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November 13, 2018 at 6:30 am #40203
I would like to have an open, non-threatening, discussion on why Florida has not been a elite Program consistently competing for championships for the last 10 years. I would also like to explore opinions on what needs to be done to get Florida’s Program back to elite status.
Many have laid the blame on Foley for his selection of coaches. Some have blamed Urban Meyer. Others have directly blamed the successor coaches. While others, myself included, think the current status of the Program is a result of limited resources diverted to the other programs within the Athletic Department. Regardless of your opinion it cannot be denied that something happened starting 10 years ago that allowed Alabama to ascend to league dominance while at the same time Florida descended into mediocrity.
What do you think happened? Back up your opinion with facts! No attacking other posters! Save your attacks for the Article message boards.
November 13, 2018 at 9:24 am #40218
MexiGator, you hit the nail on the head in blaming Foley and his choices to divert limited resources ($$$) to other UF athletic programs. He was more interested in maintaining high performance across ALL UF athletic programs than in doing what was going to take to continue drawing 5* recruits to UF on a regular basis. Elite recruits don’t grow on trees and they’re now concentrating in a handful of elite programs.
We can’t argue with Urban Meyer’s success at UF until he gave up on us at the end of the 2009 season. Over the intervening decade, nobody in media had much curiosity about what really made him leave UF. Everyone has been satisfied in blaming him personally because he was never really accepted and trusted by Gator boosters.
Reality is that Meyer is STILL a consummate recruiter. He fully understood what UF’s $$$ investment priorities meant to the long-term performance of the Gator football program in the age of Nick Saban and Dabo Sweeney. Now we also have Kirby Smart at UGA to deal with.
Meyer tried and failed to convince Foley and Gator boosters that the recruiting climate had changed and UF was going to have to upgrade our football facilities and staff if we were to keep pace with Alabama and Clemson (and now OSU and UGA.) So, he despaired, quit and took all the blame for the decline of Gator football.
Notice that Foley wanted no part of hiring Dan Mullen to replace Urban Meyer, even though he got two shots at him. Fact is Mullen was not nearly as diplomatic on his way out of Gainesville in 2009 as Meyer was in criticizing Foley’s investment priorities and Foley despised him for it.
Too bad we Gator faithful had to spend a decade settling for baseball, volleyball and gymnastic championships while our football program wallowed in mediocrity. Those were Foley’s priorities and he showed us every year via his $$$ investments.
The good news for Gator football fans everywhere is that Scott Stricklin understood our problem clearly and moved quickly to address it. Hiring Mullen and changing UF’s investment priorities will go a long way toward fixing our recruiting deficiencies. We just have to be patient now and allow Mullen to sell recruits on the “new and improved” UF football program. We certainly have a great championship tradition.
November 13, 2018 at 10:14 am #40220
Unfortunately, I think you can’t point to just one thing and we hit a storm of issues.
Administration- Foley was an outstanding athletic director and took UF athletics from pretty good in the SEC to elite in the country. He was responsible for upgraded facilities, including the football stadium and the south endzone add-on. Unfortunately, there comes a time when “the game” passes you by. He stopped putting money into the football program and was spoiled by Spurrier’s ability, and almost desire, to beat teams that had better facilities and better recruits. He failed to realize that Spurrier was a once-in-a-lifetime coach. Even Meyer couldn’t do what Spurrier did on such a consistent basis. Stricklin is a breath of fresh air and is trying to put money into the program but capital projects can’t be planned quickly so we are behind and desperately trying to catch up.
Coaching- Meyer was a great choice but he should have never been viewed as a Steve Spurrier-type coach. He loves to claim that he is mentally tough but he has proven that when things get hard, he bails. He had never built a program. He was at Bowling Green for 2 years, Utah State for 3. He never had to experience an entire 4-year recruiting cycle. After he left, Foley chose Muschamp and it seemed like a good choice at the time. Foley’s mistake with Muschamp was not firing him after finishing 4-8. Even Galen Hall somehow managed to win 6 games every year in the 80s with only a running back and severe scholarship cuts. He wasn’t even allowed to be on TV until 1987 and the schedule included Auburn and Miami. However, Foley gave him another season and it was bad too. That year, there were no great coaching candidates and once the media found out he was in Colorado, it felt like Foley panicked to get the deal done. Mac was a program killer. Muschamp delivered the punch to the gut and then Mac threw us the knock out blow. He won 2 east championships but we all know that was because of the players and not the coaching. He changed the culture at UF for the worst. He had them paint the damn East titles on the north endzone, even the ones we “tied” for and didnt go to the championship game. That is a far cry from the attitude of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Hell, it was a long way from Galen Hall and Charley Pell.
Recruiting- With the mess listed above, why would top athletes want to come to UF. I’m 40-something so I have a long memory of great Gator teams and championships. Recruits are 18, so the last time UF was competing for championships and scoring points, they were 10 years old. Steve Spurrier was gone before they were 3. 2006 and 2008 are a long time ago for an 18 year old and 1996 is the “olden days”.
One thing that isn’t mentioned much is the overall decline in high school football in the state of Florida. Miami, UF and FSU have struggled for consistency and they pull the best recruits from Florida. Obviously those players are diluted with so many good schools and are not as polished as they once were entering college, especially along the offensive line. Recruits are also struggling with the defensive schemes and complex coverages. In the 90s and 2000s, recruits had to adjust to the speed of the game but now they are having to adjust to the speed and the complex calls.
Stricklin is a great athletic director and can build on the foundation that Foley left for him. He understands football and the state of modern college athletics. I believe Mullen is the right coach. He has turned this group into a 7-3 football team. This is the same group that stole credit cards, hung out at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, got in twitter wars with fans and former players and chased people around with air guns. Our defensive captain missed the UK game because he couldn’t stay out of trouble. Mullen has somehow masked those flaws. Year 3 is usually the hardest, so we need to be prepared for that. (Spurrier in 1992, Meyer in 2007, Muschamp in….nevermind) Mullen needs his own guys, some new money dumped into the facilities and then you will see recruiting go back to that elite level.
The future is bright. Go Gators!
November 13, 2018 at 3:38 pm #40230
OrlandoGator, your point about the decline of high school football in the state of Florida is one I hadn’t heard mentioned before. I’m not sure the number of elite recruits coming out of Florida high schools has really gone down in recent years. It’s just that Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Clemson and Ohio State are coming down here and plucking away many of the best 4* and 5* recruits every year. That did not happen back when the big 3 owned the state of Florida.
None of the big 3 schools in Florida can compete today with any of the above out-of-state schools in terms of football facilities, size of crowds at ALL games, daily attention from the media and personal hand-holding from athletic department staff in order to insure recruits progress academically and stay out of trouble. THAT is what Stricklin and Mullen are trying to change at UF, but it will take a couple of years.
Couple that with UCF and USF sucking away the high rate 3* and low rated 4* recruits that Spurrier used to routinely turn into NFL prospects and you get the bleak picture faced by UF, FSU and Miami today, squeezed out of talent from both top and bottom. No wonder Jimbo Fisher bailed out on the Noles when they refused to commit the resources ($$$) to upgrade their football facilities the way Texas A&M already has. Good luck to Willie Taggart in turning FSU around. He’ll need it.
Therein lies the Gators’ current opportunity. We are the only elite program in the state of Florida today already committed to upgrading our football facilities and staff to the level where Mullen can credibly sell elite recruits on staying instate and playing ball in front of their families and friends. That will be a powerful lure.
One last thing: Gators fans, particularly the students, must do their part and bring the Swamp back to its fearsome glory by packing the stands for every game, regardless of the opponent or start time. Visibly empty seats, like we’ve had for most home games this season, are a real turnoff to visiting recruits, particularly when the following week they visit Alabama, Clemson, or OSU and are greeted by over 100,000 screaming fans in the stands for a game vs. some “directional” school.
As all that comes to pass, the future should be bright indeed!
November 13, 2018 at 9:08 pm #40235
StLGator and OrlandoGator,
You both touched on many of the same points. In the end it’s about $$$. Steve Spurrier and even Urban Meyer brought transcendent offenses to the SEC. Their offenses fueled the domination of Florida in the SEC and their National Championships during their time at UF. Eventually, other teams were able to catch up. I’m not sure their success could be repeated unless there is new twist on offense. Not likely.
Foley tends to get the blame for diverting $ to the other programs. Stricklin appears to be getting a pass currently with the fans. Maybe there are other factors that could have influenced the decision to divert $. I’m curious as to the degree the President influenced the decisions. Could Title IX have played in the part to divert $ to other programs? Regardless, the current elite teams, Alabama, Clemson, and OSU invested in facilities and it’s payed off for them. Texas A&M and Georgia are on their way.
