GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Will Muschamp spent part of his childhood in Gainesville, growing up just a few streets from Florida Field and cheering for the Gators.
He left in the mid-80s, then returned as a player at Georgia and as an assistant coach with Auburn and LSU.
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He’s back again — this time in a much different capacity.
Muschamp, who agreed to a five-year contract worth $13.5 million to replace Urban Meyer, was formally introduced as Florida’s new coach Tuesday. He took center stage for a 40-minute news conference filled with confidence, enthusiasm and witty one-liners.
“University of Florida is about winning championships,” he said. “I understand the expectations and that’s what we’re here to do. … We’re not on a five-year plan here.”
Muschamp expects to hire his staff after the Outback Bowl and intends to install a pro-style offense, welcome news for Florida fans who groaned about the spread all season. His decision could keep quarterback John Brantley, blamed for the team’s lackluster offense, around another year.
“It’s going to be a good thing around here,” said Brantley, who added that he still plans to talk with his parents about the possibility of transferring.
With Brantley, several more current players and a few former stars in attendance, Muschamp said all the right things. He wants Meyer to remain part of the program following the Jan. 1 bowl game, he reached out to former coach Steve Spurrier and he spoke volumes about 2007 Heisman Trophy Tim Tebow. He mentioned everyone in Florida’s Ring of Honor except running back Emmitt Smith, welcomed sky-high expectations and shared an ambitious plan for a program — one that included more accountability for players after 30 arrests in the last six years.
“As a football team, I want to be known as a blue-collar, overachieving unit,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to recruit good players here. But they need to buy into the fact of taking the talent they have and what God has blessed them with and stretch it to the potential that they’ve got.”
Muschamp showed plenty of personality, too.
When asked about growing up a Florida fan, then attending college at Georgia and later working for Auburn and LSU, he replied: “I suffered some temporary insanity there for a while.”
After relaying the story about his unofficial visit to Florida in 1990, and how Spurrier’s staff left him in the waiting room for hours, he said Spurrier “was 2 under at the turn. Guess we didn’t get a chance to see him.”
A walk-on at Georgia, Muschamp recalled playing the Gators in the early-90s and not any success. “I helped (Chris) Doering and all those guys set records.”
He also talked about his close friendship with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. They worked together on Nick Saban’s LSU staff (2002-04) and ended up buying a beach house together in Florida. “We haven’t negotiated what’s going to happen with that yet,” Muschamp said laughing.
A defensive guru whose units were among the best in the nation during his time at LSU and Auburn (2006-07), Muschamp became one the hottest names among assistant coaches when Texas hired him in 2008.
Internet video clips of his expletive-filled tirades on the sidelines at Auburn excited Longhorns fans. He had alternate nicknames of “Coach Boom!” for his noted enthusiasm and “Coach Blood” because he once ignored blood pouring down his face after a cut in the first game of the 2008 season.
Muschamp was only 11 games into his stint at Texas when the university surprisingly announced a deal to nearly double his salary to $900,000 and make him the head-coach-in-waiting behind Mack Brown.
Nonetheless, he jumped at the opportunity for the next step, which gets him back to Florida and back in the Southeastern Conference. He was so ready that he accepted athletic director Jeremy Foley’s offer on the spot Saturday.
“I know that there will be criticism about maybe not hiring a guy with head coaching experience,” Muschamp said. “I certainly understand that, but you can really look at all the examples across the board of guys that had no head coaching experience and did an outstanding job because they were the right fit for the right job at the right time. You can look at a lot of examples of guys that had head coaching experience and went to situations like Florida and didn’t have success like you thought they might have.”
Foley had no second thoughts about the hire.
“If he stayed at Texas and became the head coach two or three years from now, no one’s writing that Texas just hired a coach that has never been a head coach before,” Foley said. “Everyone was expecting him to be the next coach at Texas. I don’t think it’s a gamble. I think that guy will fit here. … Time will tell. At the end of the day, he’s got to win some football games.”