Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Win Today Might Muffle Zook Critics

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Win Today Might Muffle Zook Critics

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, Times-Union sports writer

The story lines for today's Florida-Florida State game have centered on things like the rivalry's animosity factor diminishing without Steve Spurrier, the importance of establishing the run, and how the Seminoles can offset the loss of wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe.

But one underlying issue gets little attention: this is as close to a validation game for Gators coach Ron Zook that he's had since taking the job.

Fans have gone back and forth between questioning Zook's ability to be a head coach and praising his resiliency in tough circumstances. But a win over FSU at home, where Zook's team has yet to play well against a credible opponent during his tenure, would go a long way toward minimizing the "noise in the system."

Last year, Zook was on the verge of silencing his critics until struggling FSU thumped the Gators 31-14 in Tallahassee. When UF followed with a bowl loss to Michigan, that got the anti-Zook chorus revved up all over again.

That's why today's game is bigger for Zook than anyone. It not only gives the Gators a chance for a 10-win season that seemed impossible two months ago. But for the first time, Zook may finally achieve, if only temporarily, true acceptance as the right man for the job. . . .

Auburn clearly had intentions of firing Tommy Tuberville and replacing him with Louisville's Bob Petrino until AU school officials were embarrassed, and rightfully so, that their secret courtship of Petrino before the Alabama game became public knowledge. Auburn president William Walker, as well as athletic director David Housel for being a poor adviser, should be ousted for this unconscionable blunder. It's any school's prerogative to change coaches, but no coach deserves to be humiliated by an administration conducting a search while he's still on the job. …

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