The Back Nine: Inquiries during coach search not job offers

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, left, football coach Dan Mullen. (AP Photo/Mark Long)

The Back Nine comes at you a couple of days late, because something happened Monday and that sound you heard was the collective popping of corks by the legitimate media boys and girls because another coaching search has ended.

10. As this crazy carousel of coaching searches continues, there are two things to remember — 1. Not everything on Twitter is real (which I think you already knew); 2. When a school inquires about a coach or even talks to him, he is not being offered the job necessarily. Athletic directors talk to a lot of agents and a lot of reps and a lot of coaches before settling on the guy they want to go after. Certainly, there is some semantics in play here. An AD may say to a coach, “So if we offered you this and this would you be interested?” And the coach might say no and you move on. Florida was definitely interested in Chip Kelly, but he wasn’t about to go to the SEC when he could go to the Pac-12. The great Chris Dufresne of TMGSports wrote a terrific column about why Kelly is the smartest coach in the world because he didn’t fit in the SEC and preferred a job in a city where UCLA might be the sixth or seventh biggest story. He fits at UCLA. The SEC isn’t for everybody. Instead, Florida got a coach who knows the SEC, knows how fierce it is and how mean it can be and wants to be a part of it. In the end, things couldn’t have worked out better for the Gators.

11. I went back and looked at the over/unders posted in the preseason for all of the SEC teams and seven of the 14 teams actually exceeded their projected win totals. Four were under (Florida by a lot, Tennessee by almost as much, Arkansas and Vandy) and three of them will have new coaches next year (there were two pushes). The ACC likes to point out that their league has dominated the SEC at the in-state rivalry level over the past three years (13-3) but this year the SEC went 5-4 overall against the ACC, 6-4 if you count Notre Dame. We all know that the perception of the league will come down to the national championship, which is a little myopic. Bowl games are just exhibitions. And a special shout out to those of you who picked Auburn to win the West and you know who you are.

12. We all knew Florida would probably have a drop off defensively because the Gators were so young in 2017. Florida is 31st nationally with the championship games to go. That’s not a terrible drop off, but Florida’s last nine defenses have finished the season ranked 15th or higher with eight of them in the top nine. Still, defense wasn’t the problem, as you all know. The narrative on Florida for the last several years has been if the offense could just get into the top 50, the Gators could be a championship team. The final numbers on this season:

• First downs — 118th.

• Rushing — 78th.

• Passing — 101st.

• Total offense — 112th.

• Long plays from scrimmage — 107th.

If Mullen’s offense gets consecutive first downs next season, they may start work on sculpting a statue.

13. Some quick thoughts on college football before we switch gears:

• Agents are making a killing and certainly are making the sport disgustingly bloated financially. It gets more and more difficult to argue that players don’t need to be paid when coaches are getting paid millions of dollars and then more millions when they don’t do their jobs.

• The real winner in the coaching changes in the SEC East is Kirby Smart, because of Florida paying Mullen $6 million a year and Tennessee offered Mike Gundy $7 million a year, Smart, at $3.5 million a year, is about to get a giant raise.

• The early signing period really sped up the coaching searches to the point of being ridiculous. Scott Stricklin made this point the other night that Nick Saban was hired in January of 2007 by Alabama. You can’t wait that long anymore. If nothing else, the fan bases won’t allow it.

• Who would have thought that the worst thing Alabama could have done this season was make a tackle on FSU’s quarterback and knock him out for the year. What looked like a huge win now resonates with a loud meh for the College Football Playoff Committee because the Seminoles’ season went south after Deondre Francois went down. I think the Tide is out no matter what happens this weekend, because of the lack of quality wins. But the committee also seems to change its criteria week to week so we’ll see.

14. I have had a bunch of people say this to me — “So Florida is a Final Four team, huh?” Well, no. There are no Final Four teams. You might think you know who will be there at the end, but that’s the beauty of March Madness. Nobody knows. Florida is a really good team that is exciting to watch, but we all know it comes down to match-ups, last-second shots and avoiding upsets if you are a high seed. If John Egbunu comes back in January and is the same player he was when he was injured last year, it helps solve UF’s biggest defensive problem. In two games at the wonderful PK80 tournament, the Gators gave up 69 points and 27 rebounds to the ridiculously talented Johnathan Williams and Marvin Bagley. That’s a problem. Egbunu should make a difference, but who knows if the Gators will see two guys like that in March? The point is that there are no guarantees in The Dance. And it’s a long way to go.

15. Count me among the golf geeks who is excited about Tiger Woods teeing it up today. Not that anybody should expect too much even if the word out of the Bahamas is that he’s looking good. “I’m winging this,” he said, “because I don’t know what my body can and can’t do yet.” I just hope he stays healthy. Golf is much more interesting with Tiger playing. If he’s legitimately competing, man, you may have to switch over from the boring NFL games Sunday.

16. We would be remiss not to grasp the incredible Mary Wise and what she has done at Florida. To win 900 times is ridiculous and Gator fans should treasure her and what she has meant to volleyball and to this community. Tonight, she takes her team into the jungle that is postseason play and she and this team deserve your support. Again, she has a Final Four-type team but there are no guarantees. The only real guarantee is that she’s a tremendous coach and a better person.

17. The Tweet of the Week came from James Guarantano, the father of Tennessee quarterback Jarrett (you knew it had to be Tennessee related) — “I have a fair question for all the Vol fans that protested the (Greg) Schiano hire. When our AD hires our next HC, and if all of you ‘like’ the hire, are the players allowed to protest and say that’s not who they wanted? Get ready cause Pandora’s box just got opened!” Ya think?

18. Maybe now we can go back to important things such as Christmas shopping and Camellia Bowl prep work. Seriously, we are 16 days away from the opening of bowl season. At this time, make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is correctly fastened. And check out this playlist:

• “Midnight” by Tor Miller.

• “Nothing Without You” by Big Moon.

• “The Joke” by Brandi Carlisle.

• “Zombie” by Langhorne Slim.

• And for an old one from one of my faves, “A Well Respected Man” by The Kinks.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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