Urban Meyer, Gators mutually sever financial ties

Announced as ESPN’s newest college football analyst on Monday, former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer said at the time he would continue working with the University of Florida in a to be determined capacity. Just two days later, Meyer and Florida have mutually agreed to end their financial agreement..

Fueled by concerns over potential NCAA recruiting violations (and likely a perceived bias on his part), Meyer will no longer be paid by UF; it is unknown if he will be allowed to retain his office inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“The University of Florida has been a big part of my personal and professional life for the past six years and while I will no longer be able to continue a professional relationship with the University, I will continue to support the many friends I made during my time there,” Meyer said in a statement released by the university.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley also shared his thoughts on the decision.

“We are happy for Coach Meyer that he is getting a chance to stay involved with college football – he has so much passion for the game and the players. He will provide great insight and background for ESPN’s audiences,” he said. “We were pleased to provide Coach Meyer with an opportunity within our athletic department, but the chance to work for ESPN was a perfect fit for him and his family. He will always be welcome here and we are forever indebted for what he accomplished and how he represented the University of Florida. He gave every ounce of energy to this program for six years and we certainly share a special bond with him. We will always remain close friends and I look forward to seeing him enjoy the next chapter in his life. Coach Meyer will always be a Gator.”

Meyer’s agent and former Gators star Trace Armstrong went more in-depth with the Orlando Sentinel on the mutual decision.

“Jeremy did it as a favor; he wanted Urban to understand that he was still a part of the program,” Armstrong told Mike Bianchi. “Nobody anticipated this would a problem with the NCAA. Usually, when a former coach is on ESPN, he has been fired and has broken ties with the school. This was a unique situation. In the end, we just thought this was the best resolution and the cleanest way to do it. This way, it removes any questions.”

DB Roberson ends up in Florida orange and blue

It didn’t take long for Florida Gators fans to breathe at least a mini sigh of relief on Wednesday as four-star defensive back Marcus Roberson announced that he has committed to the school and sent in his National Letter of Intent.

A former commitment to Texas Tech, Roberson decided to change his pledge to Auburn on Monday before completely pulling out of that commitment on Tuesday. Florida, which had been in the mix for a beginning, ends up the recipient of his services.

Roberson is the Gators 18th commitment for the 2011 cycle and the team’s fourth defensive back. He is listed as the No. 2 cornerback (No. 37 overall player) available by Rivals and No. 9 safety (No. 112 overall player) in the nation by ESPNU.

His commitment was first reported by 247Sports.

OGGOA will update this story as the day goes on.

Photo Credit: Unknown

No. 23 Florida edges No. 24 Vanderbilt in overtime

Winning after suffering a loss for the fifth time this season, the No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) clawed their way to 65-61 overtime victory against the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores (15-6, 3-4 SEC) on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons posted a team-high 18 points and game-high 11 rebounds on the way to his fourth double-double of the season and the 11th of his career. With 15 seconds remaining in the game and Florida up three, Parsons (shooting a career-low 51.7 percent from the free throw line this year) hit two foul shots to ice the contest and help the Gators capture their 12th victory in the last 15 games.

Florida and Vanderbilt both shot poorly in the first half, combining to go 21-for-59 from the field, 6-for-18 from three and 1-for-5 from the charity stripe. Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, also struggling with his shot, hit a trey at the halftime buzzer to give UF a 25-24 lead going into the locker rooms.

A 6-0 run by the Commodores put them ahead early in the second half as redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin headed to the bench with three fouls. That is when sophomore guard Kenny Boynton took over and scored five points as part of a 7-0 run to put the Gators up a game-high eight points, 43-35.

Florida would match their game-high lead with 4:53 to go; however, everything fell apart from there. Vanderbilt took off on a 9-1 run and tied the game at 56 with two free throws from G John Jenkins (a 90.6 percent foul shooter) with 25 seconds remaining in the contest. UF had two opportunities to extend their lead just seconds earlier, but Walker missed a floater and senior F Alex Tyus was rejected by the rim on a put-back dunk.

Walker, holding the ball for the entire final possession, missed a long three as the buzzer sounded and regulation ended The Gators failed to score a single field goal in the final 6:19 of the half, a drought which continued through the first 2:12 of overtime.

