There is something to be said about experience.
Travaris Robinson, who coached the secondary for Florida under Will Muschamp the last four years, is still working for Muschamp but now at Auburn, where the former UF head man is now the defensive coordinator. Robinson says Muschamp is calm, relaxed and “embracing his role” as Auburn’s defensive coordinator. While the two were at Florida, Robinson says Muschamp “had to deal with so much … I got a chance to see all the stuff he had to deal with – all the phone calls he got. I was like ‘Holy, moly, man. This head coaching stuff might be a little overrated.’”
Not everybody is cut out to be a head coach, especially at a place like Florida when you have zero in the way of head coaching experience. This is not a place for on-the-job training as we know from the experiences of Ron Zook and Muschamp. Both of them produced winning records for their time at UF – Zook was 23-14 in his three years; Muschamp was 28-21 in his four – but they didn’t win nearly enough. Zook had never been considered a candidate for a head coaching job in college or the NFL before he became the surprise successor to Steve Spurrier. Muschamp was the head coach in waiting at Texas when Florida called after Meyer retired for good the second time. Neither of them had ever taken on all the responsibility that goes with being a head coach much less made all the decisions on the sideline at game time.
And both got fired.
Would things have been different for both Zook or Muschamp had they spent 2-4 years in Division I’s equivalent of the minor leagues? If we go by Urban Meyer’s experience then the answer is a probably. Meyer went 17-6 at Bowling Green and then 22-2 at Utah. By the time he got to Florida, he knew how to deal with boosters, put a support staff together, hire and fire assistant coaches, put a recruiting plan in place and be the guy responsible for game day decisions that affect winning and losing. Neither Zook nor Muschamp had enough of these skills to get by. Their UF experience could have been far different had either one of them spent some time learning their skills at a lower profile school.
The fact that Jim McElwain spent three years beating the bushes in the Mountain West Conference bodes well for his future at Florida. He’s dealt with alumni and administration, learned how to make those game day decisions and he knows all about support staff and assistants. He’s learned his craft and he’s got a track record of winning. And, every bit as important, he’s developed an eye for talent while recruiting players that fit his system on a budget that is a fraction of what he has at his disposal at Florida.
We will find out for sure if McElwain is the right fit for Florida, if his prior success at Colorado State prepared him for winning in the SEC, but he’s got experience and this won’t be on-the-job training. There is something good to be said about that.
Georgia 41, Florida 27; November 6, 1976
For the second straight year the Gators came into the Georgia game riding a 6-game winning streak and hunting for that first SEC title in school history. The Gators were ranked #11 the year before. In 1976 they were ranked 10th and Georgia was #7. The Gators held a 20-13 lead with less than a minute to go in the first half when Terry LeCount stepped in front of Ulysses Norris at the goal line to pick off a Matt Robinson pass. LeCount sped down the sideline to the Georgia 44 before he was knocked out of bounds. Florida needed two plays to get into the end zone – a 35-yard Jimmy Fisher to Jimmy Ray Stephens pass and a 9-yard pass to Wes Chandler for the touchdown. That turned out to be Florida’s last offensive hurrah. Georgia’s defense adjusted in the second half, ignored the inside dive out of the UF wishbone and concentrated on stopping the sweeps, which kept the Gators without a first down on the first three possessions. Georgia narrowed the gap to 27-20 late in the third quarter when Ray Goff’s tearaway jersey left Scot Brantley holding cotton and turned a big loss into a huge gain that set up a Goff to Norris touchdown pass. On the ensuing possession, the Gators were six inches from a first down when Doug Dickey decided to go for it on fourth down from just inside the UF 30. Dickey called an option sweep that apparently everyone in the state of Georgia knew was coming. Fisher pitched to Earl Carr who was stuffed three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Postgame, Carr said, “When I was running the play I was asking myself why in the world we were running this play?” A very good question since Georgia was selling out on everything wide and giving away the middle throughout the third quarter. A quarterback sneak would have gotten the first down. Easily. Georgia scored the next 21 points and for the third straight year, the Gators’ hopes of winning their first SEC championship were trampled by Georgia in Jacksonville. Marching into the tunnel to the UF locker room after the game, a very tearful Jimmy Ray Stephens looked to heaven and said, “I don’t know if God is ever going to let the Gators win the SEC championship.” Sixteen years later the Gators blew the doors off Georgia, 45-13, then whacked Kentucky, 35-26, the next week to complete a perfect 7-0 mark in league games for Florida’s first SEC title that actually counted. Dickey’s decision to go for it on fourth down wouldn’t have been a bad decision had he called a sneak or a power play up the middle. Going wide, however, was horrible and earned the moniker, “Fourth and Dumb.”
