We all know that Will Muschamp was fired, while making another million at Auburn, but recruiting against a school that is paying him $6.3m for the next three seasons, according to the Bleacher Report.
Even now that he’s gone, Muschamp is still making Gator fans curse and mumble and log onto Twitter and vent about how he is destroying their program.
Fortunately for UF, Jim McElwain — the jovial, joking new coach — was able to overcome the Muschamp malaise on Wednesday and actually put a smile on the face of Gator Nation during his inaugural signing day.
McElwain might have just pulled off the most entertaining salvage job since Sanford and Sons. He took a recruiting class that was in the junkyard when he arrived — a banged-up and battered old jalopy — and turned it into a pretty nice little ride. He somehow transformed that 1992 Geo Metro he found when he arrived into a 2012 Honda Accord with low mileage.
No, it’s not the Rolls Royce classes that Alabama, Florida State and USC hauled in, but it at least gets the McElwain era cranked up and rolling in the right direction. For UF’s coaching staff to pull off a top-25 class and land two five-star recruits — mammoth offensive tackle Martez Ivey of Apopka (the No. 1 offensive lineman in the country) and Baker County High’s CeCe Jefferson (the No. 2 defensive end in the country) — is remarkable considering the adverse circumstances they were recruiting under.
The Gators only had six commitments and a class ranked 86th in the country when McElwain took over eight weeks ago, and he finished with a class much more highly ranked (No. 21) than that of another more publicized first-year coach — Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh (No. 38).
Traditionally, a college head coach’s first class is weak because the staff only has a few weeks to make the connections and build the relationships other coaches have spent years cultivating. When you also consider Muschamp’s final two years at UF were a train wreck and his job security was constantly in question, it’s no wonder top recruits flocked to other more successful, less volatile programs.
The most monumental obstacle McElwain had to overcome was Muschamp himself. How many head coaches take over a program and then have to go head-to-head in recruiting with their predecessor? When Urban Meyer took the UF job, he didn’t have to directly recruit against Ron Zook. When Muschamp took over, he didn’t have to immediately go mano-a-mano against Meyer.
But after he was fired at UF, Muschamp — always a relentless recruiter — immediately took a job as the defensive coordinator at Auburn and quickly targeted the recruits he built relationships with at Florida, according to ESPN. Early on signing day, Muschamp convinced arguably the No. 1 player in the country — Seffner Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart — to choose Auburn over Florida. Later in the day, four-star linebacker Jeffrey Holland out of Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy also chose Auburn over Florida.
“My uncle played for Auburn,” Holland told reporters. “And Coach Muschamp, that was a big deal right there. That put the icing on the cake.”
Question for UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and other college ADs who flush money down the toilet like it’s used toilet paper: When you pay a coach like Muschamp $6.3 million in buyout money after you fire him, why not write something into the coach’s contract that says, “You are forbidden from taking another job within the conference for at least one calendar year after your termination. Otherwise, you forfeit the buyout.”
“The guy [Muschamp] is a great ball coach and he obviously had some insights that I’m sure they were able to use,” McElwain said of Auburn’s highly ranked recruiting class. “But it’s never about anybody else. It’s about what we have and who we are and we are very secure in that and know we are going to move forward and be successful in what we are trying to accomplish. That [Muschamp factor] is part of the game. Never really thought about it, to be honest.”
To be honest, that’s not being honest.
Of course, McElwain, Foley and the rest of Gator Nation are annoyed that Muschamp is now recruiting against them. You think they like the fact that Coach Boom tried his best to blow up McElwain’s first recruiting class? You think it’s a stretch to say Muschamp is the main reason Florida’s class is top 25 instead of top 10?
Will Muschamp is allowed to take $6.3 million of the Gators’ money to join Auburn, according to the Sporting News. But guess what? He is taking Florida’s recruits with him.