With 1:10 to go, Boynton nailed a trey to put Florida ahead two. He fouled Jenkins on a three-pointer of his own on the next possession, a miscue the referees missed.

Vanderbilt, which saw two starters and a key reserve foul out down the stretch, played most of the overtime period with a reduced roster. Jenkins led the Commodores with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and tied a team-high with six boards.

Supporting Parsons’ 18 points were Walker and Boynton with 15 a piece on a combined 9-of-27 shooting. Boynton went 3-for-8 from downtown and was once gain a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.

Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field, but the Gators out-rebounded their opposition 42-29 (12-6 offensively) for their third overtime win in four opportunities already this season.

Florida hopes build on their latest victory as they host No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday at 9 p.m. The game, which will be preceded by College GameDay being broadcast live from Gainesville, will air live on ESPN.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandin/Associated Press

Seven Gators invited to 2011 NFL Combine

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive has learned that seven former Florida Gators players have been officially invited to participate in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The event, which is held for six days from Feb. 23 to March 1, consists of more than 300 players being put through a series of drills, tests and interviews while more than 600 NFL personnel in attendance including coaching staffs, executives, player personnel and medical staff look on and evaluate each of them. It amounts to the final job interview these athletes will participate in before the 2011 NFL Draft commences on April 28.

The seven former Gators student-athletes participating in the combine include:

Strong safety Ahmad Black – Group: 10; Camp: DB3
Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert – Group: 02; Camp: OL27
Kicker Chas Henry – Group: 01; Camp: PK7
Free safety Will Hill – Group: 10; Camp: DB22
Guard Maurice Hurt – Group: 02; Camp: OL24
Guard Carl Johnson – Group: 01; Camp: OL16
Center/guard Mike Pouncey – Group: 02; Camp: OL39

Read about each player’s day-to-day schedule in Indianapolis after the jump!
Continue Reading » Seven Gators invited to 2011 NFL Combine

No. 23 Florida vs. No. 24 Vanderbilt Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 23 FLORIDA GATORS No. 24 VANDERBILT
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 16-5 (5-2) Record: 15-5 (3-3)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -4; O/U 139

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-56 and won both meetings last season. However, the Gators are 15-5 in their last 20 games against the Commodores; they are also 18-11 against them under Donovan including 11-3 at home and 8-1 in their last nine matchups in Gainesville.
» Florida has won 11 of its last 14 games with seven victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» A win Tuesday would give the Gators double-digit wins at home for the 14th consecutive year under Donovan.
» Florida is turning the ball over fewer than 10 times per game in SEC play and has turned it over in single digits in four of seven contests.
» Vanderbilt features players who, individually, lead the SEC leaders in points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage.
» The Commodores best the Gators in both points per game 78.8-71.4 (20th-120th) and field goal percentage .463-.458 (65th-81st) nationally. Vanderbilt and Florida are similar in their ability to rebound and dish the ball, averaging approximately 39 boards and 14 assists per game. UF ranks 19th in RPI (.6265) and 13th in strength of schedule nationally compared to VU being 22nd (.6214) and 24th, respectively.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (43.0%) and three-point percentage (39.5%). He has single-handedly accounted for 45 of Florida’s 122 treys this season. Walker became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat earlier this year.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.3) while leading the Gators with 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but is back in a slump after breaking out of one previously. Boynton is only shooting 36 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game and hits 81.5 percent of his free throws.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves averaging 17.3 and 17.0 minutes per game, respectively. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (3:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.6 boards off the bench.
» Vanderbilt G John Jenkins…who plays a team-high 34.1 minutes and is his team’s leading scorer (19.1 points per game). Jenkins also shoots 90.6 percent from the charity stripe, hits 41.5 percent of his three-pointers and leads the SEC in scoring average.
» Commodores F Jeffrey Taylor …who is his team’s second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder while playing the second-most minutes.

1/31: DONOVAN PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » No. 23 Florida vs. No. 24 Vanderbilt Gameday

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Dwyer, Beisel, Debut

1 » Contrary to a bevy of reports stating that he is definitively out for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey considers himself probable for the game with a self-described “pretty bad” high ankle sprain. “I hope so. Right now it’s 75/25, and I’m hoping to play,” he told ESPN’s Chris Berman during media day on Tuesday. “I feel great out the cast, man. I’ve been walking around pretty good. Hopefully I’ll get on the bike today and get some pool action in later. It feels pretty good. Everybody’s been pretty positive about me. It’s a nasty little purple color, but it’s getting better. I don’t know why everybody’s trying to rule me out early. Offensive linemen don’t get ruled out until the last day.” If he is able to step on the field, Pouncey will be the only former Florida Gators player to participate in the championship.

