Interim football coaches have success at Florida

Florida interim head football coach D.J. Durkin celebrates with defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr., left, and linebacker Michael Taylor after the Birmingham Bowl against East Carolina at Legion Field on Jan. 3, 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama. Florida defeated East Carolina 28-20. [File]

Randy Shannon is not the first coordinator to become the interim coach at the University of Florida. And, based on UF’s recent track record for hiring and firing head coaches, he will not be the last.

Shannon is the Gators’ fifth interim head coach since 1984, joining a club that includes Galen Hall, Gary Darnell, Charlie Strong and D.J. Durkin.

One of those interim head coaches took over a great team early in the season and did great things with it. Another took over early and did not. Two coached for just the bowl game, with one winning and the other losing.

In all, the Gators are 12-5 under interim head coaches.

Shannon, of course, would like that record to improve to 16-5 by the end of this month.

Here’s a look at UF’s previous interim head coaches and how they did:


Galen Hall (1984)

When he took over: After the third game of the season, with the Gators standing at 1-1-1 at the time.

Why he took over: In his first year as the offensive coordinator, he was named interim head coach after Charley Pell was fired with the NCAA hammer about to come down on the program for dozens of potential NCAA violations.

What happened next: Thanks in part to some of those many violations, Hall inherited one of the most talented teams in school history, and he knew what to do with it. A team that played tight under Pell, became loose and confident under Hall, and the Gators went on a winning streak that did not end until the following season. Led by quarterback Kerwin Bell, running backs Neal Anderson and John L. Williams and a powerful defense, the Gators went 8-0 over the remainder of the season, including back-to-back wins over Auburn and Georgia and a win at Kentucky that clinched the school’s first SEC title in football and earned Hall the permanent head coaching job. Hall kept his title, but the Gators did not. The SEC title was stripped by the league presidents a few months later due to those massive problems with the NCAA.


Gary Darnell (1989)

When he took over: After the first five games of the season, with the Gators standing at 4-1.

Why he took over: One day after the Gators pulled out a last-second win at LSU, Hall met the same fate as his predecessor and was fired after he was tied to a potential NCAA violation. The school was quick to part with Hall for fear of the NCAA death penalty, which had ruined SMU in the 1980s.

What happened: Darnell inherited a good team, but one that lost starting quarterback Kyle Morris to a season-ending injury. The Gators had Emmitt Smith on offense, but he could not do it alone. The offensively challenged Gators went 3-4 under Darnell. His wins came against Kentucky, Vanderbilt and New Mexico, while the losses were to Auburn, Georgia, Florida State and Washington (in the Freedom Bowl). A day after the bowl loss, Steve Spurrier was named UF’s head coach.


Charlie Strong (2004)

When he took over: Strong, the defensive coordinator, was named the interim head coach for the Peach Bowl.

Why he took over: Everyone knew it would be close to an impossible job for the coach who replaced Spurrier, and that’s what it turned out to be for Ron Zook. Accustomed to championships and 12 and 13-win seasons, the Gators slipped into mediocrity under Zook, who went 8-5 in each of his first two seasons. The plug was pulled on Zook when the Gators were upset by a bad Mississippi State team on the road in the seventh game of the season. He agreed to stay on through the regular season, which ended with an upset win at Florida State.

What happened: Strong inherited assistant coaches who had lost their jobs — and their interest. The vibe must have been felt by the players because the Gators came out flat and were hammered by arch-rival Miami 27-10 in the Peach Bowl, making Strong’s career record at Florida 0-1.


D.J. Durkin (2014)

When he took over: Durkin, the defensive coordinator, was named interim head coach for the Birmingham Bowl.

Why he took over: Two weeks after upsetting No. 9 Georgia, Will Muschamp lost his job the day after a mismanaged late loss to South Carolina in The Swamp. He remained for the final two regular-season games, then gave way to Durkin for the bowl game. In his three-plus season, Muschamp went 28-21.

What happened: Muschamp was popular among the players and there was some concern about how hard they would play for Durkin. But Durkin kept everything positive, the rest of the staff was behind him and the players bought in. They prepared hard for the game, and with their future coach (Jim McElwain) in attendance, the Gators held on for 28-20 win over East Carolina.

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  1. I am a UCF graduate. I love this guy…he is the real thing and I knew it before he got here and he’s proven to everyone he only looks in one direction…winning. He’s got a plan and he carries it out. This was a 0-12 team when he came. Goes to a bowl first year and this year everyone is on the same page and undefeated. I do not want him to leave but he will go somewhere because the money is too big. If he left I’d rather it be here in Florida…Florida Gators. Florida, don’t be stupid there is NO ONE in coaching that compares to this guy. Kids will get more exposure and graduate to contracts at every position. They play really fast and never let up. All those people thinking Mullens or Stoops, I can only say Stoops would never work out at Florida and he has been really negative at Florida over the years…so has Mullens. I hope he would stay at UCF for many years but reality will set in. I’m sure he won’t even talk to Florida until after the year is over so that might be a problem right there. I’m confident he’ll move UCF up into another conference before long. He’s already established himself to all high schools in the state and is getting 4* recruits committing right now. I would really hate to see him go to Nebraska. He can do it all right here. Strickland, you better open your eyes, I’m not wrong about this coach.

    • JBrown thanks for the comments I really hope that we land Scott Frost and his DC as well (and anybody else he wants to bring). I think Stricklin is a very sharp AD and will make the right hire – and I think it’s going to be Frost. Only Nebraska could lure him away from Florida but he could do a lot better here. Hopefully he has been in Florida long enough to fall in love with this great state! And I’ll second Nassau’s comment – Go Gators and Go Knights!!!

    • Hall was actually a pretty good coach that got a raw deal by holding the bag of dung that Charley Pell left him. UF was freaked out about the “death penalty” and fired Hall like it was all his fault, but Hall was sacrificed for the pleasure of the NCAA. His stuttering speech problem made it easier to be ugly to him – UF admin acted like bullies – embarrassing.

  2. I remember being in school and thinking Darnell ought to get to be HBC. Then they hired this guy named Steve. I do remember Galen Hall. Fine man and a good coach. I know it paved the way for SOS but he should not have been fired.

  3. agree with the comments about Hall, but does anybody remember the very real threat of the death penalty? SMU had been a top 5 program in the early 80s when they received the death penalty, and they have yet to recover to this day. if UF would have received the death penalty for not letting Hall go, then they did the right thing, but yes Hall was a great coach and a good guy, not the guy responsible for the violations of the Pell era at all.