GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Will Muschamp is stepping down as Florida’s coach after the regular season, forced out after a four-year tenure that will be remembered for inept offense, conservative play-calling and nearly as many losses as wins in the Southeastern Conference.
Muschamp will coach the Gators against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State. He is 27-20, including 17-15 in conference play, in three-plus seasons at Florida.
“Upon evaluation of our football program, we are not where the program needs to be and should be,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement Sunday. “I’ve always said that our goal at the University of Florida is to compete for championships on a regular basis. … I will be forever grateful to Will and his staff for their unwavering commitment to the University of Florida and the mission of our athletic program.”
|SOUTH CAROLINA 23, FLORIDA 20 (OT)|
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The decision came less than 24 hours after a 23-20 loss to South Carolina in overtime. It was Florida’s sixth defeat in its past eight games in Gainesville.
The past two were debacles that sealed Muschamp’s fate.
“I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn’t win enough games — that is the bottom line,” Muschamp said in a statement.
“I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field. 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.”
The Gators didn’t respond well enough, especially in their past two home games.
The Gamecocks blocked a field goal and a punt in the final four minutes of regulation Saturday, special teams gaffes that turned what should have been a 10-point lead into a third consecutive home defeat.
The previous loss was equally troubling for Foley. The Gators (5-4, 4-4 SEC) turned over the ball six times in a 42-13 drubbing against Missouri on homecoming last month. Chants of “Fire Muschamp” could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field. The Gators also gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return for a score.
Foley stuck with Muschamp after that one, saying the coach and the season would be evaluated “as it plays out.” The Gators regrouped, benched turnover-prone quarterback Jeff Driskel and won consecutive games in dominating fashion, including a stunner against rival Georgia. They even had an outside shot at winning the SEC’s muddled Eastern Division.
But that ended against the Gamecocks, which entered the game with one of the country’s worst defenses.
The Gators attempted just one pass in the final 17 minutes of regulation. They became predictable and pedestrian, fairly typical during Muschamp’s regime. Florida fell to 17-8 under Muschamp at home, where former coaches Steve Spurrier (68-5) and Urban Meyer (36-5) dropped a combined 10 games in 18 seasons.
Florida, which has three national championships and eight SEC titles, expected and demanded better results.
The former defensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting at Texas, Muschamp was Foley’s pick to replace Meyer after he stepped down at the end of the 2010 season.
Foley extended Muschamp’s contract twice and gave him a raise. Because of those shows of good faith, Florida owes Muschamp more than $6 million for the final three years left on his deal.
Paying off the rest of the coaching staff could cost about another $2 million.
It’s unclear how long it will take for Foley to find a replacement. But the hire likely will be someone with head-coaching experience who comes from an offensive background. After all, the last two defensive guys with no head-coaching experience Foley hired — Muschamp and former coach Ron Zook — didn’t pan out.
Muschamp’s biggest problem was his offense.
He used three coordinators — Charlie Weis, Brent Pease and Kurt Roper — but failed to impress a following that had grown accustomed to seeing points, precision and proficiency while Spurrier called the shots in the 1990s and during Meyer’s six-year stint that began in 2005.