foley says his last worry in the world is that things will completely fall apart in the last two weeks with the situation at hand.
“That's the last thing I'm worried about,” Foley said. “I've used the word several times, you talk about a pro, a guy that's all about the right things. If he didn't think he could do it, he would say ‘I'm not going to do it’. He told the team yesterday you're not going to see anything differently. He will coach his tail off and he will be the Will Muschamp that we've all known and he will work to be very successful in the next two weeks and I don't worry about that at all because of the type of guy he is.”
To the bitter end as the coach on the field Muschamp was stubborn about how he coached the team. And until the bitter end, he did almost everything else right.