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Perspective on Florida and Will Muschamp

Where Will Muschamp stands in Florida’s coaching history

By Dave Friedman
In 2008-2009 the Florida Gators played the most difficult schedule in the country. With challenging tasks week-after-week, Tim Tebow and his teammates went 13-1 and beat Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS Championship game. It was the third National Title for Florida, and second in three years. At the time, it was assumed that the program would continue to be among the elite in the country. We all know what happens when you assume. Florida is not an out-of-this-world program. Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer are special, and elevated the Gators, just as they have countless other schools.

It was 2009 when Florida  faced Alabama in the SEC Championship. Can Will Muschamp get Florida back? (via UA Media Relations)
It was 2009 when Florida faced Alabama in the SEC Championship. Can Will Muschamp get Florida back? (via UA Media Relations)
When Spurrier took over at Florida they were coming off of a 7-5 season. Galen Hall was fired midway through the 1989 campaign and interim coach Gary Darnell struggled down the stretch. In the Freedom Bowl, played December 30 in Anaheim, unranked Washington drubbed Florida 34-7. While the season was bad enough to call for a new coach, it really was not unlike the previous eight decades. Hall’s winning percentage, .686, was as good as any Gator coach since James Van Fleet and William G. Kline in the 1920’s. The program had been consistently solid but unspectacular.

Spurrier arrived in Gainesville after three years at Duke. He took over a Blue Devils program that had not won more than six games in a season since 1962. After a 5-6 opening year, he went 7-3 and 8-4 in his final two years in Durham, NC. Since Spurrier left, more than 20 years ago, Duke has had one winning season, three winless campaigns, and lost 10 games or more on seven occasions.

In Gainesville, Spurrier went 122-27-1. His SEC mark was 87-12. Galen Hall was 21-12 in conference games. The Gators went from being the third best school in Florida, after Miami and Florida State, to a program as respected and successful as any other in America. Then Spurrier left.

While Spurrier’s time with the Washington Redskins was short-lived, he resurfaced in the SEC at traditional doormat South Carolina in 2005. Taking over a program that had been under .500 in two of three previous seasons under Lou Holtz, and had won 10 games in a year once dating back to the programs start in 1892, Spurrier went 7-5 in his first year. Under his leadership the team has never dipped below .500, he took the Gamecocks to their first SEC Title game in 2010, and won 11 games in 2011 and 2012. South Carolina has played in 18 bowl games. Spurrier has coached seven of them.

Ron Zook took over for Spurrier with the Gators. He went 23-14 and was fired for not being Steve Spurrier. His winning percentage, .622, was better than 10 of the 12 coaches before Spurrier. It was no longer good enough. Urban Meyer took the job in 2005. Spurrier Jr., Meyer, started winning again, big.

Meyer got his first head coaching opportunity at Bowling Green in 2001. Taking over a squad that had won two games the previous year, and had gone six straight years without a winning record, he went 8-3 his first season, and 9-3 in year two. Only four times in 40 years had the Falcons won nine times in a single season before Meyer showed up.

When Meyer arrived at Utah in 2003, the Utes had won 10 games in a season once since starting football in the late 1800’s. Taking over a team that went 5-6 the previous year, Meyer immediately went 10-2. He followed that up with a 12-0 campaign that included a Fiesta Bowl domination of Pittsburgh. The year after Meyer left the Utes were 7-5.

It was clear that Florida’s expectations were sky-high when Meyer took the position in Gainesville, and he exceeded any Gator fans wildest dreams. He improved upon Zook’s 7-5 by going 9-3 in 2005. The next year brought his first National Title. In six seasons Meyer went 65-15 with the Gators including 36-12 in the SEC. He was 5-1 in Bowl Games and 2-0 in the National Title Game. Citing mental health issues, he left the Gators after six years.

