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How to Overhaul the Gator Football Program

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Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
How do we fix the Gator football program? All across the message boards the simple solution from us simpletons is simply to fire the head coach every 3-4 years and pray for the next Nick Saban to emerge. How did Florida overhaul its football program in 1990 and win its first national championship and six SEC championships? How did Florida overhaul its football program in 2005 and win two national championships and two SEC championships within four years? How did Alabama overhaul its football program in 2007 and win 7 national championships in 13 years? How did Georgia overhaul its program to put itself in position for national championship that is all but imminent in year 6? The answer is money. You get what you pay for.

In 1997, Steven Orr Spurrier signed the most lucrative contract in NCAA history at the time--$2M per year for six years. At the time his rivals Philip Fulmer and Bobby Bowden were making about $1M. UF president John V. Lombardi was responsible for the hiring of Jeremy Foley in 1992, which is important to note because it was Lombardi who successfully fought the Florida Board of Regents (precursor to today's Florida Board of Governors) and the University of Florida Board of Trustees to increase the athletic program budgets. This does not include the University of Florida Athletic Association (UFAA), which is a not-for-profit organization that manages the sports programs (without funding from the state of Florida or the University of Florida). Those budgets were used to fund major construction programs on campus (funding from the state, i.e. Board of Regents) and keep up in the arms race that is college football (funding to pay the best coaches and recruiters). One reason Lombardi resigned as university president in 1999 was his frustration with declining financial support from the Board of Regents. The time period from 1990 to 1999 saw the largest investments in all sports, but especially football. After Spurrier resigned as head coach in 2001, the football program began a decline where head coach Ron Zook was only making $450k and his assistants were not in the same caliber as Spurrier's. The football program went from one where the head coach was the highest paid in the country to just another mediocre-paid head coaching gig. Unlike Spurrier's assistants, none of Zook's assistants were of high enough caliber to warrant top salaries and only one went on to become head coach at a P5 program (Larry Fedora, North Carolina). Summary: Under UF president John Lombardi and athletic director Jeremy Foley, the Gator football program saw vast increases in funding necessary to build and sustain a successful football program from 1990-2001.

In 2005, Urban Meyer signed the most lucrative contract in the SEC and 3rd-highest in the nation at $2M per year for seven years. Note that this is still less than Spurrier's contract nearly a decade earlier and would have half as much as his salary at Ohio State just six years later. Meyer's assistant coaches made more than Zook's, but many of them were of higher caliber and later went on to become head coaches at P5 and G5 programs (Steve Addazio, Dj Durkin, Doc Holliday, Scot Loeffler, Dan McCarney, Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong).

In 2007, Nick Saban signed the most lucrative contract in the SEC--$4M per year for eight years. This is twice as much as Urban Meyer's at the time and over 4X as much as Saban's predecessor, Mike Shula ($900k per year 2005-2010). At the same time, the University of Alabama was dedicated to lifting the dark cloud of NCAA sanctions on the program and all their investors increased investments across the football program. Nick Saban successfully lobbied to increase Alabama's already large recruiting budget, and his assistants' salaries skyrocketed as Saban's Alabama assistants (Jim McElwain, Jeremy Pruitt, Billy Napier, Mike Locksley, Mel Tucker, Major Applewhite, Joe Judge, Kirby Smart) added to his a pipeline of head coaches from LSU (Will Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian).

In 2016, Kirby Smart returned to his alma mater and worked with the administration to rebuild the program starting with recruiting. Under Smart, the recruiting budget went from $900k to $3.676M. Georgia is on the precipace of a national championship, but they certainly invested wisely to get here.

Florida's recruiting budget is $1.271M, which is lower than peers Texas ($1.275M), Nebraska ($1.349M), Michigan ($1.411M), FSU ($1.503M), and Penn State ($1.529M). LSU and Texas A&M each spend ~$1.6M on recruiting. Arkansas, Clemson, and Tennessee each spend $2.0M-$2.2M. Alabama spends $2.663M. Florida's coaching pool salary is #12 in the nation at $5.52M. For comparison Ohio State is #1 at $7.383M, FSU is #10 at $5.715M

What does Florida need to do to overhaul the program? Whether they do it with Dan Mullen or another head coach, the administration needs to invest more in the program. Mullen's salary is among the top 10 in the nation, but his coaching staff salary is near the middle of the pack (other than Todd Grantham's). He needs higher coaches (more than one, which Grantham was from 2018-2019). He needs a larger salary pool for assistant coaches. He needs a larger recruiting budget. The overhaul needs to come from the top, as it did in 1991 when John Lombardi and Jeremy Foley--as well as Steve Spurrier. I did not go into Clemson's or Notre Dame's rebuild, but if Florida intends to rebuild with the same head coach they could use the former as a good model and the latter as a mediocre model. If Florida intends to rebuild with a new head coach then we need to pluck a head coach who has been successful elsewhere. The checklist:
- Double the recruiting budget from $1.3M to $2.6M (right below Alabama, but above Tennessee)
- Hire a top DC worthy of higher salary than Todd Grantham's $1.8M (#6 among assistants)
- Hire a co-OC at $600k or dedicated OC at $1.0M+
- Upgrade assistants as appropriate to get to a top-10 coaching assistant pool
 

