Florida's loss to Georgia Southern should mean the end of the Will Muschamp era

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports

On Nov. 13, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley announced that he was all-in on Will Muschamp as his football coach.

"A thousand percent convinced" was Foley's firm statement of support for Muschamp, despite a 4-5 record at the time.

But 10 days later the Gators are 4-7, and the most recent loss probably ranks as the worst in school history: a 26-20 embarrassment against Georgia Southern – an FCS school with just 70 scholarships (up from 63 as it transitions to FBS). It was Florida's first-ever loss to an FCS opponent, and it is the kind of defeat that can turn a thousand-percent support into zero percent.

There is no acceptable reason for Florida to lose to Georgia Southern. Period.

The standard explanation for the Gators' struggles has been a plague of injuries. But Georgia Southern reportedly was without 19 players Saturday when it went into The Swamp and controlled the game most of the day.

The Eagles didn't even need to complete a pass to score four touchdowns. They ran for 429 yards.

Administrators have a long track record of retreating from public votes of confidence for embattled coaches. In July, USC athletic director Pat Haden said he was "100 percent" sold on Lane Kiffin, then fired him a couple of months later.

[Photos: Week 13 college football highlights]

Upon firing Kiffin, Haden gave Foley the rhetorical blueprint for talking his way out of a vote of confidence. "I fully supported Lane Kiffin 100 percent until last night," Haden said.

Foley is a hard charger who is unafraid to make a change. He whacked Ron Zook halfway through his third season at Florida in 2004.

Zooker was 22-14 at Florida. Muschamp is 22-15. And, taking a six-game losing streak up against No. 2 Florida State next week, he is trending strongly in the wrong direction.

I like Muschamp personally. But if it were my call, I'd thank him for his service and hand him a buyout check. This loss is a deal breaker.

It seems a long time ago that Muschamp was one of the hottest commodities in college football. He was the coach-in-waiting at Texas, and then the head coach at Florida at age 39. A defensive coach, he's never been able to put an explosive offensive product on the field in Gainesville.

At a school that enjoyed the Fun-N-Gun days of Steve Spurrier and the slashing spread offense of Urban Meyer, the Muschamp teams have not been much fun to watch. And in year three it's no longer feasible to blame it on a talent deficit inherited from Meyer.

Foley has been hit-and-miss when it comes to hiring football coaches. Luring Meyer from Utah and outflanking Notre Dame to get him was a home run – it produced two national championships. But the two career assistants he hired – both Zook and Muschamp – have been strikeouts.

Even one of the most respected ADs in the country will feel some pressure to get the next one right. If indeed there is a next one this year.

If Foley sticks to his guns and retains Muschamp, he could be heading into a Kiffin 2.0 situation next year. The atmosphere would be toxic, and every loss would be viewed as the breaking point. It could result in an early-season firing.

If the Florida job does come open, this will be one of the most intriguing years ever on the coaching carousel. USC, Texas, Florida and Nebraska – four of the elite programs in the country – could all be in the market for a new coach. And the domino effect that would follow those hires could be felt nationwide.

We'll wait to see what Jeremy Foley does in the wake of this brutal loss. His 1000-percent support for Will Muschamp may have dwindled to nothing now.

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