The Sports Broadcast

A blog about sports broadcasting from the great state of Florida. They report. I decide.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The End (Officially)

Ron Zook will no longer be the coach of the Florida Gator football team following this season.

I didn't think I'd write that sentence with certainty in the middle of a season. I didn't think I'd write it for a few years even. What I think doesn't matter though.

I'll go ahead and say it our front: I like Ron Zook. I think he's a good guy who is good for a football program. However, he has proven that he just is not ready to handle being the head coach of a top-tier school. Whether or not it seems fair for him to be fired right now, it had to be done. The program is floating along without any kind of direction right now, and there are too many great players on the team to allow things to progress as they are going. Chris Leak, Channing Crowder, Andre Caldwell, Chad Jackson, Deshawn Wynn, and Dee Webb all have only one year left before they are eligable for the NFL draft. Ciatrick Fason can leave after this year, though there is a shot at him returning for his senior year. They make up an impressive core of players, and with the overall talent of the rest of the program, they should win at least one SEC East title, if not overall SEC title. It did not appear that it was going to happen under Ron Zook, so he had to be let go.

The overall attitude of the team is another problem. I would not say that a so-called "culture of losing" had evolved in the program as it stands seven games over .500 for Zook's tenure, but a culture of mediocrity seems to have set in. Until Saturday, the Gators had not lost to a team that was clearly inferior in every aspect, so the losses seemed to get brushed away by Zook's "we're getting better and better" line. This is could have been an excellent football team. Was the preseason #10 ranking a bit optimistic? Sure, but not unrealistic. There is a difference, however, between not living up to a preseason #10 ranking and losing to a team that is so bad that after the game the voice of the Gators on the radio Mick Hubert sounded like he was ready to cry.

In the end, there should be no crying, especially not for Ron Zook. Coaching is a business, as they say, and he won't stay unemployed for long. He's way too good of a recruiter for that. He'll find himself a coordinator job somewhere, and probably end up as the head coach of a mid-major program eventually under much more reasonable expectations. He also could go back to coaching in the NFL. While here at Florida, he enjoyed plush amenities (check out his office, and if it's still there, read the last paragraph of his 10/18 message about how SEC opponents are difficult "especially in their home stadium... I expect
Mississippi State to be no different."). His paycheck made him a very wealthy man. Maybe he's not in the "you me and Tim Russert" bracket that W and Kerry argued over in the debates, but he's set for life. He also had an experience few others will ever have - head football coach of the Florida Gators.
As for replacements, I have already made a list, and so has Ivan Maisel (which is nearly identical to mine). One more person to add: Butch Davis. If the Browns continue to underacheive, he might join Zook in the unemployment line. Keep in mind that it wasn't Larry Coker that built up those powerhouse Miami teams of 2000-2002.

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