Muschamp's style with rivalry gets test


Published: Friday, September 16, 2011 at 4:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 at 4:34 p.m.

The second win of the season had them still fresh with euphoria when Florida's football players found out that things are different with Will Muschamp.

As the Gators celebrated in the locker room, several of them made comments about getting Tennessee the following week.

“Just worry about yourselves,” Muschamp told them. “If we take care of ourselves, we'll be OK.”




It was quite a departure from their previous coach. This whole week has been different. It has been no less intense, no less serious. The attention to detail has been there. But it has been different.

It has also been an illustration of how there are a lot of ways to do things.

Just because it's different doesn't mean it's right or wrong.

There are different ways to sell a car or do a radio show or fry an egg. You marinate your baby backs, he uses a dry rub. One person insists on music at a tailgate, the next car over they have to have a television.

And there are different ways to deal with a rivalry game. We've seen that here at Florida.

Steve Spurrier believed in Sun Tzu's philosophy of firing an arrow into the enemy camp to irritate him. Urban Meyer took rivalries to new heights, whether it was urinal cakes with the logo of a rival during game week or constant refusal to call the opponent by name.

Muschamp is different.

“Our players know who we're playing,” he said. “They know what it means. They don't need me to tell them. They know it's a big game. In all my years in coaching, I've learned not to put too much emphasis on one game. It was the same way for Texas-Oklahoma. The players knew how important it was without me sitting down and telling them.

“We have guys who have been there before.”

His philosophy, Muschamp told me this week, is to treat it no differently than next week's game against Kentucky.

“If the players see me acting a different way this week, next week's game won't seem as important,” Muschamp said. “That's just the way I've always approached it. I'm not of the belief you have to explain how important rivalry games are.”

But he knows how important it is. Some things are better left understated.

These guys know Tennessee. None of them have ever lost to Tennessee.

They know what “Rocky Top” sounds like. The key is only having to hear it a few times.

They have offered no bulletin board material to their neighbors from the north. They need no extra motivation.

It's a different way to deal with a game this important.

It's a different game.

In some ways, it's kind of confusing.

A guy named Dooley whose father handed Florida many of its most deflating losses is coaching at Tennessee.

A guy who played at Georgia and has won big games at The Swamp, but not at Florida, is coaching the Gators.

And they're friends.

As one Tennessee fan tweeted this week, “Gross.”

This is the new Tennessee-Florida, but don't believe its kinder or gentler even if the coaches are saying nothing but lovely things about each other's teams.

Emotions will be worn on sleeves. This is the kind of game both of these guys were born to coach.

Steve Spurrier went 8-4 against the Vols (when they were an elite team, too). Meyer went 6-0. They did it their way. Both worked.

Muschamp's legacy hasn't reached its first chapter yet. Beating Tennessee would be a nice kick-start. Everywhere he looks in the stadium and outside it, he'll see testimonies to coaches and players who used victories over Tennessee as springboards to greatness.

His approach may be different.

Doesn't matter.

As long as it works.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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