There’s an old rule in sports, politics, news and life: “Don’t make it a headline, unless it’s a good one.” This is a lesson that Florida Gators Coach WIll Muschamp needs to learn – and fast.
News broke last night that star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was injured while trying to break up a (depending on what sources you read) “scuffle,” “brawl,” or a “fight” between defensive backs and wide receivers during an open-practice for fans. Luckily, Hargreaves suffered only a bone bruise, is listed as day-to-day, and looks to not have incurred a season-ending injury.
I don’t know about you, but this just ticks me off like nothing else. After enduring (and yes, that’s exactly what it was, folks: enduring) this past off-season following an injury-riddled and leadership-devoid 4-8 football season, there is nothing the Gator Nation needed more than positive momentum. And before this news broke, that’s what we were getting. QB Jeff Driskel was more accurate and responding well to Kurt Roper’s new up-tempo system, Jake McGee was stretching the field, and most importantly, only one scholarship player was forced to miss any practice time due to injury.
And then this happened.
Look, I like Will Muschamp – I do. I think he’s demonstrated that he is an incredible recruiter (evidenced in three consecutive top-10 classes) and a capable coach when at full-strength (evidenced in an 11-2 season in 2012). He has also shown that he can both overcome adversity (all last season, pretty much) and can do what’s right for the program even if he philosophically disagrees with it (hiring Roper with a new offensive scheme). And to top it off, I think he’s a damned cool guy.
But bricks keep firing at the glass windows of the House of Gators. Muschamp keeps putting a gun to his foot and pulling the trigger, almost as if he just can’t quite help himself.
These are the unflattering facts about Muschamp. He is the:
- First coach since Charley Pell in the 1980s to go 0-3 against Georgia.
- First Florida coach since 1946 to lose to an FCS team.
- First Florida coach since 1989 to not see his team in the pre-season Top 25 Coaches Poll.
- First Florida coach not to make a bowl since 1990 (when on probation) and since 1979 (by record alone).
- First Florida coach, on record, to lose to a team who doesn’t complete a single yard of passing.
- First coach since 1979 to lead Florida to a losing record.
- First Florida coach to lose to Vanderbilt since 1989.
This isn’t being a Debbie Downer, but damn, can this guy work any more diligently to make things any harder on himself? Seriously?!
You see, Muschamp is a guy who either doesn’t want to be loved, doesn’t know how to be loved, or just can’t quite put the pieces of a coach-fan relationship together. I, along with a great many people, am not rooting for the man to fail solely to get a new coach. Because, let’s face it, it didn’t work at Tennessee with Lane Kiffin or Derek Dooley; it took a long time (and the greatest coach of his generation) to make it work at Alabama; and the verdict is still out at Miami with Al Golden.
Changing coaches in today’s environment with intensely loyal and incredibly fickle players is Russian Roulette, and can lead to a long-term downfall for your program – just ask Vols fans about life after Phil Fulmer. You have to be patient with a new coach because, generally, it’s a new system. It takes several years to see tangible results from his players, his schemes, and his coordinators.
However, patience runs thin at programs like Florida – those with proud histories and rabid fans. Continually making hiring mistakes (see: Charlie Weis and Brent Pease); not instituting discipline on the field (see: 2012 and 2013 Georgia games); and trying to force defense down an offensive-minded fan base’s throat is not the way to endear yourself and buy time.
There is is absolutely no excuse, whatsoever, to allow a brawl, fight, tiff, or scuffle (whatever the hell it was) to occur on the field – much less before the damn season even starts. And, even more importantly, to let it happen in front of fans who have given up their time to come see your team practice!
I just don’t understand the “let’s let them get it out” mentality when your first game is in less than three weeks. Break it up, punish the offenders with (as a friend of mine who is married to a college football head coach suggested) five minute sprints or suicide runs, and remind them that, as she said, “Teams are a brotherhood, not a place for brawls and dissension.”
Do you see brawls resulting in injured players (especially star players) at Alabama? Florida State? Auburn? Carolina? No, folks, you don’t. Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Gus Malzahn, and Steve Spurrier – if the brawls occur (which we don’t hear about for the most part) – quell it, and make sure players don’t get injured. That’s Muschamp’s job. That’s his role as a coach, mentor, leader and face of the program, and it’s something he is currently failing miserably at.
Will Muschamp has had three years at Florida and has posted a 22-16 record. Ron Zook posted a 24-14 record at Florida in 3 years. While I’m not comparing the two, these are numbers to reflect upon.
What I am saying is that the fuse has been lit on the Coach Boom Time Bomb. Can Muschamp defuse it before his tenure at Florida explodes into a fireball, and settles into an ash heap at the gates of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium? For the sake of the Orange and Blue, I hope so.