Question? When is Florida going to get their football-only complex? I recall hearing something from Stricklin that the complex was being delayed under the guise that Mullen wanted input on the layout. Then the football complex completion was delayed to 2021 or later in the March 2018 update to the Master Plan to allow for the baseball stadium to be constructed first. I’m worried that football is not the No. 1 priority with the current administration even though it is the No. 1 money maker by far. In fact it is the last priority in the updated Master Plan. “We want to invest wisely in our infrastructure to enhance our student-athlete and fan experiences,” said Athletics Director Scott Stricklin. “And we want to make sure that we are making the best long-term decisions to create championship experiences with integrity for all of those that touch our programs. Our athletic department is consistently among the top five in the nation, and it is our intent that all three of these facilities mirror that.” This sounds like someone worried about the overall sports trophy, and not someone worried about their No. 1 money maker football. It’s like a hearing a quote from Foley. The administration even has Dan Mullen onboard with the delay. “We are excited to know that our national championship softball and baseball teams are getting upgrades for their respective facilities and fans will have a great experience in their new stadiums,” said Dan Mullen. “I’m also thankful for the deliberative and strategic approach we are taking in building our football training complex.” A coach happy for a delay in his football complex that would attract Top 5 classes is beyond my comprehension. They must have guaranteed him 5 or 6 years because that is how long it will take to reap the rewards from a football complex completed in 2021. No current recruits will see it. I recall hearing the delay in the football complex was a major source of strain between McElwain and the administration. I’m not saying I don’t think Mullen wasn’t a great hire. But it appears he agreed to the delay before agreeing to be the coach. Does Scott Stricklin deserve a pass when it comes to prioritizing football?
I am not one that believes you can consistently bring in Top 5 classes comprised of 4 and 5-star recruits sprinkled with a few 3-star gems without top facilities these days. I also believes it takes consistent Top 5 classes or Top 10 classes with a great QB to be an elite team and compete for championships every year. Therefore, the completion of the football complex should be the top priority.
I completely agree that dominance for the state of Florida is currently up for grabs. It’s a unique opportunity. Jumbo definitely bailed on FSU because he couldn’t get a commitment on a football complex. FSU is circling the drain right now. Taggert could be the one to flush it down. It is highly unlikely that Miami can build a top notch football complex with their limited space and funding. State dominance and the elite status that comes with it is all ready for Florida if 5hey could prioritize football.
On the surface I disagree that Florida high school football is in a decline. I see Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, OSU and Clemson raiding more recruits every year. However, i am going to research how many ESPN Top 300 recruits came out of Florida during the last 10 years. McElwain had horrible relationships with Florida high school coaches. Randy Shannon and the other South Florida based assistant coaches helped to heal the relationships with South Florida HS coaches. Mullen doesn’t have an ace recruiter on staff that knows Florida. I was hoping he would have found a way to keep Seider. He is killing it for Penn State.
Last point for tonight. Is the decline in the football program over the last 10 years responsible for the empty seats? Or is it general problem in college football? Alabama’s stated 30,000 people on their season ticket waiting list gives evidence that empty seats are the result of not being an elite Program. Clemson and OSU also have waiting lists. That enough should be the reason why Florida should prioritize football.
November 14, 2018 at 8:45 am #40244
Multidimensional as noted, and all true. But what is the center of mass? The one thing that it all hinges on? The one set of variables that loads as the most significant factor, regardless of how you rotate or how many times you rotate all the variables in the equation.
The Head Coach. You have got to have a Head Coach who is a proven winner at the Power 5 level or near it, a head coach who has indwelling integrity and honor, a head coach who can recruit and for whom blue chip high schoolers want to play. If he is nationally recognized, all the better. I think that is the lynch pin, although like everything else it costs money.
November 14, 2018 at 9:03 am #40245
MexiGator, there’s no doubt that all ADs are constrained by university administrations and Title IV priorities. That said, there’s absolutely no doubt that BOTH Spurrier and Meyer bailed out on Foley at the height of their success because Foley did NOT believe them when they warned that UF needed to upgrade football facilities and player support staff or risk losing their lofty place at the top of the NCAA heap. That failure of vision is on Foley alone and limited his choice of coaches willing to accept the Gator job after the magnitude of the problem became obvious with the rise of Alabama in 2009.
Stricklin took the giant step of acknowledging the problem and setting about properly solving it. First, he had to deal with the fact that Foley had left behind an approved 2016 facility plan to invest $28 million in “upgrading” the existing baseball stadium, which sits right next to the current indoor football practice facility. His solution, which involved input from Mullen, an additional $22 million investment and a one-year delay, was to build a brand new baseball stadium elsewhere on campus that will open in 2020.
That allows for tearing down the old baseball stadium and building the new $65 million football complex in its place. Such an elegant and convenient football solution is worth another year’s wait.
Come 2021, UF will be the ONLY school in Florida with such a state-of-the-art football complex and practice facility. That will be a HUGE recruiting advantage for the Gators over FSU and Miami and will go a long way toward reducing (at least for UF) the loss of elite recruits to out-of-state power schools.
As for the empty seats problem, there’s a short term, market driven solution that has worked in the past. The university needs to consider eliminating the restriction imposed on students selling their student tickets to any comer on a game by game basis. Students can use the extra $$$ and alumni are willing to pay for the privilege of attending at least one game in person every year.
Longer term, there’s a capital investment solution to the empty seats problem involving an upgrade to the Swamp that adds chair-backs to all seats. That will inevitably reduce stadium capacity and the size of the student section (which always has most of the empty seats) and greatly improve the experience for ALL attending fans. Future upgrades to the Swamp can consider adding an upper deck to the east sideline, if alumni demand for tickets warrants it.
Regardless of how Stricklin and the UAA choose to address the empty seats problem, he has the Gator football program on its way back to it’s rightful place among the perennial top 10 in the nation. That alone will put more butts in seats for all future home games!
November 14, 2018 at 1:25 pm #40251
I have been a life-long Gator of some 60+ years. I just joined this group and I am thrilled at the discussion going on. Please keep this up! THANK YOU!
November 14, 2018 at 8:48 pm #40255
weve had ten wins two of those years and nine two others if you count this as 9. 2009 we won 12 i think. too lazy to look it up. other than the two 4-7 years, weve been as good as almost everyone save bama.
but we arent as good as we were, so lets get to the spirit of the question if not the wording. one idea, probably wrong, is that the economics of florida have declined relative to places like clemson with bmw, alabama with mercedes, lsu, tcu with the permian basin, the marcellus shale with ohio state, penn state, and even syracuse, and the economic success of atlanta for georgia. those economic successes added a positive layer to their schools, our subprime problems weakened all of our programs. just a thought
November 15, 2018 at 9:09 am #40268
MexiGator, it is a great topic, and thanks for bringing it up. It has been well documented with ”facts” pertaining to the ”facilities” here in Hogtown (as I’m a born and raised Gainesvillian). And I watched the O’ Dome go up, the South and North endzone stadium expansions, too. So the Gators will get ”caught up with the Saban’s and the Sabo’s, hopefully… fingers crossed!
But I will levy an ”opinion” though. My reason for the lack of sustained success since Tebow’s days (10 years) is the LACK OF GREAT Q.B. play, in my opinion. The great Gator ‘D’ has been here in large part, see Muschamp’s D’s in the Orange & Blue. But for whatever the reason, bad luck, destiny, etc… Florida has NOT had superior Q.B play, and it’s still a struggle for Florida (as the U.F. receivers are stacked, but not in passing/receiving stats). While the problem should be only temporary though (I hope and pray). Because Mullen’s offensive thinking and creativity is BACK in Hogtown!
But my last point to illustrate is one of another Gator broadcaster, Steve Russell’s, who has said so many times on the radio, ”the Q.B. is the most important position in all of sports.” It is, literally, the team’s General. The person behind the center has to have all the confidence of the coaches, the players, and even the fans. And that has not happened here in Gainesville since… you guessed it, Tim Tebow. But Will Grier did have a great Ole Miss game in Mac’s 1st year here, but we all know how that turned out.
Ultimately, I truly believe the future is very bright for Florida Football. And I am going to ask for some sweet shades for Christmas. Because Florida Football’s ”future’s so bright, I GOTTA’ WEAR SHADES!”
November 15, 2018 at 10:48 am #40269
Thanks for additional insight into the delay in construction of the football complex. It makes a ton of sense to have the football complex next to the indoor practice field. However, shouldn’t have someone (Foley?) figured that out a few years ago. Maybe Stricklin deserves a pass for the priority of construction in the Master Plan. There is an amazing opportunity for Florida to ascend to state dominance. I really hope the football complex doesn’t slip from the 2021 completion goal. There is still a funding gap. One would think football has the most fervent supporters capable of closing that gap.
