At an impromptu meeting with the media prior to Saturday’s game, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley reinforced his support of Gator football coach Will Muschamp, saying he is confident that Muschamp is going to get the job done in the future.
Foley affirmed his statement from just before the South Carolina game and once again backed head coach Will Muschamp completely.
Yeah, obviously it’s been a difficult year. We haven’t made an excuse all year, and we’re not going to make them now. We know what this program is all about. I have total confidence in Coach Muschamp and have made that clear. We’ve got to fix some things. When you have seasons like this, that’s what you do – you evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don’t panic. You don’t put orange and blue glasses on. It’s not acceptable, it’s not who we are and it’s not what we’re about. Confident we can fix it. I don’t say that, I’ve heard that it’s my ego speaking. No, it’s my belief. Like I told my staff the other day, my name’s not on the front door down there. I don’t own this franchise. It’s my job to make sure it’s going in the right direction and I believe with Will it’s going in that direction. If I didn’t, then obviously we’ve made tough decisions before. I don’t waver on that, despite the difficulty of the year. We’ve got to get some things fixed. Obviously, at the end of the day, we’ve got to win some football games.”
Even in the midst of a 4-7 season, Foley sees the effort that Muschamp puts in each day and calls him a great “self evaluator.”
I just see him, his office is next to mine every day. I see him being a leader. I don’t see him walking around right now with a deer in the headlights, woe is me look. He just grinds and goes to work every day. He’s been a big-time football coach for a long time. He’s won a lot of football games, maybe not as a head coach as many as he wants. But certainly as a defensive coordinator, he’s played for national championships. He’s won national championships. He’s coached with some of the best in the profession. He has a plan. You can tell when people in leadership roles and things aren’t going well how they react and learn all about them. When I’m around him, I feel even better. He has a strong work ethic. I think he has a strong plan of how we’re going to fix this. I think he will fix it.”
Foley doesn’t believe that he is more patient now than when he was in 2004. He says the situation with Ron Zook in 2004 is different than the situation the team is in now.
Yeah I don’t think it’s apples-to-apples. I’m not being disrespectful to anybody. Zooker and I are friends, but it’s just not apples-to-apples. It’s my job to evaluate and see where the program is headed. At that point in time, I didn’t think it was headed where we wanted it to be. This time, I think it’s headed where we want it to be. The proof is going to be in the pudding, but I don’t think it’s apples-to-apples.”
Foley agreed with Will Muschamp that the offense has hurt the team this season and is putting the responsibility on Muschamp to get things fixed.
Well I don’t think it’s any secret, and Will will tell you, we’ve got to fix that side of the ball. I’m not being disrespectful to anybody, but you look at some of the games we’ve lost, we haven’t scored many points. This year or last year or what have you, that has to get fixed. And that’s going to be Will’s responsibility as the head football coach. I’ll help him, support him, advise him, whatever have you. I will tell you if you ask him today, it’s his biggest concern. We’ve got to fix that side of the ball.”
Other thoughts from Foley:
On his patience:
I’m like anybody else, I want to be successful for the University of Florida. The only thing that we want to do is to take care of the Gators. I’ve been doing that for 38 years, I’ve been doing it for 22 as athletic director. I’m not patient or impatient or wiser or older, I want to be successful. I’m very confident we’re going to be successful moving in the direction we’re moving in. That’s where it’s at.”
Why public support?
You know, obviously, I don’t have my head in the sand. No disrespect, but I don’t read all of you guys. I don’t read internet blogs or whatever have you, but no question there’s a lot of noise out there, and I get that. But we wanted to make sure Will knew where we stood. That’s important to Will, it’s important to recruiting and it’s important to our organization. It’s important for our coaches to understand that things are tough and we’re going to be there for him. The guy was 11-1 a year ago and SEC Coach of the Year. To sit here and be silent, I just think that, you know or say how confident we are at the end of the year, that’s not how we felt. We felt strongly whatever that was, two weeks ago, two and a half weeks ago, and we feel just as strongly today. We’ve had some difficult circumstances today, and that hasn’t changed.”
People think last year was the fluke, betting on 2014?
We’re not allowed to bet. It’s against NCAA rules. I just think you look at some of the circumstances this year and, yeah, we won some close ball games last year. I just don’t think we rolled the ball out there and won 11 games. I think coaching had a lot to do with that. I think motivation and coaching and game planning had a lot to do with that. This year has obviously not been what we want. I’m not trying to sugarcoat things and I’m not making excuses. Everybody has injuries. We’ve got to deal with that and we’ve got to fix some things and move forward. We could sit here and all of a sudden you start reacting to one set of circumstances and make rash decisions based on short-term emotion, it’s not part of how you we try to run our business around here.”
This year crushes you?
Yeah, it crushes all Gator fans. I’m a Gator fan and I’ve been doing this a long time. But you know something, and this will come across very Pollyannish but it’s true, we’ve also done some things or I’ve had the ability to do some things as athletic director that not many in my shoes ever have. You ask me why? I think Will is a really good self-evaluator. He can look in the mirror and isn’t afraid to take responsibility for what’s happened. We as an organization, Steve Mac (Steve McClain, Florida SID) will tell you, talk about self-evaluation all the time. We look at ourselves and how we get better. Not just sit here and say, ‘Yeah we’ve got a bunch of injuries, we’ll be fine.’ That better not be our attitude. It better be our attitude to re-evaluate every single facet of what we’re doing and get this thing fixed. To answer your question, yeah it stinks. It stinks for every Gator fan. This season has been no fun because we care.”
Difference between now and ’04?
You know, I don’t want to dredge that back up. That decision was made. When you’re in a leadership role you’ve got to make decisions based on where you think something is going. Whatever decision you think is right for your organization. In 2004, I just didn’t think that was going to work out as I envisioned it. At the end of the day we made a decision and I take full responsibility. It didn’t work out the way I wanted it. I don’t feel the same way now. If I did, it’s my job. I feel confident we’re going to turn this organization around.”
You’re talking to a third-string tight end from Hobart College. I’m not a football coach. Will is going to figure those things out. I do think in this league playing good defense is important and that’s why I hired Will. I think he’s done that. But we do have to fix that side of the ball. No disrespect to anybody that’s just reality. You look at the stats and some of the scores that have caused us problems. We’ll get that fixed and we’re going to have to get that fixed and I think we can.”
SUMMARY: Foley told fans and the media what Florida’s head coach already knew. It might not be the popular decision with all Gator fans, but Foley is the athletic director and the head coach knows his AD has his back.
For better or for worse.