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A Note to Anyone Writing Open Letters to Will Muschamp About Florida's Arrests

If you are unaware of what a fisking is, you will soon learn.

Tyler Jett is a reporter and columnist at The Independent Florida Alligator, and, in the interest of full disclosure, a guy I have sat directly across the table from at a Gainesville Applebee's; further, Tom Green, the Alligator's sports editor, is one of my better friends in this crazy thing called life.

That said, Jett's column/open letter about how Will Muschamp needs to put a clause in his contract that penalizes him for the arrests of his Florida football players is so spectacularly dumb that it deserves a thorough rebuttal. It's a good thing I'm done with classes for the day!

Dear Will,

It's good that you're on a first-name basis. Some people would have gone with Coach Boom.

You have a problem on your hands, one larger than you would publicly like to admit. Ten months on the job, your players have already been arrested seven times.

I suspect your definition of the problem on Will Muschamp's hands is much different from mine, Tyler! (And that second "sentence" isn't quite a proper sentence; I feel like it needs a "Through" or an "In your" to begin it.)

You need to take action, and not just by punishing players. You need to show that alcohol possessions and marijuana busts affect you.

Jett's conceit, now that we've gotten to it: Will Muschamp needs to take action on "alcohol possessions" (flasks, maybe?) and "marijuana busts," crimes committed by other people, to show that they affect him. Showing that these arrests affect him is important. It is important that Coach Boom Cares. Remember this.

You need to take a pay cut.

Because what would show the world that Will Muschamp cares about his players being upstanding citizens better than ... taking a pay cut should they commit crimes? Wait, what?

Whenever you finish dissecting Tennessee game film this afternoon, march to Jeremy Foley’s office and tell your boss you want to add a clause to your contract. Tell Jeremy you are so concerned with running a clean program that you will pay a fine every time a player is convicted.

"Hey, Will, when you get done with your job, go begin the process of renegotiating your contract, probably to your disadvantage, to make sure that every conviction, like the zero that have happened since Urban Meyer began his tenure as Florida's head coach, costs you money."

Put aside how ludicrous that sounds — few sane people negotiate terms of employment in general, and virtually no one renegotiates to put in penalties — and consider that Jett is asking Muschamp to give money back for "convictions," which Gators have dodged time and again thanks to the efforts of Huntley Johnson. Submitting a guilty plea is not exactly a conviction, and being sentenced to deferred prosecution certainly isn't. (Also: When, not whenever, right?)

And Jeremy? You should do the same. You can’t distance yourself from this; it’s your athletic program. Same with you, Bernie Machen. The well-being of your school relies heavily on the money Muschamp brings in.

Calling on Foley to be a father figure and coming in for punishment for his student-athletes is only slightly more absurd than calling for Muschamp to do it, but I would suggest that Foley would probably come in for Melanie Sinclair and Dumisane Hlaselo before any current football players. Calling on Machen to put a clause in his contract that requires him to give back money when any football player is convicted of a crime is, frankly, insane; calling on Machen to do so for the entire student body, the logical endpoint of this line of argument, would be colossally dumb.

Further, the well-being of the University of Florida depends significantly more on the Florida Legislature than the University Athletic Association's largesse. According to its website, "Since 1990, the University Athletic Association has contributed more than $55 million to the University to fund academic endeavors." UF's budget cut from 2007-08 to 2008-09 was $47 million. Yes, the success of Gators football likely has some incalculable psychic value for UF alumni in the Florida Legislature, and yes, the success of Gators football leads to alumni donations — $35 million annually to the UAA, according to GatorZone, and enough to UF that Florida's endowment is pushing $2 billion (PDF) and received $187 million in 2009-10 — but vague statements about how important it is to UF do not convince me of much.

This is a problem Urban Meyer never properly handled. He won a pair of national championships, but those accomplishments were often dwarfed by the 31 arrests during his six-year tenure.

Question for the audience: Do you think that Meyer's .33 national championships per year were overshadowed by the 5.2 arrests per year? I'll hang up and listen.

So far, you’re on pace for an even more crime-infested career. If players keep getting cuffed at the current rate, you will be staring at arrest No. 50 in your sixth season.

If players keep getting cuffed at the current rate, Muschamp might well not be here in his sixth year. That many arrests will necessitate suspensions even under the current informal and internal punishment system, and may well result in losses on the field that lead to Muschamp's firing. Of course, that many arrests would probably be difficult to achieve, given that three of the arrests under Muschamp — two for Janoris Jenkins, one for Chris Martin — were of players who are no longer Gators, and that Muschamp seems a bit hard on recidivists. And calling Muschamp's hypothetical career "crime-infested" when he's not even hypothetically committing any crimes is odd.

You are pocketing about $3.25 million this year and taking home another $2.5 million in 2012. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with that. You are, after all, the CEO of a company that hauled in more than $44 million two seasons ago, and the well isn’t drying up any time soon.

But look at those bonuses. You will make $75,000 if Florida wins the Southeastern Conference, $150,000 for reaching the national championship and an additional $100,000 for winning it.

All of these things are pretty much true.

There needs to be a flip side. Shouldn’t the off-field issues be more important? Shouldn’t you get punished if your players end up behind bars? Isn’t this college football? Aren’t you a molder of men?

