Machen for SI: grayshirting is “reprehensible”

University of Florida president Bernie Machen, published in a feature piece for SI.com, calls offering grayshirts to student-athletes “reprehensible” and says taking away a scholarship from a player is “disgusting” and a “nefarious practice.”

Imagine the feeling if the student finds out, literally a few months before enrolling, that the institution is backing out of the contract. It is too late in the summer to go back to one’s second choice. The student is told he will have to wait until next year. Sorry, but no acceptance, no scholarship. That’s it.

In Division I college football this practice is known as “grayshirting” and, unfortunately, there are universities that sanction this activity. The universities, with full knowledge of what they are doing, extend more athletic scholarships than they have. These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people. If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it’s legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.

What makes Machen’s comments particularly interesting are two stories that have come out over the last two recruiting cycles involving Florida Gators either offering or at the very least discussing grayshirts with high school players.

Rivals reported in Jan. 2010 that the Gators proposed the use of a grayshirt to three-star tight end recruit Michael McFarland, noting that he would not likely be strong enough to compete in the Southeastern Conference at his current build.

“When I went up there they threw out on the table the whole grayshirt thing,” McFarland said. “There have been times I wanted to do it and there were times I didn’t want to do it because I wanted to get up there and go play. [...] They didn’t say they were going to do it but they gave me the option.”

Florida decided the move was not necessary; McFarland joined UF in the fall.

This year, four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett and Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels have noted that former Gators head coach Urban Meyer offered Brissett the opportunity to grayshirt, a move the player scoffed at.

It is important to note that there is a serious distinction between a team offering a grayshirt before a player has signed a National Letter of Intent and a team delaying or pulling a scholarship after that process is concluded. Machen is discussing the latter.

Entering into an agreement with a student-athlete that he or she will wait a year if they wish to play at a particular university where the player knows of the intentions and agrees to the move ahead of time is quite different than locking that player up and forcing him or her to abide by your decision after the fact.

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Muschamp speaks on recruiting, Weis, Brantley

New Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp was a guest of Joe Rose on 560 WQAM in Miami, FL on Thursday and spent time with the former Miami Dolphins tight end discussing a number of topics that fans have been waiting to hear him discuss.

Like Urban Meyer before him, Muschamp was likely informed of the importance of having a presence in the South Florida media as the area is a recruiting hotbed and Rose’s show is arguably the most notable sports talk show in the mornings. He frequently talks about high school football and picked Muschamp’s brain on recruiting in the area.

“There’s a lot of young men that are going to sign out of each state. The key is evaluation and taking the right guy,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good football players in South Florida – tremendous. You take Palm [Beach], Broward and Dade County – there’s phenomenal football players. I’d say probably over 200 kids out of those three counties are going to sign Division I scholarships. [You have to] take the right guy that’s going to do a nice job academically for you, is going to represent your university in a first-class manner and play well on the football field.”

He was also asked to describe any notable differences between the recruiting process in the state of Texas and region of South Florida.

“It’s not different. We have an evaluation process that we’re going to go through with each young man. From on and off the field, different critical factors at each position that we look at that we decide that this is a type player we want to have at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said. “Just like I did when I was defensive coordinator at Texas when I ran the defensive [recruiting] board. We’ve got certain things that we’re looking for at each position. It’s about evaluation. It’s about taking the right guy. Not necessarily taking the best player at that position; he might not be the right fit for your football team or your university. That’s a huge part of what we do as coaches, is evaluating and taking the right players because there are a lot of good football players out there.

“I’m not worried about the guys that don’t sign at Florida, I’m worried about the ones that sign at Florida. We need to do a great job of developing those players. A lot of these young men that go other places, I’m going to see them once a year. So I’m not as worried about them as I am the ones we are going to have on our campus.”

Rose noted that Muschamp must be excited about having current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as the biggest name on his staff, something the new head coach felt comfortable enough to open up about.
Continue Reading » Muschamp speaks on recruiting, Weis, Brantley

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BREAKING NEWS: Will Muschamp hired as Florida Gators next head football coach

The Florida Gators have hired Texas Longhorns defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as their newest head coach.

