University of Florida

Florida Gators to seek coach with ‘proven track record’ to succeed Will Muschamp

Florida head coach Will Muschamp watches from the sideline as South Carolina is about to score a touchdown to tie the game and send it in to overtime late in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. South Carolina won in overtime 23-20.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp watches from the sideline as South Carolina is about to score a touchdown to tie the game and send it in to overtime late in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. South Carolina won in overtime 23-20. AP

At first, Will Muschamp’s funeral as Florida’s head coach could have doubled as an introductory party.

UF president Bernie Machen lauded Muschamp’s character, values and off-the-field accomplishments.

Athletics director Jeremy Foley praised over Muschamp’s commitment and love for the Gators, calling him a “close friend.”

But then Muschamp went up to the podium and candidly stated why everyone was actually there.

He didn’t win at Florida. And that’s what Monday’s press conference what ultimately about.

“We didn’t win enough football games, bottom line,” said Muschamp, who knew “there was a good possibility” he would be fired after Florida’s stunning loss to South Carolina.

“I told the team this is a great example in life. You can work really hard and you can be diligent in what you do, but you’ve got to have results in life, whether you’re in the business world or in the coaching profession, doesn’t matter. You have to produce. If you’re a salesman, you’ve got to sell. If you’re a football coach, you’ve got to win.”

Muschamp was let go Sunday, but he’ll coach UF’s final two games — Eastern Kentucky and Florida State — to close out the season. He will receive all $6million owed on the remainder of a contract that ran through 2017.

Should Florida reach postseason eligibility, Muschamp will not coach a bowl game.

Muschamp is 27-20 at UF, losing a dozen times the past two seasons.

At peace with the finality of a two-year roller-coaster ride, Muschamp acknowledged he wished some things had been done differently.

“It’s frustrating to see guys stand in this day and say I wouldn’t have changed anything,” he quipped.

“Well, hell, you’d have gotten fired again.”

He wouldn’t go into specifics of his offensive failures, instead praising cleaning up the program and building a foundation for the future.

“We’ve got a deep and talented roster, so don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got no good players,” he stated, bluntly.

Meanwhile, Foley outlined his blueprint for hiring Muschamp’s replacement. The search beings immediately, focusing heavily on candidates “with a proven track record of success on the offensive side of the ball.”

The Gators don’t have a firm timeline, but Foley hopes to have a coach in place before Christmas. He was quick to note Florida hasn’t contacted any potential candidates.

“We don’t cut back-room deals,’’ Foley said. “That’s not how we do things here.

“We will talk to a coach, we will talk to athletic directors. It will be handled above board. I want that to be understood.”

Foley, along with incoming president Kent Fuchs and a team of staffers, will conduct the search, but no private firm has been hired, yet.

“I’ve learned a long time ago, I can’t do this by myself,” Foley said.

Florida’s next coach must have “high integrity and high character,” with Foley calling the qualities “paramount” to the position. He also said the coach must “be a fit for the University of Florida.”

“Our mission statement says, ‘Championship, Experience with Integrity,’” he said. “[Muschamp] epitomized that right there. His integrity was without question.”

Foley desperately wanted Muschamp to succeed, but after Missouri’s 42-13 beat-down of UF, the embattled coach “ideally would’ve run the table.”

The Gators upset No.9 Georgia and knocked off Vanderbilt, but Saturday’s epic meltdown was the final nail in the coffin.

“We talked about it all year long. We were going to evaluate the season as it progressed, and that’s what we did,” Foley said.

“At the end of the day, I felt that we weren’t progressing as we needed to be and that’s why a tough decision was made [Sunday].’’

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