GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s next football coach will have a “track record of success on the offensive side of the ball.”
Athletic director Jeremy Foley said Monday that Florida fans want that and “we’re certainly going to try to provide for them.”
Foley didn’t rule out a defensive coach, but made it pretty clear the Gators don’t plan on hiring another defensive coordinator without head-coaching experience.
Florida failed miserably with former defensive coordinators Ron Zook (2002-04) and Will Muschamp (2011-14).
Foley fired coach Muschamp on Sunday, a day after a 23-20 loss to South Carolina that was Florida’s third straight at home and knocked the Gators out of contention in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division.
“We would obviously like an individual that’s been successful on the offensive side of the ball,” Foley said. “I think obviously that’s what the Gator Nation wants, and we see that, and that’s what we’re certainly going to try to provide for them.”
Muschamp will coach the final two regular-season games, against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State, but won’t stick around for a potential bowl game. The Gators (5-4, 4-4) need to win one of the two to become bowl eligible.
“Our guys will respond the right way and handle it with class, like they always have in all situations,” said Muschamp, who seemed to handle the decision as professionally as possible. “It’s important for us to get these seniors a win here in the Swamp.”
Foley, Muschamp and outgoing school president Bernie Machen spoke at the news conference. Foley choked back tears while talking about how difficult a decision it was to fire Muschamp, who cleaned up a program rampant with arrests and did everything right off the field.
But Muschamp couldn’t get the results on the field, and Foley said he likely would have needed to win out to save his job following last month’s 42-13 debacle to Missouri on homecoming.
Muschamp is 27-20 in three-plus seasons, including 17-15 in SEC play.
His main issues were on the offensive side of the ball, where he had three coordinators, three line coaches, four receivers coaches and five quarterbacks in four seasons. All of them failed to impress a following that had grown accustomed to seeing passing, points and prosperity under Steve Spurrier and Meyer.
The Gators finished 105th, 103rd and 113th in total offense during Muschamp’s first three seasons. They rank 88th this year through nine games.
“They got a deep and talented roster, so don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got no good players,” Muschamp said. “Tell you that right now. They got some good football players in that locker room. I feel like we’ve headed the right direction at quarterback, as far as the depth and quality of the guys you got in the room, both lines of scrimmage, talented secondary as I’ve been around as far as those guys coming back, linebackers. You got some good players.
“Special place, special people and I don’t leave with any hard feelings or regrets at all.”
Foley has some critical criteria for Muschamp’s replacement.
“First and foremost is high integrity and character,” Foley said. “Our mission statement says ‘championship experience with integrity.’ That is paramount us as we move forward. … What does that mean? This is not a place for everybody. Not everybody fits in here. As we go through the process, we want to make sure they do fit in here.”
Don’t expect Florida to hire anyone with unwanted baggage, so Louisville’s Bobby Petrino, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and former Oregon coach Chip Kelly (now with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) are probably out. Foley hopes to have a new coach in place before Christmas.
He also insisted Florida hasn’t talked to any potential candidate.
“We have respect for other schools and other programs and what certain schools are trying to accomplish, and we have a little time here to do our research,” Foley said. “But we’re not going to disrupt people’s seasons. … We will handle this the right way. We don’t cut back-room deals. We will talk to a coach. We will talk to athletic directors. It will be handled above board.”
Foley didn’t rule out using a search firm, but also said he trusted his staff to find the right person.
“It will not be a lone wolf, Jeremy Foley by himself,” Foley said. “That’s not the way it’s been for a long time. … We’re going to find one because this place is a special place.”
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