Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Tolerance for mediocrity in the Sunshine
State is extremely low in regards to success on the football field and that in
and of itself was the reason that the University of Florida fired Ron Zook
this week, following an embarrassing loss to Mississippi State.
It certainly wasn't the first disappointment in Zook's brief tenure in
Gainesville, but simply the one that broke the proverbial camel's back.
In two and a half years, Zook managed to go just 20-13. The team didn't finish
in the top-25 in 2002 and managed to slip in at 24 in 2003. The Gators made a
pair of bowl appearances, but lost both. The team failed to win the SEC and
went a miserable 0-4 against rivals Florida State and Miami.
So, making a coaching change at the end of the season was inevitable. However,
was it bad timing by Florida AD Jeremy Foley to make the announcement in the
middle of the year?
In two and a half years, Zook managed to go just 20-13. The team didn't finish in the top-25 in 2002 and managed to slip in at 24 in 2003.
While the move leaves the team in a state of chaos right now, Foley can at
least be given some kudos for stepping out on a limb and making the change
public, instead of dragging his feet all year and then searching for a
replacement. Foley didn't blame Zook for the team's woes, but instead held
"It is clear to us that in evaluating our football program that something is
not working. I accept full responsibility for where we are today and I feel
this change is necessary for us to reach our goals," said Foley.
The players certainly don't like the move. Zook's relationship with his
players could have been part of the problem. Not considered at all to be a
harsh disciplinarian, it was often thought that the chickens ruled the roost
in Gainesville under Zook's watchful eye.
So, in what has already become a season plagued with disappointment, now the
Gators will finish out the year with a coach, whose heart can't be in the game
Let's face it, Steve Spurrier's replacement was already behind the eight-ball
when he took over in Gainesville.
How do you replace a legend, who brought national title hopes each and every
year with him? The answer of course, is you can't. From 1990-2001, Spurrier
brought six SEC titles and a national championship (1996) to Gainesville. The
SEC was Florida's playground under Spurrier, as the team went a remarkable
86-12 (.878 winning percentage) in what is arguably the toughest conference in
college football. The Swamp was a place opponents feared, as Florida went 68-5
at home under there former coach. With Zook at the helm, the Gators lost more
games at home (14-7) in 2 1/2 years than in his predecessor's dozen.
The writing was on the wall from the day Zook took the job.
Florida's loyal fan base questioned the lack of credentials that Zook
possessed and began an underswell of disapproval that grew into an
overwhelming wave of discontent that Zook was swallowed up by. There was even
a website dedicated to Zook's firing that was up and running within days of
his hiring two and half years ago.
While the Florida faithful have finally gotten their wish, where exactly does
Florida go from here?
Yes, the popular opinion would be to bring Spurrier back, as the brilliant
college coach struggled with his stint in the NFL. Foley certainly listens to
that "popular opinion," so there will probably be preliminary talks with
Spurrier's camp in the near future, if not already.
For now, Florida is left with a coach that for all intents and purposes, will
simply go through the motions the rest of the season.
It will be interesting to see if the rest of the Gators follow suit.