No love lost between McElwain and Muschamp

Divorce is hard, but when a marriage becomes toxic — not just for the people involved in it but the people around them — it can be necessary.

That’s where the Florida Gators and Will Muschamp were five months ago. Four years of the same fights, always beginning with the words “worst loss since”, “fewest points since” or “worst margin of defeat since”, and the Gators knew it was time to move on. It was the right thing to do for both involved.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida, Florida Gators, Will Muschamp
A fan lets her frustration out during the 2014 football season. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

Just because it was right, doesn’t make what comes next easy. You’ll admit, the news that Muschamp would be taking a job in the SEC caught you off guard. It’s never easy seeing your ex with someone new, especially when it’s someone in the neighborhood.

Florida fans forgot about it, though, when a new love interest came into their lives. Jim McElwain was stalked outside of his home in Fort Collins, Colorado as he and his wife played host to Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and UAA brass. You followed Foley’s plane back to Gainesville, without McElwain, and couldn’t tell if your new love interest was rejecting you or just playing hard to get. Then it came. A new marriage after just over a week of dating — things are accelerated in the high stakes world of college football.

McElwain instantly won you over with his résumé. A national championship, Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and a turnaround of a program in Colorado State that had lost so much it had become expected and even accepted.

At his introductory press conference, McElwain boasted, “You got to understand this. I believe I can win with my dog Claribelle. That’s the attitude. There’s good players here. That’s just our responsibility to get that going.”

Then, the recruiting whirlwind that saw the Gators go from an afterthought, thanks in larger part to their former fling, to a top-10 class. In just a few short months Jim McElwain had Florida fans swooning,

Just when Florida fans thought it couldn’t get any better, their new beau offered up a jab to his predecessor. You see, on his way out, Muschamp made a point to let fans know that he was leaving good players on this roster. We’d heard for two years — even from Foley — that the program was headed in the right direction. That “right direction” is what spared Muschamp’s job in 2013 and Muschamp wanted to make it clear that the new guy wouldn’t be able to use the cupboard is bare excuse that he was afforded when Urban Meyer left, no. “They’ve got a deep and talented roster, so don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got any players,” he said. “I can tell you right now, there are some good football players in that locker room.”

Sure, there are good football players, but Florida is currently trying to finish a spring football camp with seven offensive linemen (six with the injury to Rod Johnson last Friday), two scholarship running backs and four linebackers. You do the math. Those are the types of numbers that caused the Orange and Blue Debut fiasco two years ago when the Gators — and Muschamp — held a glorified practice of a spring game that left everyone involved with a bad taste in their mouth.

McElwain didn’t dispute the fact that there are good players in the locker room, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He did, however, offer up his take of what kind of house the ex was running before he left.

“Quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas,” said McElwain. “And yet, at the same time, that’s what you have.”

Preverbal shots fired.

With Auburn’s spring camp underway, McElwain’s comments were brought to Muschamp’s attention. A fierce competitor, Muschamp fired back, remaining friendly at first.

Will Muschamp, Jacksonville, Florida, Georgia Bulldogs, Florida Gators
Will Muschamp after Florida’s third consecutive loss to Georgia in 2013. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

“I didn’t see any comments,” Muschamp told AL.com “At the time [I left], D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore had not declared for the NFL Draft. Certainly, at that position at the offensive line, the numbers are obviously down … but I didn’t know of any [of McElwain’s] comments. Other than that, there’s a lot of good football players sitting down there.”

Covering Muschamp for two years you learn how sharp he is. He’s a competitor, a fighter and he’s funny. It’s hard to show your good natured side when a bunch of kids from Georgia Southern are celebrating on Florida Field or Vanderbilt is winning in Gainesville for the first time (there’s one of those hot topic fighting words again) since the 40s, but he has a sense of humor.

“He said he could coach a dog and win,” Muschamp quipped. “Heck, [does he] like the dog better than his players?”

Oh, Will.

The attempt at humor comes off as bitter and spiteful, not to mention the fact that you’re referencing a comment made while you were reportedly out of the country on vacation.

