Somewhere along the line, Will Muschamp lost his way. The man that was hired to be the head coach of the Florida Gators nearly four years ago could no longer cut it as the leader of the orange and blue footballers.
It was sad at times to see our once great program fall to the depths of a 4-8 season and follow that up with a team that couldn’t finish close games. Along the way, we seemed to know one thing—that Muschamp’s tenure at the University of Florida was quickly coming to a close and there was little chance there would be a year five.
I’m not disappointed that Muschamp won’t return. We have to be honest with ourselves in saying that the Gators weren’t cutting it over the last two calendar years. Many only had good things to say about Muschamp the person once his firing (oh, sorry, he “resigned”) was announced. That’s all good and well, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that he wasn’t winning football games. Even Ron Zook went 16-8 in the SEC. Muschamp served up a paltry 17-15 conference record. That’s right; in eight more SEC games, Muschamp only managed one more conference win than Zook.
But let’s not harp on the latest former head coach—Muschamp will get paid handsomely to coordinate a defense and will eventually be asked to be a head coach again. I wish him well, but at the same time I am excited to see what the next era in Florida Gators football brings.
That era began on December 4, 2014 with the announcement that former Alabama offensive coordinator and Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain would lead the Gators into the future. Many of you immediately yelled (or, more accurately, tweeted) “COLORADO STATE?!?” I’m forced to remind you where we found Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.
We had forgotten McElwain, he of Bama lore. He had gone to the Rams and turned around a team while we had turned our focus back to the SEC. His three-year progression from 4-8 to 8-6 to 10-2 is impressive. Even more so when you consider Zook and Muschamp HAD NEVER BEEN HEAD COACHES!!!
He’s not the sexy name, but who is these days? Nick Saban? Yeah, never going to happen. Chip Kelly? Really not a possibility. Bringing Spurrier back? The guy is now 69 years old. McElwain, for the record is 52, or 17 years younger than the man at South Carolina. (Side note: McElwain is 17 years old than I am. That’s some weird Bermuda triangle right there.)
He’s an offensive coach. Check. He’s a good recruiter. Check (although so many of them are these days). High school coaches like him. Check. Former and current players rave about him. Check. A lot of people a whole lot smarter and more connected than I am like the hire. Check. He’s not Lane Kiffin. Check.
We have a little bit of a project on our hands, but we also did on December 31, 1989 when Spurrier was announced as the next head coach of the Gators. Spurrier was given a pass from the critics because 1) Twitter didn’t exist, and 2) if his Wikipedia page is correct, he won a Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at the University of Florida. But here was Spurrier’s record in three years at Duke: 20-13-1. He’s McElwain’s in three years at CSU: 22-16. Spurrier won 59% of his college-coached games before coming to Florida; McElwain won 58% of his.
I’m not saying McElwain will be Florida’s savior. How could I possibly know that? How could anyone? But on paper (and the Internet), he looks like a good candidate and one that we—myself included—shouldn’t have overlooked. He could be great, he could fall flat on his face, but both of those are true of anyone that would have been named the next head coach. (REMINDER THAT SABAN AND KELLY WEREN’T COMING!)
It’s about two months until I’ll receive my notice for season ticket renewal. I’ll be honest again (I’m never not) and say that I would have renewed regardless. Muschamp, McElwain, whoever—I would still be a season ticket holder in 2015. I enjoy it despite the fact that there haven’t been a whole lot of wins I’ve seen in person since becoming one, but having season tickets to Florida Gators football pleases me. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I’ll have them for a long time. I’d like more wins, of course, but I’ll go through the painful times as well. Call me what you want for having that philosophy, but it’s my choice and will be for many years to come.
So here we are Florida fans. We have a bowl game and 60 minutes of D.J. Durkin the head coach. Then we have months and months and months of watching McElwain build his Gators. The 2015 season can’t get here soon enough.