CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Will Muschamp was hired by Florida on Dec. 11, 2010. Al Golden got hired by Miami a day later.
The parallels between the coaches hardly stop there.
Both are in their early 40s, both played at big-time schools, both were defensive coordinators before getting chances to lead a program and both inherited tough jobs at marquee institutions. Some might say they even have similar appearances and sideline demeanors, and it’s fair to say neither had the full support of their respective fan bases upon arrival at their current gigs.
And now, their paths collide for the first time.
Muschamp and No. 12 Florida (1-0) will hit the road Saturday, visiting Golden and Miami (1-0) in the 55th meeting between the longtime rivals who aren’t expected to play again after this weekend for several years.
“When it was in Miami, I remember watching or listening on the radio,” said Muschamp, who hasn’t — officially, anyway — been part of any Florida-Miami games, but knows the series well considering he lived in the Gators’ home of Gainesville, Fla. as a kid. “And then obviously when it was here in Gainesville, I was trying to get in the stadium somehow.”
He won’t have to clamor for a way in Saturday, and on that front, he’s one of the lucky ones. Miami had to add seats to accommodate as many fans as possible for this game, where some tickets on the secondary markets have been sold for well over face value.
For Golden, while a sold-out building will look good to recruits and a nationwide television audience, the atmosphere won’t take him off his “two acres and a football” approach that many of his players now quote as their own. He’s keeping his worries this week to what will happen on the field.
“We’re a more mature team, to be honest with you,” Golden said, comparing the 2013 ’Canes to his past two clubs. “I think it’s more about our guys just focusing on what they need to take control of, the things that they can control and stay in the bunker if you will and just get ready to play. We’re playing a great team, a team that runs the ball with power and authority, excellent quarterback, guys that can make things happen on the perimeter on defense.”
Muschamp played college football at Georgia, Golden at Penn State. Muschamp ran the defense at Texas before the Gators made him a head coach, Golden was the defensive coordinator at Virginia before Temple came calling with an offer to turn around its program.
And this current chapter has not been easy, for either coach.
Muschamp replaced Urban Meyer at a time when the Florida program looked to be in rapid decline, not long after winning two national championships in three years. The Gators went 8-5 the season before Muschamp arrived, then 7-6 in his first season before rallying with an 11-2 mark a year ago.
“I don’t know Will,” Golden said. “I have tremendous respect for him as a football coach and as a man and as a teacher. But I don’t have a relationship with him. I have a lot of respect for him, respect for the job that he’s done there.”
But as far as saying that the difficulty of the jobs are parallel, Golden disagreed, with a good and obvious reason.
Golden has never coached a single game at Miami without the still-unresolved NCAA investigation — sparked by the actions of a former booster, leading to allegations handed down earlier this year that did not implicate Golden — hanging over his program.
Even Muschamp agrees that Golden has had it rough.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Al,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s a really good football coach. I think his situation was much different and much tougher than ours certainly because of the NCAA violations. I think he and his staff have done a fantastic job. They’ve recruited extremely well, I think they’re very good football coaches. Again, they’ve done a really good job.”
Both teams have big expectations this season. Florida is widely considered one of the contenders in the loaded Southeastern Conference, and Miami is the popular pick to win the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division title.
Come Saturday afternoon, either Muschamp or Golden will have a win that might serve as quite a springboard for the rest of the season.
“I don’t know that anybody’s ‘back,’ ” Muschamp said. “I think Al would say the same thing.”
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