Was Gator Coaching Hire a MuStake?

Dan Mullen. Chris Petersen. Bob Stoops. Jim Harbaugh. Jon Gruden. Bobby Petrino. The wildfires of the web burned through many candidates for the Florida head coaching job. There were varying reactions to individual names but the general consensus was Florida would have a long line of suitors and the new coach was going to be a big name. On Tuesday, that name will be Will Muschamp.

The simple facts are Muschamp wasn’t a name that 95% of Gator fans knew before Saturday night. He has never been a head coach. He is 39 years old. He played and graduated from Georgia (who knew they gave out degrees there). His defense helped Texas to a 5-7 record this past season.

It isn’t that I think Will Muschamp won’t be a successful head coach. By all accounts, he has the right stuff to succeed at the profession. His career path actually looks pretty similar to Bob Stoops. You’ll recall that Stoops had never been a head coach before Oklahoma hired him away from UF. He was the hottest assistant coach in the country in the mid to late 90s. I was still living in Gainesville and recall many conversations with friends, fellow students and co-workers who expressed hope that Spurrier would retire so Stoops could take over. In Austin right now, there are many Longhorns who had similar thoughts with Muschamp and Mack Brown.

Many a writer has pointed out that if Texas thought Muschamp was capable enough to name him their coach-in-waiting, that proves he is good enough to coach at Florida. The rationale being that Texas is one of the top three jobs in the country, as is Florida, and if they felt he was ready for that role, Gators should too. Muschamp’s tutelage under great coaches like Brown and Nick Saban also should play a key role in his success. Others point to Muschamp’s fiery personality and great recruiting skills. I make no arguments against any of these things and am glad for all of them.

I just wonder what the rush was in making this hire. Jeremy Foley has said Muschamp is the only person he interviewed for the job. Stoops wasn’t called? Petersen, Harbaugh or Chip Kelly’s interest wasn’t gauged? Perplexing.

Lastly, I bring up something I haven’t seen anywhere else but that I think is a valid discussion point. If Florida wanted to go with a young, up-and-coming coach who made a name for himself as a championship defensive coordinator, who had deep ties to Gainesville, who had a deep knowledge of the SEC because of prior gigs at a couple of SEC schools and who was a tireless, excellent recruiter, where was Charlie Strong in all of this? Strong’s defenses have won two BCS titles to Muschamp’s one. Strong has a year of head coaching experience to Muschamp’s none. I’d love for someone to tell me the difference between Charlie Strong and Will Muschamp, other than race? And yet, Strong was hardly mentioned as a possible candidate and obviously was never considered by Foley. And Muschamp takes over the program tomorrow.

As a graduate of the University of Florida, I would have been very proud of the hiring of the first African-American head coach in the program’s history. It would have been incredibly bold and surely would have energized our efforts on the recruiting trail. Will Muschamp may prove to be the best coach in Gators history when it is all said and done. He’s certainly off to a great start on the recruiting trail. I just would have liked to have seen a bold move in a different way that most definitely wouldn’t have been any riskier than Muschamp’s hiring.

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