I’m already tired of this story, but since it spread like kudzu after the Milwaukee-Journal’s piece on Jon Harrison – and since overinflated stories carry us through the offseason – let’s dive right in the deep end and figure this puppy out.
Are the Florida Gators out of control? Has Will Muschamp lost control of his program? Can the coach control his players? See the common thread here?
It all boils down to this: what do you, dear reader and presumed Florida Gators fan, consider “out of control?”
I personally think that Muschamp acts like a bully on the field when speaking to refs, and his press conferences come off as contentious (the humility varies based on team record, but the bellicosity is usually there). On the other hand, there have not been many legal issues during his tenure – something the coach prides himself on. If forced to pick a lane, I would say Will Muschamp tends to control his players better than he does his own temper.
You may feel differently. Perhaps you view a player sneaking girls into a hotel before the South Carolina game as a major red flag.
To that Muschamp has responded, “I put his butt on a bus in Columbia, South Carolina (on Saturday morning) and sent him home to Gainesville.”
Or maybe the near fisticuffs following Georgia Southern turn you off on his leadership skills. It’s okay to be pissed off, but teammates fighting crosses the line.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on it’s important to remember this: we don’t really know what happens behind closed doors.
Urban Meyer took over for Ron Zook, a coach fired for largely losing control of the program. Meyer was a control freak. A disciplinarian. He had the pit, and his players were held accountable. Do things the right way.
Then Meyer left, and six seasons of skeletons came tumbling out of the closet. What seemed like institutional control was actually expert damage control. A tourniquet around a punctured septic tank – one that has long since burst and only now appears fully drained.
Muschamp is right, “When you’re 4-8, people are going to take shots at your program.” The trouble is, these “shots” are not completely unwarranted.
The problem isn’t disciplining the player who broke curfew. It’s that a player, coming off four consecutive losses – including the embarrassment to Vanderbilt on Homecoming – thought it okay to bend the rules.
It’s that a coach put his players in position, when emotions were undoubtedly running high, that they would eventually have to be separated.
It’s that a former player didn’t think well enough during an interview not to air dirty laundry about what is his alma mater’s most sensitive subject.
There is no problem with the reaction. But there may be one with proaction.
Is it possible to completely control a team in today’s sports landscape – after all, the days of the Junction Boys are no longer.
Our answer is most likely somewhere in the bleak middle ground that doesn’t generate page views or headlines. Muschamp likely has a much firmer grasp on the program than has been portrayed this past week, but probably slightly less than he would ever (rightfully) let on in public. There is rarely, if ever, perfect harmony.
The next time you’re debating whether or not Muschamp has his players under control, take a second to read through the familiar offseason trend of Alabama players getting arrested, dismissed and subsequently allowed back on the team. Then ask when the last time Nick Saban was ever questioned over lack of authority. And finally if such a concept truly matters to you.