Finding the right coach to lead the Gator Nation was a tough enough job to begin with. Having to do the searching in public made the process a whole lot harder. What if Jeremy Foley had just kept everything to himself and then popped up yesterday and said “It’s Ron Zook.” Gator fans would have said, “What about Bob Stoops, what about Mike Shanahan?” But having been publicly turned down by both of those guys, Foley had to go to Plan B or Plan C and reach a little farther down that “short list” of replacements he keeps on his desk.
The initial reaction has been lukewarm which seems a little unfair to both Zook and Foley. Jeremy’s track record for hiring coaches is nearly flawless. Zook has no track record as a head coach, and perhaps that’s what bothers many Gator fans. Or is he not “high profile” enough? Or they didn’t like his defensive scheme when he was the coordinator at Florida the last time around. Either way, Zook will always have to be the guy who replaced Spurrier, and he’ll have to be the guy who’s not Spurrier as well.
Would fans rather have Tyrone Willingham? How about Mike Belotti? After Stoops and then Shanahan, anybody would be a wild card pick. Foley went for the card he knew, instead of searching around and ending up with the unknown. I knew Zook fairly well when he was here in the ‘90’s and nobody will bring more passion and emotion to the job. He’s a terrific recruiter. And just observing him from afar since he went to the NFL, he seems more settled, more technically adept, more ready to be a head coach. I don’t know how he’ll do, but nobody was really sure about Spurrier in 1990 either. Honest. They wondered whether he was serious enough for the job. Zook isn’t going to have much of a honeymoon, maybe just a kiss on the cheek. And his new partners are going to expect results.
Zook will be introduced in Gainesville today, and we’ll have his comments on the Internet on Samsportsline.com.