Florida Hires Muschamp
And of course Tim Tebow was the one to break the news on Twitter.
College football recruiting is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year job. And in the SEC, life doesn't stop just because some guy is winning the Heisman.
Since it was a foregone conclusion weeks ago that Cam Newton was going to take home the prize as the top player in college football, the Heisman took a backseat in the SEC world on Saturday nigh
as Florida decided it was time to make some noise of its own. Call it
crass, call it rude, or call it gamesmanship, Florida certainly has a
flair for the dramatic ... at least off the field.
Why let Auburn get an hour-long infomercial on why any quarterback with a wee bit of talent should play for Tiger offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn? Okay, so Auburn has a Heisman winner and is playing for the national championship this year. Florida was busy trying to make its statement for the next decade.
This wasn't just a rain-on-the-parade moment; this was a well-orchestrated thunderstorm that will add yet another chapter to the rich history of backbiting and one-upmanship in a league where there's a paper-thin margin between being good and playing for the national championship. If Florida football has gotten to be such a monster that it's bigger than any one ball coach, then the timing of the announcement of Muschamp's hiring showed that the program demands to be
as big as any story.
Muschamp, who grew up in Gainesville and went to Georgia as a walk-on defensive back, actually started out his coaching career at Auburn as a graduate assistant and was the defensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007. And now he'll be forever associated with one of the biggest nights in Auburn football history as he goes from being an SEC-caliber coach
who was going to be the main man at Texas, to the pressure cooker of having to be another Spurrier or Meyer
as the main man at Florida.
No pressure there.
All those in the Gator Nation worrying about another Ron Zook situation will sleep well tonight. Muschamp is a big, splashy name, at least in the college football world, and he'll have no problems going toe-to-toe with the heavyweight powerhouse coaches in the heavyweight powerhouse conference. The question is whether or not he can hold his own on the field as the head man.
Muschamp is a top-shelf recruiter who'll keep the pipeline of talent coming to Florida, but
needing to prove he can be a top-shelf head man, he'll have to show he can pull his weight against Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Les Miles, Bobby Petrino, Houston Nutt, Gene Chizik, and Dan Mullen. Unfortunately, he won't get much of a chance to cut his teeth with a loaded team returning that should be better with a year of experience under its belt. The pieces are there to win right away, and there will be little grace period, if any.
The SEC East is once again going to be the weaker of the two divisions, and at the very least, 2011 needs to bring a trip to the SEC Championship game. After that, it's national title or bust because that's the standard set at a place where there are no excuses. The facilities, the recruiting base, the commitment, the talent already in the cupboard, and anything else a top coach could want is there. It's a turn-key gig and now Muschamp has to prove he can give the program a boost
after a bizarre last 12 months under Meyer. With Major Applewhite (most likely) as the offensive coordinator, this will be a young, energetic coaching staff that will be as tireless as Meyer was on the recruiting trail and in work ethic.
But going from being a top assistant to the head man of one of the five
best programs in college football is a leap for anyone.
Florida had its moment and it won this round over Auburn, but good PR doesn't bring in BCS championships.
By the way, October 15th. Florida at Auburn (and this comes after games
against Alabama and at LSU). Mr. Muschamp, welcome to the SEC.
When does the bleeding stop in Austin?
For Texas, a bad season just got a whole lot worse. As if missing the postseason for the first time in 13 years wasn't painful enough, now the ‘Horns will spend the offseason looking to replace a second coordinator. First, Greg Davis resigned as the offensive coordinator, which wasn't so unfortunate. And now, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has accepted the job of replacing Urban Meyer at Florida. It's Texas and Mack Brown, so finding qualified assistants has never been a problem. However, Muschamp was also the program's coach-in-waiting, which is going to lead to uncertainty beyond the 2011 season.
As far as the Gators are concerned, this is a somewhat curious choice. An outstanding assistant? Of course. Ready to follow in the footsteps of Meyer? That remains to be seen. He has a lot of work to do, and although the cupboard is far from bare, he'll inherit a team that played in 2010 as if Ron Zook was still in the Swamp. What really strikes me is how quickly this happened. It's been only three days since Meyer surprisingly stepped down, which makes you wonder if Florida seriously considered anyone else, especially a proven head coach. Bob Stoops? Gary Patterson? Kyle Whittingham? Dan Mullen? Were they contacted, or was the Gator brass that sold on Muschamp? That's a compelling question that fans of the school will surely want answered. What took place over the last 72 hours and how many inquiries were made by athletic director Jeremy Foley?
In a strange way, I feel Gene Chizik's success at Auburn helped Muschamp in this process. While they have very different on-field demeanors, their similarities are unmistakable. Young, upwardly-mobile defensive coaches with a history of success in the SEC. Florida is banking on hiring its version of Chizik. Now all it has to do is locate its version of Cam Newton as well.
