Bianchi: Muschamp excels in adversity, but philosophy wrong for Florida
Somewhere in athletic director Jeremy Foley’s office is a piece of paper with several names. Or perhaps it’s in a computer document. Or it only exists in his mind.
Whatever the case, he has a list of potential replacements for Florida coach Will Muschamp, and he must’ve had it handy before Saturday’s 38-20 win against Georgia.
A loss would’ve put Florida at 4-9 in the SEC the last two years in addition to a loss to then-FCS school Georgia Southern. Most everyone in the country assumed that would be the end for Muschamp in Gainesville, if not immediately, then after the season.
Then the Gators crushed AP No. 9 Georgia.
“Last week was unbelievable for (Muschamp). He gets booed off the field at the Missouri game. They get blown out, 42-13. It’s embarrassing. Fans are chanting for him to be fired,” Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi said in a phone interview.
“He goes home and the first thing his wife tells him is, ‘You need to talk to Witt, your 9-year-old son here, and tell him why the fans were chanting for you to be fired.’ So he has to have that talk with his son and explain to him about college football and about how fans pay good money and they have the right to express their opinion. So he goes through that and then he has to get his team ready.
“He goes to the press conference on Tuesday. He’s getting asked about his job security. He handled it like a pro. He didn’t snap at anybody. He answered all the questions. So you’ve got to give him credit for that, and the fact that he got his team ready to play the game of the season against Georgia.
“You learned a lot about how he deals with adversity. That team could’ve given up on him. They could’ve quit, but they didn’t. They played the game of their lives. Give Will Muschamp credit for that.”
Bianchi compared Muschamp to a guy who walks into a Vegas casino and plops down at a blackjack table with $10,000. Before the Georgia game, Muschamp pushed his final $5 chip to the center of the table.
“(Foley) is hoping he can turn that $5 chip back into the $10,000 he started with,” Bianchi said. “I think that’s what Foley’s doing with Will Muschamp. He had that $5 chip sitting on the table before the Georgia game. Now it’s probably up to a couple hundred dollars.”
So now what? There are four games left, including three against Vanderbilt (3-6), South Carolina (4-5) and FCS school Eastern Kentucky (8-1). What will it take for Muschamp to lead the team into 2015?
“If he wins three of four and looks decent against Florida State, I think he probably saves his job. He’d be 7-4, would’ve been 8-4 if they hadn’t gotten the game canceled at the beginning of the season against Idaho,” Bianchi said. “Although I will say I don’t think it’s just how many he wins. I think it’s how he wins those games.
“If they can muster some offense in the last four games and he can win three of four, I think he saves his job.”
MUSCHAMP’S STYLE OF PLAY A MISTAKE?
Despite heaping credit on Muschamp for the way he’s maintained his composure and kept the team competing, Bianchi still doesn’t believe Muschamp’s one-dimensional style is a smart move at Florida.
We’ll let him explain:
“Will Muschamp always says the SEC is a line of scrimmage league. Which it is. Maybe you can do that in Alabama, Arkansas. The SEC may be a line of scrimmage league, but Florida is not a line of scrimmage state. Florida is a state of fast guys and lots of running backs and lots of wide receivers.
“I think you have to take advantage of that when you’re the coach of Florida. I don’t think you can just try to play an overpowering style of football. You have to have really good wide receivers. You have to have really good running backs. Because that’s a strength of the state of Florida when it comes to recruiting.
“So no, I don’t think Will Muschamp’s style of play, the idea that he brought into Florida, I don’t think that works at the University of Florida. Because of the recruiting I just mentioned, and secondly, because I don’t think that’s the style of play that Florida fans want. Florida fans came of age with Steve Spurrier and the Fun ‘N’ Gun offense. Even when Will Muschamp was 11-1 that second season, Gators fans were complaining about the style of play. It was painful to watch. They weren’t selling out their games and they were barely winning games when they should’ve blown out teams.
“I remember Louisiana-Lafayette that season. They won the game on a blocked punt the last play of the game. Otherwise Louisiana-Lafayette had a chance to upset them. The (small) margin of error that Will Muschamp has created with the style of play has been a mistake.”
KICK OLE MISS AND MISSISSIPPI STATE OUT OF THE SEC?
Before the season, Bianchi wrote that if the power conferences move toward NCAA autonomy, the SEC should consider booting out some of the current members in favor of more deserving or better-positioned FBS programs. His example? Kick out Mississippi State and Ole Miss for UCF and USF.
Magnolia State fans haven’t taken too kindly to that, especially with both teams spending the majority of this season ranked in the Top 10.
“I said take out Ole Miss and Mississippi State, because really, what have they done for the SEC over the last few decades? Just because schools were around 100 years ago when the SEC was formed, and the ACC was formed, that doesn’t make them the best candidates for the conferences today.
“Yes, Ole Miss and Mississippi State have had great years this year. But the reason they’ve had great years is that over the last 10, 20 years, they’ve been getting all of this SEC exposure. They’ve been getting all of this SEC money. They’ve been getting all these SEC type of recruits. If you put two other schools — my example was if you were to put UCF and USF in the SEC and give them all of that exposure, all of that SEC TV money every year and all of those SEC recruiting advantages, within five to 10 years, those two schools would be as good if not better than Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
“And you know what? I stand by it.”