“What’s wrong with this younger generation of Gators?”

I chose the title of this post carefully because the quote holds special meaning.

In 1999, I took three friends (you know them as Croshere, Partykiller and the Don Calvino) to the Swamp to watch the Florida Gators play Alabama.  These were good Alabama teams back then but not great, certainly not like they are now.  The Gator Football program was in considerably better shape.  The Gators entered that game ranked third in the nation.  In fact, Florida had won seven of their last eight in the series, yet that game, they lost an overtime thriller by what we ultimately deemed ‘the score of the devil.’


That upset snapped a thirty-game home win streak at the Swamp.  Alabama’s Shaun Alexander accounted for 200 all-purpose yards.  It was, pun intended, a turning of the tide. 

After a night out on the town, and far too many whiskeys, still stewing about the loss, I began rambling like an old man (I was in my early thirties) to anyone who would listen about how good things used to be.  Unable to get that bad taste out of my mouth (40-39 tastes bitter), I blurted out a line that lives on in infamy amongst my friends. 

“What’s wrong with this younger generation of Gators,” I mumbled drunkenly to some co-ed, who went on about her conversation as if I was some loon longing for a fonder time and taking football a little too seriously.  She was right on all counts.

Even she would have to agree, come 2022, it’s time to bring that line out of retirement.

I can tell you this much.  It’s a good thing I work Saturdays because, as a Florida fan, the program is getting tougher and tougher to watch.  There, is without question, something wrong with this young generation of Gators.

I’m not going to regurgitate how glorious things were back in the day.  You all know your history.  There was once a time when Florida Football consistently contended for national championships.  The program racked up Southeastern Conference championships like they were handing them out at the door.

Between 1991 and 2020, Florida won 15 SEC Eastern Division titles. Between 1991 and 2008, the school won eight SEC championships.  For those of you doing the math at home, that means if your name isn’t either Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer, you haven’t won a conference title at the University of Florida.

To be fair (cue Letterkenny choir), winning that conference is no easy task.  You have Alabama, who the Gators haven’t beaten since 2008, routinely contending for a national title.  Recently Georgia got the proverbial monkey off their back, winning their first championship since people still respected Herschel Walker.  If Florida’s not careful, they’ll stare a drought that long right in the face.  The drought of irrelevance.

Recently, Florida Football has been saddled with pockmarks it hasn’t seen since before the Ol’ Ball Coach arrived on campus.  For thirty straight seasons, Florida beat Kentucky in football.  The Gators have lost three of their last five in that rivalry.  Florida had won 16 of 17 against Tennessee.  They lost this year to a program that just beat Alabama.  Between 1990 and 2003, Florida lost to Georgia only once.  As soon as Spurrier step foot on campus, he let everyone know that was the most important game on the schedule.  Georgia has won four of the last five in this rivalry and appears primed for another.

I’m admittedly jaded. The diplomas on my wall read University of Florida in fine cursive letters but you’re not going to convince me Florida isn’t a school that shouldn’t be competing for a national title, or at least a conference and division title, year in and year out.  Win your division, play in the SEC title game and the committee all but ushers you into their playoffs. 

“Playoffs” he mutters aloud in Jim Mora-like fashion?  “I’m just hoping we can win a game!”

Since Urban Meyer left in 2011, the Gators have had only two one-loss seasons in conference, once in 2012 in Will Muschamp’s second year as head coach, the other in 2019 in Dan Mullen’s second year as head coach.  The glass half full Gator fan sees Coach Billy Napier’s second season next year and prays for only two losses.  It would be a dramatic improvement.  The glass half empty Gator fan remains mired in tropical depression.

Steve Spurrier lost 12 conference games in ten years.  He lost only FIVE games at home during that time.  Meyer lost 12 games in six years.  In the last twelve years, the Florida Gators have lost 38 conference games… and counting.  To make matters worse, the Swamp is no longer feared.  It’s just another place to play.

Will Muschamp in 2011, Jim McElwain in 2015 and Dan Mullen in 2018 were all considered quality hires.  Muschamp was a defensive minded guru that would bring an intensity to the program in Meyer’s absence.  He was summarily run out of town when that didn’t happen.  Jim McElwain was a fresh young mind that similarly would restore the program.  Like Muschamp before him, Gator fans all but helped him pack his bags when that blew up in his face.  Dan Mullen seemed to be right man for the job as well.  With links to former national title teams, Mullen would return home and bring the Gators back to glory.  I don’t think he’s allowed back in Gainesville after going 2-6 in conference play.

Now it’s Billy Napier’s turn.  Like the three names mentioned above, Napier was the right guy for the job.  The hottest commodity with recruiting links to southern hotbeds.  The Gators are currently 1-3 in conference and are staring down their annual matchup with top-ranked Georgia.  This game has bloodbath written all over it.

So, my question to you is this… why can no coach win at Florida? 

Since Urban Meyer, Florida has taken three qualified coaches and disgraced them to the point where they’ve become irrelevant.  Muschamp is assisting the defense on the Georgia sideline.  McElwain is head coach at Central Michigan, a team that would probably beat Florida. Dan Mullen is a television analyst waiting for his performance at Florida to get far enough in the rearview mirror before finding another coaching gig.  For those of you wondering at home, another coach Florida ran out of town, Ron Zook, was last seen coaching in the XFL.

I don’t know of another program that boots its former coaches so unceremoniously.  Maybe that’s why the program is cursed, like corpses rising from the grave in Poltergeist, they haunt the current regime with losses past.

All is not nearly as rosy for Coach Napier as it was in springtime.  The honeymoon is officially over, leaving me and countless other Florida football fans to wonder what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on. 

Starting quarterback Anthony Richardson went from being a Heisman hopeful, to a player who in no way should be even mentioned as a possibility.  Richardson ranks 79th in the nation in passing yardage and is singlehandedly perpetuating the myth of the black quarterback.  And Florida’s defense, who in the last few years forgot how to tackle, has somehow gotten worse.  They are allowing a very un-Florida-like 28 points and 429 yards per game, which is good for 12th out of 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference.  That kind of stink is going to lose you a lot of ball games.

Maybe the program is still reeling from selling its soul for the national titles it won under Meyer.  An upcoming Netflix documentary may bear that out.  Things have gotten so bad in Gainesville that we don’t even hear Spurrier barbs anymore.  At least back then he could back it up.  What’s he got to say now other than this team sure is playing some gosh darned bad football?  And he’d be right.

As I mentioned earlier, I work Saturdays, so I don’t pretend to watch every game… but they’re on in the background and they sure do make my blood pressure rise.  With every maddening play, my cellphone buzzes containing a variety of curse words from my various Gator knitting circles, all of whom are about to throw whiskey bottles at their television sets and ask, in unison, what’s wrong with this younger generation of Gators.

Billy Napier has been assigned the task at hand but as we’ve seen with the current protesting of the school’s potential incoming new president, this isn’t a fan base that takes appointments lightly.  If Napier doesn’t right this ship, he’ll be gone just like those before him, leaving the school on another search for the next hot commodity.

Here’s hoping he turns things around so we can stop firing coaches and at the same time stop asking that same, stupid question.

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