FOUR BITS: Thompson, Butler, Pouncey, Bonner

1 » Florida Gators junior wide receiver Chris Thompson, who was excused from the team by head coach Jim McElwain while allegations of simple battery (dating violence) were flushed out, had the charge officially dropped by the state, according to Alachua County Court records. The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu spoke with State Attorney Bill Cervone, who said the alleged victim – an ex-girlfriend of Thompson – did not wish to pursue charges. Even if she had, it would have been unlikely that Thompson would have been found guilty of doing anything wrong. “He was legally entitled to make what is called ‘defense of his property,’ which in this case was his phone,” Cervone told the paper. “That’s what he was doing, and the injuries that resulted were inconsequential.” It is unknown if or when Thompson will rejoin the Florida football team.

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Florida women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler gets two-year extension; report: assistants gone

Updated on Thursday at 4:45 p.m.

Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley on Wednesday announced a two-year contract extension for women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler, keeping her with the program through the 2018-19 season.

Butler, who behind Carol Ross (1990-02) is the second-winningest and second-longest-tenured coach in program history, is just 153-112 (.577) at Florida, 56-68 (.447) in Southeastern Conference play over eight seasons. The Gators have never advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament under Butler.

“Clearly, the results of last season were not what anyone, including Coach Butler, had hoped. That said, I continue to strongly feel that Amanda is the right person to get Florida women’s basketball to be a contender in this league and nationally. She’s a Gator and will keep working tirelessly to elevate this program,” said Foley in a release.

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While team falters, Florida making commitment to O’Connell Center, basketball facilities

Florida Gators basketball (12-11, 5-5 SEC) is on pace for its worst season under head coach Billy Donovan since his first two with the program. It should be no surprise, however, that with Donovan’s track record of immense success and the basketball program’s still-growing national prestige, the Gators continue to invest in the future.

Announced in June with renovations expected to begin in March 2015, the 35-year-old Stephen C. O’Connell Center is set to undergo a massive renovation that will include a “prominent main entrance,” club seating, permanent chair backs, a “center-hung, high-definition video board” with a sound system, concourses and concession stands, offices and locker rooms, and advanced “mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.”

Initially projected to cost $45 million, $10 million of which would be contributed by the University of Florida, the updated price tag is $60 million, athletic director Jeremy Foley said on Monday. UF and the University Athletic Association have contributed with the rest of the $60 million committed via donations.

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Florida women’s basketball player Antoinette Bannister charged with credit card theft and fraud

Antoinette Bannister, a junior guard on the Florida Gators women’s basketball team, was arrested on Friday and charged with theft and fraud after taking a teammate’s credit card and using it at multiple locations throughout Gainesville, Florida.

According to The Gainesville Sun’s Cindy Swirko, the card Bannister stole on Jan. 11 belonged to redshirt junior center Viktorija Dimaite.

Bannister, who used the card at five separate locations and even signed her own name on shopping receipts, admitted to police on Friday that she shopped with the card but noted that she found it outside the Florida Basketball Practice Complex and not inside the women’s locker room of the facility as the police report originally stated.

The Independent Florida Alligator‘s Graham Hall reported early Sunday that Bannister has been kicked off the women’s basketball team. OnlyGators.com confirmed Bannister’s status Sunday evening. Her name remains present on Florida’s roster, however.

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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.

14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET

Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.

13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

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Florida women upset No. 6 Kentucky in Lexington

Florida Gators women’s basketball (12-4, 2-0 SEC) pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history on Sunday afternoon, hanging an 83-73 road defeat on the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats (13-2, 1-1 SEC) at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, KY.

Sunday’s victory broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and extended the Gators’ current winning streak to eight games, their longest since the 2008-09 season.

Florida won due to some tremendous play from its two backcourt stars.

Senior guard Jaterra Bonds, the reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, led all players with a game-high 23 points on 6-of-14 shooting. She hit 10-of-12 free throws and also added six rebounds on the afternoon.

Freshman G Ronnie Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 boards for Florida, going 9-for-13 from the field and registering two blocks in the contest.

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FOUR BITS: track, Tebow, Lewis, Moss

1 » A total of 10 current and former Florida Gators qualified for the 14th IAAF World Outdoor Championships over the weekend by competing in events across the globe. Twenty-one Gators participated at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships from June 19-23 in Des Moines, IA, with six moving on to the next stage of competition. Senior Omar Craddock and reigning Olympic silver medalist Will Claye finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. (Olympic gold medalist and 2012 World Champion Christian Taylor will also compete in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.)

Olympic relay silver medalist Tony McQuay and freshman Arman Hall finished two-three in the men’s 400 meters, Kerron Clement qualified with a fifth-place finish in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, and junior Cory McGee came in third in the women’s 1,500 meters but must still meet the “B” standard qualifying time before heading off to Moscow. Additionally, Novlene Williams-Mills won the Jamaican title in the women’s 400 meters, junior Eddie Lovett will race the men’s 110-meter hurdles for the Virgin Islands, and senior Ugonna Ndu will compete in the women’s 400-meter hurdles for Nigeria. Ndu can also qualify for the 100-meter hurdles by meeting the “B” standard qualifying time in that event prior to the start of the World Championships.

2 » New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow has been keeping a low profile with his new team, just as the front office and coaching staff asked, but he is hoping to make up some of the money he lost after New York waived him with a new investment. Tebow, already a co-owner of a D1 Sports Training facility in Tampa, FL, recently signed on with the fast-growing chain restaurant PDQ as the company’s latest investor. A Tebow-owned PDQ, the company’s eighth location, will open in Jacksonville, FL, later this summer. He also has options to purchase additional stores and may open another location in Jacksonville as well as one or two more in Alachua County. Tebow happened in to a PDQ for lunch one day while taking a break from his charity work in Tampa. He returned to the restaurant that evening for a second meal and immediately asked his management company, XV Enterprises, to learn more about the chain.

Check out two more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Moss, Carter, Miller, Bonner

1 » Less than two weeks after freshman guard Chandler Cooper announced she would be leaving the Florida Gators women’s basketball team and transferring to Lipscomb, two more members of the 2012-13 squad have decided to join her in exiting the program. According to The Alligator’s Phil Heilman, freshman guard/forward Sydney Moss will also transfer and junior center Vicky McIntyre, who transferred in last year but did not play the final eight games of the season, plans to leave the program. Moss, a star recruit for the Gators and member of the 2013 All-SEC Freshman Team, started 24 of 37 games, averaging 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. She was also dominant for Florida in the 2013 WNIT, leading the Gators in scoring (19.6 points), rebounding (9.0), assists (4.0) and field goal percentage (.571) during the event. Moss is an exceptionally big loss for head coach Amanda Butler, who was hoping to assemble for next season one of Florida’s most talented teams in years. The Gators signed their first-ever women’s McDonald’s All-American in 2013 five-star F Ronni Williams (Daytona Beach, FL) back in November.

2 » While transfer guard Eli Carter waits to learn if new Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann will sign off on his waiver to play immediately at Florida, he and head coach Billy Donovan have a decision to make. According to his father Dale Carter, who spoke with The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, Eli has been provided with the opportunity to play for the Jamaican National Team over the summer, a decision the player will let Donovan make. Donovan allowed – and even encouraged – G Mike Rosario to play with the Puerto Rican National Team last summer, a move that helped Rosario improve and mature both on and off the court. Chances are, if Carter desires to spend part of the summer in Jamaica playing basketball, Donovan will approve.

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