Could Joker Phillips' Departure Mean Suspension for Will Muschamp?

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Could Joker Phillips' Departure Mean Suspension for Will Muschamp?
USA Today

Whenever there's a coaching change during the summer, it will certainly raise eyebrows. Former Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips' departure from Florida late last week was no exception.

Phillips, who was entering his second season with the Gators after previously serving as the head coach of Kentucky, resigned his post in Gainesville for personal reasons according to a release from the University of Florida.

James Crisp/Associated Press
Former Florida WR coach Joker Phillips

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons," Phillips said.

After Phillips made the announcement, Charles Robinson and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports reported that his resignation was related to a photo that surfaced of the coach meeting with a high school prospect in a restaurant during a recruiting dead period.

The abrupt resignation by Phillips speaks to the serious nature of the infraction, but just how serious could it be?

According to John Infante, author of The Bylaw Blog on AthleticScholarships.net, it could cause head coach Will Muschamp to be suspended even if it's considered a Level III violation rather than a Level II, thanks to the head coach responsibility bylaw.

John Raoux/Associated Press
Florida head coach Will Muschamp

Harsh? Yes.

Appropriate? Maybe not, considering Phillips' abrupt resignation. But suspension being on the table certainly is appropriate.

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Florida head coach Will Muschamp

This is part of the new enforcement structure of the NCAA which was announced in October 2012. That structure, according to ESPN.com, diminishes a coach's plausible deniability and forces the head coach to prove that he didn't know of the transgression in order to avoid a suspension ranging from 10 percent of the season to a full season.

That's a good thing.

Coaches should be responsible for their assistants, and if they're breaking major recruiting rules, that's a program problem as it's an individual problem. The responsibility for maintaining an atmosphere of compliance does and should fall on the head coach.

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Now it's almost impossible for Muschamp to prove he didn't know something happened, but Phillips' abrupt resignation will certainly signal that the head coach of the Gators isn't taking this lightly, and recognizes that something needs to be done.

Isn't that the goal of the new legislation?

Muschamp likely won't be suspended for the alleged incident unless more evidence comes to light, nor should he be.

But suspension being on the table at all is a sign that, despite a laundry list of missteps that has the NCAA in the crosshairs of lawyers around the country, at least one aspect of the new enforcement structure got something right.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.


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