GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Will Muschamp is out as Florida’s coach, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the school has not made the announcement official.
Muschamp will coach the last two games of the regular season against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State. He is 27-20, including 17-15 in conference play, in three-plus seasons at Florida.
Sports Illustrated first reported Muschamp was being let go.
The decision came less than 24 hours after a 23-20 loss to South Carolina in overtime, and ends Muschamp’s four-year tenure that will be remembered for inept offense, conservative play-calling and nearly as many losses as wins in the Southeastern Conference.
The last two were debacles that sealed Muschamp’s fate.
The Gamecocks blocked a field goal and a punt in the final four minutes of regulation Saturday, special teams gaffes that turned what should have been a 10-point lead into a third consecutive home defeat.
It was Florida’s sixth defeat in its last eight games in Gainesville.
The previous loss was equally troubling for athletic director Jeremy Foley. The Gators (5-4, 4-4 SEC) turned the ball over six times in a 42-13 drubbing against Missouri on homecoming last month. Chants of “Fire Muschamp” could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field. The Gators also gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return for a score.
Foley stuck with Muschamp after that one, saying the coach and the season would be evaluated “as it plays out.” The Gators regrouped, benched turnover-prone quarterback Jeff Driskel and won consecutive games in dominating fashion, including a stunner against rival Georgia. They even had an outside shot at winning the SEC’s muddled Eastern Division.
But that ended against the Gamecocks, which entered the game with one of the country’s worst defenses.
The Gators attempted just one pass in the final 17 minutes of regulation. They became predictable and pedestrian, fairly typical during Muschamp’s regime. Florida fell to 17-8 under Muschamp at home, where former coaches Steve Spurrier (68-5) and Urban Meyer (36-5) dropped a combined 10 games in 18 seasons.
Florida, which has three national championships and eight SEC titles, expects better results. The fanbase demands it. And it became impossible for Foley to stand behind Muschamp any longer.
The former defensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting at Texas, Muschamp was Foley’s pick to replace Meyer after he stepped down at the end of the 2010 season.
Foley extended Muschamp’s contract twice and gave him a raise. Because of those shows of good faith, Florida owes Muschamp more than $6 million for the final three years left on his deal.
Paying off the rest of the coaching staff could cost about another $2 million.
It’s unclear how long it will take for Foley to find a replacement. But the hire likely will be someone with head-coaching experience who comes from an offensive background. After all, the last two defensive guys with no head-coaching experience Foley hired — Muschamp and former coach Ron Zook — didn’t pan out.
Muschamp’s biggest problem was his offense.
He used three coordinators — Charlie Weis, Brent Pease and Kurt Roper — but failed to impress a fanbase that had grown accustomed to seeing points, precision and proficiency while Spurrier called the shots in the 1990s and during Meyer’s six-year stint that began in 2005.
The Gators went 7-6 in Muschamp’s first season, beating Ohio State in the Gator Bowl to avoid the program’s first losing season since 1979.
Florida followed that with an 11-2 campaign that had as much offensive failure as defensive dominance. Nonetheless, it raised the bar for Muschamp’s third year. But the Gators fell way short of expectations in 2013, finishing 4-8 in an injury-riddled campaign that was the school’s first losing season in more than 30 years.
Florida lost its final seven games, including to then-lower-division Georgia Southern, and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990.
Foley stuck with Muschamp despite calls for him to be replaced, saying “it’s not acceptable, it’s not who we are and it’s not what we’re about. We can fix it.”
Muschamp responded by firing Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis.
He hired Roper away from Duke, but with Driskel or freshman Treon Harris at quarterback, the Gators showed little, if any, improvement on that side of the ball.
They managed 200 yards in a lopsided loss at Alabama, totaled 232 while eking out a win at Tennessee, finished with 306 against LSU and then cobbled together 283 against Mizzou.
They had 278 against South Carolina, which was giving up more than 460 yards a game in its previous nine.