The Silver Lining for Thursday, November 20: Gators coaching search candidates, mailbag

Florida Gators coaching search

Ah, a coaching search. So much fun. Such little stress. Not taxing whatsoever on my time, energy or sleep patterns, which are already way too out-of-whack. The simple fact is that this will likely be a long and tedious search and no one will experience that as much first-hand as athletic director Jeremy Foley, who not only has to go through the entire process but is also tasked with making the all-important decision.

As this process unfolds, you are going to see such a wide variety of lists and reports posted by different media outlets that your head may spin. My hope with the candidate list that posted on Sunday was that you would understand it to be a pros-and-cons breakdown of some of the most talked-about names for the job that also provided you with a comprehensive list of names that could fit what the Gators are looking for in their next coach.

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Snell’s Slant: Upset yet excited for Florida’s future

By Shannon Snell – 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.

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Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley: ‘We’re not getting into an arms race’ with our facilities

While in-state rivals and Southeastern Conference foes have been making substantial, multi-million dollar upgrades to their football facilities – including adding exorbitant indoor practice facilities – over recent years, the Florida Gators have stood firm that their amenities are above or on par with any team in the nation.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley took that stance again on Monday while addressing whether he agrees with some external murmuring that Florida’s facilities are no longer up to the program’s lofty standards.

“I wear orange and blue goggles a lot, and I’m certainly willing to have wide-open eyes, but I don’t agree with the assessment that our facilities have fallen behind,” explained Foley. “We judge our facilities based on [whether] they help our programs be successful. Do they make an impact on their ability to be successful? Whether that’s a weight room for football or a gymnastics practice studio, whatever have you.”

It’s not that the Gators have been lacking in making upgrades to their stadiums, locker rooms, weight rooms or multiple sport offices. Rather, Florida has been ahead of the curve in boosting its stadiums and support structures, especially for the football program.

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Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley outlines his plan in hiring the program’s next head coach

Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley concluded his press conference on Monday by addressing how and when the program will move forward in hiring a replacement for head coach Will Muschamp. He also outlined the qualities an ideal candidate would possess, with a renewed focus on offensive success of paramount importance in the search.

“The search will begin immediately, this afternoon,” Foley began.

“There is no fixed timetable but we’ll proceed as quickly as we can. There’s a lot of work to do, a lot of research to do. We understand how important this hire is for this university. We also understand the pride of the Gator Nation. We understand the pride they have in this football program.

“Because we have fallen short the last several years, we totally understand the disappointment and their frustration. Their passion can cut both ways, and it’s their passion that makes this place special. … It’s an amazing place, so we absolutely want to make this right for them, for this football program and for this university.”

Foley noted that he is looking for a “high-integrity, high-character” individual like Muschamp. “Our mission statement around here says, ‘Championship experience with integrity.’ That is paramount to us as we move forward.”

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Muschamp discusses Florida dismissal with class as Foley, Machen sing his praises

If you did not know entering Monday’s three-headed press conference with Florida Gators president Bernie Machen, athletic director Jeremy Foley and head football coach Will Muschamp that the purpose of the event was to discuss the dismissal of the third man on that list, you might have thought it was held to explain why Muschamp was receiving a raise and contract extension.

Over approximately 45 minutes inside the Florida football facility, Machen and Foley sung Muschamp’s praises. When Muschamp got to the podium, he shared similar sentiments about his employers and the program he was leaving behind.

“From my perspective as president, I have treasured – literally treasured – the last four years in working with Will. He was asked to come here and build a program, a program built on character and good academic values, and he was asked to develop young men that would be a credit to the Gator Nation. He has done that,” said Machen.

“Will and Carol and their family … are beloved by the people of this community, and we feel like they are ours. Never have I worked with a coach in any sport over three different universities that has been more supportive of the university mission and what we’re trying to accomplish. In the end, can you say that someone who has to leave has made a positive contribution? And the answer for that is definitely yes for Will Muschamp. In fact, I would love for my son or my grandson to have the opportunity to be coached by Will Muschamp.”

Foley admitted it was hard to follow Machen’s comments because it is how everyone within the Gators program feels about Muschamp.

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Who’s next? Here are 15+ candidates to replace ousted Florida coach Will Muschamp

Updated on Monday at 11:13 a.m.

For the third time in his tenure at the helm of the Florida Gators‘ University Athletic Association, athletic director Jeremy Foley will be tasked with hiring a new head football coach, this after dismissing Will Muschamp (27-20, 17-15 SEC) on Sunday.

A Gators program that has reached lows not previously seen since the late 1970s is in need of a major boost, and Foley will be searching for a coach to get Florida back to its position of dominance in the state, Southeastern Conference and nation.

What characteristics will Foley likely be looking for as he makes this hire? Head coaching experience, for one; UF’s most successful football hires have held the position before, albeit at less-prestigious schools. Foley will also want a “name” coach, one that excites boosters, fans and the recruiting base as the Gators look to make up major ground following consecutive seasons of mediocrity. Lastly, Foley may desire an offensive-minded coach, though one that is balanced and successful will certainly do.

Here are 15+ coaches who could be leading the Florida football program in 2015.

Gary Patterson
Head coach, TCU

Hire him: Patterson, 54, has spent the last 17 years leading the Horned Frogs, serving as defensive coordinator from 1998-2000 and head coach from 2001-present. He has been at the helm of the program as it has progressed into its fourth conference this century but has found a way consistently recruit well and dominate his competition despite being the third- or fourth-most distinguished school in his state. Patterson’s streaks of success have been significant. He went 21-4 from 2002-03 in Conference USA, 22-3 from 2005-06 in the Mountain West and 47-5 during his final four seasons in the MWC (2008-2011), leading TCU to back-to-back BCS bowls (2009-10). After spending two years getting adjusted to the Big 12, Patterson’s Horned Frogs are presently 9-1 and one of the top four teams in the College Football Playoff. He has proven coaching talent and ability to lead a program but has yet to have the opportunity to do so at a major institution.

Hold up: A Kansas State alumnus, many believe Patterson would like to return to his alma mater once Bill Snyder, 75, decides to retire. Past that, Patterson is very much a defensive-minded coach, though he has understood the importance of offense and TCU’s attack is currently ranked fifth nationally, scoring 45.9 points per game in 2014.

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Will Muschamp fired as Florida Gators head coach, will remain with team through season

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 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.

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Snell’s Slant: Gators silenced many on Saturday

By Shannon Snell – Featured Columnist

No one expected the outcome we got Saturday…besides Florida’s players and coaches. I can tell you that a former Gators player myself, one who just two weeks ago said the program was on a path to nowhere under Will Muschamp, I was absolutely shocked to see Florida pull out a victory in one of the team’s most important games – for a variety of reasons – over the last few years.

After weeks of uninspired, mistake-filled football, these Gators looked like they were on a mission. Not a mission to make the College Football Playoff (that’s long gone) or even go win the SEC Championship (still a long shot) but rather a mission to save Muschamp’s coaching career (at least as far as Florida is concerned).

You do not need me to tell you that another loss to Georgia would’ve been a proverbial death sentence for Muschamp. Most already had his fate sealed heading into the contest and were already speculating on who would be replacing him at the helm of the Gators. Well, Muschamp’s boys did not just run down Georgia’s throats on Saturday, they shut up a lot of Florida fans (and this columnist), too.

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