2011 SEC Spring Meetings Recap – Day One

Head coaches, athletic directors and support staff gather in Destin, FL each year for the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings, which provide an opportunity to discuss rule changes, new procedures and much more. Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp and head basketball coach Billy Donovan were both in attendance on Tuesday and made waves with their stances on some of the hot topics of the week.

WILL MUSCHAMP

» He once again took a hard line on oversigning (accepting national letters of intent for more players than open scholarships you have in a given year) and greyshirting (denying scholarships to oversigned players and forcing them to enroll in the following spring or fall), saying emphatically that Florida does not believe in either method of recruiting. “We don’t over-sign. That’s a policy we have at the university,” he said. “We’ve been successful, so it’s not an issue for us.”

» On the SEC’s live Internet show streaming short interviews with some of the league’s coaches, Muschamp stressed that what separates this league from the rest of the country is the strong defenses, specifically up front on the line. “I’ve seen teams in this league with average quarterbacks win national championships because they’re really good on defense,” he said.

» One quarterback who he thinks is well above average is redshirt senior John Brantley, who Muschamp said needs to have the players around him step up in order to be successful. He related a conversation he had with Brantley when he told him that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has a lot of confidence in him going forward and how “that should tell you a lot” about the type of talent he possesses.

» Muschamp said that dismissing senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins after his second marijuana arrest in less than 90 days was not about making an example out of him but rather making sure he did what was in the best interests of the rest of the team. “I don’t look at it as trying to send a message; I look at it from a standpoint of doing what’s right for the program,” he said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “Guys are going to be expected to act a certain way and have a certain behavior, and if they don’t do that then they’re not going to be a part of our football team.”

» Addressing his decision to allow freshman running back Mike Blakely to transfer within the SEC to Auburn, he said it is not something he will normally allow. “It’s not my policy to clear a kid to leave for another conference school,” Muschamp said per the Montgomery Advertiser. “I don’t want to face our players on the field. I know how good they are. They signed with Florida for a reason, so that’s a situation I’m going to avoid.” He did not provide an exact reason for making an exception in this case, simply saying that “this was the right thing to do.”

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, the beneficiary of Blakely’s services, agrees. “That was an extremely classy move on Will’s part to give him that chance to come back to Auburn,” Chizik said. “It says something about the kind of person Will is.”

BILLY DONOVAN

» The league’s basketball coaches are going to take on two separate but related issues this week – potentially removing the conference’s divisions and ways to reseed the SEC Tournament so it is more fair to the teams that perform at a high level all year. A move to a 12-team format (rather than two six-team divisions) would benefit the East, which feels it often gets a raw deal when the tournament comes around and West teams get undeserved byes. Options include seeding the tournament 1-12 by conference record (with tiebreakers) or using a model similar to the baseball format with division winners getting byes and the rest of the teams being slotted 3-12.

» Donovan, proposing a solution that could work whether or not divisions are retained, believes the tournament should seed teams by RPI. This would force coaches and ADs to schedule better non-conference opponents, which would also improve the SEC’s overall standing nationally. Commissioner Mike Slive said Donovan’s suggestion will not be one of the methods considered.

» The vote on the topic of reseeding was tied 6-6 last year but should have more steam on Wednesday due to Slive being publicly in favor of some type of change. Scrapping the divisions is a long-term topic that, even if approved of by a majority, would not occur next season. However, adjustments to tournament seeding procedures could be worked out this week.

OTHER NOTES

» Not everyone agrees that oversigning and greyshirting are bad things. Those who are happy with the way things are (28 maximum scholarships per signing class – a rule adjusted just one year ago) include Chizik, Houston Nutt (Ole Miss), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) and Mark Richt (Georgia). “Everybody has a right to manage their own numbers,” Richt said.

» Petrino also took the opportunity to criticize the NCAA for allowing Ohio State to delay the suspensions of five players deemed to have taken illegal benefits before the 2011 Sugar Bowl. “They kind of changed the rules for that bowl game,” he said.

» Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley plans to submit a formal proposal requesting that the SEC increase the staff sizes for its football programs. Dooley believes the player-to-coach ratio (12-to-1) in football is significantly worse in football than other collegiate sports (or the NFL, which is 3-to-1) and thinks that hiring additional staff members will also help combat off-the-field issues.

