In search of undying loyalty...
Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
Will Muschamp was just a few days on the job when he said something that every Gator fan — and every college sports fan — should take to heart.
He was asked about being a former Georgia player coaching at the University of Florida when he responded, “I’m loyal to whoever signs my paycheck.”
And in those seven words, he told us what we already should have known.
All coaches (and especially assistants) will talk about school pride and rah-rah this and that, but in the end coaches are only oozing your school’s colors when they are employed by them.
Trust me, you care way more about your favorite team than the coaches do.
This isn’t to single out Muschamp. In fact, Muschamp is hardly the exception.
He’s the rule.
Florida fans are still incensed that Urban Meyer left the University of Florida the way he did, quitting twice and taking a million-dollar check for his services after he resigned the second time. It was less than a year that his health problems and family issues were resolved and he was coaching at Ohio State. Not only that, he was recruiting against the school where he forced everyone to learn the alma mater. He told a recruit who was also being recruited by Florida that he wouldn’t go there, according to a Sporting News story.
But they are all like that. And it has taken me a long time to understand the basic rule of coaching — that they are all employees and they are all only as loyal as their employment.
Remember when James Franklin rallied the Vanderbilt Nation with his enthusiasm for the school? He told every recruit and every booster club and every talk show that Nashville was the best place in the world. But when Penn State came calling, he not only left for a better job, he poached many of the recruits he had convinced to come to Vandy.
Mike Gundy will tell you how great Oklahoma State is, but every time a big-time job is open, he’s flirting with it. Charlie Strong was so indebted to Louisville for finally giving him a head coaching job he turned down Tennessee, but Texas was too good to pass up, and he was soon flashing the “Hook ’Em Horns” sign.
There’s nothing wrong with a coach trying to get a better job. And certainly coaches who are fired aren’t going to get overly emotional when talking about the good old days at their former schools.
The perfect example — UF’s firing of Ron Zook. Zook was allowed to coach the rest of the season and did his best, even beating Florida State on the night they named the playing field after Bobby Bowden. But Zook took a job at Illinois and hired much of his Florida staff.
Their reaction? While Florida was preparing for its Chick-fil-A Bowl game, the coaches wore Illinois shirts in the offices and at practices, leaving a confused team to wonder who they were playing for. One assistant coach even wanted to abandon the team until he was informed his contract said he had to coach in the game.
Coaches have been known to leave their resignations with text messages to the players. They recruit these young men and tell them there is only one place for them to go but, hey, I’m outta here when a better job comes around.
Again, this is not an indictment of these coaches. Just don’t be fooled when they lead the band in a rousing fight song or turn another school in for recruiting violations. It’s not about the team; it’s about their jobs.
And to all of this you say, well, what about Steve Spurrier? He won a Heisman Trophy at Florida and took an underachieving program to great heights, winning a national title in 1996. He bleeds orange and blue, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
Not only did he take another college job when the NFL didn’t work out, he took a job in the same division as his alma mater. Every year, he tries to beat the Gators.
The Head Ball Coach once told me this story — at the Silver Sixties reunion, players from that decade gather to have a few cold beverages and talk about the old days.
“We sing ‘We Are the Boys’ and Jerri (his wife) and I put our arms around each other and sing with them,” he said. “Then we go back to being Gamecocks.”
That’s all you need to know.
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