Muschamp talks about his mulligan at South Carolina
HOOVER – It seemed a curious hire at best, when South Carolina introduced its new football coach last December 7.
Will Muschamp was fired as head coach at the University of Florida only 381 days earlier. The trajectory of a coach so highly regarded that he was, at age 37, designated as “head coach in waiting” at the University of Texas had taken a nose dive.
Muschamp got a life preserver thrown to him from Auburn, where he served as defensive coordinator, then erupted during the Iron Bowl and earned a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, putting Alabama in field goal range.
“I wear my emotions sometimes on my sleeves a little bit more than I should,” Muschamp admitted at SEC Media Days on Thursday.
He expressed his gratitude for Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, as well as the relief that South Carolina wouldn’t be playing Auburn this year.
“Gus and I have a great relationship and I really appreciate him giving me an opportunity,” Muschamp said. “That was my third stint at Auburn. As excited as my family was to move to Columbia, South Carolina, we were extremely disappointed to leave Auburn, Alabama. What a wonderful community and people. It was a great experience for me to see things from a different perspective.”
Then South Carolina came calling.
Must have figured it struck gold once getting a former Florida coach – Steve Spurrier won 86 games in 10-plus seasons at South Carolina and brought the program to prominence – so why not try it again?
“Coach Spurrier and his staff have brought this program to relevance nationally, and that’s what we plan on building on that,” Muschamp said.
He won 11 games with the Gators in 2012 and was named SEC Coach of the Year in his second season at Gainesville. But 4-8 and 7-5 seasons followed, and the change was made.
“I will put it in a nutshell. At the end of the day, we played well on defense over a four-year period. Over a four-year period we played well on special teams,” Muschamp said. “For the most part, over a four-year period, academically our guys did extremely well.
“Really, it comes back to offense, and that’s where, from a practice standpoint, to make sure we’re practicing the right way, whether it’s staff, scheme, decision-making, whatever, but that falls on my shoulders. So I’m taking full responsibility of that and making it better in this situation.”
The football record book is full of coaches who didn’t succeed at their first stop. Muschamp wants to take advantage of this second chance, even while looking backward at his first opportunity.
“I don’t know that you ever look at one thing and say this is it,” he said. “I know sometimes it’s easy for a story to wrap it in a bow and say bingo, Eureka, here we go. I don’t think you point at one thing and say that’s what happened. That’s good for a story, but that’s not necessarily the way it works.”