I can’t say that I understand the Muschamp hire any better this morning than when I first heard about it last night. There are schools where hiring Muschamp would have been a resounding step up, but Florida isn’t one of those places. In fact, Foley has gone out and hired an assistant coach from one of the few programs which had a more disappointing 2010 season than Florida did. (At least the hire won’t affect Texas’ bowl preparation.)
There are hires that would have put a bigger fear of God in me than Muschamp. (Somebody had a great line about a potential Petrino hire – it would have been like handing a terrorist a nuclear bomb.) That isn’t to say that Muschamp won’t work out, just that choosing him wasn’t a slam dunk move. And Florida’s the kind of program from which I would have expected a slam dunk.
So what was Foley’s reasoning? It’s all speculative, of course. Maybe he really, truly believes he’s got the best head coaching candidate in the country. After all, that’s what Texas thought. Maybe he wanted to let all the pundits speculating on coaches like Stoops and Mullen know that Foley’s his own man. John Pennington speculates that perhaps there’s something more, dare I say it, Kiffin-esque going on here.
* Muschamp is a hot, hot name in the coaching business. In the last round of coaching changes, Muschamp was Tennessee’s first choice to replace Lane Kiffin but he turned the Volunteers down. (Think Gator fans don’t love that?)
* Muschamp’s move also signals that either a) Mack Brown figures to be at Texas a lot longer or b) Muschamp believes Florida is a superior job to Texas. (Think Gator fans don’t love that?)
* There are probably a lot of Georgia fans who are upset tonight. As a Georgia grad, Muschamp was viewed as a “someday” coach of the Bulldogs. You can bet the folks who wanted to blow out Richt and hire Muschamp this offseason are bummed. (Think Gator fans don’t love that, too?)
* Interesting timing by Florida, by the way. As millions sat down to watch former Gator Cam Newton win the Heisman Trophy, Foley and crew put out a press release naming Muschamp as their coach. They didn’t do it at 7pm. They didn’t wait and do it at 9pm. They did it right as the Heisman presentation was getting under way. Now maybe that was a coincidence… but I wouldn’t bet on it.
* With Bobby Petrino and Dan Mullen staying put, it looks as though Gus Malzahn’s choices just became a lot more limited. But wait… what if Muschamp and Florida come after Malzahn as offensive coordinator?
Before you completely dismiss his last point, keep in mind that the rumors about Muschamp’s first target for defensive coordinator are consistent with that attitude.
But that last point brings something else to mind here. This hire is going to be the biggest break in continuity that Florida’s had since 1990. Charlie Strong was the bridge from Zook to Meyer (Strong had also been a member of Spurrier’s staff for three years). There isn’t a similar figure likely to match that in this transition. And since Muschamp isn’t coming in as an existing head coach with his own staff, at least in part, there’s going to be a clean slate from that direction as well.
All in all, lots of questions.
- What happens to Meyer’s offense and the players recruited for it?
- Speaking of recruiting, how well does a coach who for the last three recruiting seasons been with a program that’s had to do little more than cherry pick the best in-state recruits transition back to the rough-and-tumble of SEC (and national) recruiting in Florida?
- If Florida is serious about assistants like Smart, how much is it ready to spend on Muschamp’s staff? It’s not like the Gators can’t afford it, after all, but it would be a dramatic change in approach for Foley.
- Does Foley choose better candidates when the situation is forced on him, as opposed to when he controls the situation? In other words, he did a lot better in the wake of the Zooker’s fire than he did with Spurrier’s resignation. This round is more similar to the latter than the former for Foley.
The other guy I wonder about today is Charlie Strong. How’s he supposed to feel about the praise lavished on Muschamp, like this?
“We are thrilled to have Coach Muschamp lead our football program,” Foley said. “When we started the search for our next head coach we wanted a coach who was familiar with the Southeastern Conference. We wanted a candidate who was a relentless recruiter and was familiar with recruiting in the state of Florida.
“We wanted a candidate who was high energy and had been on the big stage. We wanted a candidate who was respected by his players and his peers and we wanted someone who had a passion for the University of Florida. Coach Muschamp is all of those things and more. He is a grounded family man with a wonderful wife and two children and we welcome them into our Gator family.”
All of which you could say about Strong, not to mention that, unlike Muschamp, he’s got a year of head coaching experience under his belt that saw his program improve its record from the previous season. Strong’s also got Meyer’s former offensive coordinator at Utah as his OC, which would presumably have made for a smoother transition. So you’d have to say that Foley’s comment that Muschamp was his only choice for the position has to sting a little. Think he’d like to get back to the SEC as a head coach one day to show Foley what he missed on?