For the first time in 73 collegiate campaigns, dating all the way back to the 1940-41 season, the Florida Gators saw their football team (eight) lose more games than their basketball team (three) in a single athletic calendar.
Granted, Florida football had its worst year since 1979 while Gators basketball posted one of the sport’s five best seasons in school history, but the fact is nevertheless a disturbing one for those that hold the outdated belief that UF is a “football school.”
So it should come as no surprise that Florida head football coach Will Muschamp, with plenty of time to watch the school’s other sports considering the Gators did not compete in the postseason and had spring practice start later than normal, believes his team can learn from what head basketball coach Billy Donovan accomplished with his squad.
“I’ve used their team, their unselfish team a lot [as an example] with our guys,” Muschamp said on Thursday during a Gator Gathering speech in front of the Broward County Gator Club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“I asked our players one time, I said, ‘How many lottery picks are on this basketball team?’ Our guys, they know, they said, ‘Probably none.’ I said, ‘How many first-round picks are there?’ [They answered], ‘I don’t know right now.’
“Well, they had a team that offensively played together. They had a defensive team that helped and played together. They were willing to make the extra pass offensively. They played with great effort and great passion.”
Donovan’s coaching job during the 2013-14 campaign was a masterwork, arguably his best. He neither led the Gators to a national title game berth nor the program’s third NCAA Championship, but Florida exceeded expectations and overcame a major hurdle – the Elite Eight – that it failed to take down in three-straight seasons.
Muschamp’s mountain stands at a greater altitude. After falling one game short of the SEC Championship in 2012, the Gators – due to major injury issues and a subsequently fractured locker room – completely fell apart in 2013, losing more games than they had in a single season in 35 years.
But if Florida football can rebound and come together like the basketball team did one semester prior, perhaps Muschamp can cool his hot seat and Gators fans will have something to for again.
As Muschamp mentioned multiple times during his media availability and subsequent speaking engagement on Thursday, it all starts with the players buying in to the team-first concept that Donovan demanded his squad abide by this past season.
Muschamp also wants his team to know that development during the spring, summer and fall will play a major part in Florida’s success next year.
“They had four guys, which in college sports and especially college basketball, stayed four years at a university and developed,” he explained. “Casey Prather hardly played two years ago. I use him as an example for some of our guys who get redshirted.
“That’s a bad word to get ‘redshirted.’ I think it’s a great thing to get redshirted; you have another year at a four-year school, and you continue to develop. Casey developed himself, worked as hard as anybody – from talking to Billy – in developing his game.
“[The basketball team is] a great example for all of us.”