The last jewel in the crown that is Abby Wambach’s soccer playing career was put in place Sunday night in Vancouver when the US Women’s National Team scored a decisive 5-2 win over Japan to capture their first Women’s World Cup since 1999. For Wambach, a member of three previous World Cup teams that came up short, this was the one championship she hadn’t experienced. Now she has a World Cup to go with Olympic gold and an NCAA title she earned as a freshman at Florida in 1998. At 35, this was her last shot at a World Cup and it involved taking a back seat to younger players who got the bulk of the minutes but Abby never complained and instead of leading the team by scoring goals, she led by setting the example of selflessness, understanding that the team is the sum of all its parts. If there is a women’s soccer Mount Rushmore, then Abby is right up there with Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Kristine Lilly.
Don’t you just love it when people refuse to take responsibility? Take Kirby Smart, for instance. Alabama’s highly paid defensive coordinator – he gets $1.5 million a year – says that Bama’s 42-35 defeat in College Football Playoff semifinals was because the Crimson Tide didn’t respect Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.
“We [coaches] didn’t promote him enough and they [players] didn’t value his talents enough,” Smart told Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan Friday.
Jones and the Ohio State offense racked up 537 yards against Smart’s defense, 281 on the ground and 257 through the air.
Of course, this is the same defense that Auburn torched for 44 points and 630 total yards a month earlier in the Iron Bowl. Was it a case of disrespect when Nick Marshall of Auburn destroyed the Bama defense? The only thing that saved Alabama that day was Lane Kiffin exploited Auburn for 539 yards and 58 points.
Maybe Alabama fans will buy Smart’s explanation but is anyone else? This is the blame game and nothing more. Kirby Smart is blaming his players when he needs to take responsibility himself. If the players really did disrespect Cardale Jones because he was a third string quarterback thrust into the limelight because of injury, that’s on Smart and his defensive assistants. That’s on Nick Saban. It is the coaches’ job to get players in the right mindset for a game and if they are taking a team or a player lightly, it’s on the coaches and not the players.
Of course, it’s also on the coaches when the three spread option quarterbacks they face during a season – Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Marshall and Jones – lead their teams to 1,595 yards in three games against the Alabama defense in 2014.
There is an old saying that when you point a finger at someone you have three pointing back at you. Kirby Smart is pointing fingers. Maybe he needs to count the number of fingers pointing at him.If I’m an athletic director looking for a head coach next year and I read those comments, I automatically put a question mark beside the name of Kirby Smart and start looking elsewhere.
When his NBA days end, former Gator Chandler Parsons might want to think about coaching college basketball. Billy Donovan used to say that Parsons was one of the highest basketball IQ players he ever coached so we know CP has the know how. Judging by what we’ve seen of him in Houston and now in Dallas, we know he has recruiting down to a science as well. When he was in Houston, CP was the chief recruiter when the Rockets lured Dwight Howard to the Rockets. Now that he’s a highly paid member of the Mavericks ($15 million a year), he’s the guy being given credit for Dallas landing free agents DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews. When his pal Jeremy Lin signs this week, it will be a recruiting hat trick for CP and the Mavericks will have the look of a team that could make a run at an NVA title.
Jim Weaver passed away last week at age 70 due to complications from a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was the highly respected athletic director at Virginia Tech from 1997-2014, on whose watch upgrading facilities became the top priority. Virginia Tech spent well more than $200 million on Weaver’s watch and turned the athletic plant into one of the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference. From 1981-93 Weaver was an associate athletic director at the University of Florida where he was known for a do it the right way the first time, every time approach. He was one of the good guys and college athletics will miss him.
When the Los Angeles Lakers took point guard D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State with the #2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, they gambled that they could pick up the big guy they desperately need with a trade or in free agency. They did everything in their power to make a trade with the Sacramento Kings for Demarcus Cousins and when that failed, turned their energy to free agency where they have been spurned by Lamarcus Aldridge (signed with San Antonio), DeAndre Jordan (signed with Dallas), Greg Monroe (signed with Milwaukee) and Robin Lopez (signed with the New York Knicks). Their consolation prize is Roy Hibbert, who Indiana basically dumped when it drafted Myles Turner. Hibbert’s productivity has been on the decline since the 2011-12 season.
Not everybody is cut out to be a head coach. Do you think things would have been different for Ron Zook or Will Muschamp had they spent a few years learning how to be a head coach prior to their experience at Florida?
For the money, a Grateful Dead concert was always as good a value as you would find anywhere. I really wasn’t a big fan until I saw them live. Both times I saw them they played nearly three hours. I understood completely why Deadheads distance was no obstacle and why they showed up en masse wherever the Dead played a concert. This is their live performance at Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, NJ in 1989.