Thoughts of the day: January 7, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:


The new guy is Mike Summers, whose 33-year coaching career includes time on the staffs of Bobby Petrino at Louisville and the NFL, Houston Nutt at Arkansas, Joker Phillips at Kentucky and Lane Kiffin/Ed Orgeron at Southern Cal. It’s highly doubtful that Summers was Will Muschamp’s first choice all along, but that really doesn’t matter. The only things that matter are that Summers can (a) coach the offensive line better than predecessors Tim Davis and Frank Verducci; (b) get along with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper better than Davis got along with Brent Pease; and (c) help create a strong chemistry between players and the coaching staff. If he can accomplish those three things, then the Gators should have improvement on the offensive side of the ball.


It’s possible but highly improbable that so many people had confirmation that Stacy Searels was set to join the Florida staff were dead wrong and that was everyone from Florida recruits to people who have coached with and against Searels for years. The job was Searels for the taking, so why didn’t he take it? The answer is in something Charlie Strong said in his introductory press conference at Texas. “I want to make sure the coaches on this staff have Texas ties,” Strong said. His O-line coach at Louisville, Dave Borbely, spent two years in Texas during the 1980s at Rice, but that was a long, long time ago. In the last couple of years, Searels has landed two classes of outstanding O-line recruits to Texas. Expect Searels to be announced as Strong’s O-line coach in the next day or two. Another factor could have been salary. At Texas, Searels makes $451,000. Florida was paying Tim Davis $310,000. He will probably get a raise to remain at Texas. It’s possible, but doubtful Florida would pay an offensive line coach $451,000.


I’ve met very few people who don’t genuinely wish for Will Muschamp to succeed at Florida. I’ve also met very few who are not genuinely concerned that Muschamp is an absolute disaster from a public relations standpoint. Now, there is no requirement for Will to consult the media any time he wants to hire a new coach or conduct an interview. That’s a ridiculous notion. What isn’t a ridiculous notion is Muschamp’s contempt for the media and the fact that he really doesn’t seem to give a damn that there is this gigantic disconnect between Florida football and the fan base. Now, in Muschamp’s defense, it’s a disconnect that Urban Meyer began in 2009 when he began to circle the wagons, allegedly to protect Tim Tebow. It continued in 2010 and that made it convenient for Muschamp to lock things down further, to the point that Stalin’s gulags seem like London’s Hyde Park on a Sunday. Now, I have no complaints with how Mike Summers’ hire was announced, but the fact the Gators haven’t had a bowl game to prepare for and it’s a dead period for recruiting, it’s absolutely ridiculous that there hasn’t been some sort of press conference for Muschamp to talk about Kurt Roper, a time in which he could have casually mentioned that the O-line search was going well, or something to that effect.


The Southeastern Conference saw its string of national championships come to an end. You knew it had to end sometime, but when Tre Mason scored on that 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 to go in the game, it did seem that destiny was on the side of the Tigers once again. Give credit to Florida State for persevering through a difficult first half to mount the comeback, but this will go down more as a game that Auburn lost than one that FSU won. There is no question in my mind that Gus Malzahn knows his team left a win on the field. Auburn had a 21-10 first half lead, but it should have been at least 31-3. There was that missed 31-yard field goal and a dropped pass on the first series that would have been a touchdown. Auburn was effective defensively in the first half with a great blitz package and jamming the FSU receivers at the line. There were fewer blitzes and the defensive backs gave more cushion in the second half, which turned into a recipe for an end of the game heartbreak. As for special teams, Malzahn isn’t going to sleep for weeks thinking about that first half fake punt and the kickoff return for the touchdown in the fourth quarter.


If you need proof that Jimbo Fisher is an outstanding football coach then consider this: he had to replace seven of his nine assistant coaches in the offseason. That Fisher could get an entire staff on the same page in such a short period of time is a remarkable achievement. Developing staff chemistry and then getting so many new assistants to bond with the talent on hand says a lot about the head coach. I know a lot of Gators are going to grit their teeth when they read this, but Jimbo Fisher is the real deal as a head coach and it’s going to take some serious recruiting and coaching for Florida to pull even with the Seminoles any time soon.


The biggest loser of all is the Big Ten, which is trending into an irrelevant conference. Sure, Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, but that was almost a gift considering the bonehead offensive strategy employed by Stanford. The Big Ten finished the bowl season with a dismal 2-5 record and you could think of it as 2-7 when you add in Maryland and Rutgers – both bowl losers – who will join the conference next year. The biggest loser of all in the Big Ten? That was Ohio State, which, in losing to Clemson, was exposed for its lack of speed. Urban Meyer wants to win national championships with the Buckeyes but that’s not going to happen without a serious infusion of speed. If Ohio State had played in the SEC, the Buckeyes would have been 6-6 or 7-5 at the very best.


Consider me among the many who will not miss the BCS. While the BCS did give us a few great games, I can think of years like 2004 when Auburn went unbeaten and didn’t have a chance to play for a national title, or 2009, when I think Florida would have met Alabama a second time to play for the big trophy. A four-team playoff is simply a start. What I would really like to see is for Division I to go to an eight or 16-team playoff. I know how purists will say that will render the regular season irrelevant, but whether it’s the current system or a playoff, you still have to win games to get in. At least with a playoff championships are decided on the field and not by computers.


