I became a Florida fan in 1991. I lived in South Florida my first 17 years and was inundated with Miami and Florida State coverage throughout the 1980s. I wasn’t a fan of either program but the Gators weren’t on my radar. I watched their games from time to time, knew players like Kerwin Bell, Louis Oliver, Neal Anderson and Emmitt Smith, but it wasn’t a passionate following. My friend Joel Kelly left Lake Worth for Gainesville in the fall of 1991 and after I visited him, I fell in love with the city, the campus and the football team. For twenty years, I was never embarrassed to admit any of that. Until Saturday night.
Saturday’s game was about as awful a time you can have watching a sporting event barring actual death and destruction. John Brantley, who I’ve defended this year, drove the final nail in his own failed career. He played his absolute worst game when just an average one likely would have earned a victory. The offensive line completed a perfect season – one that saw them never make one block for Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey. Charlie Weis joined an elite club – grand theft criminals who have stolen close to a million dollars in a year. All in all, it was an absolute debacle.
I know Florida’s football program is in a transition period. I know there are worse programs out there right now. I know firsthand about one of them, having been on the sideline for the UCLA-USC game on Saturday night (I recorded the Florida game and came home at midnight to watch with no clue of what had happened – unfortunately). The Bruins lost 50-0 against the Trojans Saturday night. UCLA is a bad football team. But I’m not certain the Gators would have done much better against the mighty Trojans.
This will go down as the worst Gators football season since 1979. The Gators were also 6-6 in 1987 but they beat a ranked Alabama team in Birmingham and the sixth loss was in the bowl game. As I mentioned, I wasn’t aware of the Gators in ‘79 so I can’t say firsthand how bad they were. Looking at the scores, they actually look pretty comparable to this year. A few close losses and a couple of blowouts. Plus, ‘79 Gator Fan had no clue about success. The ‘78 team was 4-7. It is arguable that this season is the worst ever in Gainesville considering the preceding 20 years.
Things are so bad in Gainesville that realistically, it will be a couple of years before they can be expected to compete just in the SEC, let alone on the national scene. Things may get worse before they get better, as hard as that is to fathom. Muschamp has a lot of work to do. He said on Sunday that he won’t be in Gainesville for a couple of weeks, out pounding the pavement on the recruiting trail. There is a lot of barren space in the cupboard in Hogtown, mostly on the offensive side of things. Hopefully Muschamp’s true love (recruiting) will give to him five offensive lineman, four receivers, three running backs, two quarterbacks and a partridge in a pear tree. Otherwise, we may not see Florida in the Bourbon Meyer Top 25 for a long time.
4. Oklahoma State
6. Virginia Tech
9. Boise State
12. South Carolina
14. Kansas State
15. Michigan State
22. Southern Miss
23. West Virginia
24. Arkansas State
And lastly before I go, a couple final thoughts on Urban Meyer. We’ve had a lively debate around the Bourbon Meyer offices and across Gator Nation for the past week. I hastily threw in my thoughts in the weekly top 25 column and the Franchise had a great take. I didn’t expect to write about Meyer last week until I started the column and didn’t spend much time thinking about it afterward. Of course, I stand by my position and haven’t budged one inch from it. I agreed with a lot of what the Franchise wrote but I still feel betrayed. If you don’t, good for you and perhaps you are just a better person than I am. Watching the press conference earlier today didn’t help. I don’t wish him ill well, I genuinely worry for his health and his family and hope he finds peace in Columbus (although not many wins). But let’s be careful about where we put Urban in the pantheon of Florida football. Pat Dooley wrote that Meyer “won like no coach before him, including Steve Spurrier.” Spurrier’s winning percentage at Florida is better than Meyer’s. Spurrier won seven SEC titles in 12 years (including the 1990 one not recognized due to sanctions) compared to Meyer’s two in six. Before Spurrier arrived, Florida had never won 10 games in a season. Under him, the Gators posted nine double-digit-win seasons. Meyer had three. Again, advantage Spurrier. Yes, Meyer won two national titles but had the advantage of playing soft Ohio State and Oklahoma teams as opposed to our 1995 massacre at the hands of perhaps the greatest college football team ever. Give Spurrier credit, too, for sustaining excellence over a decade. Meyer burned out in half the time. So when we look back on our history, let’s make sure we do so with honesty.