Florida Gators basketball’s 2011-12 schedule

Florida Gators basketball announced the team’s 2011-12 schedule on Thursday. In non-conference action, Florida will face six opponents who took part in the 2011 NCAA Tournament while also participating in four events scattered throughout the country – the Global Sports Shootout, Florida Citrus Sports Shootout, BIG EAST/SEC Challenge and Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

During Southeastern Conference competition, the Gators will play 11 games on national television including the conference’s season finale.

Below is the team’s complete 2011-12 schedule:

Date/TimeGator BaitResult
11/6 at TBD (TBD)vs. Barry (Exh.)
11/14 at TBD (SECN)vs. William & Mary
11/17 at 7:00 pm (ESPNU)vs. Miami
11/21 at TBD (TBD)vs. La.-Monroe
11/26 at 9:30 pm (AXS)vs. GeorgetownB4A
11/27 at TBD (TBD)Wisconsin or UABB4A
11/28 at TBD (TBD)vs. TBDB4A
12/5 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at KansasSEC-Big 12
12/8 at TBD (TBD)vs. Yale
12/12 at TBD (TBD)vs. Texas So.
12/14 at TBD (TBD)vs. Jacksonville
12/20 at TBD (TBD)vs. Wake ForestOBBC
12/30 at 7:00 pm (ESPN2)at Florida State
1/3 at 2:00 pm (CBS)vs. UConn
1/7 at 7:00 pm (SECN)at So. CarolinaSEC
1/10 at 7:00 pm (FSN)vs. Miss. StateSEC
1/15 at 7:00 pm (ESPN/2)vs. AuburnSEC
1/17 at 2:00 pm (CBS)at GeorgiaSEC
1/20 at 7:00 pm (ESPN)vs. LSUSEC
1/24 at 8:00 pm (SECN)at Ole MissSEC
1/27 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at AlabamaSEC
1/31 at 1:00 pm (CBS)vs. ArkansasSEC
2/3 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at VanderbiltSEC
2/7 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)vs. KentuckySEC
2/12 at 7:00 pm (ESPN/2)vs. Ole MissSEC
2/14 at 6:30 pm (SECN)at Texas A&MSEC
2/18 at 7:00 pm (SECN)vs. VanderbiltSEC
2/21 at 1:00 pm (CBS)at LSUSEC
2/24 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at MissouriSEC
2/28 at TBD (ESPN/2)vs. TennesseeSEC
3/3 at 9:00 pm (ESPNU)vs. Texas A&MSEC
3/7 at 2:00 pm (CBS)at KentuckySEC

SCHEDULE NOTES

» Donovan’s son, Billy Donovan, Jr., is a guard for Catholic University.
» Ohio State won the Big Ten Championship in 2010-11.
» Florida will play four games in the state of Florida but not in Gainesville.
» As OGGOA first reported on April 28, the Gators’ participation in the GSS is part of a five-team “tournament” featuring a collection of games played at different arenas.
» Florida will play in the FCSS for the second-straight season; UF lost to Central Florida in the series’ inaugural game at the Amway Arena last season.
» Twelve teams each from the Big East and SEC will each compete in the BIG EAST/SEC Challenge from Dec. 1-3.
» Transfer guard Mike Rosario will square-off against the team he left, Rutgers.
» It is the fourth-straight year the Gators will play a non-conference opponent on Jan. 3 (3-0) and second-straight year they will play one on New Years Eve day.
» Florida will appear on national television at least 13 times this season.
» The Gators will face two pairs of SEC opponents in three-day spans. Florida will go to Ole Miss on Jan. 26 before playing Mississippi State at home on Jan. 28 and will host South Carolina on Feb. 2 before Vanderbilt comes to town on Feb. 4.
» UF will play nine games in February (28 days) but compete just seven times in January (31 days). The Gators usually play seven games in February and have not played more than eight since at least the 1998-99 season.
» Florida’s will face Kentucky on Senior Day, a game that is also the SEC’s final regular season contest of the season.
» This will be the first SEC regular season without the conference utilizing divisions. Nevertheless, the Gators will play their traditional SEC East opponents twice (home-and-home) and SEC West opponents once.
» Florida has a three-game conference home stretch from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4 and never plays more two consecutive games on the road (Feb. 14 and 18, Feb. 25 and 28).
» The 2011 SEC Tournament will take place from March 8-11 in New Orleans, LA.

