by Jeff Barlis
There is certainly no doubting the sincerity of Florida head coach Will Muschamp’s angry rant against the NCAA’s decision to suspend sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd a couple of weeks ago. But perhaps the most lasting result of Muschamp’s rant could be felt in recruiting.
Shockwaves were sent out across the nation on Sept. 8 when Muschamp — a brand new head coach with all of one game under his belt, a young man in the coaching ranks — lashed out at the NCAA publicly like few coaches ever have.
The Sharrif Floyd story is well known to Gator fans by now. He grew up impoverished in Philadelphia and needed help from his high school coaches, guidance counselor and community just to stay off the streets, with clothes and food. Floyd also accepted help in the form of travel expenses for unofficial recruiting visits. He reported all of this to the University of Florida Athletic Association Office of Compliance.
“One of my friends that was also being recruited, as I was starting to be highly recruited, started getting investigated,” Floyd recalled after playing his first game last Saturday. “So I felt the need to come to (Florida’s) compliance office, tell them everything I’ve been through, help them to understand my story. They told me nothing was wrong, so I had no worries. I kept working out, kept getting ready for the season.”
Two and a half hours before the season opener, Floyd was told by the UF compliance office that he would not play. When the NCAA took two games away, he said, it felt like they were piling on.
Muschamp reacted swiftly, crafting the following statement that was released on the same day the NCAA made its decision …
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.
Florida players, like sophomore Trey Burton, were soothed by Muschamp’s public show of support.
“(It says) that he has our back,” Burton said after Florida’s game against UAB. “We knew from Day 1 that he had our back no matter what, especially with something like that. It’s comforting to know that.”
No one felt it more than Floyd.
“I love Coach Muschamp and the whole staff. When that happened, our bond just got closer,” he said on Saturday night. “He understands my situation. He understands the type of person that I am, and so do all the other coaches, especially the defensive staff who is around me every day.
“So I love all the coaches for how they approached it, and Jamie (McCloskey, UF’s Senior Associate Athletic Director of Compliance) and Mr. (Jeremy) Foley for the way they approached it. I couldn’t ask for more.”
With Muschamp leading the way, the Gator players rallied around Floyd.
“It just showed me how much I mean to the team and how much the team cares about me,” Floyd said. “And I love all of those guys. I’d do anything for any of them. I mean, really, anything for any of them. Walk-ons, too. So, I was happy to see that. Yeah, it was pretty touching.”
There simply is no team-building exercise that could be more effective than how Muschamp handled a difficult situation in which one of his best players missed two games.
And there is little doubt that propsects and their families and coaches took notice. College coaches talk to teenage recruits and their parents all the time about having father figures when they leave home. They constantly tout the family atmosphere in their programs.
Few have proven it to such an extent as Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators did with Sharrif Floyd.