Following a year off, Meyer returned to coaching at Ohio State. He hasn’t lost yet. The Buckeyes are 21-0 under his leadership. Not only is that amazing, the fact he did it at a school with NCAA restrictions imposed because of conduct under former coach Jim Tressel is that much more remarkable.

As for Florida, when Meyer left they hired Will Muschamp. He went 7-6 in 2011, 11-2 last year, and is 4-5 this season. His .628 winning percentage looks a lot like everybody else who has coached at Florida not named Spurrier and Meyer. Firing Muschamp is an easy option, finding the next generational coach in college football is going to be a lot more difficult.

5 thoughts on “Perspective on Florida and Will Muschamp”

  1. Great analysis. I don’t think anybody thought Florida would look like this in 2013, injuries or not.

    I used to visit BGSU when Meyer was the coach there. We relieved ourselves off the top bleacher in the stadium late one freezing December night and while everyone was surprised at BGSU I don’t think anyone expected Urban Meyer to become what he has become.

    Needless to say, a lot of those Falcons fans are also fans of Ohio State. It’s where Meyer himself wants to be.

    I can’t pretend I don’t want Alabama to play Ohio State this year. The Saban/Meyer matchup was brilliant football.

    As for Muschamp, he’s got huge shoes to fill. Tennessee kept too many bad coaches too long. Muschamp’s problems I think could be fixed by getting a new offensive coordinator and, more importantly, letting that OC make the calls on offense. Muschamp gets a pass this year, but I’m not sure for how long he’ll stay in the swamp.

    Personally, I like him and his story and I hope he figures it out.

    See, Florida is to Muschamp what Ohio State is to Meyer, only moreso. Muschamp grew up in Gainesville. It’s a pretty cool story for both coaches, except only Meyer seems to be getting it done. Hopefully Muschamp can too before the smell in the Swamp gets too musty for the University of Florida to tolerate.

  2. Muschamp has two problems at Flurduh:

    1. He’s tried to turn them into Alabama. They’ve gone from traditionally being a passing team to one that tries to grind it out. He should have just let the Gators be the Gators instead of trying to emulate the Crimson Tide.

    2. If you look on Flurduh’s roster, most of their better players this year are seniors and fourth year juniors who were recruited into the program by Urban Meyer. For all the talk from Gainesville about how Urban left the program in a mess, their better players are still his. Muschamps’s recruiting hasn’t been up to snuff. He’s brought in a few good players on defense but hardly any playmakers on offense.

    Like Alabama, Flurduh just isn’t an entry level position. Only experienced head coaches with a winning track record need apply. Muschamp still has another year to prove me (and everyone else) wrong but he will be pushing the wheel barrow uphill. And that wheel barrow is carrying cement.

    1. “1. He’s tried to turn them into Alabama. They’ve gone from traditionally being a passing team to one that tries to grind it out. He should have just let the Gators be the Gators instead of trying to emulate the Crimson Tide.”

      it’s why he was hired. another case of a program hiring one of Coach Saban’s former assistants thinking they’re getting Coach Saban.

    2. It’s true that they are better players, albeit not by much on paper. Muschamp’s average recruiting rank is very close to Meyer’s. Meyer did have more 5 star recruits (8 in his first three years compared to 5 for Muschamp). The bigger problem, which came to fruition his last year and has continued to hurt Muschamp, is that Meyer’s recruiting classes averaged a whopping 34% attrition rate (player transfers or getting dismissed from the team — i.e., not even including NFL early departures). So one in every three Meyer recruits transferred or got into trouble with the law! Muschamp’s first recruiting class continued this trend — a 40% attrition rate, albeit more transfers — but his next two classes have dropped to 17% and 0%, respectively. Unfortunately, the same issues UF has this year on the Oline will continue into next year. Muschamp has of course many other problems with coaching beyond recruiting.

  3. Yeah but Meyer got half of those 5 stars after they won the Natty in ’08. Muschamp has been recruiting for a team that’s been crap since CUM’s last year in ’10.

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