Fallout and fall guys from the 2013 college football season
[Edited to reflect game results after this went to press].
If you're older than 40, you might remember the heartwarming TV show "Eight Is Enough." And you might have thought eight losses would be enough for University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley to send Will Muschamp packing … but you would've been wrong!
"I have total confidence in Coach Muschamp," Foley told the media before the team's final loss of the 2013 campaign — obliteration at the hands of Florida State. "I've made that very, very clear. You know, gotta fix some things, and you know when you have seasons like this, that's what you do. You evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don't panic.
"Obviously, it's not acceptable. It's not who we are. It's not what we're about. We're confident we can fix it," Foley said.
What drives Foley's confidence?
"He's been a big-time football coach for a long time. … When I'm around him, I feel even better."
Good that he feels good around Muschamp. But not surprising, since he said, when Muschamp was hired in 2010, that "he is the only person we met with [to discuss the opening] and the only person we offered the job to." Clearly, there was no reason to bother with anyone else! Foley saw no reason to bother with minority candidates, either, such as former defensive coordinator and current architect of the Louisville program, Charlie Strong.
Nothing hubristic about the instant hire, nor about the need to justify Muschamp staying on.
Foley went to great lengths before the Saturday game to resolve seeming inconsistencies between retaining Muschamp and canning Ron Zook nine years before, even though Zook never had a season as crummy as the one the Gators just played. But it was clear someone had to take the fall — and that someone was Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
The writing was on the wall even before the last game, as Foley set up something familiar to Jaguars fans: the Disappearing Coordinator Trick.
"We do have to fix that side of the ball," Foley said. "No disrespect to anybody; that's just reality. You look at the stats and some of the scores that have caused us problems. We'll get that fixed, and we're going to have to get that fixed, and I think we can."
I should hope so. In a state flush with blue-chip talent, it's unconscionable that the Gators could get hosed by teams like Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern — that last one at Homecoming. But how much of the failure of the Gators' offense is Pease's fault?
Was it Pease's fault that, by the end of the year, the quarterback was Skylar Mornhinweg, a coach's son whose pedigree outweighed his performance by far?
Was it Pease's fault that the line got smoked, time and time again, by what anyone on the outside would've expected to be inferior talent? It wasn't just the offensive line getting blown off the ball — but the defense, too.
Pease's schemes were anodyne and boring, tedious like C-Span 3 on Seconal. That said, they were consistent with what Muschamp wanted to establish. Muschamp wanted the power run game. Muschamp was supposed to be a strong recruiter. Years into his contract, with the last vestiges of the Meyer era long past, how good can Gators fans really feel about the talent he's brought in?
Some Florida fans — especially those who never attended the college — are probably dumping off their Gator gear in the Goodwill pile and replacing it with FSU togs. Meanwhile, Urban Meyer's Ohio State squad was stopped just short of a national title tilt against the Noles.
Meyer didn't leave the Gators in the best shape, necessarily, and one might have wondered how much of Meyer's success in Gainesville was related to the transcendent Tim Tebow. With a couple of years in Columbus under his belt, it's clear that Meyer deserved more credit than he got before a heart condition drove him to resign his Gator gig.
None of that matters now, alas. Florida State will dominate in-state recruiting for years to come, and the coach who spurned them will be in a spotlight that the Gators aren't going to see for a while. And eventually Muschamp will take the fall.