DRU2012

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
How do we fix the Gator football program? All across the message boards the simple solution from us simpletons is simply to fire the head coach every 3-4 years and pray for the next Nick Saban to emerge. How did Florida overhaul its football program in 1990 and win its first national championship and six SEC championships? How did Florida overhaul its football program in 2005 and win two national championships and two SEC championships within four years? How did Alabama overhaul its football program in 2007 and win 7 national championships in 13 years? How did Georgia overhaul its program to put itself in position for national championship that is all but imminent in year 6? The answer is money. You get what you pay for.

In 1997, Steven Orr Spurrier signed the most lucrative contract in NCAA history at the time--$2M per year for six years. At the time his rivals Philip Fulmer and Bobby Bowden were making about $1M. UF president John V. Lombardi was responsible for the hiring of Jeremy Foley in 1992, which is important to note because it was Lombardi who successfully fought the Florida Board of Regents (precursor to today's Florida Board of Governors) and the University of Florida Board of Trustees to increase the athletic program budgets. This does not include the University of Florida Athletic Association (UFAA), which is a not-for-profit organization that manages the sports programs (without funding from the state of Florida or the University of Florida). Those budgets were used to fund major construction programs on campus (funding from the state, i.e. Board of Regents) and keep up in the arms race that is college football (funding to pay the best coaches and recruiters). One reason Lombardi resigned as university president in 1999 was his frustration with declining financial support from the Board of Regents. The time period from 1990 to 1999 saw the largest investments in all sports, but especially football. After Spurrier resigned as head coach in 2001, the football program began a decline where head coach Ron Zook was only making $450k and his assistants were not in the same caliber as Spurrier's. The football program went from one where the head coach was the highest paid in the country to just another mediocre-paid head coaching gig. Unlike Spurrier's assistants, none of Zook's assistants were of high enough caliber to warrant top salaries and only one went on to become head coach at a P5 program (Larry Fedora, North Carolina). Summary: Under UF president John Lombardi and athletic director Jeremy Foley, the Gator football program saw vast increases in funding necessary to build and sustain a successful football program from 1990-2001.

In 2005, Urban Meyer signed the most lucrative contract in the SEC and 3rd-highest in the nation at $2M per year for seven years. Note that this is still less than Spurrier's contract nearly a decade earlier and would have half as much as his salary at Ohio State just six years later. Meyer's assistant coaches made more than Zook's, but many of them were of higher caliber and later went on to become head coaches at P5 and G5 programs (Steve Addazio, Dj Durkin, Doc Holliday, Scot Loeffler, Dan McCarney, Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong).

In 2007, Nick Saban signed the most lucrative contract in the SEC--$4M per year for eight years. This is twice as much as Urban Meyer's at the time and over 4X as much as Saban's predecessor, Mike Shula ($900k per year 2005-2010). At the same time, the University of Alabama was dedicated to lifting the dark cloud of NCAA sanctions on the program and all their investors increased investments across the football program. Nick Saban successfully lobbied to increase Alabama's already large recruiting budget, and his assistants' salaries skyrocketed as Saban's Alabama assistants (Jim McElwain, Jeremy Pruitt, Billy Napier, Mike Locksley, Mel Tucker, Major Applewhite, Joe Judge, Kirby Smart) added to his a pipeline of head coaches from LSU (Will Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian).

In 2016, Kirby Smart returned to his alma mater and worked with the administration to rebuild the program starting with recruiting. Under Smart, the recruiting budget went from $900k to $3.676M. Georgia is on the precipace of a national championship, but they certainly invested wisely to get here.

Florida's recruiting budget is $1.271M, which is lower than peers Texas ($1.275M), Nebraska ($1.349M), Michigan ($1.411M), FSU ($1.503M), and Penn State ($1.529M). LSU and Texas A&M each spend ~$1.6M on recruiting. Arkansas, Clemson, and Tennessee each spend $2.0M-$2.2M. Alabama spends $2.663M. Florida's coaching pool salary is #12 in the nation at $5.52M. For comparison Ohio State is #1 at $7.383M, FSU is #10 at $5.715M