» Alabama head coach Nick Saban admitted Tuesday that he made a “mistake” not hiring Muschamp as the defensive coordinator when he took the Miami Dolphins job after leaving LSU. “When I went to Miami as the Dolphins coach, I didn’t want to put guys that were college coaches in coordinator positions until they’d coached in the league and got some experience,” Saban said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I had coached in the league for two years at Houston and became the (defensive) coordinator at Cleveland and it was really, really difficult, only being in the league two years and understanding the league, the personnel, match-ups and a lot of things.
“I should have made Will the coordinator. Dom [Capers] did a wonderful job, but Will probably deserved to get that job. It was me trying to protect him. I wanted to give him another year before he was out there. I was trying to protect people that were important to me. I don’t think we have any issues or problems.”

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FOUR BITS: Tyus, Parsons, NBA Finals, Dunker

1 » Florida Gators forward Alex Tyus may not have been invited to the 2011 NBA Combine, but teams have taken an interest in him. According to Tyus, who has been writing diaries for TheHoopsReport.com, he will be working out for Oklahoma City on Wednesday and will be traveling to New Jersey and Phoenix next week to see if he can earn a second-round selection or a spot on one of their summer league teams.

2 » Gators F and OGGOA blogger Chandler Parsons, who will be checking in with us late Tuesday from Miami, FL, was part of a Prospect Profile video produced by NBA.com. Parsons discusses growing up around basketball with his family, his ability to play in the NBA and more in the feature, which can be viewed here.

3 » Florida, as is probably known now by most fans, boasts more former players in the 2011 NBA Finals than any other school with F Corey Brewer on the Dallas Mavericks and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller on the Miami Heat. The Finals, which will air live on ABC, begin with game one Tuesday at 9 p.m.

4 » The Wall Street Journal published a column Tuesday looking into how much high school football players believe they should be paid (in addition to a scholarship) to play college football. One of the players the paper interviewed, Gators four-star offensive lineman commit Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) “says he’d like to see schools offer ‘a little pocket change’ to the tune of $5,000 a semester.” Of the six players the WSJ spoke to, one said no additional money was necessarily while the rest provided figures ranging from $2,000-10,000 per year.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Johnson, Heat, Macklin

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s new memoir, Through My Eyes was released Tuesday, but the number of fans who camped outside (yes, spent the night) waiting for him at a Books-A-Million absolutely stunned the Heisman Trophy winner. “It’s extremely humbling,” he told The Florida Times-Union. “I take it as a huge responsibility that people care that much about me and [I] really try to make it worth it for them, really try to make them feel special for doing it.” Tebow also spoke with the paper a little bit about the content of the book, which OGGOA should receive from the publisher for review on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just about football stories,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s more about inspiring kids to go out there and try to live their dream, and go after it and live with passion. That’s a lot of what it’s about, so hopefully, people will take it that way.”

2 » Back in Gainesville, FL after suffering a minor concussion during the No. 2 Florida Gators baseball team’s elimination game in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, AL, sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson is doing his best to recover quickly and get back on the field. Speaking with Florida Today, Johnson’s father said his son “is fine” and underwent a number of tests on Monday to evaluate his post-concussion symptoms. He is considered day-to-day for the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The paper reports

He had base line testing while playing for a U.S. all-star team last summer so doctors are able to do comparisons, to make sure he returns to normal before playing again. UF is also consulting with noted Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Michael Collins.

3 » Discussing with Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller their time playing for Florida, the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick got the duo to open up about how head coach Billy Donovan ended up helping them form a bond. It all started when he called both players into his office. “Coach Donovan, was like, ‘You know, if the season started today, I couldn’t play neither one of you guys,'” Haslem told Skolnick. “That wasn’t the exact words he used. You got to get your, um, ‘S’ together. Because I just thought I was doing the best academic job in the world, and obviously I wasn’t. And neither was [Miller]. I don’t know what his excuse was. But, at that point, Mike and I bonded from there.”

Haslem even had Miller’s back when an incident occurred with an unnamed football player. “I had a football player that, um, that didn’t really like me,” Miller said with a smile. “For unknown reasons. And UD put an end to that.” Haslem remembered, “Yeah, I just let the guy know, if you got a problem with Mike, you got a problem with me. The guy never bothered Mike again.”

