First, the coach quit. Then he came back. Then his team lost five games. Then he quit again. On his way out the door, he said the program he had built into a national power was "broken." A replacement was hired to fix it. He promptly lost six games in his first season.
Will Muschamp replaced Urban Meyer after the 2010 season.
To say the least, the past few years in Gainesville, Fla., have been a roller coaster ride.
At the same time, however, Florida actually has been pretty steady on the recruiting trail. There, the Gators have continued to win -- and win big -- despite a coaching change, two consecutive subpar seasons by its standards, a slip in national prominence and back-to-back embarrassing losses to arch-rival Florida State.
The question is, how?
After all, if winning big is supposed to help recruiting, shouldn't winning less hurt it?
"Well, when you have sub-par years, everybody thinks they can come in and star," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "That helps in recruiting. That's one [thing] that sells, is an opportunity. It's part of the reason why a young man may choose a university. He sees himself having an opportunity to play. I think that was the No. 1 selling point for a lot of young men, whether I was selling an opportunity or not, they thought that they could come in and certainly contribute. As most young men do, when they get to a place like Florida, they realize that we still have some good players here. We just maybe had some area we needed to shore up. I think that would be the No. 1 attraction for having sub-par years. And then you look at the tradition of Florida and winning and you look at the academic reputation. You get this diploma, it's not a state degree, it's not a regional degree, it's a national degree. I think all of those things sell itself, but certainly when you struggle a little bit, there is opportunity for a young student-athlete coming in."
Florida enters this week's game against LSU at 4-0. But a year ago, it was only 7-6. The season before that, the Gators were 8-5.
The 11 combined losses from 2010-11 are more than Florida had the five previous years, when it won 13 games three different times and claimed two national championships.
Thriving in recruiting while lagging on the field would seem to go against conventional wisdom, but recent data suggests Florida isn't the only big-name program that has done it.
2011 signee Jeff Driskel is the Gators' starting QB.
Take Georgia, for instance. It wasn't that long ago -- two seasons in fact -- that the Bulldogs went a dismal 6-7 and there was plenty of chatter among fans and pundits that the job of coach Mark Richt could be in jeopardy. All Georgia did the following February was sign two five-star prospects and finish with the No. 6 recruiting class in the 247Composite ratings.
In 2010, Florida State landed three five-star recruits and had the No. 9 class. That came after a 7-6 season and the ousting of legendary coach Bobby Bowden, known as arguably the best closer the world of recruiting has ever seen.
Currently, Auburn has the No. 7 class, and its list of commits includes three five stars. Meanwhile, the Tigers are only 1-3.
Each of these examples seem to support Muschamp's argument that on-field slumps don't always stunt tradition-rich programs such as Florida in recruiting.
In Gainesville, that winning tradition truly started in 1990 with the arrival of former Gators player Steve Spurrier as coach. Florida not only won a national title and five SEC championships in the 1990s, but put together the country's fourth-best winning percentage (.820).
Spurrier left after the 2001 season, and Florida briefly dipped in the Ron Zook era. But Zook generally has been credited with recruiting well despite the inconsistency on Saturdays and many of the players he signed played a role with the team's 2006 national championship squad, coached by Urban Meyer. Florida -- and Meyer -- again finished No. 1 after the 2008 season, and in the decade from 2000-09 the Gators had the best winning percentage of any SEC program.
But in Meyer's final season, the team fell far short of expectations and the coach admitted there were internal issues. After Meyer bolted, Muschamp, who was known for his recruiting prowess, took over.
Having little time to put together a class, Muschamp's first group wasn't great, but it was respectable and finished ranked No. 11 nationally. Although it included a handful of players that already have left the program, it also featured, among others, five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel, the team's current starting signal caller, and cornerback Marcus Roberson, a four-star recruit that has become a valuable first-stringer.
True freshman Dante Fowler already is making an impact in Gainesville.
Class No. 2, the one Muschamp and Co. inked in February, finished in the No. 4 spot nationally, trailed only Alabama in the SEC and included five-star talents in offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and defensive end Dante Fowler, both of whom already are significant contributors as true freshmen.
"He's a great recruiter," Driskel said of Muschamp. "He recruited me just a little bit at the end. I wasn't here when he first took over. But he was a great recruiter, and he's definitely a guy who's straight up with you. I think that's what high school guys are really looking for, coaches that are straight up and honest with you. I think that's how he handles his business. [Muschamp] tells us, 'Those are going to be the guys you're going to be playing with the next couple of years,' so he wants us around while he's talking to these recruits. To me, he's a normal guy. He doesn't try to act like he's above anybody else, or that he's entitled. He's just a blue collar guy, and that's how he wants his team to be."
Currently, Florida is putting together another stout group for 2013, not only getting quality but picking up verbals from players at positions of need. Five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, five-star tailback Kelvin Taylor (son of former Florida standout Fred Taylor), four-star outside linebacker Daniel McMillian and four-star receiver Ahmad Fulwood are among the better commits in a group ranked No. 4.
What should be noted is that the Gators were well on their way to producing this highly rated group long before they got off to their 4-0 start -- or before the season started, even as there was still a sizable cloud of uncertainty hanging over the program.
Today, Florida already is working on its 2014 class. Four-star junior quarterback Will Grier of Davidson (N.C.) Day, among the Gators' top targets, said he hasn't been fazed by the dip in on-field production that took place in Gainesville in 2010 and 2011. Grier not only sees opportunity, but thinks he has the ability to make Florida elite again (a confidence top players often have). That's why the Gators are firmly in the hunt for his services.
"Florida is Florida," Grier said. "Florida is a great program with so much success but it may not be at a peak in its timeline right now. I feel like I can go turn that around. Florida hasn't been as successful as they normally are, but they also haven't been really bad. They play in the toughest conference in college football."