The Coaching Search and the Decision Process

This week, we'll give you a little insight into the decision process on finding a new coach and profile what we think are the high profile candidates to take Coach Zook's place as the Head Ball Coach for the University of Florida. Tomorrow we'll begin with Coach Stoops in our profile.

Even in his dismissal, Florida Coach Ron Zook took a backseat to The Head Ball Coach. Yes, Spurrier was the most often mentioned word in the press conference announcing Zook's dismissal. While I didn't include those among my notes, I'm quite certain that the word "well?" finished a distant second. However, it has become apparent that "Spurrier" was not the most oft-mentioned name in Florida President Bernie Machen's office. Machen didn't recall meeting the former Heisman Trophy winner and winningest coach in University of Florida history at the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament in Atlanta. Bologna.

In my opinion, Machen was merely sending Spurrier a signal, a clear signal, that this process will be completed under his management, on his time schedule. He seemingly also sent a clear signal that Spurrier isn't among his list of favorites, as reports indicate that Machen hasn't even spoken to him.

Isn't it a bit ironic though? Machen doesn't address the MVP of the Florida football program upon his arrival on campus. In 1990, former Florida tailback Emmitt Smith, then the MVP of the Florida football program, was surprised when Spurrier arrived on campus as the new head coach and never approached the All-SEC performer about staying with the Gators.

Regardless, we have our answer as to who opts for control in this situation. El Presidente'. Unfortunately, Machen's first possession has resulted in a turnover. There was no reason not to speak with Spurrier and get to know a bit more about his short term goals and thought process. After all, he is the monarch of the Florida football family for goodness sakes.

The University of Florida has lost four games, and could lose more. However, there is no question that the most high profile job with a vacancy sign in the country resides in Gainesville, Florida. This job has the big three. Peace, love, and happiness. Hardly. Support, facilities, and recruiting.

Furthermore, Ron Zook, will leave a ton of talented players, who are now on the fast track to adulthood. Talk to any of the former Gators who were on the roster when the axe fell on Doug Dickey, Charley Pell, or Galen Hall, and they'll tell you that you learn a few lessons about life quickly. So too, will this bunch of Gators. But, don't expect it to sink in right now. They simply don't have time to digest all that is going on around them with everything else on their plate. That is evident in their preparation and play. They're in the process of learning more about adversity than they would on any trip to Knoxville, bowl loss in Tampa, or frat boy melee. And by the spring they will have put everything in its' proper place. The bottom line is that they'll be better prepared for the next ringmaster.

Who will that be? We were told by Machen that he and Jeremy Foley hold the two key votes. But, Machen said that there will be some others providing input. He declined however to say who those others will be.

I'll raise my hand and say that a majority of that input will come from those who pay the bills. The Bull Gators will remain in contact with Machen and Foley throughout this process, as well they should. The Bulls will probably hold a substantial amount of Foley's vote, one way or another. They are well-aware of the fact that Foley repeatedly turned the ball over in a losing effort in January of 2002.

Foley's part of the vote will be two-thirds recruiting ability, with one-third split between energy and coaching record. His other hires have seemingly reflected this theory. Consider Donovan, Burleigh, Zook, McMahon, and Faehn. All of these coaches have one thing in common, they are tremendous recruiters. Most are high energy coaches, who don't slow down. Their prior coaching records are a mixed bag. Burleigh won national championships in a lower division, Donovan and McMahon coached other programs with similar success rates, Faehn and Zook had no prior head coaching experience. Most were considered and up and coming coaches though.

Machen was instrumental in bringing to Urban Meyer to Salt Lake City. On the surface, it would appear that Machen appreciates up and coming coaches as well. However, there are limits when recruiting a coach to take over the Utes program. Steve Spurrier was not interested in coaching the Utes. No media person with an eye on the future would ask Bob Stoops about leaving Oklahoma for Utah. Does this change the pecking order for Machen? It had better, and at this stage only a few Bull Gators and Foley have an idea as to Machens thought process. Is he looking for young, high energy guy who just needs an opportunity? An established name who instantly brings an impressive Division I or NFL resume' and instant credibility to the Gators program?

Alienating Spurrier was Machens' first turnover. I'm not implying that Machen should have immediately hired Spurrier, but the opportunity to get to know the MVP of Florida football and beginning a healing process for the gaping wound that he and Foley opened at the wrong time, while ignoring Spurrier because it was not the right time was…wrong.

Confused? So are a lot of the players, who proudly wear the helmets with the Gators script across it. So are a lot of high school kids who are considering spending the next four or five years at the University of Florida.

Throughout the week we'll take a look at who we believe those candidates might be. Stay tuned Gators. These are trying times indeed. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

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