It’s petty. Like season four of Mad Men when Betty sends her daughter over to Don’s apartment to divulge a secret to his new wife in hopes of creating a rift.

It’s time to move on.

Your calculated statement that the cupboard was far from bare has shown itself to be a façade. The storefront shows a bountiful selection but upon closer inspection it’s paper-thin. You knew that leaving. You knew that when you were still wearing a different shade of orange and blue than the one you’re wearing now.

Florida’s new guy called a spade a spade. It’s time to be happy with where you are and stop trying to make excuses for the last four years of failure.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC

6 COMMENTS

  1. Nick, another good article. You and the gang at Gator Country do an excellent job at informative sports journalism.. That said, as a Gator since 1965 and a season ticket holder many of those years I become almost physically ill at the thought of what Foley-Muschamp have done to this football program. I realize that Foley, in some circles, is considered beyond any criticism. In fact, in hiring a DC when UF needed an experienced, first-rate head coach, Foley was a major contributor to the shameful debacle of the Muschamp Era. I am one of those who believes that Coach Mac can bring the Gators back to SEC relevancy. But patience, patience, patience will be the operative word and emotion for the next couple of years!!

  2. Patience, patience, patience. I Honestly dont think we will need to be THAT patient. We will much better offensively this year than we have been the last 4. I dont need patient for that to happen. Just seeing a real offensive philosophy on the field will be extremely relieving.

    I dont think our defense will skip a beat, as long as guys step up in the trenches.

    I will not be surprised if McElwain NEVER has as bad a team as Muschamp produced the last 3 years. Ill be patient for titles, but believe me, we won’t need patience to see a much better product on the field.

  3. Nick, I am confused how and why everyone keeps blaming Muschamp for the depth problem along the offensive line this year. I’m guessing no one is aware that Drew Sarvary and Nolan Kelleher were a part of our team last year and were assumed to be major contributors on the offensive line this year. These two players were high recruits in high school, not just some scrub walk-ons. Not to mention I don’t think a lot of people thought Humphries was going to go pro and I know no one thought Tyler Moore was going pro. The day that Muschamp made the statement about the next coach inheriting a great team was pretty accurate. returning 12 (11 if you assume Humphries was leaving) quality scholarship lineman is perfectly normal and acceptable. When Coach Mac made his original statement, he was correct that the offensive line was insufficient, but that wasn’t Muschamp’s fault. It was two lineman quitting football unexpectedly and one stupidly leaving early for the NFL.

    With that being said, I am still very very happy that Muschamp is gone and can’t wait to see what Mac does with this team.

  4. this is light fodder compared to the crap Meyer pulled after he left. telling parents not to send kids to UF because the program was “broken”…amazing. curious to know if any parent ever looked back at him to ask WHY that might have been. self-absorbed assbag

    Champ is clearly not a head coach, and the hire was questionable. but he ran the program the right way and inherited a mess from the previous regime. he was able to clean a lot of that up and get some good kids to come to UF. his problem was a limited imagination, too much control over his coordinators and all the good players seemed to regress, with only the exceptional talent pushing through. its baffling to me coming off a losing season and still sending early entries to the draft. but the injuries from 2 years ago was uncharted.

    all in all, I thought he was a good guy but couldn’t grow his players to think and play smart. it is what it is. I can see why he might be a little bitter given what he was dealt with and the work he had to put in place to fix something that was “broken”

    • Let’s not make the simple and obvious into something complex. Urban Meyer lacks good character. Urban Meyer is a GREAT, not just good, head coach. Just ask the fans at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now OSU. If UM is the head coach a national championship is nearly a guarantee. Will Muschamp is probably the most incompetent head coach in modern UF history. In four years he destroyed the once proud football program built by SOS and UM. If Muschamp was competent why did he get fired. It is simple. It is obvious. Muschamp has NO reason to be bitter. He is today a multi-millionaire, he is employed with a six-figure income as a DC in at a successful SEC football program. Meanwhile UF fans are attacking each other over the issue of when and if its football program will again be a relevant factor in the SEC.