Updated at 3:20 p.m.
Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley has fired head coach Will Muschamp, hours after Muschamp’s team collapsed in the fourth quarter and fell to South Carolina 23-20 in overtime, though a Florida release terms the parting of ways as Muschamp “stepping down at the end of the regular season.”
A Gainesville, Florida, native in his fourth season at the helm of the Gators football program, Muschamp is 27-20 (.574), 17-15 (.531) in Southeastern Conference play, but will have the opportunity to improve his final record as he will remain at Florida for the final two games of the regular season.
“Upon evaluation of our football program, we are not where the program needs to be and should be. I’ve always said that our goal at the University of Florida is to compete for championships on a regular basis,” Foley said in a statement. “Coach Muschamp was dedicated to developing young men both on and off the field. Our student-athletes showed tremendous growth socially and academically under his leadership. His players were involved in campus activities, engaged with the local community and represented the University of Florida with pride.
“I will be forever grateful to Will and his staff for their unwavering commitment to the University of Florida and the mission of our athletic program. He will be missed by everyone in our athletic department – from the people that worked in his office to the people that painted the fields. Will knew everyone and they knew him and everyone in the building loved working with him. Will is as fine a man as you will ever meet, and I will always cherish our relationship with him and his family.”
A source told OnlyGators.com at approximately 9:30 p.m. Saturday night that the necessary parties had been notified hours earlier that Muschamp would not remain at UF.
With three season left on his contract, Muschamp could receive approximately $2 million per year plus an additional $1 million, making his total buyout from the University of Florida almost $7 million if he is fired by the school. It is unknown what sum Muschamp will collect if his departure is indeed a resignation.
Muschamp will remain with the Gators for their final two regular-season games against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State. Foley and school President Bernie Machen also asked previously-fired coach Ron Zook to stay on for the remainder of his 2004 season, calling it “something he deserves” and the “honorable thing to do.” Muschamp’s dismissal comes exactly 10 years and 27 days after Zook’s firing.
“I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me and my family by Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and the University of Florida,” said Muschamp in a school statement. “I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn’t win enough games – that is the bottom line. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done and it is my responsibility to get it done.
“I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field. We have a great group of players and a staff that is committed to this University and this football program. They have handled themselves with class and I expect them to continue to do so. As I’ve said many times, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond.”
After posting a 7-6 (3-5 SEC) record in 2011, his first year with the Gators, Muschamp led Florida to an 11-2 (7-1 SEC) campaign and BCS bowl berth in 2012. However, UF followed up that effort with a 4-8 (3-5 SEC) record in 2013, one which ended with seven-straight losses due in large part to 15 season-ending injuries suffered by the team.
Foley decided to give Muschamp another chance, despite the fact that he dropped a game to an FCS opponent (for the first time in school history) and led the team to its first losing season – and worst overall record – since 1979.
The Gators started 2014 with a 3-3 record, but Foley decided to keep Muschamp on for the Florida-Georgia game on Nov. 1 with it all but decided the coach would be fired after the contest, assuming his team lost the game. Instead, UF shocked UGA with a dominating 38-20 win, and Muschamp led the Gators to a 34-10 victory at Vanderbilt the next week. Florida also had the game in hand against South Carolina, which would have been its third-straight win and potentially enough to keep Muschamp in the fold at Florida barring another embarrassing loss.
Now, the Gators are 5-4 (4-4 SEC) at the time of Muschamp’s firing with three-straight home losses to unranked SEC opponents (LSU, Missouri, South Carolina) in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida also dropped three consecutive home games in 2013 and is 2-6 in its last eight games played in Gainesville.
Overall, the Gators have lost 11 of their last 16 games, sporting a 5-11 record dating back to Oct. 12, 2013. Florida was just 17-8 at The Swamp under Muschamp, 9-7 combined against SEC teams and Florida State.
But the Gators’ failures under Muschamp did not stop there.
» Muschamp hired 18 different assistants – including three offensive coordinators and four wide receivers coaches, in just four seasons with only two coaches leaving for promotions and four members of his original nine-person staff still with the team.
» Muschamp was 1-3 against Georgia, 1-3 against LSU, 1-3 against South Carolina and 1-2 against Florida State.
» UF snapped a 22-game winning streak against Vanderbilt on homecoming in 2013 and dropped consecutive homecoming games (losing in 2014 to Missouri) for the first time since 1946-47.
» Florida ended a 22-season consecutive bowl game streak when it failed to reach one in 2013. The Gators have not missed a bowl in consecutive seasons since 1985-86.
» UF did not sell out its student season tickets for the first time in at least two decades.
» Florida gave up 645 yards in a single game against Alabama this season, the most in school history.
» The Gators had lost five-straight games against top 25 opponents and were 5-13 against ranked opponents under Muschamp
» Muschamp is the only coach in the last 10 years to lose a game when only giving up 120 yards or fewer to an opponent. The overall national record is 147-2 in such situations, with Muschamp’s Florida teams responsible for both of those losses.
Florida will hold a national search for its next head coach, likely going after one with experience leading a program. Muschamp, Foley and Machen will all speak at the coach’s regularly-scheduled Monday afternoon press conference.
Muschamp’s dismissal was first reported by SI.com‘s Andy Staples.