What does Florida need to do to overhaul the program? Whether they do it with Dan Mullen or another head coach, the administration needs to invest more in the program. Mullen's salary is among the top 10 in the nation, but his coaching staff salary is near the middle of the pack (other than Todd Grantham's). He needs higher coaches (more than one, which Grantham was from 2018-2019). He needs a larger salary pool for assistant coaches. He needs a larger recruiting budget. The overhaul needs to come from the top, as it did in 1991 when John Lombardi and Jeremy Foley--as well as Steve Spurrier. I did not go into Clemson's or Notre Dame's rebuild, but if Florida intends to rebuild with the same head coach they could use the former as a good model and the latter as a mediocre model. If Florida intends to rebuild with a new head coach then we need to pluck a head coach who has been successful elsewhere. The checklist:
- Double the recruiting budget from $1.3M to $2.6M (right below Alabama, but above Tennessee)
- Hire a top DC worthy of higher salary than Todd Grantham's $1.8M (#6 among assistants)
- Hire a co-OC at $600k or dedicated OC at $1.0M+
- Upgrade assistants as appropriate to get to a top-10 coaching assistant pool
OK. Agreed. I’m pretty sure the “powers-that-be” ALSO agree (they damn well BETTER, or we really ARE “SUNK”!)—that Stricklin had the green light on the “fire Mullen, spend-what-it-takes” part of that equation...
BUT WHO’S OUT THERE??!
But what’s done is done now:
Yesterday happened, Mullen’s gone, and now it’s a matter of either “find someone to get in here NOW, or lose AT LEAST another season floundering with a “holding action regime” on the sidelines. If STRICKLIN wants to stay here, he pretty well has GOT to TRY to pull off some kind of dazzling coup and bring in someone shockingly promising NOW. You don’t follow the progression of moves he’s made last coupla weeks without a pretty good idea of where you’ll turn, “if and when”. Not if you yourself intends to stay.
Then again, WTF DO I KNOW??!
Very little, I’d have to admit, at this point.
 

Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
Good points @Escambia94 and I like to add hire a top-notch coach.
I purposely de-emphasized the head coach because it is not overhauling unless we look beyond the head coach. An overhaul means that from the university president to the athletic director to the head coach to the on-field assistants and to the off-field assistants, people need to change (new hires) or new approaches need to happen (new investments). Kent Fuchs and Scott Stricklin need to increase their level of investment and that cannot stop at the head coach—they already did that and look where it got us.
 

Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
OK. Agreed. I’m pretty sure the “powers-that-be” ALSO agree (they damn well BETTER, or we really ARE “SUNK”!)—that Stricklin had the green light on the “fire Mullen, spend-what-it-takes” part of that equation...
BUT WHO’S OUT THERE??!
But what’s done is done now:
Yesterday happened, Mullen’s gone, and now it’s a matter of either “find someone to get in here NOW, or lose AT LEAST another season floundering with a “holding action regime” on the sidelines. If STRICKLIN wants to stay here, he pretty well has GOT to TRY to pull off some kind of dazzling coup and bring in someone shockingly promising NOW. You don’t follow the progression of moves he’s made last coupla weeks without a pretty good idea of where you’ll turn, “if and when”. Not if you yourself intends to stay.
Then again, WTF DO I KNOW??!
Very little, I’d have to admit, at this point.
In the press conference Stricklin hinted that he understood that the problem was not the head coach and there were other issues he could not get into. I think Stricklin is also taking the next step by being more aggressive with the UFAA investors and maybe the Board of Governors to address and invest in those other things that a somewhat beyond the power of a head coach.

If you look at the Florida program from 1991 to 1999 you will see the greatest expansion of Gator sports and that was a concerted effort among president Lombardi, AD Foley, and head coach Spurrier. Georgia took that same holistic overhaul approach in 2021. Alabama took that holistic approach in 2007. If we just swap out head coaches without adding high profile assistants, facilities, and recruiting budget we are just repeating the mistakes at Florida in 2001 with the hiring of Zook and the last three head coaches in 2011, 2015, and 2018. The last two overhauls in 2005 and 1990/1991 actually worked because it was not a coach swap—it was an overhaul from the top down.

(To clarify above: the hiring of Urban Meyer occurred with the same president and AD, but most of the assistants were swapped out and upgraded, investment in facilities increased, and recruiting investment went up slightly. The hiring of Spurrier in 1989/1990 and the rapid increase in investments were the adding of two different presidents and ADs.)
 
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DRU2012

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
In the press conference Stricklin hinted that he understood that the problem was not the head coach and there were other issues he could not get into. I think Stricklin is also taking the next step by being more aggressive with the UFAA investors and maybe the Board of Governors to address and invest in those other things that a somewhat beyond the power of a head coach.

