(AP) Florida brass backs Muschamp amid losing streak
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
Florida officials are coming to coach Will Muschamp’s defense.
President Bernie Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley voiced strong support for Muschamp on Wednesday, telling the school’s website they are fully committed to keeping Muschamp around to fix the team’s problems.
The Gators (4-5) have their second four-game losing streak in Muschamp’s three seasons and are facing the possibility of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1990. If Florida doesn’t upset No. 11 South Carolina or second-ranked Florida State this month, the program will have its first losing record since 1979.
“I’m a thousand percent convinced that Will Muschamp is the guy to lead this football program,” Foley said. “Nothing has changed in what we feel about Will Muschamp from the day we hired him.
“Everyone around here wants the same thing. We want to do what is right for the University of Florida. We understand that this football season has not gone the way any of us wanted it to go, certainly not the way our fans wanted it to go, and most of all, not the way Will Muschamp wanted it to go.”
Muschamp is 22-13 at Florida, including 13-10 in Southeastern Conference play. The latest loss came against Vanderbilt on Saturday. It was the Commodores’ first win in the series since 1988 and first in Gainesville since 1945.
Sure, the Gators have been ravaged by injuries this season. They lost quarterback Jeff Driskel, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, running back Matt Jones and seven others to season-ending injuries. But many wonder how Florida _ even with backups _ can have the worst offense in the SEC and lose to Vandy by 17 points.
“We have a history of being successful. We have a history of fixing things when they need to be fixed,” Foley said. “And that is what is going to happen here, and coach Muschamp is the one that will fix it.
“I understand the passion and the disappointment. But at the end of the day, we’ve got great fans, they love the Gators and their passion makes this place special. They are hurting. They want the program to be successful, and we feel that hurt.”
Florida finished 11-2 last year, losing to rival Georgia and then Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. Had the Gators beaten the Bulldogs, they would have played Alabama for the SEC title.
Foley said he doesn’t “think that was a fluke.”
Many fans disagree, pointing to close wins against Texas A&M, LSU, Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette as proof. The Gators needed a blocked punt returned for a touchdown in the final seconds to beat the Ragin’ Cajuns 27-20 in Gainesville.
“We will get better under Will Muschamp’s leadership,” Foley said. “This is not the quote-unquote dreaded `vote of confidence.’ This is just how we all feel around here. We have a strong faith and a strong belief in his capabilities, in his leadership skills, in his ability to evaluate what needs to be fixed.”
“We’ll stay the course here. We’ll get it right.”
Machen also weighed in.
“I want the Gator Nation to know that I have full confidence in coach Muschamp and his leadership of the football program,” Machen said.