By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist
So after four long years, the Will Muschamp experiment has reached a conclusion. Most of us saw this coming, some thought/hoped it would be sooner, others believed it could be avoided but felt deep down that it would eventually happen. No matter, at the end of the 2014 season, Muschamp will no longer be the head coach of the Florida Gators.
But this is not about beating Muschamp while he is down; that is unnecessary as he came to the Gators, his hometown team, to do his best. At the end of the day, Muschamp wanted to win and create excitement for Gator Nation; he was just never able to put all the pieces together, especially on the offensive side of the ball. What is truly unfortunate about this situation is that Muschamp, as a man, is well-respected and well-liked by most that encounter him. Do not get it twisted: the Florida players love him, and his assistant coaches admired his work ethic even if they did not always agree with his decisions. But those things can only matter so much when you are making $3 million per season and not winning games, especially important ones – at home – against SEC opponents.
As a former player and someone who remains close to the program, part of me is upset that we lost a coach who truly worked his ass off every day he came into the building. There is no one around the program that would ever question his work ethic or dedication.
Yet, a bigger part of me is excited – about the future. For the second time in his career, athletic director Jeremy Foley has the ability to correct a mistake with a blockbuster hire, one that will not just excite the fan base but save recruiting and turn the team around on a dime. The only thing left to figure out is who that hire will be and how he will go about winning the remaining players over from the get-go.
The unfortunate part of any coaching change, and especially this one, is that players and recruits build strong bonds with coaches, especially guys like Muschamp. Some of Florida’s players will leave; more commitments may choose to look elsewhere.
They always tell high school players to commit to the school, not the coach, but while many follow that mantra, not all do. When I finalized my list years ago, it was not the school that necessarily that won me over, but the coaches that I knew would play an important role in my life over the next four to five years. I committed to the University of Florida and Steve Spurrier. Just like some of these young men committed to the University of Florida and Will Muschamp.
Regardless of what happened over the last four years, and how much I criticized the Gators at times, I will always respect Muschamp for the job he did. For a first-time coach, it was not as bad as many made it seems; in fact, the issues were mostly on one side of the ball and due in large part to an issue at one position.
The problem is that the Florida job is not a trial-and-error position. It is as big as it gets in this industry, as Muschamp said when he got the job and admitted now that it is no longer his. He understands that he just did not get it done, but you know what, he probably will elsewhere very soon.
A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell joined OnlyGators.com in 2012 as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team. He is now in his third year sharing his musings and will do so through the 2014 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 of those contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.