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Ask virtually any Florida fan about Sharrif Floyd right now, and the answer is likely to be something like "That poor kid got hosed by the NCAA." But Will Muschamp lowered the boom on the NCAA in support of Sharrif Floyd on Thursday night, and it's a move that will pay dividends both in the short term and the long term.
Full Muschamp statement on Sharrif Floyd's ineligibility after the jump.
"I’m angered, disgusted and extremely disappointed that Sharrif will have to miss two games.
In my opinion Sharrif is getting lumped into what is bad about college athletics. As we indicated in the statement Saturday night his issue was not related to sports agents, University of Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else.
Sharrif is what is good about college athletics – his life is about survival, struggle, disappointment and adversity. I have recruited kids that did not know where they would sleep that night or what they would eat. Growing up, Sharrif was one these kids. Sharrif’s life is also about triumph, honesty, integrity, determination, perseverance and character. The NCAA stated that he received preferential treatment; there is nothing preferential about his life.
He grew up with only his great grandmother and still sends her Pell Grant money so she can pay her bills. How many kids do you know that would do that? I know one – Sharrif Floyd.
I want to make it clear that this issue is not about sports agents, Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else. The issue is about his survival and the only reason the NCAA, the SEC and the University of Florida were aware of these issues is because Sharrif brought them to our attention last February. He came forward because, as I said before, he is honest and because of his integrity.
The toughest day that I have had as a head football coach at Florida was the day that I had to tell Sharrif that he could not play in our game vs. FAU last week. I took away part of his family.
He had tears in his eyes and said "What have I done wrong?" I told him he did nothing wrong. It wasn’t any easier to tell him today that he would be missing Saturday’s game.
I have two sons at home. If they end up like Sharrif I will consider myself a successful father."
How are your retinas after reading that? Singed? Charred? That's the Coach Boom intensity we've been waiting for, isn't it?
What Muschamp has done here is almost no-risk, but it's also guaranteed to be high-reward; that's what makes it so smart. As far as the NCAA's concerned, Jeremy Foley gets to be the good cop, never ticking past the still out-of-character "disappointed"; Muschamp's the bad cop, "angered, disgusted, and extremely disappointed."
But as long as they're certain that Floyd did nothing more than take money from someone in high school for what amounts to living expenses, that's the sort of hellfire and brimstone Foley and Muschamp can spit without worrying about the NCAA being upset about it: they're defending a player who did very little wrong (and, by extension, a program that goes out of its way to avoid doing wrong) and owned up to it, the sort of player the NCAA would be praising as a model student-athlete if the NCAA weren't more concerned with officiousness than officiating.
You know who loves what Muschamp said about Floyd last night? Everyone but the NCAA.
Former Florida wide receiver David Nelson:
I love how @CoachWMuschamp is defending and fighting for his players. When a Coach has your back, players will play hard for you
Florida women's basketball player Jordan Jones:
If i was a football player i'd love to play for coach muschamp. The way he stood up for sharrif today gave me chills #gators
Longtime Gainesville Sun beat writer Robbie Andreu:
I've covered UF football a long time. Muschamp's comments about NCAA strongest I've ever seen or heard from UF coach, including Spurrier.
Hell, Orlando Sentinel columnist and professional curmudgeon Mike Bianchi:
That, friends, is the most incredible prepared statement in the history of intercollegiate athletics and probably got Muschamp six verbal commitments as soon as it hit the Internet.
Muschamp taking up for his player is something every Gators fan should love, but it's also a thing any coach of any player should respect. Muschamp roared like any coach would when informed that a bad rule is keeping a player off the field, and he's done so in a way that is almost Friday Night Lights-ready. (That line about his sons? Speechwriters would kill to conclude a polemic so perfectly.) This goes beyond Urban Meyer defending Deonte Thompson as family after Thompson made a dumb comment; this is Coach Boom standing up for what is right in college athletics by standing behind a player who has done nothing wrong.
What sane person wouldn't want Will Muschamp in her or his corner this morning? What recruit wouldn't want to play for a coach that dedicated to his players?
Even the cynical view — Muschamp knows Floyd was wrong to do what he did, but raising a stink makes this a rallying point for the Gators, obscures what actually happened, and puts the heat on the NCAA rather than on Florida or Floyd — doesn't exactly look bad. At the very least, that's a brilliant attempt to adjust the optics of this case.
But Muschamp breathing fire is the sort of thing that makes the NCAA look bad, and just might get the NCAA to re-examine what seems to be a disappointingly narrow view of this sort of impermissible benefits case.
If Floyd is as underprivileged as everyone is suggesting, there's just about no way he was going to be fully educated about his college choices, much less fully successful in college, without assistance that comes from that nebulous realm of impermissible benefits. Because the NCAA's got Floyd's exact sort of poverty in its blind spot (assuming that all impermissible benefits are alike will do that), though, it can't adequately address a kid taking money to stay above water like it can a booster making it rain for a player. If Floyd had been adopted by one of the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation board memebers, then provided with money to go on recruiting visits, this would have been okay; because Floyd's life wasn't that unfortunate, and/or because no one tried to game this system by doing that, he ends up watching games from the sideline two years later.
The NCAA is probably going to have to take another look at this portion of its rulebook; if the initial public torching it has taken from one of the most powerful men in college athletics and one of the darlings of the coaching world wasn't enough to necessitate that, the back-channel pressure Foley will bring to bear will undoubtedly be persuasive.
So #FreeSharrif, yes. But also remember that this ordeal is likely to produce a better free Sharrif Floyd, and might help the Gators and the NCAA even more in the long term than it does in the short term. Sometimes, injustice must occur before justice can be done; sometimes, it takes burning down a house to put up a stronger one.