Billy Donovan threw his support behind embattled Florida football coach Will Muschamp and said that his colleague has been focused on trying to turn around the downtrodden Gators program.
Donovan, a two-time national champion with the Gators and the SEC's longest-tenured men's basketball coach, said he is well aware of the pressures Muschamp has experienced after winning only four games last year, starting 3-3 this season and now hearing continual calls for his job.
"Certainly coming toward the end before [Urban Meyer] left, I think Will walked into a very challenging situation. I think everybody knew that," said Donovan, who appeared Friday on the ESPNU College Basketball podcast with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg. "I think he built in a style of play his first year, and I think he saw a huge jump in his second year. Last year what happened, and I give Will a lot of credit, I don't think enough people have talked about this, people look at their record a year ago and how difficult and challenging it was. As a head coach, he never, ever made one excuse for his players or for himself with the amount of injuries they had. It was totally impossible to overcome the level and the talent of the players that he had.
"And I will tell you this: I am a huge Will Muschamp fan. I really respect him as a man. I respect the way he goes to work every day, and the way he's tried to deal and address his team. Certainly in these situations, they are always challenging. But as a man, he is a great guy and I think he's an outstanding football coach. I don't know enough about the X's and O's in football to probably pass an opinion on that. But I do know Will Muschamp is a man, and there's nobody rooting harder for him than I am because he's all about the right things."
Florida has a bye week before facing No. 9 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Nov. 1 in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) are coming off two straight home losses, including an ugly 42-13 homecoming defeat to Missouri on Saturday that saw fans boo quarterback Jeff Driskel and chant "Fire Muschamp" before flocking to the exits in the third quarter.
What gets lost amid the constant criticism of a struggling high-profile program, Donovan said, is a coach's family. While a coach can somewhat cloak himself in his job, his family is more likely exposed to the barrage of criticism.
"We understand as coaches there is going to be some criticism. We get that," Donovan said. "I think sometimes when it bleeds over, and starts affecting other people's lives, that's challenging. People may say, 'Well listen, you shouldn't have taken the job. This is the profession you chose.' I get that. But I think people can also look at the fact there are some other people involved.
"Listen, if Will Muschamp is out playing golf every day, and not working, he's not doing that, I get that. But this guy is working his tail off. He's there round-the-clock trying to make his team better."