GatorZone.com Senior Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Most expected the Gator Bowl press conference here Thursday afternoon to include several questions about a former Florida coach.
But no one expected that coach to be Charlie Weis.
However, about 15 minutes before Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Ohio State’s Luke Fickell stepped onto a podium at the Hyatt Regency to discuss the meeting between the Buckeyes and Gators, news broke that Weis will be introduced on Friday as head coach at the University of Kansas.
Instead of more questions about Urban Meyer looming over this 67th annual Gator Bowl, Weis’ departure added another twist to the storyline.
Muschamp said he learned Weis was leaving a couple of hours prior to arriving and wished his most notable hire at UF well as Weis becomes a head coach for the first time since being fired at Notre Dame after the 2009 season.
“I’m very happy for him and his wife Maura,’’ Muschamp said. “I’m really excited for them. Getting an opportunity to be a head coach, it’s a great compliment for our staff. We’ve had numerous schools contact me about prospective coaches on our staff and for him to have an opportunity to be a head coach again – I know he’s really excited about it.
“We certainly wish him the best of luck.’’
Muschamp said he spoke to Weis in recent days about Kansas’ interest and that he understood Weis’ decision to leave after only one season at Florida.
“There aren’t many opportunities you get to be a head coach. I know Charlie, the last one didn’t end the way he wanted it to. He’s an outstanding football coach.”
“He was contacted about the job and we talked about it and he told me it was an opportunity he wanted to take, and I support him 1,000 percent. Any time, and our profession is no different than the business world, when you’re able to take a step up, I support it 1,000 percent.’’
In Weis’ only season with the Gators, Florida’s offense opened the season impressively but once the SEC portion of the scheduled arrived, the Gators stalled, partly due to an injury to fifth-year senior quarterback John Brantley and in part due to personnel more suited for Meyer’s spread-option offense than Weis’ pro-style attack.
Florida finished ranked 102nd nationally in total offense with an average of 334.2 yards per game. The Gators finished 72nd in scoring offense at 25.6 points a game.
Despite the struggles, Weis maintained as recently as the week prior to the Florida-Florida State game that he was determined to improve the offense next season and that he was happy at Florida. His wife Maura is a horse enthusiast and the family purchased a horse farm in Reddick last fall after Weis signed a three-year contract.
In the end, an opportunity to become a head coach apparently was too much to pass up. Weis will address the media in Kansas on Friday afternoon.
As for the Gators, Muschamp said running backs coach Brian White will take over play-calling duties in the Gators Bowl. White is a former offensive coordinator at Wisconsin and was hired at UF by Meyer.
When Muschamp took over the program after the Outback Bowl in January, he kept White on staff and holds him in high regard.
“Brian is certainly a guy who will be considered for the job,’’ Muschamp said. “He’s got play-calling experience and he’s got a great background. I’ve got tremendous confidence in Brian. He’s recruited about half the really good players on our roster. I knew then he was a guy we needed to keep. It was a no-brainer for me [to keep him].”
Muschamp said the Gators will remain a pro-style offense and that he will take his time in replacing Weis.
“I will go hire the best offensive coordinator in the country,’’ Muschamp said. “We need to improve offensively, it’s pretty obvious. We’re looking forward to taking those steps forward, but we’re happy for Charlie.’’
When asked if he has candidates in mind, Muschamp said, “oh yeah.”
One candidate Muschamp was asked about was former Gators quarterback Kerwin Bell. Muschamp said Bell is worth consideration and that he expects no problems finding good candidates based on the job’s attractiveness.