The dream of being a Gator didn’t seem all that complicated when Will Muschamp was a kid in Gainesville growing up over on Northwest 22nd Street, just a half mile from what was then known as Florida Field. But, like most dreams that go from the fertile imagination to reality, there were enough subplots to fill a three-act Broadway play. Muschamp dreamed of one day playing for the Gators but instead ended up playing football at Georgia, earning a master’s degree while serving as a graduate assistant under Terry Bowden at Auburn, coaching for Nick Saban at LSU and for Tommy Tuberville at Auburn and somewhere along the way co-owning a beach house with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
"I suffered some temporary insanity for awhile," is how Muschamp described his full circle adventure.
"The Narrative" takes hold in Gainesville.
The last 20 years of Will Muschamp’s life have been---the second half of his entire earthly existence to this point is---a sham, an elaborate pretext designed to conceal a lifelong dream.
Finally, Will Muschamp’s secret wish can be revealed. Since graduating from high school, he has devoted his entire adult life to implementing a grandiose conspiracy centered around the sole goal of getting back to Gainesville.
In an effort to keep his intricate plan well hidden, Muschamp opted against walking on at Florida and walked on at Georgia instead, shrewdly and deceptively listing his home town as Rome in Bulldog media guides from the period. Muschamp walked on at Georgia prior to the start of the 1990 season; between the closeted Gator’s birth in August 1971 and his arrival on campus in Athens 19 years later, the Red and Black went 15-4 against the Orange and Blue in Jacksonville, but, as soon as the Sunshine State Saurians’ secret agent was installed in the Classic City, the series shifted in favor of the Gators, who have gone 18-3 over the Bulldogs since, including a 5-0 run during Muschamp’s service as a Florida mole on the Georgia squad.
In the wily operative’s senior season in 1994, the Red and Black took on the Orange and Blue in the Swamp; Georgia had not played at Florida Field since 1931, but Muschamp arranged for it to happen so that he could be a part of a Gator win in Gainesville. To keep his true loyalties under wraps, Muschamp recorded a season-high eight solo tackles in the Sunshine State Saurians’ 52-14 romp over the strong safety’s nominal team.
He continued to keep his identity concealed during a two-year stint as a graduate assistant at Auburn in 1995 and 1996. During the previous pair of seasons, the Plainsmen had gone 2-0 against Gator clubs that went 21-2-1 against opponents other than the Tigers, but, while Will Muschamp was Florida’s inside man in the Loveliest Village, Steve Spurrier’s Saurians went 2-0 against Auburn and outscored Muschamp’s putative employer by a combined 100-48 margin.
When Muschamp joined Nick Saban’s staff at Louisiana State, he continued to keep his eyes lovingly trained on Gainesville; how else can one explain the incongruous fact that the Bayou Bengals’ lone loss during LSU’s 2003 national championship season was to Florida, by a double-digit margin in a home game against a Ron Zook-coached team, no less?
To cover his tracks, Muschamp shrewdly orchestrated Gator losses to teams for which he served as defensive coordinator, always making certain not to disadvantage his Floridian favorites in the process. When Muschamp’s LSU defense dealt the Saurians a setback in Gainesville in 2004, it put Ron Zook one loss away from being fired, thus paving the way for a Gator resurgence; when Muschamp’s Auburn defense defeated Florida in 2006, it did not impede Urban Meyer’s team on its march to the national championship.
Then came the insidious final stage of the scheme: Muschamp made his way from Auburn to Austin, assuming the title of head coach in waiting in order to throw onlookers off the trail. While he was with the Longhorns, though, he was working hard for his true team; although Muschamp’s defenses remained stout, he gradually sapped the life from the Texas offense through offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and offensive coordinator Greg Davis, both of whom had served on Ray Goff’s staff at Georgia during Muschamp’s stay as a double agent in Athens. Coincidence? I think not!
By using Davis and McWhorter, whom he had befriended and brainwashed a decade and a half earlier, as his unwitting pawns in the destruction of the Burnt Orange O, Muschamp cleverly kept his own stock high while wrecking the Longhorn program, thus creating a convenient avenue of escape which---lo and behold!---led ultimately to the turn of events that had been his goal all along. Though he claimed at various points along the way to be a Bulldog, a Tiger, a Tiger of another stripe, a Longhorn, and even, briefly, a Dolphin (while working for an NFL franchise in which state, I ask you?), Will Muschamp was, first, last, and always, a Gator through and through.
That’s your story, and you’re sticking to it, huh, Will? All right, if that’s the way you want to play it, fine. Can we at least have your diploma back, though? It obviously means nothing to you, but it means a lot to us not to have you associated with an alma mater about which you claim never to have given a damn in the first place. You were temporarily insane when you came here, right? Why hang onto a degree that only reminds you of the crazy days before you displayed your true colors and became, once and for all, a Gator?