By Matt Zemek
Last December, the ultimate coaching drama in the college football world came from Gainesville, Florida, or – if you want to be a real stickler about it – New Orleans. It was in the Big Easy that Urban Meyer expressed his intention to step away from coaching as he prepared for the 2010 Sugar Bowl, only to then change his mind the very next morning. One year later, Gainesville is once again the epicenter of a seismic movement in the college football coaching business.
In a move that blindsided the gossip generators in the sport and shamed the people who trotted out the predictable Bob Stoops rumors (that's so 2002, guys), the newest Florida boss came not from the University of Oklahoma, but from the University of Texas. Will Muschamp, the former defensive coordinator at both LSU and Auburn and a player at the University of Georgia, will succeed Meyer as the new mayor of The Swamp. It's an abrupt twist in a story that – like so many of its kind – involved countless numbers of false leads and bogus statements.
In what is the height of irony, this move came less than three hours after Bobby Petrino – a wandering nomad in coaching circles – locked himself in at Arkansas for a hefty deal that should legitimately end all questions about his place of business for at least the next three seasons. While Petrino cut completely against his preexisting reputation, the school that had Petrino in its sights went to Arkansas's old rival – Texas – to find its next gridiron leader. It's also ironic that at a time when Texas was searching for an elite offensive coordinator to replace Greg Davis, the Longhorns' one remaining big-name assistant bolted from Austin and forfeited his place as the coach-in-waiting when Mack Brown (presumably or hypothetically) retired.
Have you recovered your breath yet? Too bad – there are so many more layers to this bombshell development.
This story broke just as the 2010 Heisman Trophy Award ceremony began at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York. Florida officials could have waited until Sunday to leak the story, but no, they wanted to go ahead with the show. Urban Meyer might be off the stage, but it's hard to shake – or deny – the notion that Florida is flipping the bird to Auburn with this Saturday night stage-stealer.
Cam Newton once played for the Gators but is now an Auburn man; it's naïve to think that a Saturday night news leak wasn't purposefully arranged to rob Newton and Auburn of their deserved moment in the sun. The Auburn-Florida feud got pretty nasty during L'Affaire Newton, and now it will become a million times more heated. Guess what Florida's – and now Muschamp's – schedule looks like next year? The former LSU man will have to play Alabama. He'll have to bring Florida onto the gridiron against an Auburn team that will have UF circled in red on the calendar. Muschamp will also now face his alma mater, Georgia, in the Cocktail Party. This leads to only more classic Southern scenarios in which alums are coaching against the schools they played for.
An SEC that once gave us the spectacle of Auburn alum Vince Dooley coaching for Georgia, and Georgia alum Pay Dye coaching for Auburn, now has Georgia alum Will Muschamp coaching Florida, Vince Dooley's son, Derek, coaching Tennessee, and Florida alum Steve Spurrier coaching South Carolina. The dynamics created by the Muschamp ascendancy in the Sunshine State – and his spurning of Mack Brown – aren't new, but they're no less fascinating.
And that's just the SEC side of things.
Oklahoma has to replace one coordinator, but Texas now has to replace two. Moreover, the plan of succession Brown put in place is now ruined. However, maybe this is the clean slate the Longhorns need to become great again. Maybe Brown will grab two elite coordinators and become a little more serious about stepping aside in a short period of time. Maybe Brown won't offer a plan of succession but can still lure two top minds in the sport. Maybe Texas succeeds and rebuilds itself and Florida whiffs on the elite offensive coordinator it absolutely has to have now that it's hired a defensive guy as its new head coach. Which school would you choose if you're an offensive coordinator looking for your big break? Florida, Texas or Oklahoma?
These are just some of the questions and tension points raised by one movement – one very big movement – in the coaching carousel.
This was a bush-league move by Florida, stealing Auburn's and Cam Newton's thunder. It's also a move that can't be fully evaluated until we see the Gators' next offensive coordinator. Have fun discussing this one around the water cooler on Monday, everyone.
Shocked. Surprised. Underwhelmed.
These are just a few of the words that came to my mind when I heard that Will Muschamp will be taking over as the new head coach at Florida.
I wrote last week that the Gators should feel out Bob Stoops, and after he inevitably said "no," throw money at Boise State head coach Chris Petersen. If Petersen stood strong on the blue turf, then and only then should the Gators settle on Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, who served as the Florida offensive coordinator from 2005-2008.
The common theme for all of those candidates is that they all have previously served and succeeded as head coaches at the FBS level. Will Muschamp has not.
Muschamp may turn out to be a great head coach at Florida, but this hire is even more of a risk than when the Gators went to the mountains and poached Urban Meyer from Utah. Muschamp has done some fantastic things as a defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas, but does that make "Coach Boom" worthy of taking the reins of Florida – one of the most storied programs in modern college football? I don't think so.
He may bring Florida back to the prominence that it enjoyed under former coaches Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, but the fact that Florida would take this kind of risk on an unproven head coach has me floored.