Yes, the head coach is critical to the success of the individual teams and the overall program. I especially believe this is true when a Program is lacking in facilities. Case in point, Kirby Smart at Georgia, who has been able to recruit at an elite level without a football complex, but an upgraded weight room. Kirby and team have shown so far they are elite recruiters. Let’s see if they can keep it up. While Dan Mullen has shown he is an elite developer of talent and game day coach, he has not shown he is an elite recruiter yet. His staff is built on assistant coaches who are also good at player development. I wouldn’t call them ace recruiters yet. Hopefully, this changes as players see their development is more important than a barber shop or bowling alley or a coach who tells them what they want to hear. Success on the football field is paramount to recruiting using this strategy. Facilities would immensely help his recruiting.
Maybe economics plays a role. However, I think winning plays a bigger role. Overall the country has been on an economic upturn for the last 10 years. The current coach is telling us they need full stadiums to win. It’s a story of what came first, chicken or egg. Maybe it doesn’t matter as long as the stadium is full.
Gatorgi70x7 (hard to remember handle, what’s the meaning?),
The QB is no doubt the most important position and Florida has lacked an elite QB for the last 10 years. An elite QB can raise a good team to a temporary elite status. Case in point, Lamar Jackson. Dabo’s program went to another level with DeShaun Watson. However, Alabama has shown you can be elite when you surround a good quarterback (McElroy and McCarron) with elite talent. Which formula is best for long-term success? They don’t grow many Tebows. However, Mullen and Brian Johnson are the ones who can win with the great QB formula.
Thank you everyone for participating. It’s been great to hear everyone’s views on the situation. It goes to show that there are many ways to reach the top of the mountain. Let’s keep it going!
November 15, 2018 at 10:57 am #40270
You have made some great points previously on Florida’s nonconference schedule. Without taking changing the SEC schedule, what could Florida accomplish to keep home games, but play Miami, USF and UCF. Florida has a better chance of filling stadiums with these teams versus an Idaho or Charleston Southern.
November 15, 2018 at 11:38 am #40271
This is a great topic. Facilities are an issue with football, granted. But I truly believe our unsuccessful coaching hires have really played a greater role in our struggles. Recruiting is critical, and a truly great recruiter with great assistants who can recruit can attract plenty of top recruits even when facilities are less than stellar. I love football, but we are one of only three schools to have won national titles in football, basketball, and baseball, as you all know. I take great pride in all of our Gator sports. I think Mullen will get it done, but the fans have to get behind him….especially the students. Maybe the upgrading of the cellular capabilities will help.
November 15, 2018 at 11:55 am #40272
I agree my economics argument is more correlation than than causation. So some of it needs further work.
I’m totally about captains who have emotional control and other traits. We’ve had talent but I’ve yet to see enough of those players. Ole Nick seems to develop them…I’m not sure it’s scheme for him. Same with dabo. I think Mullen can since he did it with Dak. Kirby smart maybe. Leaders are disproportionately important I’m.
November 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm #40273
Gents, I believe every knowledgeable Gator fan understands the foundation of a perennial powerhouse football program is a top 5 recruiting class every year. Spurrier and Meyer made it happen almost every year they were there. Zook and Muschamp made it happen a couple of times. McElwaine NEVER made it happen. We’ll see how Mullen does over the next 2 or 3 years. I believe the promise of top notch facilities will make his job of selling elite recruits on playing at UF much easier.
Top notch player development and great football facilities are absolutely necessary to maintaining continuity of recruiting success nowadays. A good sales pitch will only work for so long when competing against good track records with top notch facilities (like at Alabama and Clemson.) Zook and Muschamp found THAT out the hard way.
The biggest reasons the Gators haven’t had a great QB since Tebow graduated is that the coaches who replaced Meyer had neither the track records nor the facilities they could consistently sell to QB prospects. Even so, Muschamp showed his great recruiting skills by talking Will Grier into signing with the Gators only to have McElwaine, with his lack of appreciation for real QB talent, let him get away. McElwaine really thought Franks would be better than Grier. Well, we now know how THAT turned out.
Mullen has a good track record of player development, especially QB. We also now have a plan in place to upgrade our football facilities. Hopefully, Mullen and his assistants are good enough salesmen to use those advantages in securing annual top 5 recruiting classes.
The future indeed looks very bright.
November 17, 2018 at 9:14 am #40322
Question? If Nick Saban was the coach at Mississippi State would he be able to raise them to elite status? How much of Saban’s success is due to the fact that he is at a traditional power? Does Dabo deserve more credit than Saban for bringing Clemson up to an elite Program?
November 17, 2018 at 9:29 am #40323
My thoughts that Florida’s path back to elite status follows the Clemson model of pairing Top 10 classes with an elite QB. There are so many good recruiting head coaches that Florida will have a tough time getting Top 5 classes until the football complex is built. However, I believe Mullen is such a developer of talent, specifically QB talent, that he can get us there with Top 10 classes.
November 17, 2018 at 6:43 pm #40347
MexiGator, both of your thoughts are on the mark.
First, Saban wouldn’t have done much better than Mullen did at MSU. You may recall that Saban’s record at the other MSU wasn’t much better than Mullen’s at this one. He didn’t get his championship train rolling until he arrived at tradition rich LSU in the middle of recruiting talent rich Louisiana. So, a winning tradition and talent rich recruiting base are both critical to elite programs. Fortunately for Gator fans, Mullen now has both and he will soon have the top notch recruiting tools available to Nick and Dabo.
Second, Mullen is a MUCH better QB developer than Saban or Smart. That, coupled with the new football facilities and Gator traditions, will draw elite QB recruits to UF from now on. Witness how sharp Emory Jones’ passing looked today compared to Franks’. Jones will be our QB starter next season.
That said, with FSU and Miami both down, there’s no reason Mullen can’t battle Bama, Clemson Georgia and Ohio State for top 5 recruiting classes beginning in 2020. By then, the new football facility should be under construction, so it won’t be just a promise.
November 17, 2018 at 7:01 pm #40349
“Jones will be our QB starter next season.” Amen, book it! No more franksandbeans, ever.
November 18, 2018 at 10:02 am #40356
Thank you everyone for your participation in the discussion. To recap, we have the following ingredients so far for what it takes to be an elite Program.
Coaching recruiting player development
Fertile recruiting area
If I missed something please post.
Florida appears to be working towards having all of the ingredients. The football complex is on the books to be constructed by 2021. Dan Mullen has shown the ability to develop players, specifically the QB. Based on the recruiting news it appears the 2020 class has the potential to be a Top 5 class and easily a Top 10 class. Florida is seeing a lot of interest/visits from high 4-star and 5-star recruits. Fans appear to be energized by the new team. Scoring 30 points per game is refreshing.
November 18, 2018 at 11:00 am #40358
I would like to explore each of the ingredients in the elite Program cake starting with a discussion on fan participation and full stadiums. Sold out stadiums, especially sold out season tickets are critical to selling the program to recruits and to greasing the economic engine of the Athletic Department. It cannot be denied that there has been a decrease in attendance at home games. I have the following questions as to why attendance has declined.
Is attendance based on the quality of Florida’s team? Does it take an elite Program, consistent Top 10 team, to sell out? Florida was selling out the stadium when it was winning SEC and National Championships. Student participation was better.
Is attendance based on the quality of Florida’s opponents? Can Florida sell out based on a schedule of 3 SEC games, FSU ever other year and 3 cupcakes?
Next years SEC games are Tennessee, Auburn and Vandy. Other than maybe Auburn, the SEC games are not exactly marquee matchups. Tennessee is always must see, but is it must go? Florida has owned Tennessee recently other than a few slip ups. Vandy is almost a guaranteed win if Florida has a decent team. It falls into the trap game category. FSU is always must go. We cannot let the Noles feel any love from their fans at Florida Field. There are really only 3 quality home games, Tennessee, Auburn and FSU next season. What can Florida do to upgrade the home schedule?
Is attendance based on the quality of Florida’s stadium facility? Are the uncomfortable bench seats and lack of other amenities found in newer stadiums holding back attendance? Nothing beats the comfort and price of watching the game on a big screen TV while enjoying an adult beverage and tasty snacks. What can Florida do to get fans to drive, pay for accommodations and sit on an uncomfortable bench seat with potentially a horrible view of the action?
Are economic conditions responsible for the decline in attendance? The cost of a season ticket starts at around $600 to $700 per seat for non-prime seats and goes up significantly from there for quality seats. Season ticket holders don’t typically go to every game and frequently sell tickets to lesser cupcake games at a loss. Can the AD make games more affordable and still meet budget?