8/18: Christian comfortable, defense making adjustments, Lerner dealing with Crohn’s

With the Florida Gators in the middle of preseason practice preparing for their first game on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Thursday to discuss how the team is progressing.

CHRISTIAN COMFORTABLE AS SECOND TIGHT END

It may have taken a talented freshman to go down for him to get more playing time, but redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian is happy to have the opportunity and plans to make the most of it. “You don’t want to wish injuries upon people, but since there have been injuries I’ve had to fill a bigger role, take more snaps in practice and show what I can do. I feel like it gave me more of an opportunity,” he said.

Moved to linebacker in the spring to help the team improve its depth, Christian was transitioned back to tight end at the end of those practice periods and has not been back since. “It was tough but after spring ball, they told me they wanted me to be more on the offensive side, so I’ve been good now,” he said.

With offensive coordinator Charlie Weis using the two tight end set “a lot,” Christian knows the time is now for him to make an impact. “I’ve just been busting my butt every day trying to make plays and show them that I can contribute to the team,” he said.

DEFENSE STILL MAKING ADJUSTMENTS

Head coach Will Muschamp’s defensive mantra has already been engrained in his players’ heads. “We just want to be physical – physical up front – we want to stop the run and play great defense,” junior linebacker Jon Bostic said when asked about the unit’s goals on Thursday.

As Muschamp has related previously, the strength of the defense will start in the trenches, and Bostic believes that similarities with the team’s schemes under former defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Teryl Austin are helping the players adjust quickly. “Most of the stuff carried over from the two defenses in the past,” he said. “A lot of the concepts that we ran before were pretty much brought over to this defense. One more thing is that we’re going to be a lot more aggressive coming after the quarterback.”

To that end, Muschamp was critical of the defense’s consistency in the pass rush. Bostic echoed those sentiments with parallel thoughts. “We just got to have guys coming out day after day with their assignments,” he said. “We can’t come out one day be a dominant pass rusher, the next day not be a dominant pass rusher. We need the whole front seven out there; even the safeties are coming on blitzes, too. Everybody has got to be able to get home.”

Bostic also realizes that the entire defense needs to be on the same page and praised sophomore safety Matt Elam for his improved communication during fall practice. “Everybody’s got to work together, so we need the guys on the back end to be on the same page as the front seven. We all go tot communicate,” he said.

“Matt was always one of those guys who was kind of quiet on the back end; they needed him really to step up. These two-a-days, he’s really stepped up. With some guys going down and some position switching, every guy has had to keep everyone on the same page. Matt’s been doing a great job of getting the new safeties that have moved into that position into the right look.”

LERNER DEALING WITH CROHN’S

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in late July after he began feeling sick around the 22nd of the month, senior punter David Lerner’s primary job – aside from getting the ball down the field – is staying hydrated and eating as much as he can whenever he can.

Down 15 pounds since being diagnosed, Lerner is pleased that team doctors were able to figure out his health issue quickly. “Within a week I knew I had Crohn’s,” he said. “The athletic training team and the doctors did an amazing job really helping me out. Within five days I knew what was going on and sometimes it can take literally months for people to find out that kind of stuff.”

Lerner received the support of the coaching staff, trainers and his teammates immediately, something that helped him get through a very scary episode in his life. “I didn’t have to really convince them at all to stay on the team,” he explained. “Two days after I got diagnosed, Coach called me and said, ‘Whatever you need we’ll get for you. We want you.’ He was very supportive in that. I was definitely depressed with everything that was going on, and that definitely gave me some hope.

“I was definitely very worried at first [that I might not be able to play], but then the doctor, Coach Muschamp, the training staff and really all the coaches were just very supportive and helpful. It was very, very emotionally helpful for me.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Christian on how the offense as a whole is doing: “Every area needs improvement – all positions can use improvement – but the offense we have has been clicking as team. We’re coming together and getting better every day.”

» Christian on redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley: “Right now Brantley, he’s been here the longest, he knows the offense the best and has more experience than everybody else. I’m not knocking the other quarterbacks; they’re good, too. I see Brantley as the starter the first game.”

» Christian on freshman QB Jeff Driskel: “Jeff is good, too. Jeff is really good. It’s good that we have younger players stepping up. I feel like if anything happens that he can fill the role. I trust him. […] He’s made a big improvement. He looks really good.”

» Christian on redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed: “He’s just real athletic, he’s a real athletic kid.”

» Christian on the tight end drills: ”We have Coach [Derek] Lewis, and he emphasizes a lot on us pads low, hand placement, keep your feet moving. When we first go through it, that’s all we do – blocking stuff. He’s trying to get us good and effective.”

» Bostic on how running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey compare and contrast: “Rainey is probably the more elusive one out of the two, he’s probably the better route runner. Demps, you give him a seam and he’s gone. He’s starting to pick up some of the elusiveness from Rainey, but both of them are pretty much similar.”

» Bostic on junior LB Dee Finely: “Dee Finely is a guy who moved from the safety position, and he’s done very well. He’s picked up a lot of things in these two-a-days, too.”

» Bostic on freshman S Chris Johnson, who is also playing some linebacker: “You can tell he’s an athlete. He’s just got a nose for the ball and can find the ball very well. He’s still new to the position, so he’s learning a lot out there. […] He’s one of those guys that can play both. He’s just got a head for the ball. He loves to hit, and I think that’s one of the reasons they brought him down in the box, because he’s real aggressive.”

“No eligiblity issues” with Debose, Patchan

The University of Florida released a statement Thursday indicating that Florida Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose and redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan will both remain eligible for the 2011 season despite being named in a Yahoo! Sports report Tuesday detailing a booster’s illicit and illegal recruiting activities at Miami.

“We have been in communication with the NCAA and there are no eligibility issues with Andre Debose and Matt Patchan as it relates to recent reports. Andre, Matt nor the University of Florida will have any additional comments regarding this matter.”

Florida also released a statement late Tuesday evening about wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill, who was also named in the report.

“While we declined comment for Yahoo’s request, Coach Hill indicated he was very comfortable with, and very confident in how he conducted himself while at the University of Miami.”

OGGOA RELATED: Hill, Debose, Patchan named in Yahoo! report on Miami booster providing improper benefits

8/17: Rainey, Demps, Floyd, Howard, Elam speak

With the Florida Gators in the middle of preseason practice preparing for their first game on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Wednesday to discuss how the team is progressing.

REPORTS: BROWN OUT WITH KNEE; NAMED GATORS ON FIELD

Citing a source close to the team, the Independent Florida Alligator reported Wednesday evening that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown suffered a knee injury during practice and “could miss up to three weeks.” If that timeline is accurate, Brown (likely one of the team’s two starters at cornerback this season) could miss the Gators’ first game of 2011 against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 3.

Additionally, The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu reports that the three Gators named in the Yahoo! Sports report alleging illegal benefits and impressible recruiting activities at Miami – wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, wide receiver Andre Debose and offensive tackle Matt Patchan – all participated in practice with the team on Wednesday.

THE WILDCAT IS BACK

Though offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has infused the Gators with an entirely new playbook, one carryover from the previous regime are some Wildcat formations featuring a trio of the team’s running backs – redshirt senior Chris Rainey, senior Jeff Demps and sophomore Trey Burton – taking direct snaps from the center and either reading rushing lanes or (rarely) throwing the ball.

“It’s fun,” Rainey said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I was nervous a little bit the first time, but I love it a lot. I ain’t never done it before. It’s fun, though.” Demps echoed a similar sentiment. “I haven’t been in the Wildcat very much, but when I got in it was pretty fun,” he added. “I can see the little hole a little faster and hit it.”

Rainey also conveyed his overall enthusiasm for Weis’s offense. “It feels good,” he said per The Sun. “I’m super happy. Everybody gets the ball in the offense. It’s not a one-man show. Basically, you see better. You see everything, you see the whole field. […] I’m super comfortable. I don’t even have to bring my playbook into the [meeting] room. I know everything. It took me a week to know it in the spring.”

As seems to be the theme, Demps shares Rainey’s opinion in the topic. “It’s a tailback-friendly offense,” he said. “It’s a run-first, pass-second offense. I think this year the running backs are going to get a lot of touches.” He also spoke about getting the ball deeper in the backfield. “It makes a difference,” Demps said. “You can actually see the holes developing and be able to track the linebackers and make your reads. The two yards was kind of fast, so everything was closing in on you [in the spread].”

DEFENSE PRAISES OFFENSIVE PLAYMAKERS

Every defender who spoke on Wednesday had something positive to say about their offensive counterparts, words that are likely music to the ears of fans who were disappointed with the offensive production one year ago.

Discussing Florida’s speedy running backs, sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd glowed. “Them boys – they can do it all,” he said about Rainey and Demps. “Preparing for a season with them two in the backfield is great because you’re going to get every look that you can possibly imagine. Rainey can cut on a dime, Rainey can do this, Rainey can do that, Demps can do the same thing. It gets you moving fast and gives you a better motor and all of that. That’s the plus side of it.”

For redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard, the Gators quarterbacks (especially redshirt senior John Brantley) are the biggest difference this year. “All I can say is the SEC better watch out, man,” Howard said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “Brantley is on fire right now. His whole demeanor has changed. He’s taken charge of the offense. He’s running the show now and you can really tell it. In my eyes, he’s a Heisman candidate.” He provided equally lofty praise for freshman signal caller Jeff Driskel. “He’s great, man,” Howard added. “In my eyes, he’s the next Tim Tebow. He’s so fast. He’s explosive. If something happens and Brantley goes down, we feel reliable with him coming in the game.”

Sophomore safety Matt Elam, who tries to stop the team’s wide receivers all practice long, said two in particular stood out to him. “All of them are good, “Elam said. “The one[s] that stuck out the most to me [were] Frankie [Hammond, Jr.] and Quinton Dunbar. It seems like they don’t drop anything. They’re really good receivers.”

MUSCHAMP WINNING OVER THE TEAM

Whether you’ve noticed players tweeting #TEAMMUSCHAMP hashtags or the overall sense of camaraderie in the locker room, it appears that the Gators have once again become a cohesive unit after being pretty fractured during the 2010 season. As Floyd describes it, 2011 is a “new year, new era, and we’re just pushing forward,” with the team as a whole is looking to “control what you can control.”

He also opened up a bit about how the team is more unified this year. “The chemistry is way better on both sides of the ball,” Floyd explained. “We’re not just the offense and not just the defense anymore, we’re a team and we break as a team. After practice we don’t break it down as an offense and a defense, we break it down as a team.”

Evan Elam, who had a close relationship with former head coach Urban Meyer, is beginning to become a big-time fan of the new top dog, Will Muschamp. “I feel like [our relationship is] getting better every day,” he said. “He’s teaching me a lot, and I respect him a lot, and I’m learning a lot from him. So that’s making us closer.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Rainey on Muschamp’s attitude during practice: “We just saw him yelling at a trainer across the field and everybody looked at each other like, ‘Wow. He’s the real deal.’ He’s bipolar, too. Don’t tell him I said it.” (PBP)

» Rainey on Burton being an unselfish player: “He do[es] the same thing every year. He’s a ‘program guy,’ they call it. He’s great. He do everything right. I love him. We need people like that. It’s very rare. It would be nice to have the whole team like that.” (PBP)

» Demps on how he and Rainey are different: “I’d say he’s more shiftier than I am, but other than that we’re fast guys, tough and can run the ball.”

» Demps on where he is struggling “I have a little problem with protections. Going through the plays in the spring, I never really had a chance to go over the protections. I’m trying to catch up now.” (SUN)

» Floyd on how he likes playing on the end: “You can’t get double-teamed at that position; I’m loving it. I’m getting a feel for it, learning everything I can get, learning the situations and everything like that. It’s a good opportunity for me, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

» Floyd on the defensive line’s rotation: “It’s the biggest rotation we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’re doing good with it. Each player is learning and we’re just trying to get better.”