“This is a dream come true to be the head coach of the Florida Gators,” said Muschamp according to an official release from the University of Florida. “I grew up watching the Gators and whatever other SEC team was on television. I have great memories watching SEC football with my father on Saturdays and playing football in the back yard with my two brothers right here in Gainesville.”

He continued, “I’m eager to get to work and represent this great institution. I’m very thankful for the opportunity given to me by President Dr. Bernie Machen and Athletic Director Jeremy Foley. I promise to bring a tremendous amount of passion and energy to work every day and my goal is to have our team bring the same type of attitude in everything we do both on and off the field. I want our team to play hard, with relentless effort and with toughness. We want to make the Gator Nation proud.”

Muschamp, the coach-in-waiting under Mack Brown at Texas, has never held a head coaching job before. Prior to coordinating the defense for the Longhorns, Muschamp held the same position with Auburn (2006-07), the Miami Dolphins (2005), LSU (2002-04) and Valdosta State (2000).

Having turned down head coaching opportunities at schools like Clemson, Tennessee and Auburn over the years, Muschamp was named the successor to Brown in Nov. 2008; however, Brown is expected to coach Texas through at least 2016.

Now the 23rd head coach in Florida history, Muschamp is a former resident of Gainesville, FL, who lived there for 10 years as a youngster. At 39-years-old, he is the second-youngest coach in the Southeastern Conference.

Foley, who departed Gainesville for Austin, TX, at approximately 8 a.m. and arrived back in town at 8 p.m. on Saturday, wasted little time in signing a new head coach after Urban Meyer officially resigned on Wednesday.

“Coach Muschamp is someone we targeted from the beginning and he is the guy we wanted,’’ Foley said. “He is the only person we met with and the only person we offered the job to.”

He also raved about Muschamp’s experience and dedication.

“We are thrilled to have Coach Muschamp lead our football program,” Foley said. “When we started the search for our next head coach we wanted a coach who was familiar with the Southeastern Conference. We wanted a candidate who was a relentless recruiter and was familiar with recruiting in the state of Florida.

“We wanted a candidate who was high energy and had been on the big stage. We wanted a candidate who was respected by his players and his peers and we wanted someone who had a passion for the University of Florida. Coach Muschamp is all of those things and more. He is a grounded family man with a wonderful wife and two children and we welcome them into our Gator family.”

Meyer approved of the hire, noting that his replacement is a top-notch recruiter.

“He’s a tremendous recruiter,’’ Meyer said. “I have bumped into him many times over the years on the road while on recruiting trips.”

Florida will officially announce the hiring of Muschamp at a press conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Photo Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images

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Florida Gators Press Conference: Urban Meyer steps down as head football coach

University of Florida president Bernie Machen, athletic director Jeremy Foley and Florida Gators head football coach Urban Meyer spoke with the media at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to officially announce and discuss Meyer’s decision to resign his position with the university effective immediately. In what seemed to be a bittersweet moment for everyone involved, Meyer left the Gators because he desired to spend more time with his family and children. Below are some notes and quotes from Wednesday’s press conference from all parties involved.

PRESIDENT BERNIE MACHEN

On Meyer’s other accomplishments: “Do you know that 86 of his players have already graduated from the university and another nine will graduate this weekend in our winners’ ceremony? Our football graduation success rate is No. 2 in the SEC – something he is very proud of and something I am very proud of as well. He’s also an outstanding member of our community. He and his family have been exemplary members of the Gainesville community.”

On hiring Meyer: “Urban was hired because of his commitment to excellence, because of his integrity and his commitment to his players. In every dimension he’s exceeded everything we could have hoped for as he carried out his duties here at the University of Florida. He took us to a new level. A level that will maybe be reached again but never exceeded. He leaves a lasting legacy at the University of Florida. We’re so proud of him and what he’s accomplished and the way he’s done so. He’s a true Gator.”

On Meyer’s future and legacy with Florida: “We’re hopeful he will remain with us in some capacity after he’s through coaching, but whatever he does we’re so proud to call him one of our own, and we’re so proud to say what he’s done for this university and this community.”

