Success is a relative term. Merely going to a bowl game is a success for one team and a given for another. Some schools expect to compete for conference and national championships; others just hope. What does that success look like at each school? Over a player’s four years in school, what is the measure of success?
Today, we look at Florida. Gainesville has had so much historic success. In the last 20 years they have 3 national titles, several SEC titles and even more East crowns. The bar is high in Florida even if it hasn’t been met consistently in the last few years.
The Gators demand that they be a premier program nationally. At least once very four years they must win the SEC and be in the national title hunt. They want to win it all, but they must be in contention for it. It can’t happen every year, but once in every player’s career is expected. If a coach fails to do this, he will quickly be out of a job. It is a high bar to clear, but it is expected.
In addition to winning the SEC, Florida expects to be in contention to win the East every year, and understanding the reality of competition, they can expect to win it half the time. That translates to two SEC East titles every four years. In fact, that might be selling the expectations short. Since 1990 Florida has had two coaches it considers to be successes: Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Spurrier won the East 7 out of 10 years. Meyer won it 3 out of 6 years. That’s a combined 10/16 or 62.5% of the time. The remaining coaches: 1/8.
Florida’s level of expectations are high. That translates to rivalry games as well. The Gators don’t expect to keep pace with their rivals like some of the other teams we’ve covered (South Carolina, Kentucky); they expect to beat them. So, a coach needs to win 3 out of 4 against both Florida State and Georgia. They don’t play Miami often enough for that to be a measuring stick game. It goes without saying 3 out of 4 applies to Tennessee as well, especially since the Vols have been wandering in the desert in the post-Fulmer era.
Along with the titles and rivalry games, Florida expects to be great every year. They need 10 win seasons and New Year’s Day bowl games. This is another area where the standard may actually be higher. In the Spurrier years 10 win years became commonplace and were themselves disappointing without the titles to go with them, It has been said that this attitude, this level of expectation, helped push the legendary coach to the Washington Redskins. That being said, anyone who expects more than 10 win seasons and New Year’s Bowl games is expecting a little much.
Coach Jim McElwain has the benefit of following the lackluster years of Will Muschamp, but he would be deluding himself to think the standard isn’t still high. If he wants to appease the blue and orange he’ll need to win at a high level. An East title in the first year is a great start, but as we’ve laid out, there is more to do.
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