GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jeremy Foley saved Will Muschamp.
Florida's athletic director didn't physically remove Muschamp from danger, and this isn't a story about any kind of religious conversion, but make no mistake, Foley rescued Muschamp from something Muschamp would have considered a fate worse than a never-ending weekend of craft shows with the Missus. Foley saved Muschamp from The Longhorn Network.
Texas coach Mack Brown made headlines Monday when he complained about the obligations required by the all-consuming-yet-somehow-unavailable-on-your-cable-system Texas/ESPN partnership that nearly shattered a major conference. Brown spends six hours a week filming three shows for the network, which also broadcasts the first 30 minutes of every Texas practice and routinely mics up coaches during game preparation. "We were given a deal that we had no input in," Brown groused to reporters Monday.
Remember, until Florida called in December 2010, Muschamp was contractually bound to be the Longhorns' next head coach. When Brown stepped down, Muschamp would have been the one spending more time on television than the average Kardashian. Anyone who caught Muschamp's halftime interview with Florida's radio network during Saturday's win against South Carolina knows that arrangement would not have gone well. Either that, or Texas would have had to dissolve its partnership with ESPN in favor of one with HBO, which wouldn't have minded all the swearing.
The former Georgia safety would have been a lousy fit for Texas because, with apologies to his vocabulary, he is utterly devoid of the penchant for Bevo excrement required to fill that many hours of television. Unlike most of his colleagues, who either adopt a different persona for the cameras or shut down when asked questions about their programs, Muschamp simply says what's on his mind. That can result in highly technical answers to some questions and short, entertaining-to-everyone-but-the-questioner answers to others. It can result in thinly veiled shots at the officials such as the one Saturday -- Muschamp actually had to stop yelling at the officials to conduct the interview with Brady Ackerman -- or legend-creating exclamations such as the one that gave him his nickname and earned a scolding from his mother. Muschamp got the nickname "Coach Boom" while working as Auburn's defensive coordinator in 2007. If you don't know why and you're old enough to attend an R-rated move, do a YouTube search for the word "boom" and Muschamp's name. I'm pretty sure SI doesn't allow me to link a clip with more bad language than a Quentin Tarantino film.
Muschamp's lack of pretense is refreshing. It will eventually get him in trouble because people seem surprised these days when football coaches yell, but his is a genuine enthusiasm that wouldn't change whether he was coaching at Florida for a seven-figure salary or back at West Georgia washing jock straps in between practices. As for his media strategy, it isn't sophisticated. He answers the question he is asked as honestly as he can without giving away the gameplan. This also will eventually get him in trouble, which is too bad.
Monday, Muschamp held a press conference to preview Saturday's game against his alma mater. A win would give Florida the SEC East title in a year that wasn't supposed to produce a championship of any kind. The Gators play the way their coach talks. They're blunt, and they aren't particularly worried about nuance. They simply want to get the message across on the scoreboard. Sometimes, such as at Tennessee, they do that with an offensive explosion. Sometimes, such as against LSU, they do it by running the ball again and again. Sometimes, such as against South Carolina, they do it by forcing turnovers deep in opposing territory. Monday, Muschamp was asked what the ideal balance was for his team.
"Winning," Muschamp said, cutting off the question. He wasn't being mean. That's what he wants. Nothing more really needs to be said, but that would have made for a lousy Longhorn Network show.
Like his former boss, Nick Saban, Muschamp can squeeze in a joke that belies his ultra-serious image. But so far, Muschamp has avoided the moralizing Saban sprinkles into his press conferences. Monday, Muschamp was asked a question about whether he'll address the BCS standings with his team weekly or if last week's acknowledgement was a one-time thing. "When there is obvious possible distraction for your football team, you can stick your head in the sand and pretend everything's OK, or you can address it with them, and that's what I choose to do," Muschamp said. "So I address it with them, and I say 'If we need to talk about it, let's talk about it.' We'll all agree that we don't need to."
The surest way to get Muschamp talking at length is to ask a football question, because that's what Muschamp cares about. After the LSU win, Associated Press reporter Mark Long asked why the Gators had so much success with a heavy package that included seven offensive linemen. "We were changing some blocking surfaces," Muschamp said. "We were giving them a four-man surface and running back to the two-man surface a lot, so as a defensive coach, you've got to overload the four-man side. Then we were gapping everything back against some of their pressures that they were trying to run in the game. They were getting into what we call a Bear look, and they were covered down inside. And we gapped everything back and pulled." Long laughed and asked for the answer in English, and Muschamp obliged.
Still, such an explanation wouldn't keep viewers tuned to The Longhorn Network, either. The football junkies would love it -- and so might the opposing coaches -- but for the casual viewer who thinks football coaches walk around saying "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" all the time, Muschamp would disappoint.
Fortunately for him, Muschamp isn't asked to be a reality TV star at Florida beyond a few selected clips on the athletic department website. He's asked mainly to win football games. So far this season, that's all he's done. Which is good, because it seems like the only thing he's interested in doing.