When you go 11-2 as a head football coach in the SEC, you're the toast of the town.
When you go 4-8 as a head football coach in the SEC, the FOR SALE signs show up on your lawn and the message board vitriol (Do people still go to message boards?) is amped up to FULL.
Will Muschamp has been both of those things.
Unfortunately for the embattled head coach of the Florida Gators, the 4-8 season is the most recent one, and perhaps even more ominous, it was in his third year as Gators head coach, which in college football is generally the year that a program can ascertain which direction the compass is pointed.
After the worst season the program has endured since the late 70's, Muschamp got a stay of execution this past offseason, the Florida administration giving him (presumably) one more crack at making this work.
The fan base is understandably restless. Long thought to be a future stalwart in the head coaching ranks after years as a reasonably successful coordinator at Auburn and Texas, Muschamp's hotheaded "bedside manner" has not translated all that well into a person that breeds confidence in the program's followers.
Put simply, when you go 11-2 and you're animated and sweaty, you're "fiery and hard working." When you go 4-8 and you're animated and sweaty, you're "losing control and have meat sweats."
So what's a head coach to do?
Well, he's gotta coach the kids up, that's a given. But what about the fans? SEC fans are crazy. (NOTE: Every SEC fan thinks they could do a better job than their school's head coach.)
Hell, most SEC fans keep a short list of future replacements for their current head coach handy in the upper drawer of their desk as if they were the school's athletics director (NOTE: Every SEC fan thinks they could do a better job than their school's athletics director, too.)
Winning the public relations battle, that's important for Muschamp right now, because let's face it, he's probably not going 4-8 again, but he ain't going 11-2 either. Chances are the Gators land on some sort of record in 2014 where they'll need to weigh pros and cons heavily on Muschamp before deciding what to do with him.
So how do you win the public relations battle? Well, by being an everyday guy! By being Cuddly Will Muschamp! You do it by embracing old people!
Say hello to Peggy and Douglas Zant!
They're residents of Gainesville who live just minutes from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and who've held Florida season tickets for 47 straight years. That means they go all the way back to the aforementioned late 70's, including a winless season in 1979. The Zants have seen all things Gator. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
So last Friday the Zants were expecting their season tickets to be delivered, and indeed they were, by a special guest....WILL MUSCHAMP!!
Here's the video...
Courtesy of Gator Zone, here's how "Muschamp playing Fedex delivery guy" came about:
In a goodwill gesture to honor one of the longest-tenured season-ticket holders in Gainesville, the UAA arranged for Muschamp to hand deliver the Zants their special package.
The Zants' daughter, Allyson, helped make it a surprise by working with UAA officials.
As her parents talked to Muschamp, Allyson watched the scene from nearby with a big grin across her face.
"I knew it was a possibility,'' she said of Muschamp stopping by. "I'm so happy for them. They are just regular people and longtime Gator fans. This is a good thing and I appreciate the University acknowledging longtime fans. They don't have any buildings named after them."
After Muschamp handed over the season tickets to the Zants, they invited him into their living room to have a seat, where he spent about 10 minutes talking to the couple.
(SIDE BAR: I'm assuming the Zants have grandchildren. If so, how have they managed to keep the glass table with all of the toy alligators inside from getting shattered by an overzealous grandson who wants to play with the toys?)
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Admittedly, this is a cool gesture by Muschamp, I'm probably being a bit of a cynic (although in the brief footage socializing with the couple, he definitely has an "Ok, can I please get back to breaking down Idaho film now?"). Try to picture Nick Saban doing this. He might punch somebody.
I just know that my girlfriend has been a Texans season ticket holder since 2002, and if Gary Kubiak had shown up each year to deliver her tickets, I might've said nicer things about his predictable play calling on third and long.
(And by "third and long," I mean "every play.")