Florida athletics receives largest-ever $12.5 million donation for student facility

The University of Florida’s University Athletic Association on Friday announced receipt of $12.5 million from an anonymous donor, which is being billed as the largest-ever donation to the program.

The $12.5 million will go towards a massive $25 million renovation to the Office of Student Life, which the Florida Gators believe will be a huge benefit to current athletes and a massive recruiting tool for future Gators.

The renovation will improve academic programs for all 480 Florida athletes across 21 varsity sports. Renovations will begin in March for what will be named the Otis Hawkins Center for Academic and Personal Excellence.

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SIX BITS: awards, Speights, Tebow, Beal, Wuerffel

1 » The Florida Gators football team held its annual team banquet on Saturday. Awards were handed out for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may have proven to be during the season. Below are the 2014 award winners along with some explanations and details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Jeff Driskel, Mike Mcneely
* Third-straight year that McNeely won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Max Garcia, Mark Herndon
* Second-straight year that Herndon won the award.
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Clay Burton, Hunter Joyer, Max Garcia, Antonio Morrison
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Alex Anzalone, Gideon Ajagbe, Andre Debose, Chaz Green, Matt Jones, Antonio Morrison, Jeremi Powell
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: R.J. Raymond, Dakota Wilson |
Defensive: Ryan Parrish | Special Teams: Garrett Stephens, Roger Dixon
* Second-straight year that Parrish won the award.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: awards, Speights, Tebow, Beal, Wuerffel

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Stanford sweeps Florida volleyball in Elite Eight

By Eden Otero – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 8 Florida Gators volleyball was swept out of the 2014 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal picking up a 3-0 victory in Ames, Iowa.

Though Florida (28-4) advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2011, the Gators were unable to move forward to what would have been the eighth Final Four appearance in program history. Instead, the Cardinal (33-1) ended UF’s 23-match, 83-day losing streak in impressive fashion.

OnlyGators.com breaks down the season-ending loss with four quick-hitters.

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Volleyball tops Illinois 3-2, advances to Elite Eight

By Eden Otero – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 8 Florida Gators volleyball earned a hard-fought 3-2 win over the No. 9 Illinois Illini on Friday evening in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2011.

Florida (28-3) led early but eventually fell behind and was forced to come back from one set down to take down Illinois (26-8) in Ames, Iowa.

OnlyGators.com breaks down the victory with five quick-hitters.

It was over when: After blowing consecutive match points and finding itself even with Illinois at 14-14 in the fifth and final set, Florida won back-to-back points to clinch the come-from-behind victory. A quick block by sophomore middle blocker Shainah Joseph, followed by a solid set from junior Mackenzie Dagostino led to a match-winning spike by sophomore Alex Holston, allowing eight-seed UF to pull out the hard-fought win.

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Florida volleyball rolling as it enters Sweet 16

By Eden Otero – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 8 Florida Gators volleyball (27-3, 18-0 SEC) has rolled through the 2014 season and found plenty of success, including the 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship. As Florida approaches the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament and a showdown with the No. 9 Illinois Illini (26-7) on Friday, let’s take a look back at the ups and downs of Gators volleyball this season.

Non-conference play: Head coach Mary Wise set up a purposely tough non-conference schedule to her team prepare for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament. Before league play began, four of the nine opponents the Gators faced were top-20 teams, including USC, San Diego, Texas and Florida State. UF swept both USC and San Diego but lost in five and four sets, respectively, to Florida State and Texas. Wise said that Florida ultimately benefited from the tough slate as the players were given the chance to learn from their mistakes, which hopefully would not be repeated when in the tournament.

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TWO BITS: Florida soccer advances to Elite Eight; Gators volleyball captures 21st SEC title

1 » No. 10 Florida Gators soccer on Sunday advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament after taking down the No. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators may have fallen short of winning their league crown, but Florida is making a significant effort in NCAA play, moving on to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first since 2003. UF got on the board first with senior midfielder Havana Solaun striking the ball from 20 yards out; it deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and then the post, before finding the back of the net and putting the Gators up 1-0 at 14′. Florida went ahead 2-0 at 21′ after scoring on a glancing header by sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, which came off a free kick from senior MF Annie Speese. Texas Tech fought back with consecutive goals at 37′ and 64′ to tie thing sup, but Speese notched the game-winning goal at 81′ to send UF forward in the postseason.