And all of these things are pretty much stupid. Let's go point-by-point.

  • No, there does not need to be a flip side. Muschamp's job is to win football games at the University of Florida. He has a contract with incentives for doing that job better than expected. If it were his, Jeremy Foley's, or the UAA's prerogative to punish Muschamp for crimes committed by his players, there would be a clause to that effect in his contract; the UAA is not known for its rank incompetence.
  • No, the off-field issues should not be more important than the football. The football is what makes the money. College football is about making money. This is not hard to understand.
  • No, Muschamp should not be punished if the adults who he coaches to play football commit crimes, are arrested, or are convicted. Regional managers do not get punished if the mailroom clerk gets a DUI; parents do not get punished if their children get cited for underage drinking. Asking coaches to take responsibility for their adult players is asking for an culture of infantilization in college athletics — or, rather, for an expansion of that culture of infantilization. That's really for another piece, though.
  • >Yes, this is college football. It is unclear why you have asked this rhetorical question, but I suspect the canard about college football coaches being molders of men is coming up!
  • ...yeah. I have no idea if Muschamp is a molder of men, because I don't see his interactions with his players, and I would have to extrapolate from limited knowledge about these players and their conduct on Twitter. I also don't think Muschamp needs to be a father to any children but the ones he brought into this world, though being a fatherly coach could certainly help him.
  • I respect kicking Janoris Jenkins off the team in the spring, but that only affects you for one year. What about the younger players, the guys who will be around for two or three more years?

    You mean the players who saw perpetual scofflaw Janoris Jenkins kicked off the team and might have learned that they cannot habitually run afoul of the law and still be Florida Gators, right? The ones who will be around for more than one year?

    There is little you can do to stop a player from getting arrested at 2 a.m., but your contract should have an incentive for coaching a crime-free team. Otherwise, why not recruit the fastest thugs you can find?

    Man, that first sentence is infuriating: "There's practically nothing you can do to prevent player arrests, but you should still have incentives in place for preventing player arrests." This concept's different from the idea of disincentives for convictions that you proposed several paragraphs ago, which is inconsistency that merits an eye-roll, but incentivizing "coaching a crime-free team" is troubling.

    Muschamp generally shouldn't be blamed for the non-football actions of the adults who happen to be his football players, but he also generally shouldn't be rewarded for them; further, if player arrests garnished Muschamp's paycheck, what's to stop a disgruntled player from having an "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment and getting arrested to spite Muschamp?

    Muschamp shouldn't be expected to prowl the streets of Gainesville at night, baby-sitting his players, either, and not just because that's probably not what a father of two young children needs to be doing at last call. Muschamp's got to build relationships with his players, all young men who are being entrusted with responsibilities on Saturdays in The Swamp, and one good way to do that is by trusting them to obey the law. I also shouldn't have to point out that incentivizing a reduction in crime has led to more than a few instances of concealing crime.

    Playing the "thug" card is also a old columnist's cheap trick: Who isn't opposed to "thugs"? I don't like "thugs," and neither should you! The practical reason why coaches don't recruit the fastest thugs they can find, of course, is that those thugs will generally commit crimes, get suspended, and prove to be wastes of recruiting/coaching effort, and that they, like most adults, will do what they want to do, law-breaking included, regardless of what their coaches suggest. The incentive for coaching a crime-free team is having players in uniform every Saturday.

    Listen, Will, you are Coach Boom. You will always be the fiery guy who accidentally curses on national TV, regardless of how many national championships you may win. That’s not a bad thing; people eat that up.

    But if you are going to wear your emotions on your sleeve, you need to be consistent. Dressing down a ref because you disagree with one of his calls? Cool. Saying you are "disgusted" with the NCAA when it suspends Sharrif Floyd? Even better.

    People like seeing fiery when that fire is directed at easy targets they don't like! Who knew?

    But what about when Dee Finley got arrested Monday? There was a statement from a team spokesman: "Coach Muschamp is aware of the incident and will handle the matter." Then there was this from you Wednesday: "I’m handling that. We’ll work through that. That’s where we are."

    That’s just lame talk. Until you put a clause in your contract, it will be cheap talk, too.

    But Jett apparently also wants Will Muschamp to play father to his players and publicly scold them. That's not going to happen for a couple of reasons. First, the best fathers, in my experience, tend not to vent spleen at their children in public, if at all, choosing instead to express disappointment in private and encourage them to do better.

    Second, football coaches aren't exactly fathers, what with their need to recruit more players and concern about how their public persona affects their ability to do so. Muschamp airing out Finley after practice would make for a great column, but I'm a bit skeptical about whether that would make Finley less likely to commit crimes.

    Then again, I'm fully skeptical about whether a clause in Muschamp's contract would help reduce the Gators' crime rate. So I suppose I'll take the Coach Boom Cares cheap talk I can see, hope that Muschamp can walk the walk in the locker room, and continue worrying more about Muschamp's ability to win football games (i.e. his job) than his efforts to stop college-age young men from occasionally doing things that are against the law (i.e. not his job).

    It's better than spewing a bunch of lame talk about a wrong-headed contract clause that will never happen, right?