TWO BITS: Florida-Georgia, Billy Donovan

1 » Though the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to let the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs choose whether to offer EverBank Field‘s new cabana seating for the annual World’s Largest Cocktail Party, the schools have turned down the opportunity both for 2014 and the foreseeable future. The 17 cabanas, which according to the Associated Press can seat a maximum of 640 people, take up the space of 7,000 seats that Florida and Georgia would otherwise be able to sell for the game. The athletic directors for both schools prefer to have temporary seating added in that space rather than waste the real estate. “Our No. 1 priority is to have the same number of tickets available to our fans and we don’t have an interest in any scenario that reduces the number of tickets,” Gators AD Jeremy Foley told the AP’s Mark Long. Jacksonville removed 9,500 seats as part of its new renovation but should still come close to its capacity of 84,000 for the game.

2 » ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, after speaking with personnel throughout the NBA, listed Florida head coach Billy Donovan as the coach in the college ranks who best prepares his players to be professionals. “He runs a lot of pro stuff and integrates a lot of wrinkles,” a league executive told Goodman. “He has an innovative playbook. … He just gets it.” The rest of the 12-person list, in order: Ben Howland (unemployed), John Beilein (Michigan), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Bill Self (Kansas), Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech), Rick Pitino (Louisville), John Calipari (Kentucky), Sean Miller (Arizona), Tony Bennett (Virginia).

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FOUR BITS: Nelson, Donovan, gymnastics, Foley

1 » New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson made headlines Monday by tweeting out a picture of himself teaching Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo how to throw an American football while the Portuguese National Team was working out at the training facility. But Nelson would not have even been at practice had he not been cleared by the Jets after being quarantined away from the team. Nelson, who does a ton of charity work in the offseason, got back from Haiti a few weeks ago but came down with a major illness – 104-degree fever and strep throat – after getting bit by a mosquito while out of the country. He rejoined his teammates last week and is now fighting for the No. 2 wideout job. Coming back in 2013 after tearing his ACL in the first game of 2012, Nelson bounced around before landing with the Jets. Catching passes from rookie quarterback Geno Smith, Nelson finished with 36 receptions for 423 yards and two touchdowns.


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FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

1 » The 2014 MLB Draft begins Thursday night and unlike years past, members of the Florida Gators baseball team will not have their attention diverted from postseason competition due to the program being eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Also unlike previous years, Florida does not have anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the draft, though that does not mean that draft-eligible Gators will not leave the program early (there were no seniors on the roster).

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue should be the first Florida player off the board at some point during the second day of the draft on Friday (Rounds 3-10). Juniors right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris, first baseman Zack Powers (previously drafted), left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, outfielder/RHP Justin Shafer, third baseman Josh Tobias (previously drafted) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (previously drafted) could all be selected. Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is expected to be picked and choose to a professional after dealing with injuries throughout his Gators career. Florida will also have a number of players from its 14-member 2015 recruiting class drafted.

2 » USA Today on Thursday released its college athletic department financial database, and Florida checked in sixth nationally in total revenue by bringing in more than $130 million last year. Weighed against its $107 million in expenses, UF netted over $23 million (second to Alabama’s $27 million) in 2013. Florida brought in $1 million more in ticket sales ($24.6 million) and $2 million more in contributions ($48.4 million) compared to 2012, figures that increased for the third-straight year (2011-13) after dipping in consecutive years (2009-10). The Gators also spent $1 million more on coaching and staff ($41.9 million) compared to 2012 but were nearly $2 million below its nine-year maximum of $43.7 million in 2011.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

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The Silver Lining: Billy Donovan’s honesty about NBA interest not indicative of imminent departure

Billy Donovan is not looking to leave the Florida Gators.

Donovan is happy to be living in Gainesville, Florida. His father, 73-year-old Bill Donovan, Sr., moved into town years ago and misses less than a handful of games each season. His son – yes, also named Billy Donovan – is on the Gators roster and will be a redshirt senior during the 2014-15 season. He wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Donovan is well-paid by the athletic department and its director, Jeremy Foley, a close friend who inked Donovan this spring to a new deal that will result in him earning $3.7 million before bonuses each season through 2019.

Donovan is revered by a fan base that bought into his talent long ago but is now prepared to make him a legend, all but begging Foley to erect a statue or name a portion of the soon-to-be remodeled Stephen C. O’Connell Center after arguably the best coach in school history.

Donovan is also a basketball junkie, and he has made it no secret that his passion for the game and desire to coach the sport year-round tugs at his brain and his heart.

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2014 SEC Spring Meetings: Schedules, network

The 2014 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings got underway on Tuesday in Destin, Florida, with Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley, head football coach Will Muschamp and head basketball coach Billy Donovan all in attendance.

In addition to participating in league meetings, school representatives make themselves available to discuss a number of hot topics concerning the SEC and college sports nationwide. Below are some highlights from the first day of the SEC Spring Meetings.

NO MORE FCS OPPONENTS?

Strength of schedule has been a key issue for members of the power five conferences now that the College Football Playoff has been put into place. With the SEC deciding to stick at eight league games and mandate at least one opponent from those four other conferences beginning in 2017, SEC schools are looking for ways to make their schedules even stronger going forward.

Muschamp on Tuesday said seemingly matter-of-factly that Florida is “probably going to move forward without playing FCS opponents.” As it turns out, the Gators do not currently have one on deck past 2014. Foley appreciated Muschamp’s sentiment, which falls in line with a recent Big Ten mandate, but does not necessarily think it is feasible. “In a perfect world, you play all [FBS] schools,” he told the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson, “but you also have to have 12 opponents.”

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban agreed with both Muschamp and Foley, noting that he would ideally like to schedule all non-conference games against big-five league teams before conceding that it is much easier said than done. “We can’t just call people up and say, ‘We want to have a game.’ It’s not like setting up a golf game,” he said.

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Damontre Harris leaves Florida Gators for good

Center Damontre Harris, who sat out two seasons with the Florida Gators due to NCAA transfer rules and team discipline, will leave the program without stepping on the court and playing a single game.

Harris’s departure was first reported by CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein but confirmed minutes later by Florida on Wednesday.

A source close to the team told OnlyGators.com last month that Harris gave tremendous effort in practice during the spring semester and was impressing on the court. However, a second source noted last week that Harris reverted to old form when the offseason began, indicating that his time at UF would likely to come to an end before the 2014-15 campaign as he was already missing team activities.

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Will Muschamp calls Florida basketball a “great example” for Gators football in 2014

For the first time in 73 collegiate campaigns, dating all the way back to the 1940-41 season, the Florida Gators saw their football team (eight) lose more games than their basketball team (three) in a single athletic calendar.

Granted, Florida football had its worst year since 1979 while Gators basketball posted one of the sport’s five best seasons in school history, but the fact is nevertheless a disturbing one for those that hold the outdated belief that UF is a “football school.”

So it should come as no surprise that Florida head football coach Will Muschamp, with plenty of time to watch the school’s other sports considering the Gators did not compete in the postseason and had spring practice start later than normal, believes his team can learn from what head basketball coach Billy Donovan accomplished with his squad.

“I’ve used their team, their unselfish team a lot [as an example] with our guys,” Muschamp said on Thursday during a Gator Gathering speech in front of the Broward County Gator Club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“I asked our players one time, I said, ‘How many lottery picks are on this basketball team?’ Our guys, they know, they said, ‘Probably none.’ I said, ‘How many first-round picks are there?’ [They answered], ‘I don’t know right now.’

“Well, they had a team that offensively played together. They had a defensive team that helped and played together. They were willing to make the extra pass offensively. They played with great effort and great passion.”

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Noah, