Texas A&M Aggies become 13th SEC member

It’s official. After months of speculation and some recent litigation, the Texas A&M Aggies announced Sunday that they will be leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012 for the 2012-13 athletic season.

The addition of Texas A&M marks the first expansion for the SEC since it added Arkansas and South Carolina and split into divisions in 1991.

“The Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors are pleased to welcome Texas A&M University to the SEC family,” said Bernie Machen, chair of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors and president of the University of Florida. “The addition of Texas A&M University as the SEC’s 13th member gives our league a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.”

“The Southeastern Conference provides Texas A&M the national visibility that our great university and our student-athletes deserve,” Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said. “We are excited to begin competition in the nation’s premier athletic conference. This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically, and I believe the [SEC] gives the Aggies the best situation of any conference in the country.”

The two-step process, which included SEC presidents voting to extend an invitation and Texas A&M officials accepting the invitation, was officially completed Sunday because the threat of a lawsuit from some other Big 12 schools stalled the process.

“On behalf of our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, students and fans, I welcome Texas A&M University to the SEC family,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “Texas A&M is a nationally-prominent institution on and off the field and a great fit for the SEC tradition of excellence—athletically, academically and culturally.”

The Aggies will now become the SEC’s 13th member and will likely join the conference’s West division, leaving the league unbalanced at least in the short term.

Consequently the Big 12 is now left with only nine teams after Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) left the former 12-team conference over a year ago.

The Big 12 has made adding a 10th member a priority, while the SEC has said it will take time to decide on and invite a 14th team. Should the SEC add a team that would geographically fit in the West division, Auburn would likely switch to the East.

GETTING TO KNOW TEXAS A&M

UNIVERSITY
Established: 1871
Location: College Station, Texas
A&M? Agricultural and Mechanical
Enrollment: 46,522 (spring 2011)
Campus: 5,500 acres
Colors: Maroon and white
Official greetings: “Howdy!” “Gig ‘em
President: Dr. R. Bowen Loftin
Notes: Receives land, sea and space grants from the government; first public institution of higher education in the state; provides more commissioned officers to the U.S. Armed Forces than any other non-service academy college

ATHLETICS
Nickname: Aggies
Mascot: Reveille (collie)
Facilities: Kyle Field (football), Reed Arena (basketball), Olsen Field (baseball)
Men’s sports: Football, basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field
Women’s sports: Basketball, softball, cross country, equestrian, golf, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, volleyball
National titles: 12 (not counting equestrian)
Conference titles: 139 (not counting fencing)
Highest Director’s Cup finish: No. 6 (2009-10)
Fanbase name: 12th Man
Band: Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band
Previous affiliations: Southwest, Big 12
Athletic director: Bill Byrne

FOOTBALL
First season: 1894
Stadium capacity: 83,002
All-time record (as of 2010): 674-443-48 (.599)
Traditions: Standing all game; Midnight Yell; Bonfire
National titles: 1 – 1939
SWC titles: 17 – 1917, 1919, 1921, 1925, 1927, 1939, 1940-41, 1956, 1967, 1975, 1985-87, 1991-93
Big 12 titles: 1 – 1998
Highest Top 25 finish (post-1990): AP – No. 7, Coaches – No. 6 (1992)
Record vs. Florida: 1-1 (L 6-42, Oct. 13, 1962; W 37-14 Jan. 2, 1977)
Heisman Trophy winners: 1 – John David Crow (1957)
College Football Hall of Fame: coaches – 5, players – 10
Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1 – Yale Lary

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Gators at No. 22 in 2011 AP preseason poll

The 2010 Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners earned the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press preseason poll released Saturday with the Florida Gators being slotted in the bottom fifth of the rankings at No. 22.

Oklahoma received 36 of 60 possible first-place votes with Alabama (17), Oregon (4), LSU (1) and Boise State (2) rounding out the top five.

Other Southeastern Conference teams ranked by the AP this preseason include 2010 SEC East champion South Carolina (No. 12), Arkansas (No. 15), Georgia (No. 19), Mississippi State (No. 20) and 2010 SEC West champion Auburn (No. 23).

The Gators were ranked No. 23 by USA Today in their coaches preseason poll.

WeekResultBCSUSA TodayAssociated Press
Preseason--No. 10 (930)No. 10 (894)
2W 24-6 vs. Toledo-No. 9 (974)No. 12 (875)
3L 16-21 at Miami-No. 20 (410)No. 18 (405)
4Open-No. 18 (398)No. 19 (412)
5W 31-17 vs. Tennessee-No. 19 (449)No. 20 (414)
6W 24-7 at Kentucky-No. 19 (515)No. 18 (481)
7W 30-10 vs. Arkansas-No. 17 (574)No. 17 (536)
8L 6-17 at LSU-No. 22 (240)No. 22 (249)
9L 17-36 at Missouri-NR (4)NR (17)

Florida began the 2010 season at No. 4 in the AP top 25 and No. 3 in the USA Today poll but finished unranked after going 8-5 (4-4 SEC).

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Gators at No. 23 in USA Today preseason poll

The 2010 Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners earned the No. 1 spot in the USA Today coaches preseason poll released Thursday with the Florida Gators being slotted in the bottom fifth of the rankings at No. 23.

Oklahoma received 42 of 59 possible first-place votes with Alabama (13), Oregon (2), LSU (2) and Florida State rounding out the top five.

Other Southeastern Conference teams ranked by USA Today this preseason include 2010 SEC East champion South Carolina (No. 12), Arkansas (No. 14), 2010 SEC West champion Auburn (No. 19), Mississippi State (No. 20) and Georgia (No. 22).

Florida began the 2010 season at No. 3 in the USA Today poll and No. 4 in the Associated Press top 25 but finished unranked after going 8-5 (4-4 SEC).

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2011 College World Series: Florida vs. Texas

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

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

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (7) TEXAS LONGHORNS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Augie Garrido
Record: 50-17 Record: 49-17
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Sophomore LHP Hudson Randall (10-3, 2.29 ERA)
Texas: Junior RHP Taylor Jungmann (13-2, 1.38 ERA)

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida and Texas met in the 2005 CWS Championship Series with the Longhorns sweeping the Gators via back-to-back 4-2 and 6-2 wins to earn the title. That is the only time that UT and UF have every gone head-to-head in baseball until Saturday.
» Florida is one victory away from tying a school record for most in a season.
» The Gators are 38-7 this year when scoring first and 40-3 when outhitting their opponent. Florida is also 34-6 when hitting a home run and 21-5 when playing error-free.
» UF has scored 201 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 27-0 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 36-1 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 7-15 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» UF is 43-2 when scoring four runs or more and 43-0 when leading after seven frames.
» Florida is making its seventh appearance in the CWS and third since 2005. UF has never won a national championship in the sport of baseball.
» The Gators are one of two teams (South Carolina) to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» UF is in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Texas is the top-ranked team in the Big 12, finishing with a 19-8 record in league play.
» The Longhorns are 13-8 when not playing at home this season.
» UT is the winningest program in college baseball history (based on winning percentage) and has the second-most wins all-time (3,149).
» Texas holds the record for most CWS appearances (34) and most games won (82).
» The Longhorns have won six NCAA baseball titles (1949, 1950, 1975, 2002, 2005) and have appeared in the Championship Series a total of 12 times.
» The Florida and Texas boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Longhorns in batting average (.311-.272), runs scored (435-345), hits (715-580), homers (67-17) and RBI (404-304). However, UT holds advantages in steals (75-56), walks (286-228), ERA (2.27-3.01), saves (23-14), strikeouts (555-504) and batting average against (.196-.245).

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore LHP/DH Brian Johnson (concussion) – Cleared to play
Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox (foot) – Able to pitch; hitting to be determined

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.376), hits (92), homers (18), runs (72), slugging (.686)…and strikeouts (47). He also has 66 RBI on the season. Zunino has more home runs (18) this year than the entire Texas team combined (17).
» Junior right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 68 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .314 with 83 hits, 53 runs, 14 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…arguably the strongest fielder on the team who has also broke out offensively. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .301 with 72 hits, 55 runs, 47 RBI and a team-high 50 walks. He has hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Maddox…who has made 19 relief appearances (24.1 innings) and has compiled a 0.74 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .380 with six homers and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-0, 2.03 ERA)…who has made a team-high 33 appearances this season and earned two saves in 40 innings pitched. He has amassed 51 strikeouts against only seven walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Texas freshman third baseman Erich Weiss…who leads his team in batting average (.358), RBI (44), walks (53) and slugging percentage (.532) and has also scored 46 runs in 218 trips to the plate this season.
» Longhorns closer Corey Knebel (3-2, 1.15 ERA)…who has pitched in a team-high 37 games and amassed 19 saves via 60 strikeouts in 54.2 innings.

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Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

Usually we have to convince our interview subjects to sit down and talk with us for a half hour. When it came to former Florida Gators now Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson, he had nothing but time while in the middle of a 22-hour drive from Buffalo, NY, to Dallas, TX, and in desperate need of some entertainment.

Catching up with him 14 hours into his trip somewhere in Memphis, TN, OGGOA spoke with Nelson about everything from his family growing up to what he thinks about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp and the future of quarterback John Brantley. He was honest and candid, as expected, and gave us a good look into the journey from high school star to solid college contributor to NFL undrafted free agent.

Nelson hauled in 46 receptions for 630 yards and seven touchdowns during his Florida career. As a rookie with Buffalo in 2010, he matched half that total with 31 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns (in consecutive games).

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You’re one of eight children…where do you fall age-wise and what was it like growing up with so many siblings?
DAVID NELSON: “I’m actually the oldest of eight. Growing up there was only three of us – me and two of my younger brothers. My mom and dad were together and it was just us three. We were always real close, always competed and always playing sports and video games and trying to beat each other. We would fight and argue like brothers do, but looking back I cherish those times with my brothers more than anything. I always had a friend and brother to play with, always a partner to go out and do stuff with. It wasn’t until my mom and dad got divorced and both of them got remarried and had extra kids. My mom had three extra kids and my dad had two extra kids. My youngest sister right now is like three years old.”

AS: Christmas and Thanksgiving must be interesting then…
DN: “It is. It is. It’s a lot of fun though. It keeps it interesting and it keeps it fun.”

AS: What was it about Florida that made you decide to attend there over Notre Dame or staying in-state with Texas?
DN: “Growing up I never really knew much about Florida. I had seen them on TV every once in a while, when they were playing a bowl game or playing Florida State or something like that. I was never really a big fan growing up. I was from Big 12 country, so I grew up a huge Texas Longhorns fan, I watched all the Big 12 teams. When the recruiting process started, I didn’t hear anything from Florida. [Ron] Zook was there, didn’t hear anything from him or from his staff. Florida wasn’t even a consideration for me, never crossed my mind.

“When the whole issue with Tyrone Willingham getting fired [from Notre Dame]… I talked to Urban Meyer a little bit while he was at Utah, liked him a lot, but didn’t really feel comfortable going to Utah. When he accepted the job to go to Florida, he called me up and said, ‘Hey, I know you didn’t like it at Utah. What do you think about Florida?’ I was like, ‘I’ll research it, see what it looks like.’ The more I researched it, the more I learned about it, the more I liked it. I got a good feeling about it. [It happened] kind of late in the process, because it wasn’t until after the All-American game I started talking to him and took a visit up there. Got in town with my family, my family loved the community.

“I felt right with the coaching staff. I felt comfortable with the offense they were putting in. I knew that there was going to be something special that was going to happen there, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be one of the first recruiting classes to come in with them, because I knew Coach Meyer was going to be successful.”

AS: What were the first three years with the Gators like with you not getting much time on the field? Did you feel discouraged at all?
DN: “It was tough. It was real tough. An 18-19-20-year old kid coming in from high school, being heavily recruited, you automatically assume you are going to come in and you feel like you should be up for the Biletnikoff Award your first year on campus. When you’re a young kid, you buy into all the hype. You’re just really excited of what is going to happen. You come in and redshirt, the next year you sit on the bench, the year after that you sit on the bench again and you do get discouraged. You have all these people telling you how good you are, all these people from different angles saying you should be doing this…and you start to believe all the hype and all the cousins and the uncles calling you and you start to agree with them. You start to get these negative thoughts.

“The thought had crossed my mind of transferring; we actually pursued it a little bit. My dad and I sat down and looked at some options. Coach Meyer told me to just think about it and get back to him. The more I thought about it, the more we researched, I realized I came here for a reason – I came here to be a part of something special. At that moment we were on the cusp of being a great program. We had just won the National Championship in Arizona, and we were on the cusp of being great. At that moment, I knew I came here, I started something. I’m going to see it all the way through. I’m going to stick to my word and I’m going to ride this out, see where it goes and where it takes me.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with David Nelson…after the break!
Continue Reading » Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

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No. 24 Florida Gators vs. No. 6 Kansas State

Event: Orange Bowl Basketball Classic
Location: BankAtlantic Center – Sunrise, FL [Capacity: 20,737]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 24 FLORIDA GATORS No. 6 KANSAS ST. WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 7-2 Record: 9-1
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kansas State -1.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 7-2 when participating in the OBBC with their last loss coming to Richmond in 2009. The Gators’ previous loss in the event was in 1997.
» This is the first-ever meeting between Florida and Kansas State.
» The Gators are 12-9 all-time against current members of the Big 12. The team has earned a 2-1 mark in such games under Donovan.
» Florida has out-rebounded eight of nine opponents this season including their two losses. UF is averaging +7.3 rebounds per game more than their opposition.
»The Gators have forced 15.9 turnovers per game in their seven wins but only 8.5 per game in their two losses this season.
» Florida is 79-21 under Donovan in the month of December.
» Donovan needs just three victories to move into sole possession of third place in SEC history for most wins as an SEC head coach.
» Kansas State bests Florida in three of four major statistical categories nationally including points per game 76.2-70.9 (67th-161st), rebounds per game 42.4-36.8 (13th-132nd) and assists per game 15.3-14.3 (65th-108th). However, the Gators shoot better from the field than the Wildcats .482-.452 (33rd-100th).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 24.2 points per game and has accounted for 33 of their team’s 48 three-pointers this season. Boynton, however, is struggling as of late after shooting a combined 3-21 (1-14 from downtown) over the last two contests for a total of seven points.
» Sophomore forward Erik Murphy…who is really coming on this season after only seeing the court sparingly as a freshman. Murphy has posted double-digit points three times and played more than 16 minutes in seven of nine games.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting 75 percent over the last three games and is becoming a force for Florida inside the paint.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who, after going scoreless against Central Florida, has gone 15-23 from the field over the last two contests for 34 points.
» Senior F Chandler Parsons…who is averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and is an integral part to the Gators’ success.
» Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin…who has posted a commendable 21-6 assist-to-turnover ratio while running the point in relief of Walker.
» Kansas State star G Jacob Pullen…who is averaging 16.3 points, 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Pullen has scored 18 points or more in half of his team’s games.
» Wildcats F Curtis Kelly…who is his team’s second-best scorer averaging 11.6 points along with 4.4 rebounds per game. Kelly missed KSU’s first three games of the season.

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REPORT: Texas A&M prefers SEC over Pac-10

When conference realignment became a hot topic a few weeks ago, a contingent of six Big 12 schools – Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado – were expected to leave the conference and join up with the Pac-10, with Nebraska also deciding to part ways and become the 12th member of the Big Ten.

A report Sunday from Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com states that, while Colorado and Nebraska have already left, a retooled 10-team Big 12 may be able to stay together if conference commissioner Dan Beebe can secure a substantial television contract. Texas is reportedly considering all options and would be amenable to earning as much as $17 million per season under the new deal.

In the same article, Brown notes that Texas A&M “has been in deep discussions with the SEC and as of Saturday night had enough votes on its Board of Regents to join the SEC” rather than potentially following Texas and company to the Pac-10. The SEC, which covets Texas and Oklahoma for expansion, would settle on adding Texas A&M due to the expanded reach it would receive in the Dallas and Houston television markets.

[UPDATE: Texas A&M turned down an official offer to join the Pac-10 on Sunday.]

However, if Texas decides to remain in the Big 12 – Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are tied-in as well – chances are Texas A&M would also stay put.

Should Texas A&M choose to join the SEC, it’s 100-year rivalry with Texas would be in jeopardy, but it would pick up its old natural rivalry with Arkansas, which flourished at one time in the now defunct Southwest Conference.

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SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

1 » Asked his thoughts about the one-and-done mentality perpetuated by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan decided to reminisce about the 2007 season, when his National Championship-winning team decided to take the unselfish route and return to school to repeat. “I don’t know all the situations in terms of [Kentucky players] with their families,” Donovan said per the Knoxville News Sentinel at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings. “My situation was very, very unique. There was an incredible chemistry and bond. And coming off a championship, they also wanted to try and do it again. Three of the [starters’ fathers] were professional athletes. I think the one thing their parents talked to them about was that they would never, ever play on a team like that, and that the NBA would always be there.”

2 » Donovan also spoke about his passion for the Florida program and how he does not envision leaving anytime soon, citing how nice the Gainesville, FL, community has been to raise a family and build a life. “I’m in a unique situation,” Donovan said. “Florida’s been great to me. I still have a passion for it.”

Four more BITS on Brandon Spikes, potential conference realignments and strength coach Mickey Marotti…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

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