The homecoming is over.
Will Muschamp resigned as Florida’s football coach Sunday, effective at the end of the regular season.
Muschamp, 43, who grew up in Gainesville rooting for the Gators, was 27-20 in four seasons.
Saturday’s stunning meltdown in a 23-20 overtime loss to South Carolina was the final straw.
“Upon evaluation of our football program, we are not where the program needs to be and should be,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. “I’ve always said that our goal at the University of Florida is to compete for championships on a regular basis.
“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. ... Will is as fine a man as you will ever meet, and I will always cherish our relationship with him and his family.”
Foley will kick-start a search immediately, tacitly pursuing candidates under radio silence.
The Gators are expected to target an experienced, offensive-minded coach, with
Mississippi’s Hugh Freeze, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Arizona State’s Todd Graham, UCLA’s Jim Mora and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy are all potential options.
According to insiders, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, as well as Chip Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles) and Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers) are viewed as pipe-dream candidates.
Notably absent from UF’s wish list: Dan Mullen.
Mississippi State’s 9-1 coach is the hottest candidate on the market, but the former UF offensive coordinator reportedly had a sour relationship with Foley and might not even receive as much as a phone call.
Meanwhile, Muschamp’s fate was sealed less than 24 hours after Florida’s gut-wrenching loss to South Carolina.
He compiled a 17-15 record in SEC play, with Florida losing six of its last eight games in The Swamp. Muschamp never won a division title, was just 5-13 against ranked foes and dropped eight games at home in four seasons.
Gator legends Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer lost 10 home games combined.
“I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me and my family by Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and the University of Florida,” Muschamp said.
“I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn’t win enough games — that is the bottom line. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done and it is my responsibility to get it done.”
Muschamp’s comeuppance appeared inevitable following an embarrassing 42-13 shellacking at home by Missouri. But Foley, the embattled coach’s staunchest supporter, said Muschamp would be evaluated as “the season plays out.”
Florida benched beleaguered quarterback Jeff Driskel for freshman Treon Harris, rallying to knock off Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Still, Saturday’s stunner burned a hot seat already ablaze to ashes.
Players could barely muster words postgame, with senior safety Jabari Gorman pleading, “If you’re a Gator fan, stay a Gator fan. Don’t give up on nobody. We don’t give up on each other. Our fans shouldn’t give up on us.”
Muschamp’s misadventures include a tenure defined by toothless offenses, staffing woes, continuity issues, recruiting failures and inexplicable losses.
Following an 11-2 season in 2012, the Gators stumbled to 4-8 last year — snapping a 22-game bowl streak and finishing with a losing record for the first time since Jimmy Carter was president.
But Muschamp survived a loss to FCS-school Georgia Southern and a tidal wave of criticism, blaming an injury-riddled roster and continued offensive ineptitude.
He fired former offensive coordinator Brent Pease and line coach Tim Davis, and brashly promised to return Florida to dominance.
Instead, the Gators have crawled to a 5-4 record, barely beating conference cellar-dwellers Tennessee and Kentucky.
“I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field,” Muschamp said.
“We have a great group of players and a staff that is committed to this university and this football program. They have handled themselves with class and I expect them to continue to do so. As I’ve said many times, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond.”
Foley hired Muschamp in 2010, hand-picking the former defensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting at Texas.
He is owed nearly $6million, with three seasons remaining on a contract that ran through 2017.