Will Muschamp’s UGA buddies conflicted about ‘that Florida thing’

Will Muschamp (30) started at safety for the Bulldogs in 1994 and was named defensive co-captain that season. (UGA photo)

Will Muschamp (30) started at safety for the Bulldogs in 1994 and was named defensive co-captain that season. (UGA photo)

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — “Wherever I played has no bearing on this game at all.”

“There will be a lot of wasted ink on the fact that I played at Georgia and I’m now coaching at Florida.”

“I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but I’m loyal to people, not places.”

This is what we’ve heard Will Muschamp, the Florida Gators’ first-year head coach, say this week about his ties to Georgia. Those ties are pretty strong, as most folks can tell you. Raised in Rome and married to a girl from Thomaston, he played football and earned his degree in communications from the University of Georgia.

But Muschamp has downplayed those connections at every turn, understandable considering his current address. Instead he tells the Gator Nation that he really wanted to play football at Florida, having spent the early part of his childhood growing up in the city in which that university resides. Circumstances were such that, after breaking his leg playing baseball, only Georgia would give him the opportunity to play big-time college football. So he went there instead.

And that may well be the truth. But Muschamp also forged some lifelong relationships during those four years in Athens and his latest move in a whirlwind coaching career has left them in a conflicted state.

Whit Marshall, who played linebacker for the Bulldogs with Muschamp, was probably his closest friend while the two were in college. As it turns out, Muschamp also chose to marry Marshall’s first cousin, the former Carol Davis.

“I’ve been good friends with him for a long time,” said Marshall, who works in real estate and is raising four kids in Atlanta. “But it’s been funny seeing my in-laws become Gator fans. They were Georgia fans. Two my cousins went to Georgia, but now that Will’s the head coach they’re all big Gator fans.”

Muschamp also roomed with quarterback Eric Zeier all four years they lived in Athens. Zeier, one of Georgia’s most beloved players, is color analyst for the Bulldog Radio Network. Seeing one of his best buddies dressed in orange and blue and leading the Gators’ onto the field is something Zeier is still trying to get used to.

“For the record I called him up on day one and firmly announced that he was a traitor,” said Zeier, an executive with Bank of America. “But the serious answer is, as players and teammates, the minute you go into coaching your loyalty lies with the team that you’re on and with the players that you’re leading every day and you recruit to come to your school. We all realize that.”

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Muschamp have remained close in the years since they were at UGA. They used to talk almost weekly – that is, until Muschamp landed in Gainesville.

“We haven’t talked, except when he first got the job,” Bobo said. “Georgia-Florida’s a little different.”

Coaching a former rival against your alma mater is not unusual in the business. Auburn grad Vince Dooley led the Bulldogs for 25 years and Georgia grad Pat Dye coached Auburn during some of its most successful years. In each case, they downplayed their school ties when it came to the games.

“That’s the way you’ve gotta approach it, or try to approach it,” Bobo said. “Especially the magnitude of what fans think of the Georgia-Florida game.”

The fact of the matter is, as defensive coordinator at LSU and Auburn, Muschamp has coached against Georgia five times already. He’s 2-3 in those games.

Some have wondered if Muschamp’s presence in Gainesville has in anyway softened the rivalry between the two schools. On the contrary.

“Just the way this game has played out over the years, this game is as big as it gets for Georgia,” Zeier said. “It’s one that we want to win because we haven’t had success lately. The fact that Will is the coach heightens that to some degree and from a fan perspective it should. That’s what makes college football in the South so great.”

Meanwhile, no one buys Muschamp’s “it’s no different than any other game” spiel.

“It’s definitely one that means a lot to him just simply from the fact that he went to Georgia,” Marshall said. “But the reality is he’s been to so many different schools since then, it’s probably as not as big as if it’d had been a couple of years after he finished at Georgia. But I know deep down inside it means something to him, for sure.”

The whole thing is more than a little aggravating for Marshall, who said he always hoped Muschamp would remain at Texas, where he was “head coach in waiting” before taking the Florida job. Nevertheless, Marshall makes it clear that he “bleeds red and black.”

“It makes it tough, for sure,” Marshall said. “I’m always pulling for Will, but it’s hard to pull for him in this game. I have to pull for Georgia.”

|– Chip Towers

249 comments Add your comment

truedawg

October 28th, 2011
11:15 am

Kick him like a stray dog!

SWFLADAWG

October 28th, 2011
11:16 am

truedawg

October 28th, 2011
11:18 am

wow, First??!! and I even read the whole story. Everyone but me must be driving to JAX. As a fan this game is always biggest. You can have a lossing record and beat the Gaytors and still have a good season. I also have to think if CMR and company can’t get a “W” this Saturday, I will have lost all confidence in the staff in place at Athens.
FIRST!! Go DAWGS!!! GATA

Vince Dooley

October 28th, 2011
11:19 am

disbot3000

October 28th, 2011
11:20 am

Cut the guy some slack. Alma Mater loyalty is great and all, but a job is a job.

