The Muschamp - McElwain Tiff

Posted at 1:16 pm on 06/25/2015 by Buddy Martin

By Buddy Martin April 04, 2015

Current Florida coach Jim McElwain and ex-Gator coach Will Muschamp have traded a number of verbal barbs recently.


I’ve always gotten a charge out of coaches indulging in what I call the “Blame It On The Last Guy Game.”

If it’s not a cable guy or a plumber whining about having to clean up a mess left by the guy before him, then it’s a football coach. Seems this malady is a hereditary trait.

The latest to fire a shot across the bow of his predecessor? Florida’s Jim McElwain.

Well, that’s not really true, because Will Muschamp took the first shot last November at his post-firing press conference, tweaking whoever was going to be his successor.

“Don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got no good players,” Muschamp said that day. “Tell you that right now. They got some good football players in that locker room.”

Memo to Muschamp: You forgot to mention the shortage of offensive linemen. Of course, you didn’t know at the time some of the O-line starters would be leaving school early.

“That new guy” did point out that shortage.

Said McElwain: “You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt. And right now, quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas.”

And the defensive coordinator at Auburn took umbrage this week.

First, there was this clarification by Muschamp: “At the time (November), D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore had not declared for the NFL draft. That’s two guys that started a lot of ball games, and Rod Johnson was a returning starter.

“Certainly at that position, at the offensive line the numbers are obviously down … but I didn’t know of any comments. Other than that, there’s a lot of good football players sitting down there.”

But Muschamp couldn’t let it go at that. When a reporter asked the next question, he reportedly interrupted and fired another shot at McElwain.

“He said he could coach a dog and win,” Muschamp said. “Heck, he likes the dog better than his players?”

A little exaggeration. Mac did say flippantly in his first presser, when asked who would play quarterback: "You got to understand this. I believe I can win with my dog Claribelle.”

The rest of that sentence, however, Muschamp didn’t seem to remember. “That's the attitude,” McElwain had added. “There's good players here. That's just our responsibility to get that going."

How about that! A coach distorting a statement or quote? I thought only the media did that.

McElwain ought to go ahead and issue the statement now for his predecessor now: “If the new guy complains about the quarterback, don’t let him tell you Clairibell wasn’t a doggone good one!”

*     *     *

Gator fans are beginning to wonder about the future of Billy Donovan. Not much good news coming out of Gainesville lately about the soon-to-be 50-year-old two-time national championship coach and his program, which hit a snag in a disappointing 16-17 season.

First came the word that Florida was delaying construction on the revamped Stephen O’Connell Center until next year. Then the surprising news that star player Michael Frazier suddenly decided to leave after his junior season. And the more-than-a-rumor rumblings that Donovan was flirting with the NBA again.

There are still some stories swirling around out there, prompted somewhat by a Rick Pitino interview in which he said his protégé was somebody who could make the transition to the NBA.

There are already openings in Orlando and Denver, with more expected. So if Donovan chooses to revisit the idea of coaching the Magic, which he did when he signed with Orlando and left Florida for one day before changing his mind, he’ll have that, plus plenty of other opportunities.

There was a bit of a breakthrough this week with the announcement that Donovan has signed an amended, one-year extension through the 2020 season that will raise his average salary to a shade over $4 million per year.

Donovan is the fifth-highest paid college basketball coach at an average salary of just over $4 million, behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ($9.6 million), Kentucky’s John Calipari ($7.5 million), Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($5.8 million) and Kansas’ Bill Self ($4.96 million).

But reportedly there is only a $500,000 buyout of Donovan’s contract should he choose to go.

So maybe the record of 16-17 looks like a losing season. However, if Billy decides to stay, that, alone, will make it a winning season. He’s as good as it gets as a college basketball coach and has been for a long, long time.

A little good news, though, and maybe a harbinger?

Junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who led the Gators in scoring and rebounding and was the team’s leading three point shooter, announced he would come back next season, along with senior forward Alex Murphy. Which leads me to believe that Donovan will be returning as well. I can’t imagine Finney-Smith and Murphy making their decision to stay without knowing that.

*     *     *

This week is the 60th anniversary of Arnold Palmer’s participation in the Masters, a tournament that springboarded golf to the television screens across America in the late 1950s. It was fueled by a handsome, swashbuckling blue-collar boy from Latrobe, PA first crashing a blueblood party in a garden of azaleas, dogwoods and the Georgia pines when he won it in 1960.

Make no mistake, Arnold is still the Godfather of Golf. That’s why they still call him “The King.” Jack Nicklaus was, and always will be, the game’s greatest player, but Jack came from an upper middle class family in Columbus where his dad belonged to Sciota Country Club. Arnold’s father was a greenskeeper in Latrobe.

After Arnold and Jack, there were many, and there was Tiger Woods, believed to be the crown prince. No doubt, he was going to surpass Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors won.

We know now that Tiger is mortal and he is no Jack Nicklaus.

All these years later, Tiger has come and apparently gone, no crown prince he. And so what happened?

In a rare moment of candor, The King recently spoke about Tiger’s collapse to Michael Bamberger of SportsIllustrated.com.

“Tiger was somewhat of a robot golfer,” Palmer reportedly told Bamberger.

“He was so endeared to his father and what his father had him doing that it is almost difficult to explain. I watched him practice at Isleworth when he was in the midst of it. As long as he stuck to the routine that his father had laid out for him, he was going to succeed. Had he continued to do that, he probably could have established a record that would never have been broken.”

Arnie pointed out that since Earl Woods died in May 2006, Tiger has won four major titles: The 2006 British Open and PGA Championship, the 2007 PGA Championship and the 2008 U.S. Open.

Where did Tiger go wrong? Arnie alluded to overindulgence in worldly temptations.

“Without getting into what happened and why it happened, Tiger got into other things,” Arnold said. “He went away from the routine and the work ethic that was so natural for him. It’s happened before. It has something to do with the psychological effect of the game. If he doesn’t try to go back to where he was five or six years ago, he will get worse instead of better. Could he go back to where he was? He could. Do I think he will? No.”

That’s about as clear and concise of an explanation as I’ve heard from anybody.

Palmer won The Masters four times. He finished second two other times and had nine Top 5 finishes. He also played the tournament 50 times total, his last in 2004.

On Wednesday he’ll tee it up at Augusta National’s No. 1 with his friends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in the ceremonial start, something he’s been doing since 2007. He’s never missed a Masters. At 85, Arnie will be forced to skip the Par 3 event because of a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods, 39, played an 18-hole practice round at Augusta last week. All week there has been speculation whether or not he’ll play in the tournament. His entire future is cloudy. Which, according to The King, could have been different if he’d gone back to where he was five or six years ago.

Word Friday leaked out that Tiger was coming to Augusta. Those of us who follow and appreciate golf are happy that he’ll be in the field of this magnificent spectacle. But we all fear that Woods will embarrass himself and don’t want to see him implode.

When I was a young sports writer, I covered a 1973 World Series in which Willie Mays played center field for the Mets. Past his prime and weak in the legs, The Great Willie Mays misjudged a fly ball and then fell down in center field pursuing the baseball. It was terrible to watch. And this would be, too.

It's not that Tiger is finished with competitive golf, like Palmer. It just doesn't seem very likely he's going to be playing at a high level. We just don’t want to see another legend turn into Humpty Dumpty.


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