Some people argue that a decline in attendance a foregone conclusion due to big screen HDTV, lagging interest in sports from the younger generation, and competition from other activities. However, elite Programs still sell out their stadiums. Regardless, the days of stadium expansions and the race to have the most seats appears to be over. It is more about filling what you already have in place or upgrades.
November 18, 2018 at 12:54 pm #40361
It doesn’t take a page and half to answer that question. It’s poor recruiting and poorer coaching. Plain and simple.
November 18, 2018 at 10:23 pm #40366
There’s a big difference between selling out and full attendance. Elite programs that regularly play in front full stadiums have two things in common. Fist, they’re located in states where fans have far fewer entertainment choices than in sunny Florida. Second, they allow their students to sell their tickets to alumni on a game by game basis. We can’t fix the first, other than with a winning program. There are ways around the second.
UF practically sells out every game now. The Swamp capacity is around 90,000. In 2018 they sold around 65,000 alumni season tickets, nearly 20,000 student season tickets, sent 3,000 to opposing schools and kept the remainder for sale on a game by game basis.
The Gators’ trouble with empty seats starts with the students. UF students are not allowed by the university to profit from reselling their tickets. That means if they don’t want to attend an unappealing game, their seats go empty, even if alumni were willing buy them.
Obviously, once a season begins to look less than promising, many of the opponent and game by game tickets go unsold. Add to that a bunch of alumni with season tickets that choose to skip unappealing games and you have the recipe for all the empty seats we see at most games today.
Returning to winning form will fix all but the student attendance problem. Fixing that will require a return to the old policy of allowing students to profit from selling their individual game tickets, or reducing stadium capacity by widening seats, adding chair backs and reducing the number of season tickets sold to the students. The latter option adds the benefit of making the experience of attending games more pleasant for alumni.
November 19, 2018 at 12:10 am #40367
Continuity of coaching, or lack thereof, is the #1 factor that has hurt the Gators over the past decade.
How different would things have turned out if Mullen would have taken over when Meyer left? He may not have been a “big” enough hire at the time for many boosters. If hindsight is 20/20 this program would of had a better chance of staying at the elite level.
November 19, 2018 at 9:27 am #40375
mtn2top, IMHO lack of coaching continuity has been a symptom of the Gators’ performance problems, not their cause. Jeremy Foley’s choice to NOT invest in elite facilities and expanded football staffing in turn drove away Spurrier and Meyer, two of the best ever in the game. No elite coach would EVER have accepted the Gator job under those conditions. Note that even Meyer was not an elite coach BEFORE taking the Gators job.
Foley didn’t care for Mullen because Mullen called him out on his lack of financial commitment to Gator football before leaving UF for the job at MSU. As a result, Foley would NEVER have hired Mullen back to UF. It took Foley’s retirement and replacement with Scott Stricklin plus his commitment to upgrade football facilities and staffing to get Mullen to take the Gator job.
Now, signs are pointing in the direction of Gator football returning to elite level. The 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes will determine how quickly that happens. Two top 10 classes, coupled with elite QB play on the part of Emory Jones, can bring us all the way back to being competitive with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.
December 2, 2018 at 10:41 pm #40733
Not sure I follow the logic of calling the lack of coaching continuity a symptom.
Foley did not recognize the importance of that factor in hiring Muschamp, who had no previous head coaching experience, much less offensive sensibilities. The result was a complete overhaul of the Gator program and a promised 3-5 year rebuild that drifted to nowhere and MacElwain.
Had Muschamp hired a spread offensive coordinator, history may have been much different. That’s where coaching continuity (goes beyond a change of head coach) will best utilize players and skills already in and coming to the program.
That was a significant factor inhibiting Florida with a progression of schemes and offenses since the Meyer era.
November 20, 2018 at 9:43 am #40390
I’m with you StLGator on facilities being the most important factor as to the success of an elite Program over time. Not to say it doesn’t require an elite head coach paired with the right facilities. However, it’s tough to attract elite coaches without giving them the resources they need to do their jobs. Elite programs like Alabama and OSU transcend a single head coach. They reload head coaches like the head coaches reload players. If they make a mistake in hiring a head coach they move on and get the right one.
I didn’t realize Spurrier and Meyer left because of resources denied by Jeremy Foley. It was spun that Spurrier left for the challenge of the NFL and Meyer left because of health issues at the time of their departures. However, I recall there was some friction between Spurrier and Foley. The timing on Spurrier’s announcement right in the middle of recruiting was contractual. I didn’t realize there was friction between Meyer and Foley at the same time. I have a hard time understanding why someone wouldn’t invest in their No. 1 moneymaker especially when it is an Elite program at the time. Everyone saw what Alabama was doing with facilities and analysts. Foley handed the keys to the SEC to Alabama.
November 20, 2018 at 10:04 am #40391
Question to all. Has Florida hired any football analysts? I have never heard of one being hired. Saban uses them as assistants-in-waiting. It’s a great way to indoctrinate new hires and maintain consistency. It is how Saban loses Smart, Pruitt, Cristobal and a long list of OCs without missing a beat.
November 20, 2018 at 7:37 pm #40401
Sorry for the long response. These are not easy questions you pose.
Answering your second question first, notice I mentioned both football facilities AND “staff” in all my replies on what Foley failed to invest in. The added staff, beyond assistant coaches, is definitely a huge part of Saban’s program for continual success at Alabama. Meyer and Sweeney have large football staffs as well. They’re a huge advantage, especially in recruiting, where constant attention to so many elite recruits is so critical nowadays, when you have to start pursuing them before they get to high school!
On your first question, Foley was always a firm believer in superior performance in ALL sports, not just football. That required spreading the athletic department’s budget around by hiring and paying for the best coaches and assistants in ALL sports, leaving less money for football “support staff.”
As football recruiting got more competitive in the back half of the 90’s, Spurrier began to complain to Foley about needing improved football facilities and more support staff in order to keep recruiting pace with FSU and Miami. Foley’s response was always to point to his tight budget and ask for patience. Spurrier finally got enough of it by 2000, when he saw how much better his buddy Bobby Stoops got treated at Oklahoma and how quickly he turned that program into a perennial powerhouse. So, when the Redskins came calling, he bailed out. He was so fed up with Foley’s lack of support by then that he actually resigned via a cell phone call from a golf course, at the height of recruiting season, in January!!!
Meyer’s situation was a little different in that Nick Saban had jacked up competition for elite recruiting talent to astronomic levels with full support from Alabama’s administration and boosters. Meyer, the ultimate recruiter, knew UF wouldn’t keep up and, having no interest in the NFL, he “stressed out.” His relationship with Foley never got as bad as Spurrier’s, but he totally lost interest in trying to keep up with Saban in the SEC while being so clearly handicapped. He bailed out of coaching altogether and became an ESPN analyst until the OSU job unexpectedly came open in 2012. Like Alabama and Oklahoma’s, OSU’s administration and boosters spare no expense, so Meyer is back in his recruiting element, with the added bonus of not having to deal with the pressure of an SEC schedule every season.
Stricklin won’t be able to get UF up to Alabama’s level of football investing, particularly on “support staff.” However, he’s already proven he understands the problem much better than Foley ever did. Just seeing how appalled he became at seeing McElwaine’s lame strength and conditioning program let me know he will do all in his power to make the Gator football elite again… and it already shows!
November 25, 2018 at 9:25 am #40567
Well, we need to define elite on the basis of results because Muschamp was an elite recruiter, albeit much too disproportionately on defense.
But it isn’t about Florida high school football, or facilities. It can be summed up in one word:
November 26, 2018 at 8:28 am #40592
It looks like the planned football complex is already starting to impact recruiting. The following is from a Gator Country interview with 2020 wide receiver prospect, Capers, “They’re high on my list,” he said of his interest level in Florida. “I like them because of their plans to bring in a high class of 2020 prospects other than myself and the new plans for football facilities.”
November 26, 2018 at 8:47 am #40593
I think we can all agree that the definition of an elite program is one that competes for conference and national championships on a consistent basis. Facilities, coaches (player development, game day and recruiting, recruiting area, QB play and fan support are all factors that affect success as a program. However, while it takes an elite coach to capitalize on the other factors, there are numerous examples of elite programs that have had multiple successful head coaches. The common denominator of elite programs is facilities and the fan support that pays for facilities. Is Nick Saban an elite coach? Undeniably. Would Saban be competing for SEC and national championships every year at Vandy? Or other typical bottom dwellers of the SEC? No way!