All I remember is

October 28th, 2011
11:20 am

that modest Muschamp Guarantee.

Pat Dye

October 28th, 2011
11:21 am

I second that hum

MattDawg

October 28th, 2011
11:22 am

Muschamp is dead to me.

MattDawg

October 28th, 2011
11:24 am

I mean really, dude, you wanted to play at Florida? Georgia was gracious to offer you a scholarship. I know you gotta be “all in” (pardon the expression) with your current team, but don’t hate on your Alma Mater. Also, don’t pretend it doesn’t matter to you. No one believes that.

McDawg

October 28th, 2011
11:25 am

the more i read about this guy the less i like him

his father hates Georgia-he wanted to be a gator-well now he got his wish

i hope we kick the crap out of them and begin the Muschump curse

coachx

October 28th, 2011
11:27 am

I can like Derrick Dooley but I can’t like Will Muschamp. The saying “Florida is just different” pretty much sums it up.”

Go Dawgs !

Brucerugby79

October 28th, 2011
11:30 am

GO DOGS BEAT FLORIDA !!!

Dap01

October 28th, 2011
11:30 am

Nobody cares except reporters wanting to write something. Muschamp is merely the FLA coach who is a near nut case ranting and raving on the sidelines. GATA and win.

Dap01

October 28th, 2011
11:31 am

Muschamp is loyal to people (UF people) because they sign large checks to him. People aren’t loyal to people or places, they are loyal to their employment.

Brandon

October 28th, 2011
11:32 am

When Muschamp accepted the Florida job, he forifeted all rights that he once had as a dawg. Never again, can he call hisself a dawg. He should be dead to any true UGA fan.

Jake Dawg

October 28th, 2011
11:32 am

Let’s do an over/under on the number of F-bombs he drops on camera for all the young fans out there. Stay classy muskrat!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

October 28th, 2011
11:32 am

Pretty soon it will be apparent Muschamp is a fraud. Guy is overrated, product of ESPN hype. Lets start the downfall in full by beating Florida like a yard dog on Saturday.

truedawg

October 28th, 2011
11:33 am

yeah the promise to beat UGA, the DB at UF saying he wasn’t impressed by our QB or or RB….and the list goes on!!! Beat them 50 if possible. I agree, its seems Dooley up at UT coaches without talking smack about UGA. I can’t wait, GATA DAWGS!!

RiffRaff

October 28th, 2011
11:34 am

Derrick Dooley has class. Will Muschamp not so much.

P-Cola Dog

October 28th, 2011
11:35 am

muschump is right where he should be. on a three game losing streak staring down the barrel of a 4 game losing streak.

Sic’em

Son of Munson

October 28th, 2011
11:39 am

I’ve never liked Weis, and I’m liking Muschamp less every day.

BEAT FLORIDA!

Captain Allen Waters

October 28th, 2011
11:45 am

UF and UT have many former players and current coaches that should have been the HC when UM left to join ESPN. I hope #34 and former coach VD can help us remember what it was before Spurrier took control. 1am Sunday morning start here in India so talk about a night game. Rest early Larry and help us hunker down!
UGA fan in India.
Captain Allen Waters

Fair and Balanced

October 28th, 2011
11:46 am

Non-issue. Go Dawgs.

Captain Allen Waters

October 28th, 2011
11:47 am

What happened to Texas?

Mattdawg

October 28th, 2011
11:49 am

Am I the only one who finds it ironic after watching Muschamp act like a buffoon on the sidelines, that his degree was in “communications”? :)

Dr. Morpheus

October 28th, 2011
11:51 am

Cut WIll some slack, then cut him off at the knees… Go Dawgs, GATA!

Dawg Fud

October 28th, 2011
11:51 am

“I always wanted to go to Florida but Georgia was the only school that took a chance on me.”

I get it. He’s the Gator coach. But as a young person you never forget things like that and I am sure Muschamp has not forgotten that. Georgia gave him his start in footbal and he realizes it.

He just cant say it or the media will blow it up and then the crazies* would run him out of Gainesville.

*By crazies, i mean the lunatic fringe that every SEC prgram has

GO DAWGS!

Dawg Fud

October 28th, 2011
11:52 am

And for the record, I hope we beat his Gator tail!

Cuz

October 28th, 2011
11:53 am

It is a non-issue. Beat the Gators and remove the curse of the St Johns.

Dawg Fud

October 28th, 2011
11:54 am

Throw me a bone

October 28th, 2011
11:54 am

Its hard to imagine that that the rivalry wont be softened a little…. How can muschamp truly hate UGA like a true florida fan when he played for the team hes coaching against.

Cuz

October 28th, 2011
11:55 am

Grantham gets Mushchamp in a choke hold at the end of the game. The National Guard is called in to restore order.

1eyedJack

October 28th, 2011
11:55 am

Traitor! Hangin’s too good for him. ;)

EDawg71

October 28th, 2011
11:56 am

Amen Mattdawg. To all your comments. It’s one thing to show you are 100% in with your job, but damn. Why you gotta demean everything that is Georgia? Jackass. Muschamp and Kirby can both go to the same place as far as I’m concerned.

