NEW ORLEANS — What, me worry?
Just because Florida is trying for its 12th victory, and just because his Gators finished one win short of a shot at the BCS Championship Game, Will Muschamp is not sweating it.
And just because Louisville football is at a high-water mark with a 10-2 record and is playing in a BCS bowl for just the second time, Charlie Strong said whatever happens, happens. He can only do the best he can do.
In other words, the coaches in Wednesday night’s Sugar Bowl say they don’t feel the intense pressure said to accompany their positions, in which thousands of fans pay millions of dollars to attend games — and second-guess every missed assignment, third-down conversion and defeat.
Former Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo, now a television commentator, said all coaches, like all people, are different.
“I always remember my wife reminding me how many people’s happiness — or unhappiness — depended on what our teams did that night,” he said. “I always felt pressure because I wanted all those fans to have a happy week.’’
Both coaches are in the midst of careers that have made fans happy — very happy — meaning most of the pressures of the job are self-inflicted.
“The only pressure I ever feel is the pressure I put on myself,” Muschamp said. “Whatever noise that comes from outside these offices (in Gainesville) is just that — noise, and of little consequence.’’
Strong said pressure to win a game — or a certain number of games — is almost non-existent, a product of the fans’ enthusiasm.
“My pressure is to have my team ready to play,’’ he said. “Period.’’
Muschamp has been an assistant at such high-pressure jobs as LSU (when the Tigers won the 2003 BCS championship) and title-contending programs Auburn and Texas. Strong was a longtime assistant and defensive coordinator at Florida when the Gators won two BCS championships.
No wonder each insisted he doesn’t have more weight on his shoulders than anyone else in a profession that requires a high degree of expertise.
“Those folks just don’t have thousands of people looking at their work and believing they know more than you do,’’ DiNardo said with a laugh.
The one smudge on Muschamp’s career is that, as a defensive back at Georgia and now as Florida’s coach, he is 0-6 in the annual game between the schools, bitter rivals who play at a neutral site in Jacksonville, Fla.
“You know, I didn’t even realize that until a television reporter reported it after this year’s game,’’ Muschamp said of this season’s 17-9 defeat to Georgia, which cost the Gators a spot in the SEC Championship Game and possibly the BCS title tilt.
“Look, I want to win. But if I don’t, I just start working to win next season. All losses eat at you. You have to learn from them.’’
Said Strong: “You want to win them all, but that’s not realistic. At the end of the day, you just have to look at the total body of work. There will be games you could have lost and games that looking back maybe you should have won.’’