How good is the Florida coaching job?

by Gary Shelton on November 15, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

McElwain didn't last long with the Gators./CARMEN MANDATO

McElwain didn't last long with the Gators./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

You are a young football coach. You know your x's from your o's.You've seen Rudy three times, and every time, you've walked away thinking you need better athletes than he was.

All ego aside, you are pretty good at this. Kids like you. Alumni like you. The scoreboard seems to like you.

You can call plays. You can go into a living room and recruit. You can massage the alumni. The students love you. You are going places, and among them are the end zones of America. You are a rising coach, and the phone is starting to ring.

And then a number from the 352 area code comes up.

And you ask yourself: Is the Florida job a good one? Is it worth chasing? Is it worth catching?

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Yeah, it's a better job than you have, and there is lots of sunshine, and the stands are pretty when the fans sway to the Boys of Old Florida. But it's also a job that eats coaches. You have less rope there than almost anywhere. Once, Jim McElwain was a pretty hot commodity, too. And Will Muschamp. And Ron Zook. Heck, even Urban Meyer left whining about his health. Steve Spurrier left for Danny Snyder, for crying out loud.

The point is that it's hard on a coach. It's a good gig, but you have to wonder: Is it as good as Florida fans believe it to be? It's not a job cut out for a lot of coaches. There are programs where the pressure isn't as great, where the expectations aren't quite as large. If a coach doesn't want to hear the opinion of the fans, well, he's better off somewhere else.

Oh, you know how Florida fans feel. Like most alumni, they think their school is where the angels go to watch football. They cannot imagine a coach not hungering for the Gator job. They cannot believe that a coach in another town, any town, wouldn't immediately pull up stakes to go to Florida.

But the Gator job has teeth. No doubt about that. The expectations are other-worldly. Fans expect big wins in big games by big margins. They want a great defense, but they want an even better offense. They want titles. They want Heismans. And they want it now.

How likely are they to get it?

A look at the possibilities:

Recruiting: It's a fertile state, which has always given the schools from the state of Florida a leg up. But the wrong coach will see that Miami is the current flavor the week, and FSU has been highly ranked in recruiting for several seasons. Still, the Gators have more alumni in the state than anyone. They remain a school where players want to play. Yeah, the right guy can recruit here.

Facilities: Like it or not, give Jim McElwain some credit for pushing for better facilities. Florida field remains iconic, and it's a tough place to play on Saturday afternoon. The fans are zealous, and demanding, but they care. They grumble a lot, even in victory, but no one should be ready to tell them to go home. Yeah, the facilities will be good enough.

Tradition: It depends. How long ago are you talking? The recent tradition — read: since Spurrier – is great. Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel and Emmitt Smith are household names. But long-term, Florida really hasn't been that great that long. Name a coach before Ray Graves, for instance. I'll wait. It's okay, though. Today's teenagers – the ones that are recruitable – don't care about sports in World War II. They can name the statues; that's enough. It can't match Notre Dame for lore, but it's good enough.

Circumstance: The Gators play in the SEC, which means that a pretty good season means a very good ranking. They are also one of the teams in the country that has worked its way into seven home games a year. A floor should be a pretty good season.

Fanbase: The seats are filled. The voices are loud. The right guy can do a lot to channel the energy of the Florida fans. Look, the Gators want a coach they can have a beer with; they don't want royalty. There have been too many coaches over the years who have acted like football was none of the fans' business. Both Meyer and McElwain could be distant. But that's the wrong approach. The right leader can turn the fan base into one of the major assets of the Florida program. If a coach uses them, they can help.

Schedule: You can win here. The SEC East has Vandy and Kentucky, which is always a head start. Lately, you can add Tennessee to that list. Really, Georgia is the only team to compete with. Kirby Smart has had a good year, but he isn't Nick Saban. At least not yet.

Salary: Coaches are paid well for the high expectations.Money won't be a factor.

Opportunity: The next offensive coach who comes through town is going to be beloved. The Gators love extra points. Oh, they appreciate defense, too – Wilber Marshall and Jack Youngblood and Scot Brantley – but most of all, they love offense.

Ceiling: You can win national championships at Florida. You can't say that at most places. It remains one of the prestige jobs in America. You can get into the living room of any recruit. You will be high in the preseason polls. Any bowl would be pleased to have you.

Neighbors: The Florida job is better than Mississippi, better than Ole Miss, better than Mississippi State, better than Missouri, better than Arkansas, better than South Carolina, better than Tennessee, better than Vandy and better than Kentucky and better than Texas A&M. It's on par with LSU, Auburn and Georgia. It's not as good as Alabama, currently. Overall, it's a good place to be.

Is it a perfect job? This year proves that there is no such thing. But the right guy can win, and win big, with the University of Florida. It will take a recruiter. It will take a play-caller. It will take imagination. But yeah, this is a job worth having.

But only if you're good enough.

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