Updated at 7:30 p.m.
Joining a handful of other Southeastern Conference coaches in Bristol, CT, on Tuesday, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp went through ESPN’s “car wash” as he appeared on nearly a dozen of the network’s media platforms over the course of one day. It is the fourth time Muschamp is being put through the wringer by ESPN after previously participating in April 2011, July 2011 and July 2012.
OnlyGators.com followed Muschamp’s media appearances throughout the day and updated this post live with the news, notes and quotes from all of his appearances.
Muschamp started the day by taping an interview for ESPN Radio’s GameDay Radio at 11 a.m. He then walked over to the set of First Take on ESPN2 for a conversation with host Cari Champion and contributors Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless at 11:20 a.m.
Asked about only losing one Southeastern Conference game but being an “also-ran” in the league, Muschamp said the Gators “gained a lot of confidence as a program” in 2012 and that he is “really excited about how things have come together as far as our roster is concerned.” He continued: “As long as we take care of our locker room and take care of our football team and prepare the right way, we’re going to have a great season. […] We can’t control what other teams do or what you guys [the media] say. We can control how we play and how we prepare.”
Muschamp was then asked to elaborate about his comments from the 2013 SEC Media Days in which he joked about Ohio State and former Florida head coach Urban Meyer turning in the Gators for minor secondary NCAA recruiting violations. “Obviously they’ve had their share of brushes recently,” he said with a smile. “In both situations, we didn’t do anything wrong. we appreciate them checking on us to make sure.”
Smith then asked Muschamp if he said “Ohio” on purpose rather than saying the team’s true name, “Ohio State.” He replied: “I’ve always been a Brady Hoke fan.” [Editor’s Note: Hoke is the head coach of Michigan, OSU’s biggest rival.]
Next, Muschamp addressed sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison‘s second arrest in five weeks, this time for barking at a police dog.
“Just disappointed. You’re a father figure to all these young men. You got 85 guys on scholarship; you got another 20-25 walk-ons, over 100 kids. You’re responsible for those kids. And it’s your job to educate them and make sure they’re making good choices and decisions. They’re not all going to make good choices and decisions, unfortunately. They’re not always going to have great judgement. That doesn’t make them a bad person,” he said.
“Antonio Morrison is a great young man. He’s been raised right. Anthony and Valentine, his parents, are wonderful people. As a matter of fact, I was on the phone with them last night. He just had some poor judgement in that situation. Nothing good happens after midnight.”
Finally, Muschamp was asked to comment on junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and the progress he has made this offseason. “I think he can be outstanding,” he said. “First of all, he’s a great competitor, tremendous leader. He’s an outstanding athlete. But again, the throwing part of that has got to slow down for him a little bit. He’s got to make better decisions with the ball. We’re also improved around him.”
After working with ESPN digital media, Muschamp appeared live on the network’s flagship program, SportsCenter, at 12:20 p.m. for a sit down with Chris Fowler.
He was again asked about Morrison’s latest arrest (“which has become a punch line around the country – barking at a police dog in a parking lot of a bar”) and what he needs to see from him before he can return to the program. “I’ve suspended him from all team activities at this point,” he said. “It’s all about making good choices and decisions. He made a poor choice and decision to be out at three o’clock in the morning, and that’s No. 1 with me. But we’ll bring him back in camp, and we’ll work through this process with him. Again, it’s about educating young people, and they got to understand, when they make these mistakes, there are consequences in our program.”
Muschamp followed by avoiding Fowler’s question about whether Morrison even should have been arrested in the first place. The two moved on to talking about football.
“I feel like those guys have developed on campus,” Muschamp said of the Gators’ wide receivers. “We signed five young players that are going to get their opportunities. Loucheiz Purifoy will play on the offensive side of the ball; how much will depend on how those [wide receivers] develop.”
He then discussed sophomore running back Matt Jones, a player Fowler said is relatively unknown across the country. “If I have it my way, they’ll know him very well. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Matt. [He] really came on as a true freshman, played extremely well in the latter part of the season. [He’s] a big, explosive back. We want the 1,000-yard rusher to be the norm at the University of Florida.”
Muschamp also talked about some of the NCAA‘s new targeting rules and how he does not like that players can now get penalized (resulting in an ejection and/or suspension) in the middle of the game. “I didn’t know what we were doing that was so wrong,” he said. “I don’t really like the new ejection situation. A lot of mistakes can be made in the heat of the moment by putting too much on our officials. […] You look at the NFL model: Commissioner [Roger] Goodell sits down on Monday morning with his staff and determines whether it was a flagrant hit, whether it was a malicious hit or malicious intent with the hit. I think that’s the way it ought to be handled.”