The Gators will travel out west to continue their trek toward the NCAA title as Florida will next take on the Stanford Cardinal on Friday at 10 p.m. in Palo Alto, California.

2 » It was an eventful week for No. 6 Gators volleyball, which captured the outright 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday with a 3-1 win against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The SEC regular-season title is Florida’s second in the last three years and 21st in the last 24 seasons (1991-2008, 2010, 2012), all of which have come under head coach Mary Wise. On Sunday, the Gators won their 18th-straight match of the season, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida has its longest winning streak since 2010 and will play its final games of the regular season on Wednesday vs. South Carolina and Saturday at Texas.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

1 » Waiving two players on Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans whittled their roster down to 15 ahead of the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Former Florida Gators center Patric Young, an undrafted free agent who was picked up by New Orleans and impressed during training camp, continued to flash during preseason action and earned a spot on the Pelicans’ regular-season roster. Young will be New Orleans’ fourth center (behind Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey) but may be able to work his way up the depth chart if he continues giving tremendous effort like he did last Thursday. On the floor as the clock ticked down against Dallas, Young slammed home a dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to help his team pull out an 88-85 victory. “As far as having another guy that can come off the bench and doesn’t need the ball in his hands, I think I can step into that role right away,” he told The Times-Picayune. “My goal is just to come here with a great attitude and stay humble. I’m going to chase after rebounds with the mentality of, ‘If I don’t get this rebound then I’m out the league.’ It may be a little extreme, but I want it more than the next guy.”

2 » Former Gators C Joakim Noah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bulls for the last few seasons, but his body has held him back on numerous occasions. A multitude of injuries, primarily to his lower body, have either kept Noah off the court or – more often – forced him to play through pain that most players would not. With another NBA slate starting Tuesday, Noah admitted through gritted teeth that he “still ha[s] a ways to go” in recovering from left knee surgery. “It’s fine. It’s a work in progress. It’s getting better. I’m happy with where it’s at. Let me live, man. Geez,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to keep his situation close to the vest. A source close to Noah told the paper that his “knee is going to be an issue all season long,” and the Bulls appear prepared to limit his minutes on a game-by-game basis. “There’s a plan,” Noah explained. “We take it day by day and se how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

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Billy Horschel: ‘I love representing Gator Nation.’

Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel capped the best three weeks of his young career – and life – last month when he won the 2014 Tour Championship, brought home a total of $11.44 million by clinching the 2014 FedExCup title and, most importantly, was in the delivery room when his wife gave birth to their first child.

Playing the three best weeks of golf as a professional, Horschel first pocketed $2.03 million by winning the 2014 BMW Championship and finishing second in the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship. Adding his Tour crown and FedExCup bonus, Horschel boosted his payday to $13.47 million in a three-week span and $14.8 million for the PGA Tour season.

Despite his hot streak, Horschel was not chosen to play for the United States in the 2014 Ryder Cup due to his success occurring too late in the process. Instead, he was able to spend more time at home at his recently-expanded family.

Two days after Horschel set up his family for life, his wife and fellow former Florida golfer, Brittany Horschel, gave birth to baby Skyler on Sept. 16.

Quite a month, huh?

OnlyGators.com got a unique opportunity to speak with Horschel this week as he prepares for the 2014-15 golf season. One of the hottest names in the sport, Horschel was not an easy get considering he is one of the hottest names in the sport. Nevertheless, the PGA Tour was more than accommodating.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start with what’s important: how are the wife and baby?
BILLY HORSCHEL: “Skyler and Brittany are doing really great. They’re both healthy. Brittany is loving being a mom. She’s doing a heck of a job. We’ve been very blessed in the sense that Skyler has been a very, very easy baby. She sleeps well, doesn’t fuss a lot. If you could sort draw up the ideal baby – in the way for her to act for the parents to not go crazy – in my opinion, this would be it. We’ve been very blessed and very lucky.”

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