If you look at the Florida program from 1991 to 1999 you will see the greatest expansion of Gator sports and that was a concerted effort among president Lombardi, AD Foley, and head coach Spurrier. Georgia took that same holistic overhaul approach in 2021. Alabama took that holistic approach in 2007. If we just swap out head coaches without adding high profile assistants, facilities, and recruiting budget we are just repeating the mistakes at Florida in 2001 with the hiring of Zook and the last three head coaches in 2011, 2015, and 2018. The last two overhauls in 2005 and 1990/1991 actually worked because it was not a coach swap—it was an overhaul from the top down.

(To clarify above: the hiring of Urban Meyer occurred with the same president and AD, but most of the assistants were swapped out and upgraded, investment in facilities increased, and recruiting investment went up slightly. The hiring of Spurrier in 1989/1990 and the rapid increase in investments were the adding of two different presidents and ADs.)
Yes!
Finally: a comprehensive, realistic and practical logic-based analysis of what has worked in the past (for both us AND others) and what has to be done now, if things are to change.
Now, I just don’t know enough at present myself to say whether “MULLEN had nothing to do with the shortcomings” (maybe not their being there, but somehow I suspect he failed to fully recognize or fight for effective change, either)...but all that is somewhat irrelevant now: He’s gone, and what matters is that these things now change:
A new and stronger foundation must be put in place, and right now the first order of business is to find the right guy to be Head Coach—the leader, front man and forward face of what is to come for the UF football program.
The list alone of those who have presided over successful such past projects demonstrates the rareness of finding those qualities in a single individual. In many ways, even SUCCESS cannot be fully judged until somewhat later, after the FACT.
It’s gonna be somewhat of a gamble no matter what!
Any intuitive guess as to who it will be? And note that this isn’t necessarily the same question as “Who do YOU favor, E—?”
 

Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
Yes!
Finally: a comprehensive, realistic and practical logic-based analysis of what has worked in the past (for both us AND others) and what has to be done now, if things are to change.
Now, I just don’t know enough at present myself to say whether “MULLEN had nothing to do with the shortcomings” (maybe not their being there, but somehow I suspect he failed to fully recognize or fight for effective change, either)...but all that is somewhat irrelevant now: He’s gone, and what matters is that these things now change:
A new and stronger foundation must be put in place, and right now the first order of business is to find the right guy to be Head Coach—the leader, front man and forward face of what is to come for the UF football program.
The list alone of those who have presided over successful such past projects demonstrates the rareness of finding those qualities in a single individual. In many ways, even SUCCESS cannot be fully judged until somewhat later, after the FACT.
It’s gonna be somewhat of a gamble no matter what!
Any intuitive guess as to who it will be? And note that this isn’t necessarily the same question as “Who do YOU favor, E—?”

Scott Stricklin stated the following in a message to all Gators:
We have alignment at every level of leadership – from Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini, President Dr. Kent Fuchs, University Athletic Association Board President Chris Corr and Gator Boosters President Lou Oberndorf. That alignment is a key part of our success that has resulted in 251 Southeastern Conference Championships in the history of our program, 100 more than the next closest league institution, and 42 national championships. Our football team has won eight of those SEC titles and three national titles.
If he is serious, then this means that they are ready to invest more money in the program and they are looking for a program builder. Florida has seen two different types of program builders: an alumnus with head coaching experience in college and the pros (Spurrier) and an up-and-comer (Meyer). The up-and-comer on my list is Billy Napier. The program re-builder on my list is Bobby Stoops. All the other coaches on "the list" at https://www.gatorenvy.com/threads/d...e-the-next-gator-head-coach.20878/#post-87776 (Mario Cristobal, Lane Kiffin, Kyle Whittingham, Luke Fickell, PJ Fleck, Mel Tucker, and Dave Aranda) are "hot coaches" of different flavors with different aspects that make them appealing, but not as up-and-comers or program re-builders.
 

DRU2012

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Scott Stricklin stated the following in a message to all Gators:

If he is serious, then this means that they are ready to invest more money in the program and they are looking for a program builder. Florida has seen two different types of program builders: an alumnus with head coaching experience in college and the pros (Spurrier) and an up-and-comer (Meyer). The up-and-comer on my list is Billy Napier. The program re-builder on my list is Bobby Stoops. All the other coaches on "the list" at https://www.gatorenvy.com/threads/d...e-the-next-gator-head-coach.20878/#post-87776 (Mario Cristobal, Lane Kiffin, Kyle Whittingham, Luke Fickell, PJ Fleck, Mel Tucker, and Dave Aranda) are "hot coaches" of different flavors with different aspects that make them appealing, but not as up-and-comers or program re-builders.
Yes. Interesting: In my own, admittedly “more intuitive” way (really meaning “I guess I’ve been weighing the alternatives and thinking it all over harder and deeper than I’d realized!”), I would have to say, if pressed, that these are the very same two choices that I TOO had pretty well already “boiled it down to” as well!
Let’s see what happens from here—what, if anything, FURTHER happens, and how this all plays out!
 
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