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Forde-Yard Dash: Florida's Football Teams Are Near Rock Bottom

The Sunshine State's seven FBS programs are all flailing in unique fashion.
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where the athletic directors know you’re tracking their planes and have the means to deceive you:

MORE DASH: SEC Dysfunction | CFP Race | Rivalry Week

FOURTH QUARTER: SUNSHINE STATE STINKAGE

What happens when the former capital of college football becomes a giant swamp of underachieving programs, disposable coaches and administrative angst? This is Florida, where every fan base is unhappy and every two-game losing streak is considered the beginning of the end. The seven FBS programs in the state are a combined 31–46, 7–14 in November.

If you thought this was just a Florida Gators thing, no. From Boca to Tally, the entire state is a limping mess.

It’s bad enough that the only two coaches who have more than 35 games under their belts at their current schools are either gone or going. That’s Dan Mullen at Florida (gone) and Butch Davis (31) at Florida International (going).

Davis has gone 1–10 in his fifth season, beating Long Island in the opener and losing every game since as he heads into his swan song at Southern Mississippi. FIU’s last win against an FBS program is a stunning upset of none other than Miami in November 2019.

Davis has been spraying criticism at the school on the way out to anyone who will listen. The FIU athletic director, Pete Garcia, resigned Nov. 10. So the search for the next coach of the Panthers should be off to a well-oiled start.

University of Miami coach Manny Diaz could soon join the ranks of Sunshine State coaches who have been fired this season.

University of Miami coach Manny Diaz could soon join the ranks of Sunshine State coaches who have been fired this season.

The next guy in the seniority line is Miami’s Manny Diaz (32)—and it is widely expected that he will be fired after the Hurricanes play Duke Saturday. That would be a late termination in the latest hire-and-fire cycle, but the Hurricanes are in the same situation as FIU—without an athletic director after firing their guy last week.

The Atlantic Coast Conference office could be a landing spot for ousted AD Blake James. And among those interested in replacing him at Miami, the school could do worse than former Louisville AD Tom Jurich (33). He was fired in Louisville and deserved to be, in the wake of successive basketball scandals and a football. But after paying a four-year penance out of the industry, Jurich’s football savvy and hiring know-how could be what the Hurricanes need to pull themselves out of their long gridiron malaise.

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Who is still going to be around in 2022? Start with Willie Taggart (34), who is 10–10 in two seasons at Florida Atlantic. That’s the same Taggart who was fired after 21 games at Florida State, of course.

Taggart was canned in Tallahassee after going 9–12. Bad as that is at a power program, it’s still a game better (for now) than current coach Mike Norvell (35). He’s 8–12 in his second season heading into the Florida game this weekend. Norvell is at least the only coach on the state on something longer than a one-game winning streak, having won his last two. If he makes it three and FSU returns to the meager heights of bowl eligibility, the Seminoles can actually brag about having some semblance of momentum.

The other guy who is 20 games into his current tenure is Jeff Scott (36) at South Florida. He’s an ugly 3–17 and there are plenty of Bulls backers who would like to see him go, too, but he probably will get to at least start a third season.

The oasis of relative calm in the state is Orlando, where Gus Malzahn (37) is 7-4 in his debut season at UCF–not great by recent program standards, but not terrible when factoring in the injury absence of star quarterback Dillon Gabriel since the third game of the season. The Knights also have upward mobility on their side, heading toward the Big 12 at a later date.

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A state with a combined 11 national championships—five for Miami, three for Florida, three for Florida State—hasn’t been this collectively terrible in more than 40 years. Whatever is going wrong there should be reversible, given the amount of talent in the state and the general love of the sport. But it’s going to take some work, and some quality leadership.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Chip Kelly (38), UCLA. It’s been a painfully slow build, but after three losing seasons a moderate payoff is at hand. After routing USC Saturday, the Bruins are 7–4 and could well get their eighth win against California this week. This is UCLA’s best season since 2015, when Josh Rosen was riding high at quarterback. If USC flubs its coaching hire again this offseason, Kelly’s Bruins could be positioned to lead the Pac-12 South alongside Utah for the foreseeable future.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Geoff Collins (39), Georgia Tech. That 55-0 emasculation at the hands of Notre Dame dropped Collins to 9-24 in his third season at Tech, heading into another inevitable beatdown this weekend against Georgia. Collins was expected to have a long rebuilding job on his hands after overhauling Paul Johnson’s option-based program, but patience is beginning to wear out. Georgia Tech looks further away from competing now than it did much earlier in Collins’s tenure.

POINT AFTER

When thirsty in the underrated city of Greensboro, N.C, The Dash recommends a visit to Oden Brewing (40), a cool spot with an expansive backyard area populated by picnic tables, a stage, space heaters, kids and pets. Try Oden’s rye IPA and thank The Dash later.

MORE DASH: Florida Dysfunction | Eight Potential Title Teams | Rivalry Week Preview

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