With a plane carrying University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and UF President Kent Fuchs, along with four other UAA members, on the ground in New Hampshire Gator Nation was already on high alert.
So when a number of football players started tweeting the same emoji, a face with a hand scratching its chin and an eyebrow cocked (generally meant as a thinking emoji) the fan base exploded.
What did it mean? Did the players know something? Were they trolling?
“We were just finding out just how all you guys find out. So we don’t know what’s going on,” sophomore receiver Josh Hammond said. “The rumors are out there but no body really knows so we just all tweet out the emoji thought it’d be pretty funny for us to just come together and kind of bother Twitter a little bit.”
That makes sense. College players are generally the last to find out news of hiring and firings. Just go back a month where most of the Gators found out that Jim McElwain had been fired on social media. The decisions made to hire and fire coaches involves a lot of moving parts. There are lawyers and agents, athletic directors and university presidents all making tough decisions. They want to keep the proceedings quiet, as quiet as possible, and that means not getting players involved until there is finality in the decision.
Well, if the players didn’t know, how was the effort seemingly coordinated?
Several players were at Fed Johnson’s apartment eating dinner when the idea came up. Johnson was the first tweeter, followed soon by Hammond and Dre Massey.
“We was all at his house and we was just scrolling on our phones and we saw it pop up so we were just like let’s tweet it and see what happens,” Hammond said.
That was the snowball that got things going. Soon after the first 10 or so tweets are sent players and recruits alike start following suit.
“It’s been a lot of stress, a lot of things going around,” Hammond said. “This is something just to get our minds off of things and kinda have a little bit of fun with each other and just experience teammate and bonding a little bit.”
At the end of the day the players are going to be the ones that have to live with the decision that is made by Florida when a new head coach is hired. They’ll be the last ones to know when it happens and it can be frustrating to have to wait and wade through the rumors. Their string of tweets on Sunday night were all in fun for them. That fun attitude is something they’ve tried to embrace these last two weeks of the season.
“We were like ‘man, we’re tired with this, so let’s just have a little fun with it,’” sophomore linebacker David Reese said. “I hope Gator country’s not too mad at us.”