November 26, 2018 at 9:42 am #40594
When you can’t offer recruits direct compensation (see what happened to USC and Ole Miss) you’re limited to offering NFL level training facilities and player development, educational support in the form of tutors and classroom “advisors” and plush living quarters with the latest in entertainment and 5* cuisine. That’s what top notch facilities and staff provide at Alabama and Clemson. Remember, you’re dealing with around 100 football players, between scholarship and walk-ons, which require the equivalent of a small town’s worth of support staff and THAT is expensive!
Dan Mullen has already demonstrated he’s a top notch recruiter of excellent assistant coaches and developer of players, particularly QB’s. Anyone who watched that game on Saturday vs. FSU was able to see the effect of that on the field. Coupled with the new facilities and support staff, Mullen will begin to draw our share of elite recruits to UF.
The recruiting flood gates at Florida high schools will open up really wide for the Gators with the 2020 class if we embarrass the Canes next August in Orlando the way we just trashed the Noles in Tally. Once we achieve recruiting parity with other elite programs around the country, the Gators will return to the top 5 every year, where we belong. Florida high school football is that rich in talent and Dan Mullen is that good a coach.
November 26, 2018 at 10:45 am #40595
MexiGator, you’re absolutely right that schools like Vandy and Kentucky will probably never reach elite status. But respectfully, your examples don’t apply to Florida. The reason has to do with population and socio-demographics.
Vandy and Kentucky play in the SEC, which is the biggest of big boy football.
Vandy, like Duke, is a southern Ivy. They can compete at the highest level in basketball (much smaller rosters), but not football. Kentucky doesn’t have enough instate population with an historically agricultural base that breeds big SEC football players. (Coal miners don’t usually produce big linemen and powerful running backs.) Stoops has brilliantly focused on Ohio, a relatively high population state immediately to his north, to find players. But he’s still going to be largely a developmental program of 3-stars because of the Big 10 elites. Most of the best kids want to play at their flagship programs close to home.
Georgia and LSU are at the other extreme. They have built-in structural advantages because they have strong high school football talent bases but no direct instate competition at an elite level. When Kirby Smart got the Georgia job, he leveraged his preexisting recruit relationships as an Alabama staffer (e.g., with Jake Fromm) to spike his first couple recruiting classes. I suspect his classes will fall back a couple spots to what I would call the “Mark Richt mean,” now that those relationships are used up… unless he wins an NC. An NC juices recruiting as long as you keep winning. (I don’t think Kirby will win an NC while Saban is still coaching.) And within three years, a better coach to the south will have Florida rolling again.
Florida and FSU were able to break into the elite level in the 1990s because of the state’s enormous population growth, but also because of coaching good fortune. FSU had good ole boy “Grandpa” Bowden going into recruits’ living rooms, and Florida had a brilliant offensive innovator who was playing chess while the rest of the SEC was still playing checkers (but Florida sent several big, disruptive defensive linemen to the NFL during the Spurrier era).
As an aside, FSU is in a world of trouble because they will feel strong pressure to give Willie Taggart at least three years. That will coincide with Florida having finally found an elite head coach after 7 years with the wrong guys –8 years if you include Meyer’s dysfunctional last year– and yes, the shiny new football operations center coming online.
Facilities matter. And don’t get me wrong: I’m all for keeping up in the facilities arms race. College football isn’t fair; it’s a positive feedback loop where the rich get richer. And every little edge helps.
But when Miami had its 1980s dynasty, the school famously had the worst facilities in college football. They still don’t have an on-campus stadium. But excellent head coaches [Howard Schnellenberger (1979–1983), Jimmy Johnson (1984–1988), Dennis Erickson (1989–1994)] cornered the local market in Broward and Dade County football talent. I played high school football in South Florida in the late 1960s/early 1970s and I remember Coral Gables High School dressing 100 guys and being the consensus best high school team in the country more years than not.
On the flip side, Tennessee has exceptional facilities, great tradition and a huge number of players sent to the NFL since the 1990s. None of this was enough to overcome the ineptitude of Derek Dooley and Butch Jones.
It’s very possible that shiny facilities have become the ante for elite programs in today’s instant gratification, Instagram culture.
But it all starts with the right coach.
Thank goodness, we’ve finally checked that box.
November 26, 2018 at 12:49 pm #40596
I think we agree on the point that it takes an elite coach to have elite teams. I’d also argue as I have previously in the thread that Spurrier and Meyer were different in that they brought transcendent offenses to the SEC that enabled Florida to become an elite program. Miami in the 80s and 90s was also unique in that their ability to keep south Florida recruits from leaving the area enabled their elite status. My point is that starting about 10 years ago college football became an “arms race” for money spent on facilities and analysts. Florida decided to not participate while Alabama decided to lead the race. StLGator’s posts reiterate that Spurrier and Meyer wanted Florida to spend on facilities, but Foley didn’t think it was needed. They both left. The results over the last 10 years speak for themselves. Maybe Foley settled on Muschamp and MacElwain because that was the best he could get at the time.
November 26, 2018 at 1:50 pm #40597
Good points. At the risk of sounding argumentative, my goal is just to continue the discussion.
Spurrier did complain about Foley’s unwillingness to spend… then after three years of Zook (which included some stellar recruiting), Meyer came in and won two national championships. He complained about facilities too, but he won two national championships nevertheless.
I think Meyer won primarily on the strength, first, of the stars aligning in recruiting, and second, an excellent coaching staff. He caught lightning in a bottle with a once-in-a-generation quarterback and leader, with Percy Harvin, with a great talent base from Zook (a world-class salesman but not a head coach), and with a significant chunk of a Lakeland High School 5A state championship team. Like Alabama today, they could have run the single wing and beaten just about anybody.
Muschamp’s recruiting was qualitatively on a par with Meyer’s, but too lopsided; not enough offensive players. I suspect this was largely due to disastrous offensive coordinator/staff hires. It’s interesting that Muschamp has been plagued by high injury rates at South Carolina too. Same strength and conditioning coach he had at Florida.
I was supportive of McElwain during his first two years, but with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, he was an unmitigated disaster from the get-go. Two of his five elite recruits in his first class (the two 5-stars, Martez and Cece) were really Muschamp recruits who stuck with Florida. There simply is no excuse for signing just five 4-star and higher recruits in a class at Florida.
But back to facilities.
I guess I would just say that everything matters. Facilities. Quality control assistants. Great food. Good academics, for some. Lower admission standards, for others. It’s all cumulative, and it’s a zero sum game with Alabama, Clemson, FSU, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia.
But Dan Mullen didn’t turn down several offers while he was at Mississippi State because he was waiting for shiny new facilities at a place like Arkansas (which has a really snazzy football center), or even Tennessee. He wanted the structural recruiting advantages at Florida.
November 26, 2018 at 8:13 pm #40602
I think we have seen the start of the return of the Gators as an elite program. Two wins over Top 10 teams and a New Year’s Bowl 6 (I hope), plus a beatdown of the’Holes.
Never expected this for Mullen’s first year. 7-5 expected, 8-4 hoped for and 9-3 a sunshine rainbow. They beat the teams I thought they would lose to and lost to two teams I thought they would beat (KY and Mizzou). Never saw that Miss. St. or LSU win coming. Think about this. The entire season changed on the one bungled play against the Cocks. Down 35-17 with 5 min. left in 3rd and 3rd and 10, Franks gets a bum snap over his head, scrambles to pick it up, throws to a WR 8 yds. downfield, ball bounces off his pads and Gator WR catches it for an 11 yd. gain and 1st down. The rest is going to be part of the folklore of this team. Cocks are still grumbling about ‘dumb luck,’ but luck happens both ways. Remember LSU in 2017 and the botched hold on the XP. LSU wins, 17-16. Only XP Pinero missed at Fla.
November 26, 2018 at 11:34 pm #40605
The modern history of college football really began with the US Supreme Court’s antitrust decision against the NCAA in 1984. That decision opened the door for ESPN to begin televising regular season games. It also opened the door for conferences and independents (Miami and FSU back then) to negotiate separate TV contracts and get much more TV exposure than they had before.
Perennially elite programs like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Penn State were able to throw the extra TV $$$ at training facilities and retaining the best assistant coaches available. Miami and FSU, with their great coaches already in place, were able to leverage their newfound TV exposure into recruiting gold in the rapidly growing state of Florida. Meantime, the Gators sadly found themselves on probation TWICE during the 80s. Those probations retarded our program’s development until Spurrier arrived in Gainesville with his Fun-and-Gun offense in 1990.
It took Spurrier a couple of years to change the face of Gator football, win a bunch of SEC championships and finally win our 1st NC in 1996. However, by then, Miami already had 4 NCs and FSU had 1 with another coming in 1999. If Spurrier had had more respect for the value of defense before being embarrassed by Nebraska in 1995, he might have hired Stoops sooner and won at least one more NC with the talent he had on his teams in the mid 90s.