After leaving the set, Muschamp had lunch before participating in an interview with Travis Haney, one of ESPN.com’s college football insiders, and another for the SportsCenter Tonight radio program with Freddie Coleman. At 1:30 p.m., Muschamp recorded an interview for Recruiting Nation, which will air on ESPNU at a later date.
He then taped a roundtable with Paul Finebaum and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier at 1:45 p.m. followed by an individual interview at 2 p.m. on the set of College Football Live. The former segment aired on tape delay later Tuesday afternoon, while the latter interview will likely air on another episode of the program this week.
Spurrier and Muschamp discussed stipends for student-athletes, player safety, continuing the SEC’s dominance for an eight season and player responsibility.
“You just got to educate your players on making good choices and decisions, and when they don’t, you got to have consequences,” Muschamp said. “When the players understand there are consequences – the most important thing to them is playing time – at the end of the day that’s what you got to do.”
Spurrier then told a tale of his own: “When I got to Florida in 1990, we had some issues with football players getting in fights down at the fraternity house. So I had a team meeting and I said, ‘Fellas, if you go down there and start a fight, you’re finished. Don’t go down there and get in a fight. We’re not doing that stuff anymore.’ Sure enough, about a week later, we had a kid go down there and punch a kid, started a melee and then he took off out [of there]. I got all the information and facts and dismissed him form the team. You know how many more fights we had at the fraternity houses? No more after that. No more. Our players got the message. It was unfortunate, but the player stayed and graduated and he’s doing well now.”
Finebaum next asked both men about Meyer turning in Florida for a minor secondary recruiting violation. Spurrier recounted what he said at the 2013 SEC Media Days when asked a similar question.
“I’m not aware of all the facts about that, but one of the guys asked me if I would turn in my old school, Florida,” Spurrier said. “I thought about it and said, ‘I’d turn in my wife in for NCAA cheating if she did it purposefully.’ I think I’ve turned in one school in my whole life.”
Muschamp then explained how he would have handled the issue before also noting that Meyer called and offered up an apology. “It’s a dead situation. I think there’s a lot of ways to handle a situation like that. I don’t necessarily think that was the right way to handle it. Urban has called and apologized for the situation, and we’re moving forward. […] In most situations, I call the other head coach. If there’s an issue or a problem, I just deal with it and move forward. I trust the integrity of the other person that they’ll handle the situation [internally].”
Muschamp’s next live appearance was on the SVP & Russillo show on ESPN Radio (and ESPNNEWS) at 2:30 p.m. He spoke with Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell, who was sitting in for Scott Van Pelt. The conversation mostly covered topics he had already discussed on Tuesday, but Muschamp did talk about freshman RB Kelvin Taylor and the impact he can have for the Gators now an din the future.
“Kelvin is a guy that had a really good spring, came in mid-year. He has a great work ethic and is a guy I think has a huge future at the University of Florida,” he said. “Right now, we just got to improve the protection part of it in the throwing game. Those are some of the things, being a young player, you got to keep coming along with. It’s not just about carrying the ball. It’s about what do you do when the ball’s not in your hand? I’m very, very pleased with Kelvin. He’s really progressed himself. The guy’s got a great attitude and a really nice work ethic.”
Muschamp then conducted a live what with ESPN.com, which can be read in full by clicking here. Below are a couple of highlights from that chat session.
Phillip ( A stadium near you): Coach Muschamp,can you tell us about what your intensity comes from and the influence that it has on your coaches and players?
Will Muschamp: Your players are a reflection of who you are as a coach. It’s our job to bring passion and energy to our job every day. I love what I do. There is never a day when my feet hit the floor that I’m not excited to be a Gator. It’s easy when you love what you do.
Phillip (A stadium near you): Coach Muschamp,how difficult is it to separate your personal life from your professional life? How do you find balance between the two?
Will Muschamp: Being a head coach at Florida isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. You can’t ask to be a major college football player and when that happens, you live in a fish bowl. No different when you’re a coach. Guys have to understand who they represent, what they represent. You always have to have balance, but I don’t view what I do at Florida as a job, but a way of life.
He completed the day by taping an interview for College GameDay that is likely to air on one of the show’s live broadcasts at some point during the 2013 season.