Shielding themselves from falling bombs of criticism and ear-piercing chants for the ouster of a starting quarterback and head coach, Will Muschamp said Monday that he hand the Florida Gators have adopted a “bunker mentality” that he hopes will serve the team well through the remainder of the season.
With redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel benched for freshman Treon Harris after Driskel turned the ball over 12 times in his last four games, one part of the call from Florida fans has been answered.
However, Muschamp still remains coach of the Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) after their devastating 42-13 blowout loss to Missouri on homecoming, and fans continue to let it be known that they want athletic director Jeremy Foley to make a change and fast.
Muschamp accepts the fervor and heavy criticism because it comes with the position of head coach, explaining that he is singularly focused on Florida’s next opponent – the SEC East-leading, No. 9-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) – and not what fans think about his job status.
“It is what it is. It’s what you deal with [when] you get in this profession,” he said. “I told the team on Sunday after the game, ‘As a fan, you buy a ticket, they reserve the right to boo.’ They buy the ticket, they can come boo and chant and holler and scream and start a website and all that stuff, if that’s what they want to do. That’s certainly their prerogative. As a coach or as a player, when you come to the University of Florida or a place like this, that’s something you got to accept. That’s part of it. It’s tough.
“You got to go home and explain to your 9-year-old why they’re chanting to fire your dad. That’s not very fun. But again, my family understands it; they understand the deal of being a coach. And there’s some great things that come along with this job and then there’s some tough deals you got to deal with. But again, I don’t complain about that stuff. That’s part of the job. That’s part of what you do when you come here. It is what it is.”
No one wants to be in a bunker during a college football season, even if it does help narrow one’s focus and keep the attention on the game at hand rather than outside distractions. But if put in that situation, having seemingly unconditional support from those you’re leading would make that position as comfortable as possible.
It appears as if Muschamp has that type of support in and around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as two veteran players, one on each side of the ball, spoke out in support of their coach on Monday.
“People can really say whatever they want. We’re the ones who sit in these meeting chairs and listen to him. The people saying that, they’re not out there coaching with him, they’re not being coached by him, they’re not playing on Saturdays,” said redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor.
“They have the tickets, they have the twitters, they have all that stuff, and they can voice their opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s somewhere in the Constitution, one of the amendments, where you can voice your opinion. It’s not facts. People can say whatever they want to say, but I guarantee you [if] we go out there and play well on Saturday, we win, a lot of stuff that comes on my Twitter feed will be a lot more positive than what it has been.”
Taylor continued: “He’s just got to do his job as we got to do our job. We can’t worry about his future or what we’ve got going on and how that how it connects to us. We’re just going to go out there and play. We love playing for him. He’s a good coach. He’s a great person. I wouldn’t approve anybody else; I wouldn’t want to play for anybody else right now. That’s just how I feel about it, and I’m pretty sure every other player in the locker room feels that way. We’re not really playing for his job; we’re playing for ourselves. We got enough motivation.”
Redshirt senior center Max Garcia pointed out that Muschamp is not just a football coach to the players but someone they know on a “personal level” as a father-figure to them as well as a husband and father to his wife and children.
“It’s hard when people talk bad about him,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that being in this conference, it demands so much out of a coach. But we’re just there to support him however we can, just to love him like he loves us.
“That’s all we can do, just support him, because he does put us in the right position. He does give us the opportunity to go out there and win. But he can’t catch a ball for the receivers; he can’t make a call or make the right read on the field. He can just prepare us to do it, and as players, we have to go out there and execute.”
Added Garcia: “I think he’s handled [the criticism] it very well. … He’s been put in this position because he can handle it. If he wasn’t made for this position, he wouldn’t be in it. It’s just encouraging to see him handle all the critics that way as a professional and as a person because sometimes you want to take things personally when it comes to football.
“People have to understand we are people, too. We have emotions. We’re humans. We hurt, and we feel things with our hearts. People don’t understand that all the time.”
What appears to be universally understood is that Muschamp has one foot out The Swamp’s orange gate and not get the opportunity to walk through it again if his Gators get embarrassed and lose their fourth-straight game against the Bulldogs at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.