With the advent of the BCS coalition and even more TV $$$ in 1995, competition for recruiting talent ratcheted up to a whole new level. By 2000 ALL schools with GREAT coaches could sell recruits on regular TV exposure, a path to the NFL and a chance to win NC. So, geographical advantage began to really assert itself. Oklahoma, USC and Texas rose as Notre Dame, Nebraska and Tennessee slowly dropped due to simple fact that, all other things being equal, recruits prefer to play close to home, where their families can attend home games.
By the late 90s, the recruiting “arms race” also began to include expanded assistant coaching staffs, higher pay for coordinators and regal football training facilities. Spurrier never really liked pounding the recruiting pavement and couldn’t sell Foley on making his job easier by hiring more and better paid staff. So he bailed out to the NFL.
Zook was definitely a great recruiter, but he couldn’t coach them up nor hire great assistants to do it for him. So he was shown the door for lack of team discipline and player development, which led to boring offense and losing games he should have won.
Meyer brought great assistants with him in 2005 and talked Foley into building the Heavener Football Training Complex at the Swamp, which opened in 2008. He also brought in his innovative spread option offense, which helped the Gators win the recruiting wars for 5 years and brought us 2 more NCs with a strong assist from the talent Zook left behind.
Nick Saban ratcheted up the recruiting “arms race” again in 2007 by ushering in the era of huge analysis and support staffs, coupled with huge salaries for assistant coaches and a regal football complex with plush dorms, entertainment center and a 5* cafeteria to wow the recruits. Meyer failed to talk Foley into keeping up with Saban, despaired about not being able to win the SEC and bailed out. Foley then TWICE failed to hire a good replacement. The 2nd bad hire was masked for a couple of years by the overall weakness of the SEC East.
More importantly for our Gators today, FSU and Miami have also failed to keep up with Saban on the facilities and staff “arms race.” That has led to the Hurricanes’ decline and to Fisher’s bail out of FSU and sets UF up beautifully for winning the instate recruiting battles for the foreseeable future. Florida is so rich in talent that the Gators don’t need to heavily compete with Alabama, Georgia and Clemson outside the state as long as we beat FSU and Miami for our share of instate elite recruits every year. With our new $65 million football complex opening in 2021, that’s now very doable.
In college football, recruiting is destiny. Watch what happens to Gator recruiting classes beginning in 2020. With Mullen and his staff in place to fully develop their potential, more championships will surely follow.
November 27, 2018 at 9:24 am #40618
StLGator, a really, really well done history of the modern college football era. Only thing you left out was the NCAA’s 85 scholarship rule, which also had a role in devastating Oklahoma’s and Nebraska’s dominance, as they could no longer stockpile up to 150 or so of the best players in the country on each roster.
The 85 scholarship limit –and cable/satellite TV network dollars and exposure– have allowed second-tier schools like Kentucky to become more competitive with stadium and facility upgrades, giving them the ability to recruit a few 4-star players. But they still face structural (geographic) recruiting limitations.
Incidentally, this year’s CFP standings are interesting from a facilities standpoint because Notre Dame’s new football center and stadium upgrades take a back seat to no one, Alabama included. It’s funny; Alabama has a 10-year, $600 million campaign for athletic facilities construction and upgrades underway. Vanderbilt has a $600 million campaign underway too, with not one penny for athletics. The school’s administrators have even told athletics fundraisers not to contact donors.
November 27, 2018 at 10:02 am #40620
To further illustrate StLGator’s point on Florida needing to win the recruiting battles in their own state,
2019 ESPN 300 State Rankings
Ohio State has to recruit nationally.
Out of the 44 ESPN 300 Florida players, we have the following commitments,
Penn St 1
UF. 1 (OL Ethan White)
Mullen needs to concentrate on the state of Florida. Hopefully, we flip Fuller and/or Hunter which subtracts from FSU.
November 27, 2018 at 10:09 am #40621
What Derek Mason has achieved at Vandy is amazing given the lack of support from their administration. He deserves an upgrade to a school that cares about football. He never is mentioned as a candidate for a coaching vacancy. UNC would be better off with Mason versus retreading Mack Brown.
November 27, 2018 at 12:09 pm #40624
Coaching but more importantly leadership which is separate have been sorely lacking. This is partly the AD but mostly coaching. Meyer had those covered but his ethics were always at odds with what is right and in the end his leaving. Call it health issues or whatever you wish he was melting down before he left. This is where Foley slipped up and while Muschamp is a motivator he is no leader and hiring a good defensive coordinator to he HBC when he was not ready for it was a bad hire. He didn’t get the results and was let go. From frying pan to fire. We then hired a coach with one good year in the group of five and hail him as a great mind. He didn’t have the credentials and it showed. Meyer had years of building a system in the minors so to speak and was ready for prime time. Muschamp and Mac had worked under coaches but never had the reins. (always wondered why Texas never put him in when Brown was struggling). Facilities are nice but truthfully that is flash and yes the young are swayed by flash. But the right equipment used well doesn’t have to have the flash. BUT we have the money so we should have the facilities. I don’t think money and allocation is the root of the problem. The problem was the choices of coaches and the staff that derived from those coaches wasn’t what we needed to remain on top. That part was more on the AD in his choice of coach. Mullen would have been a better choice that Muschamp but he needed a few years to cut his teeth and work some things out. Charlie Strong would have been another good option. Mexi we are on our way back. I think that Mullen will get us there. We will have the facilities now to ad the flash to the real program. One of my early jobs was working in an autobody shop. One of the guys told me you ‘can’t shine a turd.’ If the coaching and leadership isn’t there all the shine in the world won’t help. Meyer had coaching but let leadership slide and that was contributing in the end. Muschamp and Mac never had enough of the program to get things going. Mullen has a direction, a standard, and is coaching these young boys into good young men. We will be top 10 next year.
November 27, 2018 at 12:43 pm #40625
Excellent points, Gator65. Without coaching, facilities don’t matter.
You got me to thinking that Muschamp is really very similar to Zook: player’s coach, great salesman, good defensive coordinator, but in over his head in the areas of program management and leadership.
McElwain was just an out and out mistake. A play caller (which he didn’t do at UF) and a good game tactician. Nothing else. And painfully inarticulate. I don’t say this lightly: I am so thrilled to have a head coach who, among other things, exudes energy and speaks in complete sentences.
Recruiting will be fine.
November 27, 2018 at 2:11 pm #40630
Nashville in some of my jobs I had to work with what you got so to speak. Leading a group of talent (any talent) in some places that are lacking of the best facilities/equipment and material isn’t impossible just more challenging to get the end result. Mullen did pretty good at MST and I am sure they don’t have the resources AL has. There is prestige and history that can be a big draw. I think having class facilities helps most in depth and for those too shallow to see the opportunity.
Coherent sentences with relevant answers to the question. GO GATORS
November 27, 2018 at 3:50 pm #40635
Gator65, this is not a chicken vs. egg situation. In today’s FBS environment, great coaching conditions MUST come first, then great coaches come. Sad for most programs, but true nonetheless.
Truly great FBS head coaches are a rare commodity. If you measure them in terms of how many have had their teams ranked in the top 5 more than 5 years in the last 30, I’d be willing to bet you there aren’t 10 among the 130 still employed today. And we all know that having the Gators ranked in the top 5 just 5 times over a period of 30 years would (and should) be considered a travesty by Gator Nation. We have a tradition to uphold!
Coaches who are members of that exclusive club (Saban, Meyer, Sweeney), or are perceived to be potential members (Smart, Fisher, Mullen) have tremendous negotiating clout. They don’t have to compromise anything when accepting a coaching job. Their schools provide ALL the tools needed for success.
Take, for example, the case of Mullen. He was NOT considered a potential member of that club when he took the MSU job. It was what he accomplished there, despite the territorial, tradition, facilities and competition handicaps he faced that made him a potential club member. He may not have been ready to take the Gators job when Meyer bailed out. However, he was more than ready to take it when Foley hired McElwayne in 2015. Why wasn’t Mullen brought back then?
It wasn’t like Foley didn’t know about Mullen’s work at MSU. It was because Mullen left Gainesville criticizing Foley’s lack of financial commitment to the football program and Foley wasn’t going to hire anyone who held that opinion, period. Judging by the awful strength and conditioning program he ran, McElwayne didn’t give a rat’s rear about outstanding “facilities” or “football staff.” He believed he could win without them, so Foley hired him. How did that hire work out for Gator Nation?
On the other side of that coin, Mullen could have taken the Tennessee job before Stricklin finally turned to him last year. Why didn’t he?
