In 2005, the Lovett School was looking for a new head coach to replace Bill Railey, who was retiring after 23 years and a 200-73 record. A phone call to Savannah Country Day put them in touch with Mike Muschamp, and Lovett did not have to ask twice.
A native of Rome, the Muschamp family moved to Gainesville, Fla., when Mike was in the seventh grade. He and his brothers, Will and Pat, spent time learning about football from their father/coach, Larry, during their time in Florida.
Larry Muschamp, who passed away in 2014, has been described as the “heartbeat” of the family. He taught his three sons — Mike, Pat and Will — about football because it was what he loved. The Muschamps lived just down the road from University of Florida’s Florida Field, and on Saturdays, if the Gators were at home, you knew where you could find them. You can imagine the joy when Larry’s youngest son Will was named head coach of the Gators in 2011.
Mike attended Oak Hall school in Gainesville where he played football for the Eagles. After high school, he attended Duke University where he was a backup quarterback and self-described “clipboard holder.” Hey, someone has to do it.
At Lovett, Mike has amassed a 106-40 record and has taken the Lions to the playoffs every season. In 2013, Muschamp reached a coaching milestone when his team won the Class AA state title against Lamar County, 14-7.
Muschamp took time Monday to answer a few questions in a wide-ranging Q&A:
Q. What is the key to consistency at Lovett?
A. I think it has a lot to do with the continuity we have had within our staff. We haven’t had a lot of turnover there, and I think that really helps you have a consistent program from year-to-year. The kids know who the coaches are, and there is a familiarity with the systems. Not a whole lot of change has taken place in that regard. Lovett is a traditional football school, and you have kids, when they come to school here, that is what they want to do. So there is a desire to do a good job in that sport once they get here. We are good at other sports, too, don’t get me wrong, but football at Lovett has a strong tradition.
Q. What is the most memorable game you have been a part of since being at Lovett?
A. Wow, there are a lot of them. We have done some really good things. Winning the state championship in 2013 was a tremendous achievement for this program and the kids. We beat Buford in 2009 when they were the No. 1 team, and they went on to win the state championship that year. But the one I remember the most was our Westminster game, my first game here on the river bank. We scored on the last play of the game to win it. It is a great atmosphere; it always is when Lovett and Westminster play. We are only about two miles apart, and it is such a great tradition. But there are so many games in there that are extremely important just because some kids were able to achieve as a group.
Q. What drove you to be a coach?
A. I think that is something that I always wanted to do. Growing up, my dad was a coach. And the guy who I identified most with throughout high school was my coach, John Clifford. He coached all three of us, my two brothers and myself. Jim Roundtree was my head football coach my senior year and had a tremendous impact on me. And then Steve Sloan (at Duke). So those guys have had such of an impact on me that it just felt like it was something I wanted to do. And I have been very fortunate to be in really great positions.
Q. What has changed most in high school football in the past 20 years?
A. I think the level of emphasis that people place on it now is different than it was when I first got into it. And don’t get me wrong, it was extremely important and we did a lot of the same kind of things that we do now. But the publicity around it and the recruiting aspect of it has dramatically changed the landscape of it. It’s happening so much faster now. You have kids who haven’t taken a snap of high school football that are getting offers from Division 1 colleges. That was unheard of in 1987 when I started. The emphasis placed on those types of things has changed it rather quickly. You start looking at where we are now from where we were even 10 years ago. Its just the trickle-down from college to high school. The level of coaching is better now than it was then. Do not get me wrong, there were some great coaches back then. Back in the day you were the assistant varsity football, assistant varsity basketball coach and you did something in the spring, whether it be in the weight room or golf coach or something like that. But now you have guys who just coach football.
Q. Deserted island. Three songs?
A. Oh my lord, um, “Chicken Fried” from Zac Brown Band, I think that may be my all-time favorite. “Out Last Night” by Kenny Chesney and for sure “1999” by Prince.