4 » Talk surrounding the 2011 NBA Draft from a Gators perspective has mostly focused on forward Chandler Parsons, who could be picked anywhere from the teens to the mid-second round. Parsons, who has been going around the country doing private workouts after successfully competing in the NBA Combine and select group camp in Minnesota, is not the only former Florida player eligible to be selected. Center Vernon Macklin, according to the Indianapolis Star, is one of six former college players working out for the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Macklin is projected to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted.

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Chandler Parsons – Path to the 2011 NBA Draft: Participating in combine workouts, interviews

Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Chandler Parsons will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

In Minneapolis, MN as one of a select group of 24 prospects invited to compete in a private group workout for all 30 NBA general managers, Parsons got in touch with us Monday to submit his second entry while relaxing after having conducted interviews with two more interested teams. He will be all over the country throughout the next month but will continue checking in with us each week.

I had already begun working out in Chicago the last time we spoke, but on Wednesday morning I checked into the Westin hotel right in downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue. I was training there a couple days before it started, so I had been there before all the other players got there.

You get there and check in and you really don’t do much that first day. You get your check for the week, get into your room and get settled. The next morning [Thursday], I got up at 5:45 a.m. and had a drug test at 6 a.m. Then they ran us through all the testing: height, weight, wingspan, size of your hands, shoes off, shoes on, different tests for tuberculosis. They took five tubes of blood. They basically did every single medical test possible there. That was the first morning and then basically we ate breakfast and then headed to the gym for the first part of the combine.

They had it split up into guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers; obviously I was in the small forward group. There was a lot of shooting, dribble pull-ups and series of shots without defense – coming off pick-and-rolls, coming off the trail, coming off curl screens, just getting a lot of shots up with basically every GM and coach there – everyone from [Chicago Bulls team ambassador] Scottie Pippen to [New York Knicks head coach] Mike D’Antoni.

You shoot and then you actually compete, too. We played one-on-one, two-on-two off the dribble. It was about an hour workout, so it kind of zipped through. The second day [Friday] was similar but also included agility testing like the cone drill, three quarter court sprint, standing vert[ical jump], bench press.

I played well, shot the ball well. My agent said I basically did everything I could for my situation. We got a lot of good feedback from the individual team interviews that followed each day. Basically everyone said they were really impressed. I shot the ball really well, played tough. I interviewed with the [Los Angeles] Clippers, [Atlanta] Hawks, [Portland] Trailblazers, [San Antonio] Spurs, [Boston] Celtics, [Miami] Heat, [Minnesota] Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors. I had probably 10 interviews with me just sitting in the hotel room with them getting to know me. They get to see your personality, and I think that’s something I’ve been doing really good at…just being myself, having fun with it and being the outgoing guy that I am.

There were crazy questions. They asked me everything from my upbringing to the girls in Gainesville to… ‘Have you ever failed a drug test? Have you ever been arrested? Who’s the best player you’ve played against?’ They get pretty personal, too. They ask if you smoke and drink. If you think about it, they’re investing millions of dollars in you and it’s a business, so teams want to know everything about you before they draft you.

The last two days – Saturday and Sunday – I went to the hospital and took every single medical exam possible. Saturday I went in and took all these tests…MRIs, X-rays, you get tested for everything. And then Sunday, all the NBA trainers come in and talk to you about your results; that’s literally all day. There were no red flags for me; I’ve been really fortunate and blessed, never even rolled my ankle.

Last night we had a four-hour delay in the airport and then an hour delay on the actual plane on the runway due to all of the tornadoes in Minnesota. It was terrible. We got in here late last night, ate food and then hit the bed.

When I woke up [Monday] morning, I had to take a 240-question personality test and then also a speed test about how quick you react. There would be, for example, six pictures of a Christmas tree, a sun, a fork, a dog and a spoon, and you’d have to circle the two that are the most similar or which repeat in a pattern. That is timed. The first two groups also worked out, but I’m in group three so I don’t work out until [Tuesday].

A few of us also got to walk around downtown Minneapolis and grab dinner, and then we went back to the hotel for interviews. Tuesday I will come in, work out and then leave. Combining the interviews I’ve done before the combine, at the combine and today with the 12-15 city workouts I have scheduled, by the time it is all over I will have worked out with every team.