HEAD COACH URBAN MEYER

Opening statement: “Thanks for coming today. I appreciate Dr. Machen’s remarks. He has been tremendously supportive of myself and my family for over the last seven years. I have great love for the University of Florida, and I am very proud of what Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley – how they have helped us what we have accomplished here at the University of Florida. I’m stepping down as football coach at the University of Florida to focus on family and my other interests away from the sidelines.”

Read the rest of Urban Meyer’s press conference – along with what Jeremy Foley had to say about the coaching search – after the break…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators Press Conference: Urban Meyer steps down as head football coach

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BREAKING NEWS: Florida Gators head football coach Urban Meyer retires

Florida Gators head football coach Urban Meyer announced his retirement from college football on Wednesday and a press conference will be held by the University of Florida including athletic director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen at 6 p.m.

“I have been a Division I football coach for the last 25 years and, during that time, my primary focus has been helping my teams win titles,” Meyer said in an official statement released by the school. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and I am a fierce competitor to my core. At this time in my life, however, I appreciate the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field. The decision to step down was a difficult one.

“But after spending more than two decades motivating and celebrating the young men I’ve been so proud to coach, I relish the opportunity to cheer for my three terrific kids as they compete in their own respective sports. I know how fortunate I am to be in a position to make this choice and to have a family that is as loving and supportive as my amazing wife and children have always been.”

Meyer, who will coach his final game with the Gators in the 2011 Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011, reportedly informed Foley of his decision over the weekend. The duo finalized the resignation on Tuesday.

“I am enormously grateful to the University of Florida and our tremendous fans for giving me the incredible opportunity to lead the football program,’’ Meyer said. “The support provided by school president Bernie Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley has been an invaluable part of all that we have been able to accomplish over the last six years I have exceptional regard for my coaching staff who have always shared my passionate commitment to winning and to guiding the development of the young men of Florida football.

“Most important, I will be forever grateful to the student-athletes I have had the honor to coach and from whom I have learned so much. I will profoundly miss coming to campus every day to coach this team, but I will always be a Gator at heart, and I am confident that the program will continue to reflect the highest ideals of the University of Florida and collegiate sports.”

He is coming off his least productive year at Florida, finishing the regular season with a 7-5 (4-4 SEC) record even though the Gators brought in arguably the nation’s top recruiting class in the offseason.

Meyer leaves Florida having complied a 64-15 (36-12 SEC) record, two BCS National Championships, three BCS bowl game appearances, two SEC Championships in three appearances, and – at one point – a school-record 22-game winning streak. His .810 winning percentage is the best in UF history, he became the first coach in FBS history to post consecutive 13-win seasons, and he is the only coach to post three 13-win seasons in a four-year span.

Named “Coach of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News, Meyer is the first coach ever to win two BCS National Championships and is one of five coaches to win a pair of national titles in his first four years at a school.

Meyer coached a Heisman Trophy winner in Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in QB Alex Smith (at Utah) and has had 26 Gators selected to the NFL Draft since taking over the team. Seven Florida players have been first-round picks under Meyer including a school-record-tying three in 2010.

Foley also shared his early thoughts on Meyer’s retirement.

“When I first came to Florida in 1976, all anybody wanted to do here was win one Southeastern Conference championship,’’ Foley said. “As good of a coach as he is, he’s a better person. He’s given Gator fans and this program memories of a lifetime. When you win 22 games in a row and have back-to-back 13-win seasons, two national championships, it’s hard to quantify.

“People just need to understand what he did. Winning two national championships is really hard. He fell in love with the Florida Gators, he loves this place, and he’ll always be a part of our history. It was our privilege to have him as our football coach.’’

After falling to Florida State on Nov. 27, Meyer gave no indication that he would be leaving the program anytime soon.

“I can assure you we are going to rebuild this thing and build it up the right way and do it right. Obviously we are down a little bit. I didn’t believe we would be that far down – but we are,” he said. “How do you build up a program? I’ve done it a few times. You build it up with tough players, tough coaches, and you got to play better. You have to have a plan to win. […] With that said, we’re going to be rebuild it right though, not wrong. We’re going to rebuild it right.”