Gator Mike

October 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

Regardless of what Coach Muschamp says, this game will be very emotional for him. Regardless of who wins, he is going to get blasted by the losing team’s fans. I am sure that Vince Dooley and Pat Dye went through the same type of emotions during their first few years coaching UGA and AU respectively. Will’s wife should probably stay with her parents for a few days after the game. Hopefully, he will control his emotions better on the sidelines which are becomming an embarassment to many of us.
It should be a good game if both teams show up. Go Gators!

DILLIGAF

October 28th, 2011
12:04 pm

I hate UF with a passion, always have and always will.
4 losses in a row for Muschump and the salamanders.
Dawg’s defense will be the difference maker in this game as they lay the wood in true, classic Junkyard fashion.
Hopefully, the offense can stay on the field with long drives and put up 6’s instead of 3’s by running the ball down their throats.

Go Dawgs! GATA!!

UGA/85′

Tobias Funke

October 28th, 2011
12:07 pm

I “know” Carol Davis.

Joey

October 28th, 2011
12:08 pm

“Never again, can he call hisself a dawg. He should be dead to any true UGA fan.”
***************************************
So, Muschamp, a DC at Texas, was offered the UF job, with four-times the salary, and he was supposed to turn it down because he played football at UGA?

Any of us would have done the same thing if offered.

Hell, I’d leave right now for Atlanta if the Jackets offered me $3M!

dawgfan

October 28th, 2011
12:10 pm

There are enthusiastic and intense head coaches and there are whiny head coaches. Muschamp’s sideline antics sometimes fall in to the latter category. He can be such a crybaby sometimes.

If Muschamp wants to say he’s just a professional doing his job that’s fine, but dont’ go pandering to the Jort Nation with this “I really wanted to play at Florida” bullcrap. That’s a slap in the face to the institution and program that provided you with the education and background that got you where you are homeboy. If it wasn’t for Georgia it sounds like you wouldn’t have played anywhere. A little gratitude might be in order.

I hate Florida.

UGA Athletic Department Custodian

October 28th, 2011
12:12 pm

Have no fear, I have removed all team photos with Muschamp from the walls and trophy cases and appropriately doodled on his face before I replaced them….Traitor.

Call me Coach

October 28th, 2011
12:12 pm

As an old coach, now retired, it’s easy to judge another’s character when he makes bonehead statements like that about loving the one you’re with because they’re who pay you. It’s not that the sound of what he said is shallow and mercenary, it’s the shortsightedness of it. Young coaches are looking at a long career and you need all of the respect and friends you can get and turning your back completely on your Mama (Bear Bryant’s name for his alma mater) in such a callous way will haunt you for the rest of your career. I’m not a UGA alum but if I was I would not take kindly to such a dismissal of your Mama. I hope that it’s just Coach Muschamp’s immaturity because I’m sure that Vince Dooley, Bear Bryant, Shug Jordan, Bob Neyland would never have said something like that. What has coaching come to?

d-dog

October 28th, 2011
12:22 pm

blood is thicker than gatoraid.

Gatormeat

October 28th, 2011
12:23 pm

Well, this is my last few moments to post before I head up to Jacksonville. You dumb dog fans are stupid to think you have a chance, the Mighty Gators are going to wipe the field with you. No wonder we make so much fun of georgias stupid fans at the stadium every year. I’ll be back Sunday to mock you foolish people, I can’t wait to hear the crying and excuses you give every year after the game.

bring the pain

October 28th, 2011
12:27 pm

lets hope that the first time Tree hits Brantley is quickly followed by washington hitting him and then Jarvis introducing himself to demps or rainey. lets hit hard from start to finish and send them home packed in ICE. Defense makes the offenses job easier when they create a short field.

Coop

October 28th, 2011
12:28 pm

Don’t blame the guy for taking the Florida job–it’s one of the best in college football–and for wanting to beat our skulls in on Saturday. UF is where his loyalty should lie now. But you don’t have to throw momma from the train. Can’t imagine Coach Richt responding toward U of Miami if we played them. Muschamp seems classless and arrogant. Come to think of it, he’s a pretty good fit for the Gators!

DIT

October 28th, 2011
12:28 pm

Just find a way to WIN!!! Go Dawgs!

bring the pain

October 28th, 2011
12:32 pm

You know sometimes one victory can catapult a team to amazing heights, maybe this could be ours? A win could be a larger than just a rival game victory, recriuting, respect etc. This game is a watershed for us win it and the repercussions could be huge, unfortunately lose it and the same goes the other way.

joewally

October 28th, 2011
12:33 pm

Do it on your good foot!

Kyle

October 28th, 2011
12:35 pm

Only one thing worse than UF and that is the Democrat party (not much difference in the two though). We just need to go in and take care of business tomorrow and it will be much more satisfying because a turncoat like Muschamp is coaching them.

Joe Cox

October 28th, 2011
12:36 pm

man i love the dogs. man i hate the gators