The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that was clearly the last straw for Dan Mullen and the fourth head coaching search in the last eight years for a Florida football coach. I am available for counseling.
10. It is a sad day when a coach gets fired because for all the vitriol sent his way you have to remember how many people and how many families are affected by it. A lot of people point to the $12 million buyout, but don’t think about the assistants or office personnel or other people that make up a football program who are simply now looking for other jobs. And that’s sad. But it’s also part of the profession, where you can celebrate one week and be gone the next. Still, Florida had to make this move because it had become too toxic. Anything short of bringing in Steve Spurrier and Bill Belichick as assistant coaches was going to leave the Gator Nation grumbling all off season and don’t forget the Gators open with Utah and Kentucky next year. And if you don’t win those two, the noise gets loud again and we are right back here. I understand the move, but it still makes me sad.
11. There is the feeling that the Marco Wilson thrown show created some sport of “butterfly effect” in that it sparked an awful streak of Florida football that included a 5-9 record and 2-9 vs. Power 5 opponents. I think the start of this Florida problem (the next coach will be the fifth in 13 seasons and that’s not how you build a program) came the day of the SEC Championship Game in 2009. Heading into that game, Florida was 56-9 under Urban Meyer. Florida lost, Urban went walkabout (the first of two) and it simply hasn’t been the same. The Gators since then are 95-57, a pedestrian 62.5 percent at a school that demands much more.
12. Go back to Dan Mullen’s first media opportunity at UF when he was introduced as Florida’s head coach. He talked about trying to sustain success rather than it be up and down as it had been over the previous decade at UF. And on Sunday, he was fired because he couldn’t sustain success. There were some things that happened behind the scenes (such as healthy players sitting out games this year), but the bottom line is that the program took another massive downturn and there was no reason to think it was going to get better next year.
13. OK, smarty pants, who do the Gators go hire? We can argue about whether Florida is a better job than LSU or USC, but a lot depends on which coach you are going after. To be honest, I’m not sure there is a no-brainer out there. There have only been two of them in Florida’s history – Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. I like a lot about Billy Napier at Louisiana and it’s possible Florida wanted to get in line for his services. There are a lot of names being thrown around, but remember that almost everything you hear is just someone taking an educated guess (and sometimes uneducated). I at least make a call to Bob Stoops.
14. It almost seems easier to discount candidates rather than find the right one. But you are offering a coach the opportunity to be the first one to have the new $85 million football building with all of its bells and whistles and a passionate – sometimes over-the-line passionate – fanbase that expects the best. It’s not as easy to win a national title as some fans believe it is, but the coach will have to roll in here with the ability to recruit well enough to win at a high level on a consistent basis. The No. 1 goal here is to hire a coach who can recruit and coach and hire great assistants. Scott Stricklin said the three things he is looking for are an ability to lead, to put a team together and to coach that team. You can’t bring sustainability to a program unless you recruit at a high level on a consistent basis. The transfer portal is nice, but it is a Band-aid.
15. Florida should be defining the market with its opening even though there are some big ones out there and Miami could open after Saturday. As badly I feel for the families of the coaches and others let go, I never really feel all that bad for the head coaches because of the money they receive after they fail at their jobs. Sometimes, I think the SEC and other Power 5 conferences give their programs so much money that everybody expects to win big. And, as we know, every game has a loser in college football.
16. The best thing about another coaching search? I don’t have to be a part of it. I remember when Florida hired Mullen and it felt like this would be Florida’s coach for a long time. In the end, I think Mullen’s ego was his downfall. He fooled himself into thinking he could win with anybody. But the difference between winning and losing in this conference could be as simple as one player. And Florida – as Mullen pointed out time and again Saturday night – had lost seven straight one-possession games.
17. Not a bad week for The Picks with a 4-2 record against the spread to put Dr. Football at 39-34-3 for the season. Maybe I could make a living at this. Naahhhh. On to this week as we wind things down:
* Florida actually opened as a 10-point favorite and smart guys bet on FSU getting all those points. Then, Mullen was fired and the spread has been bet all the way down to two. If Florida loses, the Gators will have lost five games as favorites. I think they will, especially with a skeleton coaching staff. Give me the Semis and the two points.
* In the big game, Ohio State is now an 8-point favorite to beat Michigan. I have a feeling this is the year for Jim Harbaugh to get the monkey off his back. Take Michigan at home with the points.
* Alabama is favored by 20 at Auburn. Auburn is done. Take the Tide rolling into Atlanta for what should be an incredible SEC title game (Georgia is the early 4-point favorite).
* Oklahoma opened as the favorite in Bedlam but the money shifted to Oklahoma State which is giving four. Have I ever told you to stay away from rivalry games? No? Take the Cowpokes.
* Clemson is an 11-point favorite over a South Carolina team that certainly seems to be getting better with every game. Or is it that the teams they are playing are getting worse? Take South Carolina and the points.
* Mississippi State opened as an underdog but has been bet up to a 2-point favorite. Hmmm. This should be a good one and very possibly Lane Kiffin’s final game as the Ole Miss coach so take the Rebs.
18. I listen to the Beatles Channel a lot and am always envious when some fan gets to play DJ and pick their “Fab Four” favorite songs. So, today, you’re getting the ones I would play:
* “I Need You”, my favorite of many great George Harrisongs.
*”Penny Lane” and I know there are many great Paul McCartney songs to choose from but this was always it for me.
*”A Day In the Life” which is my all-time favorite.
*And finally, “I’m Only Sleeping” which would be great if I could sleep through the end of this season.
Ask me tomorrow and it might be four different ones. Beatles 4 EVER!