We know Georgia fans — some of them, anyway — were hoping Will Muschamp would be the Bulldogs’ next coach. (He’s from here, played here, et cetera.) Tonight he’ll be introduced as Florida’s coach, and I’m wondering how he’ll be received in the realm of the reptile.
Yeah, he’d done as much as any assistant could to prove his bona fides. But shouldn’t the nation’s most prestigious program — show me another school with three national championships over the past 15 years — have been able to attract someone who’d actually won a game as a head coach?
The extremely opinionated Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel admitted Monday he was “conflicted” and asked readers to help him decide if Muschamp would be a stud or a dud. (Apropos of nothing, I feel compelled to note that Bianchi is the only writer I’ve ever read who has quoted liberally from the Wet Willie song “Keep On Smiling.”)
This correspondent, who much preferred the Marshall Tucker Band to Wet Willie, would put the hiring of Muschamp far above Jeremy Foley’s wrong-headed tapping of Ron Zook but significantly below Foley’s on-the-rebound courtship of Urban Meyer. Muschamp was a far more successful assistant than the Zooker, who’d been demoted as Florida’s defensive coordinator by Steve Spurrier, but the Urbanator arrived in Gainesville having satisfied Spurrier’s criterion for judging a coach.
“If you want to know whether a guy can win,” Spurrier has famously said, “look at his record.” Meyer came to Florida having gone 10-2 at Bowling Green and off an undefeated season with Utah. (Funny how nobody ever mentions that the 2004 Utes didn’t get a chance to play for the BCS title, either.)
Muschamp has no won-lost record. He has done superior work as a defensive coordinator at LSU, Auburn and Texas, but there’s a difference in coaching half a squad as opposed to the whole enchilada. (Or, as Jim Donnan once had it, “the whole chilardo.”)
There’s never a guarantee any hire will yield a championship, but there’s a comfort that comes with handing over a program to someone who has run one before. I’m a little surprised Florida didn’t go that route, and I’m thinking one or two Rowdy Reptiles will feel the same. I’m thinking Muschamp will face a much tougher audience in Gainesville than he would have, say, in Athens.
Win the SEC East and you’re a Bulldog savior. Win only the SEC East and Gator fans will wonder why you’re stealing their money. That’s a different crowd down there. It was, let’s recall, two disgruntled Florida fans who created the legendary fireronzook.com — nine months before the Zooker ever coached a game.
By Mark Bradley