» Floyd on how often the defense is in the 3-4: “It’s pretty balanced 3-4 and 4-3; the whole front can play either position. Now it’s just seeing what we’re going to get and learning from it that way.”

» Floyd comparing Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn: “Different personalities, but you can say that – they have the same style of coaching, getting after it. The big thing with them is aggressiveness and sticking your face in someone.”

» Floyd on if the defensive line feels pressure to lead the unit: “We’re not really worried about it. We’re just honestly trying to get better every day and just learn what is told to us and taking what we learn in the meeting room out to the field.”

» Howard on which formation he is more comfortable playing in: “I’ve become more accustomed to playing a 3-4 now. It fits my body type and it’s working well with our team, so it’s going to look good this season.”

» Howard on the offensive line’s progression since last year: “The offensive line, I can really tell a difference from last year. They’re coming off the ball, they’re putting their face into the blocks, I think they’re going to help Brantley out a lot this year.” (ITG)

» Elam on freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson: “I expected a lot with him coming in, and he’s living up to everything I expected.”

» Elam on what he learned from Ahmad Black: “I learned a lot from him – practice tempo. I learned toughness and just the way to practice and how to approach things; how to approach practice and how to approach games. I learned a lot of mental things.”

» Elam on how Brantley has been playing: “Brantley has been looking real good to me. I’ve been seeing a lot of good things from Brantley this camp – a lot of good things.”

Source Key: SUN = The Gainesville Sun; PBP = Palm Beach Post; ITG = InsidetheGators.com

FOUR BITS: Tebow, Brantley, volleyball, Herring

1 » Writing for ESPN Insider, columnist Chris Sprow makes a case for why Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will indeed be a successful NFL signal caller – whether or not that ends up happening in Mile High. In the piece, Sprow cites quotes from 1986 that were said about Steve Young but are just as applicable to Tebow and uses ESPN‘s advanced metric “QBR” to point out how effective he is each game.

Ultimately, Young struggled and was traded away from Tampa in frustration; he was viewed as a bust. He didn’t become a starter, then a star, for years. Perhaps Tebow also will be traded at some point, a wasted pick, a project for another coach. But there’s also good reason to think that Tebow can be a very good NFL quarterback because, in the same way Tampa once miscalculated on Young, there’s reason to think we haven’t done a good job of accurately deciphering what a quarterback like Tebow can do. [...]

The bottom line is this: If you want to evaluate Tebow as a quarterback, you have to understand that what he lacks as a passer can be made up for by what he brings with his legs. This isn’t a new argument, but it now has additional context. [...]

Orton is a much better passer but a statue in the pocket, costing the Broncos points with sacks — and Tebow’s 82.1 passer rating in 2010 would have been the best among rookies if it had stretched for 16 games. [...] Tebow, were he to start in Week 1, would continue to be as raw a passer as you can find in the NFL. But this unrefined product is a lot better than some believe, and he might even be more valuable than Denver’s other option.

2 » ESPN also takes a look at Florida Gators redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and in what ways he needs to improve under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis this season. Specifically, he points to Brantley’s first down completion percentage and touch with balls thrown more than 20 yards down the field. Brantley completed passes on first down with a 110.8 efficiency in 2010 (113th in the nation), 28 points lower than the FBS average (138.8). On deep balls, Brantley only completed 20.8 percent of his passes (5-of-24) including only two against Southeastern Conference opponents. It is also noted that 41.7 percent of Brantley’s deep passes were overthrown.

3 » A pair of Florida senior volleyball players, outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and setter/right-side Kelly Murphy, were named to the 2011 Preseason All-SEC Team on Tuesday. The first volleyball players in league history to be named to the preseason All-SEC Team (2009-11, All-SEC First or Second Team (2009, 2010) and SEC All-Freshman Team (2008), the duo hopes to lead their team to another conference championship this season. The Gators are ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason poll and begin competition at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Aug. 26 against Boston College.