SEC: 7-3; Pac-12: 6-3; ACC: 5-6 ; Big 12: 3-3; Conference USA: 3-3; Mountain West 3-3; Sun Belt: 2-0; Independents: 2-1; American Athletic: 2-3; Big Ten: 2-5; MAC: 0-5


I always loved the harmony of Crosby, Stills and Nash, but sometimes I think it obscured the fact that Stephen Stills is one of the great guitarists of our time. This is “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which is my favorite CS&N song of all time in a mostly acoustic version that really shows off what Stephen can do with a guitar. The last three minutes building to t is absolutely off the charts. These guys are all getting up there, but if they tour this spring and summer and you are anywhere close, buy the ticket. It’s a night you will remember. They’ll be at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on March 21 and at the Fox Theater in Atlanta on March 22.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


  1. Franz,

    I totally agree that the game was Auburn’s to lose. There were so many moments when Auburn could have put the game away and essentially coasted in the 4th quarter. I will give it to FSU for making some adjustments at the half, mainly Winston getting the ball out a bit quicker. I think the game humbled the Noles a bit and their O Line will likely improve over the summer. What Auburn did do that was so great was really underline the disparity of FSU’s cupcake schedule and their date at the big dance last night. The Noles are going to have to play more competitive teams next year in their regular schedule in order for me to be a believer. Auburn essentially took their receivers out of play the first half and rattled Winston for 30 mins. Imagine the Noles playing teams like that all season.

  2. I think you are wrong. Auburn could have won, all they needed to do was stop FSU with only a little over a minute left. Tre Mason’s touchdown could have been the game winner. But, as I’ve stated before, Winston is the best player in college football and he proved it again in the game winning drive. Everything you said about what makes a great player was shown then. You make not like it, but Winston is like another guy named Jordan, he just wins.

  3. Franz…
    I agree… Our coaching staff needs to open it up a bit and be more responsive to the media, especially those outlets that are in the local area. The coaches know who they can trust and they know who they can’t.
    And I understand that they have to at least, appear to be impartial to every media rep, no matter who or where they work…. but there are ways to get around that.
    Once again… it WAS Auburn’s game to lose. And I guess the Tigers Special Teams Coach will coach ’em up a bit more about running down too fast and too narrow on those kickoffs next year.

    You hit it out of the park with CSN’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Who do we have today that can match Still’s work on the acoustic guitar?
    Many do not realize that Stills spent is youth in Gainesville and was a fan of all things Gator.
    15 years ago, I took my 15 year old son to a game at BHG. After the game let out, we were walking west down University Avenue (right in front of the President’s Home) to our car.
    To my surprize, Stephen Stills walked right pass us on that narrow sidewalk. Recognizing him, it startled me and I stopped and turned around to my son and said, “That was Stephen Stills!”
    My son looked at me and said, “Who is Stephen Stills”?
    By this time, Stills was a good six yards behind us. But he heard me talking to my son, turned around, smiled and waved at us. Will never forget that.

  4. Hi Franz,
    Not sure we are as far away from the noles and /or Fisher as you are implying. One year ago we beat the noles handily on their field (they also lost to a mediocre NC State that year). . This year they get their Tebow ( a once in a generation QB) in Winston, play a ridiculously easy schedule , have an essentially injury free season , barely win the final game and suddenly we are hopelessly behind? Not sure I’m buying that. Fisher had great talent before and could not get it done. He had EVERYTHING break his way this season where we had EVERY bad break imaginable. Give Fisher close to the mind numbing injuries we had and where does that team finish? Certainly we are behind but just look at Auburn and others. Doesn’t take that long to get better.
    By the way , I have many nole friends and one year ago most of them wanted Fisher fired and would have given anything to leave that joke of a conference they inhabit. They felt like WE had the best coach and they were not going to catch us any time soon.
    Love your musical picks. We are near the same age and they closely mirror my preferences. You seem to like jazz so I suggest you try one of the finest albums of any genre , “Getz /Gilberto.” A bossa nova album featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim , Astrid Gilberto , Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz .it was issued around 1966 I think. I am reasonably sure it was the biggest selling jazz album of all time for many years . You may have heard it in which case I suspect you feel about it like I do. It is a go to album for the ages.
    Always enjoy your insightful and informative columns Franz.!!!!!

  5. Totally agree. A year ago their was frustration in Tallahassee with Fisher after we went up there a kicked the snot out of them – now he’s a genius and Muschamp is the bum. I’m not saying Fisher is not a good coach or that Muschamp doesn’t have some polishing up to do, but geez …we need to have some perspective. Fisher didn’t gain experience at a lower level “training wheels” university that u have referred to that is necessary to coach a top tier program. And if we didn’t have an injury riddled team that was held together with duck tape and bailing wire most of the season, we wouldn’t hear as much whining and belly-aching about the coach. We’ll be fine.