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Some players yelled, others left

10/26/2004 - Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The decision to fire Florida coach Ron
Zook was welcomed by Gator fans around the country.

It didn't get the same reception in the locker room.

Players strongly defended their coach Tuesday and chastised
athletic director Jeremy Foley for the timing of the move.

"He basically just ripped the heart out of the team," safety
Jarvis Herring said. "He kept saying it was all about the team,
all about the team. No, it's not about the team. It's really about
the damn boosters and the fans or whatever. That's all it's about.
It's nothing about us. We're just in the middle. We're just
trapped."

Zook held a team meeting Monday to inform the players of his
dismissal, then gave the floor to Foley. What followed was another
embarrassing scene in what has become a season filled with them for
the Gators.

Some players yelled at Foley. Others got up and walked out.

"It got very heated," Herring said. "The questions only
lasted 10 minutes. If it would've lasted any longer, there's no
telling what might've happened."

Linebacker Travis Harris was one of the few players who stood up
in the meeting and questioned Foley about the firing, which came
five days before Florida's annual rivalry game against 10th-ranked
Georgia.

"I just let him know that it wasn't well thought out," said
Harris, a senior. "If a decision needs to be made, that's cool.
But if the coach is going to remain the whole season, why put a
damper on this year like that? Why not wait?

"I just don't understand that. It just felt like he was saying,
'Forget the rest of this season. I don't care what you guys
think."

Harris said Foley never actually answered his question.

"He just gave me the run-around," Harris said. "He said
you're entitled to your opinion. He felt like it was the best thing
to do and blah, blah, blah."

It shouldn't be a surprise that the team backed Zook, a great
recruiter who has often been criticized for being too close to his
players.

He has been accused of being too lenient when handing down
punishments, including recently when he didn't penalize three
players involved in a fight with fraternity members on campus.
Hours later, Zook showed up at the fraternity house and got into a
shouting match with several students.

Standout linebacker Channing Crowder has been arrested twice in
as many years, but was suspended just one game for each arrest.

There also was Zook's handling of suspensions to Jonathan Colon
and Mo Mitchell, players kicked off the team in June 2003 for
missing classes, tests and punishments. Zook let the team vote on
whether they should be reinstated.

Ultimately, the Gators didn't get it done on the field.

But instead of trying to figure out why they haven't been able
to stop the run, win close games or beat teams from Mississippi,
the Gators spent Tuesday whining about Zook's firing.

"Some of the guys are really thinking about leaving," Herring
said. "They're tired of some of the decisions being made upstairs
by you know who."

Foley said he recognizes the players' frustration.

"I understand their disappointment and anger, and they are
entitled to their opinion," he said. "They're close to their head
coach, and I respect that."