7:50 PM EST, November 25, 2013
GAINESVILLE – Nobody would blame University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for firing football coach Will Muschamp.
Nobody would blame him at all for changing his mind, going back on his word, doing the easy thing and pulling the plug on an embattled coach who is in the midst of an historically bad season.
But it's not going to happen.
It's just not.
Not two weeks ago after an embarrassing home loss to Vanderbilt. Not now after Saturday's historically embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern. And not this Saturday after Muschamp and the Gators endure what is sure to be a monumentally embarrassing blowout loss to rival Florida State at the Swamp.
Foley, one of the most respected and powerful athletic directors in the country, said two weeks ago he is "a thousand percent" behind Muschamp and now says nothing has changed. Foley is so strongly in Muschamp's corner that I've been told he might step down himself rather than be forced by UF's administration to fire Muschamp.
Good for Foley for going all Tammy Wynette and standing by his man. Seemingly, everybody in the world believes Muschamp should be fired -- except Foley, who remains supremely confident Muschamp is the man to lead the Gators into the future despite enduring UF's first losing season in 34 years.
When I asked Muschamp Monday if he is concerned about his future, he replied quickly: "Absolutely not." When I asked him if he is certain he will be back as UF's coach next year, he replied even more quickly: "Absolutely."
Full disclosure: I've written and said many times I believe Muschamp is going to be a terrific head coach, but I'm not so sure now I wouldn't have fired him after Florida Northern's loss to Georgia Southern. Good grief, how do you lose to an FCS school that beats you without even completing a pass and running for 429 yards -- the fourth-most rushing yards the Gators have given up in school history.
But I have to admit, I admire Foley for being a real leader and not bending to the will of the masses. Several years ago, I criticized Foley when he hired some unproven 30-year-old basketball coach from Marshall. Turns out, Billy Donovan became one of the greatest hires in modern college history. I also criticized Foley for not doing everything in his power to bring back Steve Spurrier as UF's head coach after the firing of Ron Zook. Foley instead hired Urban Meyer, who won two national titles in six years.
Certainly, it would be much easier for Foley to just fire Muschamp and start anew. He would win the fans back, sell more season tickets and avoid the toxic atmosphere that will surround Muschamp after he gets pounded by FSU Saturday to finish with a 4-8 record.
But after winning 11 games last year, Foley believes Muschamp deserves a mulligan for this injury-riddled, star-crossed season. Since taking over at UF 20 ultra-successful years ago, Foley has lived by a simple philosophy when making personnel evaluations: "Never make long-term decisions based on short-term results."
Obviously, Foley doesn't believe Muschamp forgot how to coach from one season to the next. The Gators did, after all, pound South Carolina and Florida State last year, shut down Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M and punched LSU right in the teeth en route to an 11-2 record.
Foley also has another administrative philosophy that he borrowed from Henry Kissinger: "What must be done eventually should be done immediately."
Translation: If he believed Muschamp was doomed to fail, Muschamp would already be fired. Foley obviously is convinced Muschamp is a really good football coach who has simply been saddled with a really bad offense. Which is why UF is expected to fire offensive coordinator Brent Pease and make other significant changes in the offensive coaching staff after this season.
Muschamp has been at Florida for three seasons – one with Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator, two with Pease – and never has Florida's offense been ranked higher than 103 out of 120 teams in total offense.
The reason Muschamp says Florida's problems are "very quickly" fixable are likely two-fold (1) Almost all of UF's injured starters will be back next year. (2) In combination with Muschamp's traditionally strong defense, if the Gators can just figure out a way to upgrade their offense from pathetic (ranked in the 100s) to adequate (ranked in 50s), that would be enough to quickly make Florida a contender once again.
Like it or not, Gator Nation, that is the plan and it's not going to change.
Will Muschamp is going to be your head coach next season.
Now we get to see if you believe the words to that corny "We Are the Boys" song you always sing at football games:
"In all kinds of weather,
We'll all stick together.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740 AM.
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