Mullen knew that while Tennessee has the tradition and football “facilities,” it is located in one of the worst recruiting territories in the country, while the Gators are located in one of the best. The UF job was worth his wait, especially when Stricklin committed to improving the “facilities” and increasing the budget for the “football staff.” Now, Mullen has to deliver big time. And I believe he will.
BTW, having their teams ranked in the top 5 at least 5 times over the past 30 years is why UNC and Kansas have taken flyers on Mack Brown and The Hat. They’re both VERY long in the tooth, but are members of that exclusive club.
November 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm #40668
Stl, I think a good coach can overcome the facilities situation at least in the short term. I am going to concede that facilities are higher on the list than I had thought by the posts in this thread. The wining season is turning heads and I feel there will be some recruits eying UF after this season and I suspect a few more may be waiting on who goes pro. I also think that finding the right leaders on and off the field is the first priority. Someone above posted Tebow’s leadership. Swampy posted about Franks, E. Jones and Jones from Va. if we have Two ready to go QB’s and a RS that is still one play away we are set for offense.
Great insight everyone.
November 28, 2018 at 5:35 pm #40669
Gator65, I agree with you. Without an elite coach at the helm, great facilities won’t help anyone win. Just ask the folks at Tennessee.
My point is that to land and RETAIN that elite coach (like Fisher at FSU) for the long haul, an AD has got to be willing and able to make the investment in facilities and support staff necessary to keep pace with other elite programs. Wilcox at FSU wasn’t willing or able to do it while Stricklin at UF is.
We don’t know yet whether Dan Mullen will be the next elite Gator football coach. I have a hunch he will be, but only time will tell.
November 27, 2018 at 4:48 pm #40636
Kirby Smart is the only potential elite or elite coach whose football program doesn’t have a football only facility or one in the pre-construction stage. What he does have is an elite recruiting area with little in-state competition. It will be interesting to see if he can keep up the recruiting rankings over the long term. There are whispers already of his grumbling about facilities.
If you are an elite or potential elite coach where would you want to be? At a school committed to providing the best in facilities or one lacking in facilities? Jimbo left FSU not just for the paycheck but for the facilities at A&M. Mullen came to Florida knowing he was going to have a $65 million football-only complex built by 2021. The football program added $22 million to the budget around the time Mullen was hired. It’s hard to imagine a 16 or 17-year old recruit not being blown away by the plans for the football complex. Kids these days like the flash.
November 27, 2018 at 5:51 pm #40641
Jimbo is the best example of an elite coach leaving a program with a richer tradition for one with a bigger financial commitment to their football program. I don’t think anyone is arguing that it doesn’t take an elite coach to have an elite Program. However, it’s hard not to see that coaches follow the money.
After seeing what Mullen did with Top 15 talent in his first year coupled with the recent struggles of Miami and FSU, I haven’t felt better about the program since Spurrier’s arrival. I am excited to see the elite talent Florida can bring to the team in 2020 and beyond with the football-only complex. It should set up Florida for another special run in the 2020s. It’s great to be a Florida Gator!
November 27, 2018 at 7:04 pm #40642
My list of elite head coaches is Saban, Meyer (written while grimacing) and Swinney.
I’m not ready to grant elite status to Kirby just yet. He parachuted into one of the best recruiting territories in the nation, which has no elite instate school competition, and leveraged recruit relationships (e.g., Jake Fromm) he built as an Alabama assistant. He’s used up those relationships and he’s no longer wearing the Saban halo. He’s had FOUR recent decommitments from his program. He did do one thing exceptionally well: He hired an excellent group of assistants.
I have a hard time putting Jimbo at the top of the mountain as well. His record with and without Jameis Winston is a pretty striking difference. Really smart guy, but not sure he’s a program builder.
Dan Mullen hasn’t had an opportunity to prove whether he’s elite yet, given the structural recruiting limitations at Mississippi State. But getting Mississippi State to number 1 in the nation –in the SEC West during the Reign of Saban– is impossible on paper. Yet he accomplished it. Incidentally, Dak Prescott was a 2011 3-star.
November 27, 2018 at 9:53 pm #40655
Saban, Meyer and Swinney are ALREADY elite coaches. Smart, Fisher and Mullen are POTENTIALLY elite coaches who still have to deliver consistent top 5 teams several years in a row in order to join the first 3.
Fisher has already won a NC. Smart came damn close last year. Both are recruiting lights out in 2019. Those accomplishments alone don’t guarantee future results, but they do point them in the right direction.
Mullen has consistently delivered multiple top 25 teams at MSU, which was as close to a black hole as existed in the SEC when he got there. He also turned a 4-7 Gator team with a losing attitude into a 9-3 team with a winning attitude in just one season and turned Franks from totally dysfunctional to a serviceable QB. Those accomplishments alone don’t guarantee his future results, but they do point in the right direction.
I won’t hold the 2019 recruiting class finish against Mullen because the Gators were an absolute mess when he got here and all the 2019 elite recruits knew it. I don’t blame them for committing to go elsewhere.
The 2020 recruiting class is a different matter. With the 2018 turnaround, the promised football complex in 2021 and the decline of FSU and Miami, Mullen has no excuse for NOT delivering in 2020 the first top 5 Gator recruiting class since 2013, with more top 5 classes to follow.
Recruiting is destiny in college football. If you don’t believe me, check out the 24/7 four-year composite recruiting rankings in the link below:
The correlation between those composite recruiting rankings and the current CFP rankings are downright spooky. They also really highlight the coaching dysfunction taking place at USC and FSU today.
If Mullen can’t deliver consistent top 5 recruiting classes after 2019, he won’t fulfill the full POTENTIAL we all believe he has. Time will tell.
November 29, 2018 at 11:39 am #40680
STL, Tampa/Swampy has been saying that since I joined 6 months ago. I agree 100/100 that better recruits will yield better finishes. Though I do think a lot of these guys would be ranked better if they were from different locations and better coaching. That is why sometimes I feel that there are 3 * guys that would be gets. If facilities = *’s and a thriving program.. as Larry the Cable Guy says GETTER DONE.
November 29, 2018 at 6:40 pm #40689
Gator65, you’re right. There definitely are 3* guys that would be real gets in every recruiting class. Here are a few Gators we all would recognize that were 3* recruits: Ray McDonald, Louis Murphy, Mike Pouncey, Bryan Cox Jr., Taven Bryan, Jabari Zuniga and Fred Johnson. All made NFL teams but the last two, who are still in Gainesville and will most likely make NFL teams some day.
However, you can’t build a top 5 team around mostly 3* guys. There aren’t enough available and… if you notice, the guys I mentioned above are all but one OL and DL. That’s because the national recruiting services have gotten really good at identifying and rating skill position recruits.
Once EVERYONE knows how good some recruits are, it’s “game on” between schools to sign them. That’s when an elite head coach, with a great staff, housed in an elite facility, located near the recruit’s home and willing to offer early playing time takes the inside track… with kids in 9th grade!!!
Fortunately for Gator Nation, I believe after 10 years of mediocrity, we may finally be in position to win our share of the 4* and 5* recruits.
November 28, 2018 at 10:47 pm #40673
Circling back to some of my earlier points, Spurrier and Meyer each won NCs without shiny new facilities, and the Miami dynasty of the 1980s had zero facilities. Miami didn’t even have a stadium on-campus. (They now have an indoor practice facility, new locker room and meeting rooms.)
Frankly, I suspect a lot of Spurrier’s and Meyer’s displeasure over facilities shortcomings fall under the heading of wanting what the other guy has, especially when a recruit makes a remark like, “did you see the new weight room at ____________?” These are competitive guys who will try to obtain every incremental edge they can.
But after reading back through this discussion thread, I concede that snazzy facilities have probably become at least somewhat more important. It’s an arms race that appears to have escalated around 2007-2010. However, the $65 million Gator football palace aside, Florida hasn’t been idle on the facilities front. We (finally) got the indoor practice facility, as well as a new academic center and various stadium upgrades.
The 247 Team Talent Composite Rankings at the very top reflect a positive feedback loop. Success begets more success. Teams tend to bring in number one recruiting classes after winning an NC. It was true for Auburn, Florida and Clemson. And unfortunately, for Alabama after most of its NCs. It is my opinion that Kirby’s two super classes resulted from adding his Alabama commit/recruit relationships on top of the structural recruiting levels Richt was already attaining at Georgia.
And StlGator is correct that something is terribly wrong at Southern Cal and FSU, given the apparent talent level. But… while I haven’t looked at FSU’s recruiting in detail, it’s possible that it’s unbalanced, like Florida’s was under Muschamp (stocked to the gills with defensive talent but grossly deficient on offense). It’s also possible that FSU’s roster is high in physical measurables but lacking in intangibles.
