The Gator standard. What does it mean?
Ask someone who lived through the glory of the Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer days and they will likely give a much different answer than someone who was just learning how to walk or learning how to read at the time.
Think about this: I am about to start my senior year as a student at the University of Florida, and I hardly remember those days at all.
I remember throwing a football around with my dad in the front yard and pretending to be Tim Tebow or Percy Harvin, but it’s hard to recall much more than bits and pieces.
Kids are watching. Recruits are watching. And lately it’s appeared the Gator standard has been an offense my cat could run, players who can’t stay out of trouble or out of the trainer’s room long enough to get on the field and four wins a year with a couple of lucky seasons sprinkled in between.
The remnants of the Florida brand are still there, but Dan Mullen and his staff have a lot of pieces to pick up.
“I don’t know if the brand is damaged as the brand has not been updated,” Mullen said. “I think the brand is the brand we thought. The brand was great so we didn’t change it and we left the brand as it was. In today’s world, it is always changing and we need to be sure we’re constantly working and improving the brand to make it better.”
The first step to cleaning out the dirty basement that is Florida football is instilling it in the current players that things are changing and things they might have gotten away with in years past are no longer acceptable.
“Relentless effort is one thing I want from our players,” Mullen said. “That’s one thing we can control every day, is the effort in which our guys go out and attack the weight training session, the effort they attack the training table, how they eat, their health, the effort in which they put into their studies, the effort they put into preparation and the effort they put into playing at The Swamp and representing the Gator Nation everywhere.”
That hasn’t been a very difficult task to this point. According to Mullen, there has been very little resistance to those expectations from players.
The first true testament to that is the results the Gators are seeing in the weight room. Some guys are almost unrecognizable compared to their former selves after only a few months in Nick Savage’s training program.
It is obvious players knew changes were necessary to keep from reliving the embarrassment and ridicule of last season all over again.
“Hey, it’s easy to buy in once you go 4-7,” said offensive lineman Martez Ivey. “But they came around and it’s their way or the highway. You’re either in or you’re out. That’s just how the program is run and if you don’t want to be there, you can leave. You either work or you don’t work out.”
The next step to getting things back on track is creating some accountability.
That doesn’t mean players aren’t allowed to make mistakes. They’re 18-22-year-olds. It would be worrisome if they didn’t make a few mistakes. But it means when they do, they will have to live up to it.
That is something that has been lacking at Florida for a while now, and it goes hand-in-hand with a lack of leadership.
“We talk about that constantly,” Mullen said. “Stick out, look out for each other as a team. That’s a huge thing. If you see somebody not living up to the Gator standard, you see somebody doing something they’re not supposed to do, don’t just stand there and let something bad happen, go out and help fix the situation.”
Finally, the Gators need to find some consistency if this brand is really going to be rebuilt.
A bad season at Florida used to be making it to the SEC Championship Game and not winning it. Now, that is considered a good season. At some places, that would be considered an amazing year, but Mullen wants to bring Florida back to the standard it was held to when he called the shots as offensive coordinator.
That may not necessarily mean immediate success, but this staff is in it to turn things around for the long haul.
“I want us to go compete for a championship with this year’s team. But I also want to build a program that’s going to do that every single year on a consistent basis. And that consistency really defines the program. And when you’re consistent, you’re going to have an opportunity to go win that championship. Not just compete for it, you’re going to have the opportunity to win that championship.”
Maybe that means a new generation of recruits and college football fans won’t have to be told by their parents what it means to be a Florida Gator, but they will instead see it and live it for themselves.