One team is going to draft me, but you never know down the line when I’m a free agent when I get to pick who I play for…as much as they’re interviewing me, on the flip side, I’m taking mental notes of who I liked, how it went. I look at it like this: The more teams you meet with and work out for, the better.

Go Gators,

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FOUR BITS: Crowder, Harvin, Noah, Calathes

1 » Outspoken Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder told the Sun-Sentinel Tuesday that the current NFL lockout could “mess up integrity of the game” if it continues. “There’s going to be more injuries, it’s going to be real simple football,” he said. “It’s going to mess up the integrity of the game because we’re used to having those OTA’s, minicamps, off-season workouts […] it’s hurting the NFL now and as long as the owners won’t let us go to work it’s going to continue to hurt the game we love.” Crowder has been participating in private workouts with teammates in the offseason and hopes to be in top-notch condition when the season begins…whenever (if ever) that occurs.

2 » In a pairing that may make some Florida Gators fans cringe, Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder has reached out to wide receiver Percy Harvin to begin working out together. The former Florida State Seminoles QB and Florida WR could be connecting for touchdowns for quite some time considering Harvin’s impressive athleticism and Ponder being selected with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

3 » In an extensive question-and-answer session with self-described “out, gay sportswriter” Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah provided additional perspective on how his anger at a fan is not representative of him as a person. Below is a short excerpt from the interview, which can be read here in full.

Arnovitz: I understand. I just wish it hadn’t been you. I mean, that word is hard to hear no matter who says it, but you’re supposed to be one of the enlightened guys. You’re the guy who grew up in Soho and has European parents and friends all over the world. There are a lot of players in the league who, whether because they come from certain backgrounds or maybe choose not to care, don’t surprise me. But you surprised me.

Noah: You know, all my best friends live downtown in New York City. I was made in Soho. Sometimes, when you’re at this level you don’t realize the consequences or how much a word can bother people. My mom’s best friend was gay. We used to call him “Mom.” So I’m disappointed because that’s not me. I didn’t mean any harm to anybody. I don’t want anyone to feel disrespected by what I said, and I understand that’s what’s going to happen. […]

Arnovitz: So it’s safe to say you’re really pissed off at yourself? Moderately pissed off at yourself? Pissed off at the potential consequences?

Noah: I’m pissed off that I’m a distraction to my teammates right now. We’re playing the biggest game of our lives and this is off subject. I’m pissed off that I might’ve offended people.

4 » Though the Gators do have one former player – forward Corey Brewer on the Western Conference Finals leading (3-1) Dallas Mavericks, another could be joining the team shortly. Former Florida point guard Nick Calathes, is currently playing for Panathinaikos in Greece but only has one more year remaining on his deal. With Dallas’ older backcourt and need for big men in the draft this year, there are whispers that Calathes could be playing in the NBA as soon as the 2012-13 season.

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Noah’s rough Sunday includes one point, gay slur

Post updated at 5:25 p.m.

Sunday was not the best night for Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah.

Facing the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Noah only posted a single point while failing to connect on an attempt from the field, grabbing just five rebounds and dishing six assists.

Additionally, his defense on Heat power forward Chris Bosh was lacking; Bosh scored most of his game-high 34 points on Noah and ended up +15.

“I never got into a rhythm,” he said. “Even if I’m not in an offensive rhythm, I have to bring more. Give Miami credit, they played well. But we can get better.”

However, what Noah will actually be remembered for from Sunday’s game is not his poor performance but rather something he said while on the bench. He apparently directed a gay slur at a heckler in the pro-Miami crowd who was repeatedly taunting him.

Note: The video below contains explicit, inflammatory language.

Like Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant received a few weeks ago, Noah will likely be handed down a fine from the NBA league office for the slur. Bryant uttered a similar phrase to a referee previously in these playoffs.

Noah has since apologized for his actions, something Bryant chose not to do.

“It’s very disappointing. I apologize if I offended anyone,” he said. “I was just caught in the moment. A fan said something that was disrespectful toward me, and I responded. I have to take the consequences like a man. It was just a bad decision on my part.”

