Less than 24 hours after a story quoting center Jonotthan Harrison cast the Florida Gators 2013 season in an even more negative light than the team’s 4-8 record would indicate, the player has spoken out to say that his comments were neither meant as criticisms of the team nor head coach Will Muschamp.
In a Wednesday conversation with the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson, Harrison stood firm behind his belief that “off-the field actions carried to the on-the-field results” and “may have been hindering the success of the team.” However, he did not intend for those comments to be seen as criticisms about Muschamp or most of his teammates.
“I believe that my interview is being read out of context,” Harrison told the paper. “I have the utmost respect for Coach Muschamp and the coaching staff that was there during my years. He’s a phenomenal coach and he did everything a great coach would do when it came to disciplining his players.”
Furthermore, Harrison explained that he never meant to hurt anybody with his statements. A number of his teammates contacted him directly after reading his comments and expressed a mixture of displeasure and concern.
When he read his statements in print, though Harrison maintains he was not misquoted nor misrepresented, he “realized how it came off” and called Muschamp directly to “apologize from the bottom of my heart.”
“The way you read it [in the original story], it comes off very, very wrong. I don’t want to disrespect my team. I loved my team. I loved the situation I was in, loved Coach Muschamp and the staff when I was there. The way the interview came out made it seem I didn’t respect Coach Muschamp.
“That’s the last thing I would ever do. He’s such a great man. He would give the shirt off his back for the team.”
Harrison also confirmed to Thompson that other problems alluded to in the original story – players missing class, sneaking girls into the team hotel before games and getting in fights when out on the town – did indeed arise over the course of the season, though he also pointed out – which he did not initially – that Muschamp was quick to dish out discipline as necessary.
“He did what a great coach would do. He punished who needed to be punished,” Harrison said. “He as a coach did everything right and everything correct. Yes, we had a rough year, but that happens to teams.”
Changes have been made at Florida since the team’s embarrassing 4-8 finish to the 2013 campaign, including the firing of two coaches on one side of the ball – offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis – who reportedly bumped heads throughout the season. But the Gators also lost a number of veterans at the end of the year and will enter 2014 with a young team that, according to Harrison, showed plenty of immaturity last season.