Let's start from the beginning when trying to explain Joker Phillips's sudden resignation from Florida, with this Brett McMurphy tweet:
Joker Phillips forced to resign at UF by Will Muschamp because of Phillips' possible NCAA recruiting violations source told @espn— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) June 11, 2014
"Ohhh, man," College Football Twitter said collectively. "Florida's in trouuuublllle!" Even I tweeted this out to contextualize why even the appearance of wrongdoing is usually a big deal for Florida:
I'll say this: The threshold for "possible NCAA recruiting violations" being tolerated at Florida is low. Program prizes its clean rep.— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) June 11, 2014
Because that sort of thing draws scoffs from people who think every SEC program is dirty — and, to be fair, every SEC team probably does plenty of straddling of the lines when recruiting football players — I tried to elaborate:
Put simply: Doing things "the right way" — or, at least, keeping "Florida" and "NCAA violations" as far from each other as possible — matters a great deal to Florida, and especially to Jeremy Foley. There aren't many other schools getting written up in the Wall Street Journal for doing things cleanly and having athletic success; there aren't many other schools that would quietly add a vision statement that begins with "Be the model collegiate athletics program" to their website.
This draws scoffs because openly claiming to take the high road always will. But I've been around, paying attention to, and reporting on Florida's programs for years now, and I have come to believe that this is a genuine vision.
Sure, it sounds holier than thou for various reasons, most notably the scofflaws who played football for Florida under Urban Meyer. Unbelieveable as it may seem, though, there are people and institutions who sound holier than thou because they want to be holier than thou, too. Florida has certainly staked its claim to this high road, and tries to walk its talk.
And Florida putting its integrity up for judgment, regardless of whether or not it fully lives up to its own standards, requires the Gators to be assiduous when protecting a nearly spotless record with the NCAA since the football program went on probation in the 1980s. Keeping up appearances matters: Even if Aubrey Hill gets hired as the wide receivers coach, Aubrey Hill's going to eventually have to resign from his position as NCAA scrutiny intensifies.
Now, how could this all relate to Joker Phillips, you ask? Well...
I've been on phone last hour or so re Joker stepping down. This is a bad deal for a good guy.— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) June 11, 2014
The sources I spoke w said the issue at hand is a "bump" w a HS junior. Very minor. Was turned in by another program in Florida.— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) June 11, 2014
A guy like Joker who is well liked and doesn't have a bad bone in his body shouldn't even consider stepping down over a "bump".— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) June 11, 2014
...because the working theory is now that he is being made to suddenly resign over a "bump," and a "bump" is among the more benign secondary NCAA violations a coach can commit, we're probably going to learn whether a "bump" alone is enough to get shown the door at Florida.
It's quite possibly more complicated than we know. I called Phillips's resignation "jarring" earlier, and that seems deserved: It truly may have come out of the blue.
Per source, Joker Phillips worked the Florida camp today. This is unusual.— Pete Roussel (@coachingsearch) June 11, 2014
And that McMurphy report about Phillips being forced to resign? He's had to recant some of it.
Correction to last tweet: Joker Phillips not forced to resign by Will Muschamp. Apologies for mistake— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) June 11, 2014
Given that the story McMurphy filed to ESPN still indicates that Phillips was forced to resign, and his tweet only indicates that Muschamp didn't force Joker to resign, I think it's fair to wonder if the logical conclusion is that it wasn't Muschamp, but his boss — Foley — who made this call.
Update, 9:38 p.m.: ESPN has edited that story to remove McMurphy's reporting that Phillips was "forced to" resign, which certainly dilutes the story, and makes the "It was Foley's call" theory implausible at best.
Top: Original ESPN story on Joker Phillips resiging. Bottom: Current edit. pic.twitter.com/gHb63jZFll— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) June 12, 2014
And if you want to believe a conspiracy theory or two: The idea that a "bump" — an impermissible in-person contact with a recruit, basically, much like the in-person contact that got Florida running backs coach Brian White reported last year — is not enough to get a coach effectively fired may lead you to believe there's more to this story, and the reports that Phillips was, indeed, turned in by another school suggest that there may be an ax to grind related to something predating this alleged violation.
This is a complicated and confusing story. It is possible, and maybe likely, that we will not get the full story for a while, if ever. What I do know, that Florida cares about its reputation as a clean school, influences how I think about what we don't know. But that doesn't mean what I do know explains what we don't know.
I'm prepared to be right. I'm prepared to be wrong. I'm prepared for anything.
You might want to be prepared for anything, too.