Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Muschamp prefers character instead of characters
Florida coach Will Muschamp talks with reporters during the SEC football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
HOOVER, Ala. - It seems strange that Florida is not one of the sexiest football names in the SEC right now.
It did once rival Alabama, but then, the Crimson Tide have become kings of college football.
In 1990, Steve Spurrier pulled his alma mater out of the doldrums and NCAA problems, never losing more than two conference games in his 12 years. He won five SEC championships and a national championship. An off season was not going to the Sugar Bowl.
Ron Zook zapped the program on the field but stockpiled talent. Enter Urban Meyer, who won two national championships, and a year after the second one, he fell out of bed one night crying he was having a heart attack. It was the Ambien, he later said.
The truth, though, it appears he mailed it in that last year, and apparently a lack of discipline started even earlier.
It now seems winning and sinning were synonymous in Gainesville on Meyer’s watch.
There were signs and indications that Will Muschamp’s earliest and biggest challenge was getting his team under control.
That was highlighted recently when former Gator Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder. When it was reported Hernandez had off field issues at Florida, Meyer was quick to claim it wasn’t his fault.
On Tuesday at the SEC football media days, Muschamp did not miss the opportunity to fire off his own opinion.
When asked if, or how much, responsibility coaches have for their players off the field, Muschamp shot like an AR15 - hard, fast and on target.
“One hundred percent responsible,” he said. “My job is to be an extension of what started at home.”
Muschamp is anything but a shy, retiring personality.
Of course, it didn’t help that it was reported someone in Ohio, maybe Meyer, who is now coaching Ohio State, turned Florida in for a secondary NCAA violation a few months ago . When that was broached Tuesday, Muschamp emptied his clip.
“We appreciated our friends from Ohio making sure we are compliant with NCAA rules,” he said. “They certainly know a little about that.”
Muschamp is that fiery, and many saw the YouTube clip of him as Auburn’s defensive coordinator against the Arkansas Razorbacks. His language was as blue as a Florida sky.
This is a guy who broke his leg so badly as a junior in high school that he had to have a rod inserted. He came back and played his senior year, walked on at Georgia and earned a scholarship during the spring of his redshirt season, going on to start for the Bulldogs.
The rod sits in a shadowbox in his office. The message is clear: You can overcome.
He had three years as an assistant coach when he went to work for Nick Saban. After spending time on Saban’s staffs at LSU and the Miami Dolphins, Muschamp was hired at Auburn. Two seasons later he jumped to Texas, where he became the head coach in waiting.
Waiting for Mack Brown to retire is like buying one lottery ticket and expecting to win.
When Meyer “retired,” Muschamp, the third youngest coach in the SEC but only by a few months, jumped at the chance to take over the Gators.
He probably thought he was inheriting a team of play makers, not one too deep in lawbreakers.
Florida struggled to a 7-6 record, but Muschamp brought in the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class.
Last season the Gators went 11-2, but this year Muschamp admitted there is work to do on the offense, and that no matter what, they will have a young quarterback.
During his evaluation, Muschamp couldn’t resist another shot: “Character in our locker room is much better.”
It is always better to have a team with character than one of characters.
Sports, Pages 19 on 07/17/2013