Unfortunately, the discussion of which college football coaches are about to get fired has begun. And Will Muschamp is at the top of the list because, as we've said before, there is almost literally no chance that the Florida head coach is going to survive this season.
And there is no shortage of great candidates for Florida. It's not a bumper crop of candidates this year, but Dan Mullen and Mark Stoops are going to be hot commodities. Mike Gundy might be willing to give the rumor mill another spin, and might actually be willing to take a job this time instead of just using it for leverage. There's no Charlie Strong out there this year, but Strong's tenure at Texas has already been rocky, and sometimes the best head coaches are not the ones who are the most exciting hires.
Or, Florida could hire Steve Spurrier. It was easy enough to ignore this rumor when it was just Dennis Dodd talking about it, but now it's spreading into other click-seeking corners of the Internet, which means it's only a matter of time before we start seeing this discussed by people who have to fill shows and column inches about such things. So let's get this out of the way now so we don't have to deal with it later:
No, Florida is not going to hire Steve Spurrier as its next head coach.
There are so many reasons for that statement, it's not easy to know where to start. But let's start with a history lesson: In late 2004, Spurrier and Florida could have come to an agreement if either side really wanted to. They didn't.
Spurrier was contacted by Foley about returning to coach his alma mater, but Spurrier was unwilling to go through a long interview process that Florida President Bernard Machen wanted. When Florida officials asked for Spurrier's résumé, he essentially told Florida officials "to go look in the school's trophy case," a source close to Spurrier said.
Machen is retiring this year, but Foley is still the athletics director at Florida, so it's unclear if the process would be any less stringent this time around. It's also worth nothing that this took place a decade ago -- when Spurrier was 59.
Which brings us to our second point: As Year2 has pointed out a couple of times on Twitter, Foley tends to hire younger coaches. Muschamp is 43. Urban Meyer was 40 when he was hired. Billy Donovan is 49 -- and he's about to enter his 19th season as Florida's head basketball coach. Kevin O'Sullivan, the school's baseball coach, has been there for seven seasons and will turn 46 in December.
When Spurrier was 59, unemployed, only a few years removed from coaching at Florida and the last coach who had enjoyed any real success in Gainesville, it would have made a great deal of sense for Foley to stretch his age limit a bit, welcome Spurrier back to the fold and expect that some success would quickly follow.
But Spurrier will turn 70 before the next football season begins. It's been 13 years since Spurrier coached Florida. And while there's little reason to believe that Spurrier would necessarily choose South Carolina over Florida if it came to that, the fact that Spurrier does have a job now means that there would likely be a buyout to navigate (though I can't find any figures from stories about Spurrier's most recent contract extension). Florida would probably have to pay a substantial sum just to have the ability to hire a coach who's probably going to be around for -- what? -- five years? Does anyone really think that even someone as energized and football-loving as Spurrier is going to coach into his 80s?
(There's also the delicate issue of Spurrier being an ambassador for South Carolina after he retires, which could be rather awkward, though one has to assume that could more easily be worked around.)
The time frame is not an idle concern for Florida. If anything has hurt the once-powerful program over the last several years, it's been a lack of stability at head coach. After Spurrier left, it was Ron Zook. Then it was Urban Meyer. Then Meyer retired, detired, and then retired again. Now, it's Muschamp, who is a dead man walking in the middle of his fourth season.
Dodd somewhat clumsily tries to work around the age issue.
How cool would it be if Spur Dog ends his career as sort of a "bridge" to the next guy at Florida?
Show of hands: Who thinks Steve Spurrier wants to be a "bridge" to anyone? Just go ahead, put your hands up now.
There's also a compelling reason for both Florida and Spurrier to want to avoid another tour of duty. From the moment Spurrier returned to the Swamp, there would be enormous pressure to win immediately. The expectations would be almost unreasonably high -- even for a place like Florida, where the usual course of business is for expectations to be unreasonably high.
And it might not work. That possibility is a factor in all head coaching searches, sure, but it also means the risk of buying out a contract for someone who might coach five to seven years and would instantly raise the already-high expectations of your fan base -- and who would likely only take the job if you unconditionally offered it to him without an extended search -- is exceptionally high.
Of course, there's no guarantee that none of that will happen. There is always a one-in-a-thousand chance that Florida and Spurrier could overcome all of those speed bumps and reach an agreement to revive his career as Florida head coach. But Spurrier doesn't look like a man who's expecting a phone call.
Spurrier's expression when we asked him about the reports linking him to a potential vacancy at Florida says it all. pic.twitter.com/vk99jrSfL9— SportsTalk (@sportstalksc) October 21, 2014
No doubt, this season at South Carolina is likely wearing on Spurrier. But that doesn't mean he's going to uproot himself to move back to Gainesville and undertake what would at minimum likely be a one- or two-year rebuilding project, with the kind of high pressure and high scrutiny that Spurrier appears to dislike. (He likes the media when they're dutifully reporting his quips and writing tributes to his genius; when they're questioning his coaching acumen and decisions, not so much.) I could much more easily see Spurrier simply getting frustrated and retiring this year than I could see him taking a job at Florida, or anywhere else.
Perhaps the clearest evidence of whether Foley will consider Spurrier, though, goes back to that 2004 search and what happened afterward. Florida went with Urban Meyer, who won more national titles than Spurrier did, and then faced yet another coaching search when Meyer took his sabbatical. There was some low-level buzz about off-kilter theories that the Gators might ask Spurrier to return -- but there's no reason to believe that there were ever any serious talks between the two sides. And if there were, nothing came of those discussions.
It's four years later, Spurrier is four years older and the thing Florida needs now more than anything is stability. Why does it make any more sense now than it would have then?