GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It didn't take long for Florida to find Urban Meyer's replacement.
Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will be hired as the school's 23rd head coach, the school announced just three days after Meyer resigned.
Tabbed as the coach in waiting at Texas 2008, the former Gainesville resident finally got his first head coaching job after 16 years as an assistant.
"This is a dream come true to be the head coach of the Florida Gators," said Muschamp in a press release. "I grew up watching the Gators and whatever other SEC team was on television. I have great memories watching SEC football with my father on Saturdays and playing football in the backyard with my two brothers right here in Gainesville."
Muschamp will be introduced in a press conference Tuesday at 6 p.m. EST at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It is a homecoming of sorts for Muschamp as he spent 10 years of his childhood in Gainesville.
Muschamp's hiring came just days after Meyer stepped down to spend more time with his family. At the press conference to announce Meyer's resignation, Foley said, "This is a tough job. So if you haven't been a head coach, you're going to have to be pretty special."
But the Gators' AD said in the school's release that Muschamp, 39, was the only coach he targeted. Muschamp has previous experience in the SEC, playing four years as a safety at Georgia in the early 1990s. He was also defensive coordinator at Auburn and LSU.
In eight seasons as a defensive coordinator, Muschamp's teams have allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards per game. In the past three seasons, Texas ranks No. 1 with 119 sacks for 949 yards lost.
During the five years that Muschamp worked as an SEC defensive coordinator, his defenses ranked among the nation's top 10 in total defense each year.
"He is the only person we met with and the only person we offered the job to," Foley said.
His hiring comes after speculation that Florida would pursue other high-profile coaches. An Internet rumor that the school was in contract negotiations with Bob Stoops was denied by the Oklahoma coach on Saturday. Other head coaches, namely Boise State's Chris Petersen and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, were rumored to be on Florida's list.
Instead, Foley took the same route he did in 2002 with Ron Zook's hiring — giving a first-time head coaching job to an assistant.
"We just got a great coach!" linebacker Dee Finley wrote on Twitter.
Meyer will coach the Gators (7-5) in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Penn State (7-5). Texas is not bowl eligible after finishing 5-7 in head coach Mack Brown's worst season.
It is unclear when Muschamp will move to Gainesville and start working with the team. A UF spokesman said that would be addressed at Tuesday's press conference.
Muschamp takes over a program at its lowest point since Zook was fired in 2004. The Gators' five losses are the most Meyer has had in a season and Florida had its first three-game losing streak since 1988. Muschamp inherits an offense that has struggled throughout the year and ranks 79th nationally.
Meyer had assured fans he would rebuild before taking time to reflect on his career and deciding to step away. He called Muschamp "a great hire" for Florida.
"He is a relentless recruiter and brings a tremendous amount of energy and passion to the game," Meyer said in a release. "I would run into him on the road often on the recruiting trail and have always been impressed with him as a coach and a person."
Players contacted by the Orlando Sentinel did not return phone messages Saturday evening. Instead, many of them reacted on Twitter and Facebook.
"A new chapter is about to begin..." tight end Stephen Alli tweeted.
(c) 2010, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
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