UPDATED: The Will Muschamp era at Florida is over. Who’s likely to lead the Gators next?
Barring an unforeseen disaster, Will Muschamp will be the head football coach at the University of Florida in 2015.
Ron Zook has been exactly where Florida coach Will Muschamp is right now, and based on his experience, he has a message for Gators fans.
“Leave him alone and let him do his job,” Zook told the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi.
“The noise in the system doesn’t help, It only compounds the problem. When there’s all this negativity, other programs start using it against you in recruiting and it makes it worse.
“Will Muschamp is a good football coach, and he’ll build a great program if they just give him time.”
Zook speaks from experience.
Two-and-a-half years into in their UF tenures, Muschamp and Zook have nearly identical records.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley says he stands behind Muschamp, but Zook knows from experience that Foley’s words can ring hollow. Foley told Zook on a Friday that his job was safe, but by Monday Zook was unemployed.
Two years later, the players Zook had recruited would win a national championship under Urban Meyer.
While both Zook and Muschamp took over from successful coaches, Steve Spurrier was beloved by Gators fans, making life miserable for Zook from day 1.
Meyer, on the other hand, didn’t exactly give the UF faithful warm and fuzzies. That, combined with the fact that Muschamp came in with the perception as hot up-and-comer with Texas‘ stamp of approval, made Florida fans awfully forgiving during Muschamp’s first season.
Though that honeymoon phase is long gone and the polish from once being Texas’ head coaching-in-waiting has officially worn off, Zook says that following a legend — well-liked or not — can make for a dangerous situation.
“Just because you succeed a great coach doesn’t mean the program is in great shape and the cupboard is full when you take over,” he said. “Will took over a program that wasn’t in the best of shape.
“There’s a reason coaches leave programs. Coach Spurrier didn’t just wake up one day in January (2001) and say, ‘I’m going to the Washington Redskins.’ He knew he didn’t have a lot coming back the following year. At least that’s my opinion.”
Today’s Vanderbilt game could be pivotal for Muschamp. Florida hasn’t had a losing season since 1979, and the Gators are 4-4 with the Commodores, South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State left on the schedule.
A 5-7 or even a 6-6 finish could end Muschamp’s tenure in Gainesville.
Zook knows what it feels like to be in that situation, and he wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.
“Heck yeah, I feel for Will. I wouldn’t want anybody to go through what I went through.”
Photo: Phil Coale, AP
Following Saturday’s 23-20 loss to Georgia, Florida is now 4-4 on the year and this week’s Vanderbilt game looms large.
If Muschamp returns (and we expect him to), expect major staff changes on the offensive side of the ball.
Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia got a much needed win over TCU on Saturday, but his status is still shaky. Most insiders believe he is in serious danger.
With his team at 4-4, the heat on Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is rising. The Bulldogs could easily lose three of their remaining four games – and even the Arkansas game could be considered a toss-up.
Mullen is in danger of losing his job, but some believe he might be working on an exit strategy…
His name has surfaced as a potential candidate to replace the fred Paul Pasqualoni at UConn.
Former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is also interested in the job.
At Florida Atlantic, the names we hear most are former FIU head coach and current Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and Miami offensive coordinator James Coley.
Other names that have surfaced for the job include Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and ex-Florida head coach Ron Zook.
CBSSports’ Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that former Bears coach Lovie Smith interviewed for the USC job. Smith denies he interviewed and says he has zero interest in the job.
Sources tell FRM that A.D. Pat Haden reached out to Jon Gruden, but that the reception was lukewarm. We’re told Gruden could end up back in Oakland where it all began.
Back to USC… The Trojans are doing exactly what we expected — looking at coaches with NFL backgrounds. We’re also told not to rule out interim coach Ed Orgeron as a serious candidate. A lot depends on oh the Trojans finish.
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin could be a serious candidate at Miami (Ohio). We’re told the RedHawks plan to stick to the their usual MO and hire an up and comer.
The heat is rising on Jim Grobe at Wake Forest. The Deacons are 4-5 and could easily finish 4-8.
Does Nebraska coach Bo Pelini have nine lives? There was some speculation that if the Huskers lost to Northwestern on Saturday that Pelini wouldn’t have a job today.
Thanks to a Ron Kellogg III-to-Jordan Westerkamp miracle Hail Mary as time expired, Pelini is safe… at least for now.
Photo: Steve Mitchell, USA Today Sports
Steve Spurrier went 9-4 and won the Gator Bowl in his third season at Florida. The HBC won 9 and 10 his first years.