UPDATE: Noah has since apologized a second time. “I don’t want to be a distraction for the team, and I apologize for what I said,” he said Monday. “What I said wasn’t right. I don’t want to disrespect anybody. That’s not what I’m about. I just got caught up in something a fan said and I went back at him, and I’m going to face the consequences as a man. Sometimes fans say things that are a little bit overboard, but still, it’s on us not to react. If you react, they win, and I did. It was a bad decision on my part, and I’m going to face some pretty severe consequences.”

Noah was fined $50,000 Monday evening by the NBA.

The quotes used in this post are courtesy of the Miami Herald and New York Times.

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Florida sweeps SEC All-Sports awards…again

Any doubt that the University of Florida had the dominant athletics program in the Southeastern Conference during the 2010-11 school year was put to rest Sunday as the university was named the SEC All-Sports champion by the New York Times Regional Media Group for the third-straight season. Sweeping all three titles – overall, men’s and women’s – the Florida Gators won by staggering numbers in each category, literally dominating the competition.

Team (OVERALL)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida160.51610.03
No. 2 Georgia139168.69
No. 3 Tennessee123.5158.23

Team (MEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida 71.5710.21
No. 2 Georgia6178.71
No. 3 Alabama5377.57

Team (WOMEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida8999.89
No. 2 Tennessee75.589.44
No. 3 Georgia7898.67

Florida is the only school to sweep all three titles in a single season, accomplishing the feat for the 11th time, fourth in the last five years and third-in-a-row (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10). All 16 of UF’s sports (nine women’s, seven men’s) were counted with cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field combined into one unit per gender.

The Gators won eight SEC titles over this period: baseball, men’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s track & field, women’s cross country, soccer, women’s tennis and volleyball. It is the fourth time UF has won seven or more SEC titles in a single season.

Florida has been victorious in 21 of the last 24 All-Sports awards with the men’s program winning its 15th and women’s program winning its 18th respective individual titles.

The Gators lead the SEC with 201 all-time team titles.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, softball, Haslem, Weis

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has a wide variety of interests these days, but up until this point no one has dared question his work ethic or dedication to football. Then comes running back LenDale White, who asked Tebow publicly last week to join the voluntary workouts being put on by veteran safety Brian Dawkins in Denver. Tebow has previously worked out with teammates (especially his wide receivers) both in Denver and Jacksonville, FL but was finishing up a round of appearances including at his own charity golf tournament and for Jockey in New York, NY.

Thursday he returned to Denver and was one of 13 players to show up at the workout – the only quarterback on his team to do so. According to The Denver Post‘s Lindsay Jones, Tebow got there an hour early to throw passes and stayed for the duration. “This part is more important to show that we’re all together. I know a lot of us have been throwing and catching and doing what we need to do other places, but I think this is big, just to show that we’re together,” he said. “You can come together a few times to show, ‘Hey, we’ve got each other’s backs.'”

2 » Six members of No. 3 Florida Gators softball were honored Thursday with selections to the 2011 Louisville Slugger/National Coaches Fastpitch Association All-Southeast Region Teams. Senior outfielder Kelsey Bruder, senior first baseman Megan Bush, freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers and sophomore utility player Brittany Schutte were voted onto the First Team, while junior OF Michelle Moultrie and senior second baseman Aja Paculba earned Second Team honors. Florida begins 2011 NCAA Tournament action by hosting the Gainesville Regional beginning Friday at 6 p.m. against Benthune-Cookman.

3 » Playing his first significant minutes for the Miami Heat since making an early recovery from a Lisfranc injury of his foot, power forward Udonis Haslem was a major spark off the bench on Wednesday. Haslem entered the game, started 4-for-4 from the field and finished with 13 points and five rebounds (three offensive) on 50 percent shooting. He was also a huge help in the post for Miami, which lacks strength and dominance down low, by limiting the offensive rebounds that the Chicago Bulls were able to grab. Game three of the Eastern Conference Finals is set for Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

4 » Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis may be getting paid handsomely by Florida ($765,000 in salary this year), but he is also still receiving checks from his last college job with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune printed on Friday, Weis has been paid $7.3 million by Notre Dame since he was terminated in 2009 including a $6.6 million lump sum upon being fired. He will continue receiving payments from the school through Dec. 2015 (when his 10-year contract extension was supposed to end).

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