Created: 11/30/2013 10:35 AM
(AP) GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said he’s not going to panic after the program’s first losing season since 1979.
Foley held an impromptu news conference before the Gators’ season finale against No. 2 Florida State on Saturday, reiterating "total confidence" in coach Will Muschamp and adding that "we’ve got to fix some things" on the offensive side of the ball.
"Obviously, it’s been a difficult year," Foley said. "We haven’t made an excuse all year and we’re not going to make them now. We know what this program is all about. I have total confidence in coach Muschamp and have made that clear. We’ve got to fix some things. When you have seasons like this, that’s what you do: you evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don’t panic. You don’t put orange and blue glasses on.
"It’s not acceptable. It’s not who we are, and it’s not what we’re about. Confident we can fix it. I’ve heard that it’s my ego speaking. No, it’s my belief."
Foley said he told his staff earlier this week that he doesn’t "own this franchise," but added that it’s his job to make sure things are headed in the right direction. And he believes Muschamp has the Gators pointed the right way.
Muschamp is 22-15 in three seasons in Gainesville and is coming off the worst lost in school history _ a 26-20 debacle against lower-division Georgia Southern last Saturday.
After a 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt on Nov. 9, Foley said he was "a thousand percent committed" to Muschamp. Some questioned whether that changed with last week’s loss, so Foley felt compelled to say it again Saturday.
"I don’t have my head in the sand," Foley said. "No question there’s a lot of noise out there, and I get that. But we wanted to make sure Will knew where we stood. That’s important to Will, it’s important to recruiting and it’s important to our organization. It’s important for our coaches to understand that things are tough and we’re going to be there for him.
"The guy was 11-1 a year ago and SEC Coach of the Year. To sit here and be silent ... that’s not how we felt. We felt strongly whatever that was, two and a half weeks ago, and we feel just as strongly today. We’ve had some difficult circumstances today, and that hasn’t changed."
Probably the only thing that has saved Muschamp this season is last year’s 11-2 record that included a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
The Gators (4-7) have lost six consecutive games _ their longest losing streak in 34 years _ and are four-touchdown underdogs against the Seminoles (11-0).
Florida has been decimated by injuries, losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones, receiver Andre Debose, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, three offensive tackles and several others for the season. Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy also missed the final three games with a sprained throwing shoulder, leaving third-stringer Skyler Mornhinweg to start.
The injuries are surely a viable excuse, but many insist no amount of personnel problems should lead Florida to be in the triple digits _ they rank 111th this season _ in total offense for three consecutive years. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis could be fired.
The question is whether Muschamp will alter his run-first offensive style that leads to so many close games and leaves little margin for error.
"I think Will is a really good self-evaluator," Foley said. "He can look in the mirror and isn’t afraid to take responsibility for what’s happened. ... We look at ourselves and how we get better. Not just sit here and say, `Yeah, we’ve got a bunch of injuries, we’ll be fine.’ That better not be our attitude. It better be our attitude to reevaluate every single facet of what we’re doing and get this thing fixed.
"Yeah, it stinks. It stinks for every Gator fan. This season has been no fun because we care."