2 » With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, some things appear to be getting clearer with the two recruits from Dwyer High School that the Gators have their eyes on. According to the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter, Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels “has a good idea” of where four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) is going and believes he will end up choosing Tennessee over Florida. Daniels also expects four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) to make his declaration at halftime of his high school basketball game on Friday. Brissett is choosing among Florida, Miami, Wisconsin and Washington and is thought to be favoring UM.

3 » For the third-straight year, Florida freshman swimmer Elizabeth Beisel has been named Rhode Island Female Athlete of the Year and will be honored as such at the state’s annual banquet on Feb. 20. Beisel also took home Female Swimmer of the Week honors from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday. Joining her with recognition are Male Swimmer of the Week senior Conor Dwyer and Freshmen of the Week Hilda Luthersdottir and Marcin Cieslak.

4 » The University of Florida announced Tuesday that the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will be moved from 1 p.m. to noon in order to air live on Sun Sports on April 9. Last year the game aired live only on UF’s GatorVision; it is unknown if the contest will be broadcast live online as well.

DE Westbrook picks Florida before signing day

Three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL) did not want to wait 24 hours for National Signing Day. Just days after taking his final official visit to the University of Florida, Westbrook has committed to the Florida Gators and will become the 17th member of the team’s 2011 recruiting class.

At nearly 6’6” and 270 lbs., Westbrook is the No. 24 defensive end in his class, according to Rivals. Scout ranks him as a two-star player and the No. 181 player at his position nationally, and ESPNU gives him a 45 rating but does not list him otherwise.

Westbrook finished his senior season with 15 sacks, eight tackles for loss, three forced fumbles (two recoveries) and two blocked field goals.

Only the third commitment secured by head coach Will Muschamp, he chose Florida over South Florida, Connecticut, Purdue and North Carolina.

OGGOA RELATED: LB Stewart becomes Florida’s 16th commitment
OGGOA RELATED: Gorman commits to Gators at Under Armour game

Photo Credit: Michael Francis McElroy/Sun Sentinel

Machen for SI: grayshirting is “reprehensible”

University of Florida president Bernie Machen, published in a feature piece for SI.com, calls offering grayshirts to student-athletes “reprehensible” and says taking away a scholarship from a player is “disgusting” and a “nefarious practice.”

Imagine the feeling if the student finds out, literally a few months before enrolling, that the institution is backing out of the contract. It is too late in the summer to go back to one’s second choice. The student is told he will have to wait until next year. Sorry, but no acceptance, no scholarship. That’s it.

In Division I college football this practice is known as “grayshirting” and, unfortunately, there are universities that sanction this activity. The universities, with full knowledge of what they are doing, extend more athletic scholarships than they have. These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people. If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it’s legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.

What makes Machen’s comments particularly interesting are two stories that have come out over the last two recruiting cycles involving Florida Gators either offering or at the very least discussing grayshirts with high school players.

Rivals reported in Jan. 2010 that the Gators proposed the use of a grayshirt to three-star tight end recruit Michael McFarland, noting that he would not likely be strong enough to compete in the Southeastern Conference at his current build.

“When I went up there they threw out on the table the whole grayshirt thing,” McFarland said. “There have been times I wanted to do it and there were times I didn’t want to do it because I wanted to get up there and go play. […] They didn’t say they were going to do it but they gave me the option.”

Florida decided the move was not necessary; McFarland joined UF in the fall.

This year, four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett and Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels have noted that former Gators head coach Urban Meyer offered Brissett the opportunity to grayshirt, a move the player scoffed at.

It is important to note that there is a serious distinction between a team offering a grayshirt before a player has signed a National Letter of Intent and a team delaying or pulling a scholarship after that process is concluded. Machen is discussing the latter.

Entering into an agreement with a student-athlete that he or she will wait a year if they wish to play at a particular university where the player knows of the intentions and agrees to the move ahead of time is quite different than locking that player up and forcing him or her to abide by your decision after the fact.

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