Ron Zook went 7-4 and was fired in the middle of his third season. However, it was obvious that he had recruited great players and it’d only be a matter of time before they’d compete for championships. (Zook recruited 22 of 24 starters on Urban Meyer’s 2006 National Championship team.) Zook’s tenure ended as the Gators beat FSU in Tallahassee, something even Steve Spurrier never did.
Urban Meyer went 9-4 in his third season. That’s after winning 9 in his first and the national championship in his second.
Will Muschamp went 7-6 in his first season, 11-2 in his second and is currently 4-3 in the middle of his third. The Gators gave one away at Miami, didn’t play well at LSU and were blown out at Mizzou. With Georgia, Vandy, South Carolina, Georgia Southern and FSU remaining, it’s not out of the question that Florida could have it’s first losing season since 1979.
Sources inside the program tell us there’s a lot of division on the team and teammates beginning to point fingers. Florida AD Jeremy Foley gave Muschamp a vote of confidence earlier this week, saying his coach is “not going anywhere.” For what it’s worth, he told Ron Zook he was “in the circle” and on “on the same team” the Friday before he fired him. So, his public support for Muschamp should be taken with a grain of salt.
We talked with a number of coaches this week and they all told us the same thing. They don’t see a lot of “energy” on the sideline and they don’t see the kinds of playmakers Florida has had in the past.
Muschamp deserves another year to get it fixed — but expect staff changes if he does. The head coach gave offensive coordinator Brent Pease a half-hearted vote of confidence this week, saying “This is the same staff that came a game away from playing for national championship, OK.” Well, Greg Davis was fired at Texas four seasons after winning the national championship and one season after winning 13 games and playing for another.
Assuming Muschamp is around after this season, Foley will insist on staff changes and you can take that to the bank. Sources close to Foley tell us he has had thoughts that maybe he pulled the plug too soon on Zook — and that he seems determined to give Muschamp a longer leash.
However, if the Gators implode down the stretch, don’t be shocked to see Foley do what Foley does best: protect himself. Just ask Ron Zook.
There has been chatter around Central Florida coach George O’Leary for some time. He had a player die on his watch and the Knights landed on NCAA probation. That’s not to mention his prickly personality — he’s not exactly warm and fuzzy. But fast forward to the present and UCF could land in a BCS Bowl as winners of the new AAC.
Duke has never been to back to back bowls, but David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils one win away from being bowl-eligible for the second consecutive year. Things may look better now with Hugh Freeze at the helm, but maybe firing him at Ole Miss one season removed from winning ten games wasn’t such a smart move after all.
After a one-year respite, there are rumblings again at Georgia. If the Bulldogs lose to Florida, watch out. One prominent coach told us today that the coach that loses that game could lose his job. Cocktails, anyone?
Photo credit: Dave Martin, AP
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Louisville’s Charlie Strong and Stanford’s David Shaw have been tabbed by the NFL’s recently formed advisory panel to help to identify potential minority coaching candidates.
According to Schefter, the league “will be an upset if Strong is not a leading candidate for various NFL head coaching openings this winter.”
Not so fast.
Sources close to Strong indicate he’s inclined to stay in college — no matter what the NFL’s advisory panel suggests.
The 53-year old Strong is in his fourth season at Louisville and signed an eight-year extension worth $3.7 million per year in late January. The Cardinals are 31-15 during Strong’s tenure, including a 6-1 mark this season.
At Florida, sources in Gainesville indicate Will Muschamp is currenly not in danger of losing his job, regardless of how the Gators finish. Of course, things change quickly in college football. We do expect a staff shakeup on the offensive side.
Speaking of Florida, this was the week Ron Zook was fired in year three. Zook’s record was 20-13 overall and 14-7 in the SEC. Muschamp’s record is 22-11 overall and 13-8 in the SEC. Let that simmer for a minute…
Despite three wins in a row including a Red River Rivalry triumph over arch-rival Oklahoma, we’re told Mack Brown is still not out of the woods at Texas. An 8-4 record might not be enough, perhaps even 9-3 if that loss is a blowout to Baylor.
If the Longhorns do make a change, look for Nick Saban to get the first call. Jimbo Fisher, Art Briles and Charlie Strong are also likely to make the initial list of candidates.
Keep an eye on West Virginia, Virginia, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State. They could all open.
Eastern Michigan and UNLV are in serious jeopardy.
At USC, we’re told to keep an eye on coaches with an NFL background. Also, don’t rule out Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.
Photo credit: Keith Srakocic, AP