Will Muschamp has been fired as the Florida Gators’ head coach, two sources confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel.
UF announced the decision in a news release shortly after 1 p.m.
"Upon evaluation of our football program, we are not where the program needs to be and should be," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a news release. "I've always said that our goal at the University of Florida is to compete for championships on a regular basis. Coach Muschamp was dedicated to developing young men both on and off the field. Our student athletes showed tremendous growth socially and academically under his leadership. His players were involved in campus activities, engaged with the local community and represented the University of Florida with pride.
"I will be forever grateful to Will and his staff for their unwavering commitment to the University of Florida and the mission of our athletic program. He will be missed by everyone in our athletic department - from the people that worked in his office to the people that painted the fields. Will knew everyone and they knew him and everyone in the building loved working with him. Will is as fine a man as you will ever meet, and I will always cherish our relationship with him and his family."
The decision ends a four-season stretch marked by offensive ineptitude, inexplicable losses and impatience by a fan base accustomed to contending for championships.
Muschamp is set to coach through the FSU game.
"I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me and my family by [UF president Bernie] Machen, Jeremy Foley and the University of Florida," Muschamp said in a news release. "I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn't win enough games - that is the bottom line. I'm disappointed that I didn't get it done and it is my responsibility to get it done.
"I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field. We have a great group of players and a staff that is committed to this University and this football program. They have handled themselves with class and I expect them to continue to do so. As I've said many times, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond."
One player reached by the Sentinel said he was shocked by the news. The team was scheduled to meet at about 1 p.m.
Another UF source told the Sentinel Muschamp was well liked around the athletics offices and it was sad day for those who worked with the head coach daily.
Foley backed Muschamp long after many expected to the coach to be fired, lauding him for imposing high standards on the team off the field after a bumpy end to former coach Urban Meyer's tenure.
The final blow was Saturday’s 23-20 overtime loss to South Carolina, coached by former coach Steve Spurrier. Spurrier set a standard of winning at Florida Muschamp’s teams did not come close to reaching other than in 2012, when the Gators won 11 games.
Muschamp finished 27-20 at UF, including 17-15 in the SEC. Muschamp’s Gators also were just 17-8 in home games, losing three in a row and six of eight games in the Swamp - long considered one of college football’s most intimidating homefields.
Muschamp’s record in rivalry games and against ranked teams were additional strike against him. During the past four seasons, the Gators are 1-2 against FSU and 1-3 against Georgia. UF also was 5-13 against ranked opponents.
Last season’s 4-8 Gators, coupled with a stunning loss in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, cost Muschamp whatever good will he had established during an 11-win regular season in 2012. He entered 2014 needing his program to show progress.
Instead, the Gators needed triple-overtime at home to beat SEC bottom feeder Kentucky, yieled a school-record 672 yards at Alabama and trailed Missouri 42-0 at homecoming - the largest deficit at home in 44 seasons.
Despite all that, Muschamp entered a Nov. 15 visit from South Carolina well positioned to return for the 2015 season. The Gators were coming off decisive wins against Georgia and Vanderbilt highlighted by strong performances on offense behind freshman quarterback Treon Harris.
Gator Nation never embraced the conservative style of play of Muschamp’s teams, which failed to rank among the nation’s top 100 in total offense the past three seasons and currently is No. 91. UF is 116th in passing offense.
The move to Harris, who replaced struggling veteran Jeff Driskel, seemed to finally solve UF’s long-standing offensive struggles under Muschamp and validate the hiring of Kurt Roper - the Gators’ third offensive coordinator since 2011.
Instead, the Gators reverted to overly conservative playcalling during the loss to the Gamecocks to set the stage for a late-game collapse that featured a blocked field goal and blocked punt during the final 3:31.
Muschamp, who earns nearly $3 million a year, has three seasons remaining on his contract. He will receive $2 million per season for the length of his contract.