Roughly speaking, recent history suggests a college roster needs at least 60% 4-star and 5-star players to compete for a national championship, and ideally 70%. Alabama and Ohio State are at 74% and 78%, respectively. Georgia is at 72% and Clemson is at 54%. Notre Dame and Oklahoma are at 52%.
Florida’s ratio is currently 41%, up from 29% in McElwain’s first season.
60% x 85 scholarship limit = 51 4-star and 5-star players. Of course, those numbers need to be evenly distributed throughout the offense and defense.
Florida will need a net gain of about 10 4-star plus players –net after senior graduations, transfers and juniors leaving early for the NFL draft– to get to 60%.
That’s probably going to take two to three classes.
November 29, 2018 at 12:23 am #40674
Nashville, like it or not, Nick Saban’s decade of success since 2007 has upped the ante for any program that wishes to realistically compete for one of the 4 playoff spots every year. Gator Nation expects nothing less, so UF had to join the “arms race.”
Hiring and RETAINING an elite head coach that can elevate the Gators to the level of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia was an absolute must. An expanded staff, operating out of a regal football complex, along with location in the middle of a talent rich territory, like the state of Florida, have become absolute requirements to hiring and RETAINING elite coaches. Florida, Miami and now FSU have learned that lesson the hard way.
I sincerely believe Stricklin hit a home run in hiring Dan Mullen. Given a little time, he’ll show us he’s such an elite coach. And he has the added benefit of long experience succeeding with less raw talent at MSU. Like Sweeney at Clemson, Mullen can make up for less elite talent on his teams by developing NFL caliber QBs on a routine basis. As Oklahoma has demonstrated the past few years, a top-shelf QB can make up for a multitude of sins, particularly on defense (yikes!)
Over the next 2-3 years, Mullen will take the Gators back to the top of the mountain. All the UF administration and Gator Nation will need to do then is figure out how NOT TO LOSE him, the way we lost Spurrier and Meyer once they had us looking down on the rest of the college football world!
December 3, 2018 at 2:05 pm #40743
STL, And a great defense can stymie the Oklahoma’s. Do remember Sam Bradford’s look when he though the Gator Defense would be afraid of them.
November 29, 2018 at 8:11 am #40678
Stl, I agree completely.
November 30, 2018 at 10:41 am #40694
Even though MacElwain had early success with getting to the SEC championship games, he didn’t accomplish his goal of improving the offense. It was apparent Florida was winning low score games based on the defensive talent stockpiled by Muschamp. Mullen’s impact on the offense has been instantaneous as you would expect from a head coach with an offense pedigree.
Mullen has demonstrated he is an elite developer of talent. The whole staff is built upon a philosophy of being a teacher first and foremost. Hevesy is the penultimate example. I am ok with it as I believe this philosophy is built for long run success. However, there isn’t a perceived ace recruiter on the staff. Mullen is no Urban Meyer when it comes to locking down 5 star recruits. I’m not saying he can’t get there in the future. I’d rather have Mullen and his core values than a lying dirtbag like Meyer. Which is why I believe the planned football complex is a requirement for recruiting Top 10 classes consistently for this staff. They need that shiny new toy to push the recruits their way, especially in the beginning of the regime. I believe with time recruits will recognize that they will be developed better at Florida under Mullen than at other programs.
Gator Nation will need some patience. Given the losses that may come on the D and O lines, we may take a small step backwards next year until the replacements get experience. The SEC is a line of scrimmage league.
The 2nd string O line had issues when they played. It’s likely we lose the RT Taylor in addition to Ivey and Jordan. I think Stone Forsythe will be a serviceable LT. Gouraige will have to step up big time at the other tackle spot. We currently do not have a big name tackle recruit committed for 2019.
On the D line, a lot will depend on Zuniga’s decision. He has shown flashes of greatness. I’m not sold on Moon at the buck position. Carter is an unknown with potential. We don’t have a playmaker like Polite ready to be the next great pass rusher other than Zuniga. I hope he stays to develop into a 1st rounder.
December 3, 2018 at 9:44 am #40740
Bear Bryant once called Florida the “Sleeping Giant”. I’d dare to say that the moniker now applies to Texas A&M. As much as pains me to say, Jimbo Fisher might be the one to wake it up. If money buys championships then A&M has punched their ticket.
December 3, 2018 at 8:39 pm #40748
Watching the SEC Championship game on Saturday made me smile and feel really good about Gator football for the first time in a VERY LONG time. For the second time in less than a year, UGA gave Bama all they could handle before bowing out.
Despite the final score of the UGA game in October, the Gators were NOT physically overmatched the way they were in 2017, or in both McElwayne SEC Championship games vs. Bama. This UGA game was close for 2 1/2 quarters, until a few mental errors allowed the Dawgs to pull away. That means we’re not that far away from being competitive against the best in the SEC. A couple of good recruiting classes and further growth of our offense should close the gap.
The two O linemen Mullen just flipped away from Miami confirm what we’ve been discussing for a while in this blog. He has the Gators ascending in esteem among Florida recruits.
So, now we have to figure out how to get more butts in seats for ALL games at the Swamp next season and beyond.
The future’s so bright I have to wear shades!
December 4, 2018 at 11:03 am #40762
Mexigator, you have hit on the all time #1 post/discussion in the history of gatorsports. great work. incredible. now for the bad news.
ive tried a couple of arguments, but i confess they are missing something. i stumbled on a new term from the bible, that was explained to me in a way that captures what i believed happened. and it happens over and over again in life.
im no biblical scholar, so i must defer to some on gatorsports that have studied the bible in more detail than i have. in thessalions, (chapter 2 verses 6 and 7), there is a term called katechon. now at this point i will remove religion from the discussion, its just that the term is universal. katechon effectively is a counter force, so to speak, that after any great accomplishment, era, positive event, and the like, there is a tendency to go backwards. thats probably imprecise, but useful for this discussion, and common to declines all over the place. no one is immune.
No question tim tebow was incredible. he sure had an impact here, and it went all over college football, and the professional game now. as he was leaving, katechon paid us a visit. Carlos Dunlap and the Alabama unmotivated performance, urban quitting, mullen moving on, cam newton, 25 arrests, champ, mac, will grief, credit card fraud, etc. you simply cant have something as great as tebow without eventually going backwards. who is to blame? we all are. maybe we could have postponed it, maybe not. but it came. it will happen to bama, happened to georgia tech, nebraska, and it happens in politics, all over the place. it will happen again, somewhere, and soon.
i think we will be better and soon, but there is not another tebow out there, maybe one day, but it wasnt just him as a considerable man, it was the whirlwind he took over for us all to ride. if he were a recruit today it wouldnt be the same.
i saw him preach and he spent a lot of time on something thatsomewhat troubled him, the lack of a clear answer from god – in this case the choice to come here over bama. i have no standing to comment on behalf of the almighty, except to say im glad it was here. i do think florida was a better choice, a better platform, and better for the rest of tim’s life, without any disrespect to alabama in saying so.
so i gripe about things since he left, but deep down i know, this is a force of nature we are talking about, and i still think we are going to be good soon, but there is no big lesson or takeaway i can see from the lost decade, a few smaller things like leadership, etc.. it just was part of life
December 9, 2018 at 10:10 am #40812
One scout service for Div.1 schools has now placed the 2019-20 class in the top 10. Of course, those are only commitments. And RB Asa Martin is leaving Auburn and Florida is on his list. I really believe Florida is headed back to being elite. A Top 10 finish this year would signal the direction. Beat Michigan.
December 9, 2018 at 7:18 pm #40816
I must admit katechon is a new word for me, but I think I follow the meaning. It is a dark force that keeps balance in the universe. For those Star Wars fans, it is the dark side of the force.
My take is that at some point in his stay at Florida, Urban Meyer was consumed by winning at all cost. It is an easy trap for a football head coach. I’m guessing that the first NC did it. Winning is his addiction. He accepted recruits with questionable moral character because he thought they would feed his addiction to winning. After a loss he looked so despondent. I think the 2009 SEC championship game loss broke him emotionally. He knew he had met his match in Saban and was going to get beat when they combined Saban with the money poured into the facilities. If katechon is true, Alabama’s payback is going to be earth shattering.
December 10, 2018 at 9:40 am #40839
Not sure “katechon” applies to Alabama football. After all, sports-wise, football is ALL they have in that state. They have no NCAA basketball or baseball championships in their history and no pro teams either. Their “katechon” comes every year from the fact that they have NOTHING else to root for. So, they put ALL their money, energy and enthusiasm into the Tide football program with impressive results.
In your Star Wars analogy, Alabama football is The Empire! You can temporarily defeat them, but they will just reload, retool and eventually “strike back.”
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