4 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has officially lost his fourth staffer this offseason. Following the departure of three assistants in the late spring, Donovan’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring has decided to leave the Gators to take the director of athletic performance job with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. With Florida for both national championships, Herring is excited about his new opportunity. “I really hadn’t thought about it until San Antonio came calling,’’ Herring told UF senior writer Scott Carter. “The main reason why we even considered it is one, it’s a great organization and we certainly follow them, and then the draw to get closer to family and see my little girl get a chance to get closer to her grandparents and foster those relationships. It was just a tremendous opportunity for us on a personal level. The University of Florida is a fantastic place to be and Coach Donovan and the administration certainly tried to encourage me to stay here, but at the end of the day, they can’t move Gainesville to Texas, and that was the biggest draw.’’

Extra BIT » Incoming freshman golfer J.D. Tomlinson has a unique opportunity next week as he will be competing to win a U.S. Amateur event at the age of 18. Only four former Gators have accomplished this feat thus far, but Tomlinson plans to give it a go before even taking a swing in an Orange & Blue polo shirt.

Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford: “It was a no-brainer for me to represent my country.”

Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford, having recently completed his fourth NBA season, is in his prime and playing the best basketball of his career.

Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557) and free throw percentage (.789) while also posting 9.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 2010-11, he was named a NBA All-Star for the second-straight season just months after Atlanta locked him up long-term with an impressive five-year, $60 million contract extension in November.

OGGOA caught up with the two-time National Champion, two-time NCAA Finals Most Valuable Player and member of the 2008 NBA All-Rookie Team while he was in Lexington, KY practicing with the Dominican Republic National Team. Horford, who is working out in facilities usually occupied by the Kentucky Wildcats due to his team being led by Kentucky head coach John Calipari, has found himself learning a new system in enemy territory. He spoke with us just after completing practice about a variety of topics including his new contract, reminiscing with the Oh Fours, representing his country and performing some Gator Chomps in the near future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Last time we spoke was a year and a half ago just before you played in your first All-Star game. You went back and posted some career highs this season. To what do you attribute your continued improvement?
AL HORFORD: “There’s really no secret behind that, it’s all about putting in the time in the summer. I always try to focus on something different in the offseason that I want to work on and improve. This past summer I got a chance to work with [veteran skills trainer] Rob McClanaghan, a great basketball trainer who works with a lot of other guys in the league including Derrick Rose. He helped me a lot with my game, but I think at the end of the day it is just all about taking the time and making a commitment to work and keep getting better in the offseason.”

AS: Is there any type of competition between you and Jo[akim Noah]? Obviously you were came out of the same school and were picked high in the 2007 NBA Draft, but you’re also playing the same position and competing in the Eastern Conference, too.
AH: “Nah, not really. Me and Joakim, when we talk, we rarely talk basketball. I’m sure he wants to do good and great for his team, and I do the same, but I think at the end of the day we’re not caught up on so much individual stuff. For us, it’s more about our teams and winning and stuff like that. Obviously he has the upper hand on me because of their team because of the playoffs. I know he was happy about that. We’re not competing individually, it’s [more like] how much we impact our individual teams.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Al Horford after the jump!
Continue Reading » Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford: “It was a no-brainer for me to represent my country.”

Erin Andrews fills in for Ripa on Regis & Kelly

ESPN reporter and former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews filled in for Kelly Ripa as co-host of Live with Regis & Kelly Wednesday morning in an appearance met with rave reviews by fans of the television program.

Andrews, who has extended her brand recently by appearing on Dancing with the Stars and Good Morning America while also doing endorsements for Reebok’s ZigTech brand and helping raise awareness for prostate cancer and the implementation of anti-stalking laws, spent all morning with notorious Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan Regis Philbin on the nationally syndicated program.

Below are two videos of her appearance courtesy of Timothy Burke. The first is the beginning of the show, and the second is a five-minute clip of Andrews playing with a bunch of puppies. You can view them after the break.
Continue Reading » Erin Andrews fills in for Ripa on Regis & Kelly

Hill, Debose, Patchan named in Yahoo! report on Miami booster providing improper benefits

Updated at 9:45 p.m.

