Don’t feel too much angst for fans of Florida Gators football this morning. Urban Meyer’s sudden resignation leaves the program without one of the bright minds of the past decade, but Florida can hand-pick a successor from the same coaching orchard.
Such is life in the upper echelon of college football, which for the recent past has resided in places such as Gainesville, Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles, Baton Rouge, La.; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Those are the places where guaranteed you can compete for a national championship with the proper personnel, philosophy and right coaching blend. Not so in Starkville, Miss., where fans could be the real loser in the latest Meyer two-step.
Mississippi State is not a last stop on the coaching carousel, unless like Jackie Sherrill you are on the way down from the mountaintop. It remains a stepping stone job, one of maybe just three or four in the Southeastern Conference, where elsewhere those other factors remain in place for a national championship run.
Top-notch facilities, strong recruiting base and deep-pocketed boosters are not the norm in Starkville, and therefore Bulldog fans are vulnerable this morning as their head coach Dan Mullen is mentioned by every media outlet this side of the Azores as the successor to Meyer.
The reasons for the connection are obvious, as most readers know, not in the least that Mullin was able to turn around a stagnant situation at Mississippi State in just two seasons and has the Bulldogs 8-4 and in the Gator Bowl. Pity the longtime supporters of MSU football if he is courted and decides to leave, because not only is it nigh impossible for the Bulldogs to compete annually against the elite of the SEC, it is especially so when the big sister comes home for the holidays and decides to steal away the boyfriend of loyal little sis.
Florida is the loser only in the short run, and barely so had Meyer stayed on and attempted to right the ship with a fractured focus. It will be the same at Texas when Mack Brown decides to retire and the next gunslinger comes in to mine the talent-rich prep field in that state. And at USC, when the Trojans thank Lane Kiffin for guiding them through probation, then tell him he might want to look into the vacancy at New Mexico State.
The winners in this Meyer sequel will be any coach who can get a richer contract commitment from Hometown U lest he suddenly be smitten by the Gators’ advances, exponentially so if mentioned for both the vacancies at Florida and Miami, and of course those folks in Tallahassee who for the first time in ages can sit back smugly and watch the drama unfold.
Florida State has been remarkably free of controversy this season, which means five starters probably will be dismissed prior to the Peach Bowl matchup on New Year’s Eve. Barring that occurrence, a program that boasts wins over both Florida and Miami for the first time since 1999 has no excuses for not harvesting the ripest crop of instate stars from the Class of 2011.
Which is precisely what the Seminoles need, perhaps for the next two or three years, to return to the conversation when it comes to winning national championships.