Asked on Nov. 18 to clarify his status for next year, Meyer assured the media that he would be returning to the sidelines for the 2011 season. “Oh yeah. One hundred percent. Absolutely,” he said.

OGGOA will continue updating this story. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Meyer, Cooper, Whitson, Demps

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, speaking at the 40th annual UF Joint Civic Club Luncheon alongside president Bernie Machen, paid tribute to longtime Gainesville, FL, police officer Johnny Hornes who died last week of cancer at 67. Speaking about Hornes, Meyer noted that he helped change his players’ perceptions of law enforcement and even taught redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey how to tie a neck tie. During the tribute, Machen happened to say something of note regarding Meyer’s future. “And after [the Meyers] finish working, they’re going to stay in Gainesville as members of the community. So they’ve chosen this as their home, and they’ve chosen you as their friends and neighbors, and I think we’re all better for that.”

2 » According to the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News, former Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper has firmly taken control of the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 4 receiving role from veteran Hank Baskett. He has been a standout during training camp and has performed well while some of the team’s starters have been out with a variety of injuries.

Three more BITS including thoughts from baseball star Whitson, an honor for Demps and a photo spread featuring a Florida cheerleader…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Meyer, Cooper, Whitson, Demps

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Gators adopt “if one falls, all fall” mentality

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer is looking to put a stop to the seemingly never-ending black eyes being placed on his program with each subsequent arrest of a University of Florida football player. With 28 legal issues under his tenure to-date, Meyer and his coaches held an emergency meeting with the players on Monday, a source close to the team told OGGOA.

The coaching staff took turns verbally lambasting the team and letting it be known how, more than ever, accountability and responsibility were important to the program this offseason. Then, as former Florida football player Brady Ackerman first disclosed via Twitter on Monday, they stressed that – from this point going forward – the team would be held accountable as a group for any individual missteps.

As OGGOA‘s source put it, the Gators are adopting an “if one falls, all fall” mentality that was taught in practical application immediately after the impassioned meeting.

Director of strength and conditioning Mickey Mariotti, who leads the players during the summer when coaches cannot run practices, worked the team hard with a number of extensive drills (including “stadiums” and “snakes”) Monday evening. The tough workout was just the beginning of an indefinite period of disciplinary action, according to the source. The players were already enraged and none-to-happy with their teammate’s actions after the meeting, and the point appeared to be hammered in with gusto.

Meyer, who makes all punishment-related decisions alongside athletic director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen, may use redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.‘s DUI arrest to set an example for the rest of the team.

Ackerman said late Monday that he was “hearing Hammond will be dismissed from the Florida football team,” but Meyer could be putting him on a probationary period similar to what Oregon did with running back LeGarrette Blount last season.

Then again, if Meyer decides to stay consistent with his punishment and treat this like similar situations in the past, the school will likely wait until the legal process has run its course before making a final decision on Hammond’s future.

For what it’s worth, OGGOA‘s source called Hammond a “good kid who has done everything right up until this point.” His grades are high, his behavior was consummate with what the team expected and he also completed plenty of community service work.

Hammond has already been placed on an indefinite suspension from team activities.

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SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

1 » Asked his thoughts about the one-and-done mentality perpetuated by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan decided to reminisce about the 2007 season, when his National Championship-winning team decided to take the unselfish route and return to school to repeat. “I don’t know all the situations in terms of [Kentucky players] with their families,” Donovan said per the Knoxville News Sentinel at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings. “My situation was very, very unique. There was an incredible chemistry and bond. And coming off a championship, they also wanted to try and do it again. Three of the [starters’ fathers] were professional athletes. I think the one thing their parents talked to them about was that they would never, ever play on a team like that, and that the NBA would always be there.”

2 » Donovan also spoke about his passion for the Florida program and how he does not envision leaving anytime soon, citing how nice the Gainesville, FL, community has been to raise a family and build a life. “I’m in a unique situation,” Donovan said. “Florida’s been great to me. I still have a passion for it.”

Four more BITS on Brandon Spikes, potential conference realignments and strength coach Mickey Marotti…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

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