A report released Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports concerning the intricate dealings of a Miami Hurricanes booster who was jailed for heading up a $930 million Ponzi scheme contains the names of three members of the current Florida Gators football team.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

Of the seven coaches specifically named in the report, one is current Florida wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, who was hired by head coach Will Muschamp as he assembled his brand new staff this past offseason. Hill, a former UF player and also the Gators’ new recruiting coordinator, was receivers coach at Miami from 2008-10 and added the recruiting coordinator role to his responsibilities last season.

Among the specific incidents, Shapiro or other sources say Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland, Pannunzio and Allen all delivered top-tier recruits to Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them. Among the players who were ushered to Shapiro while they were still in high school: [...] eventual Florida commitments Andre Debose (Hurtt) and Matt Patchan (prompted by Stoutland and Pannunzio) [...]

In accompanying reports detailing specifics about each coach and player, Robinson notes Hill was “on hand when three recruits – Andre Debose, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye – were brought to Shapiro’s $6 million Miami Beach mansion for the purposes of the booster recruiting the players. Hill was on hand while Shapiro toured the players through his home and made a pitch to lure their commitment to Miami.” Shapiro also said he took the recruits out in his $200,000 Mercedes S65.

Robinson goes on to report that “Shapiro alleges he provided Debose with extra benefits during recruiting visits.” In addition to the dealings listed above, Shapiro said he “gave Miami equipment assistant Sean Allen approximately $2,000 to $3,000 in cash and instructed him to show Debose, Armstrong and Dye a good time. Shapiro said Allen ultimately used the money to take the players to nightclubs, including Take One Cocktail lounge and strip club.” Debose (now a redshirt sophomore) allegedly visited Shapiro’s house again “for another gathering” where he was “served food and drinks” and attended a meeting at Lucky Strike Lanes where Shapiro hosted recruits as they watched NFL games, ate and drank for free.

As far as Patchan (now a redshirt junior) is concerned, he allegedly joined “multiple members” of his family at Shapiro’s mansion for a meal. “Shapiro said the recruiting visit at his home was attended by the two Miami coaches, Patchan, Patchan’s mother, Patchan’s father and Patchan’s uncle.”

Due to their inclusion in the report, a situation may arise where Hill, Debose and Patchan might be forced to remain off the field at the very least as a precaution until a conclusion is reached one way or another on their respective eligibility.

As noted by Yahoo!‘s Charles Robinson early in the report, Shapiro’s admissions bring a lot of the Hurricanes’ recruiting practices into question and could severely damage the program and those associated with the allegations for some time to come.

All told, the length, breadth and depth of the impropriety Shapiro has alleged would potentially breach multiple parts of at least four major NCAA bylaws – and possibly many more. Shapiro described acts that could include violations of multiple parts of bylaw 11, involving impermissible compensation to coaches; multiple parts of bylaw 12, involving amateurism of athletes; multiple parts of bylaw 13, involving improper recruiting activity; and multiple parts of bylaw 16, involving extra benefits to athletes.

In addition to all of this, Robinson also details Shapiro putting bounties on the heads of star players from opposing teams, giving Miami’s student-athletes an even greater reason to play hard and make an impact on the field.

The booster told Yahoo! Sports he had a number of individual payouts for “hit of the game” and “big plays.” He also put bounties on specific players, including Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and a three-year standing bounty on Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix from 2002 to 2004, offering $5,000 to any player who knocked him out of a game.

In the one contest against the Hurricanes that Tebow participated in (Sept. 6, 2008), the Gators signal caller went 21-of-35 for 256 yards and tossed two touchdowns while also carrying the ball 13 times for 55 yards. He was only sacked once.

One more Florida reference from the report involves former Gators guard Teddy Dupay, whose name was used as an alias by Shapiro when registering rooms at the Mercury Hotel in South Beach for players to copulate with prostitutes.

The University of Florida declined Yahoo!‘s request to make Hill, Debose or Patchan available for comment, but associate athletics director of communications Steve McClain released an official statement Tuesday evening.

“While we declined comment for Yahoo’s request, Coach Hill indicated he was very comfortable with, and very confident in how he conducted himself while at the University of Miami.”

Robinson’s report, which details alleged widespread illegal activities throughout Miami’s football and basketball programs, can be read in full by clicking here.

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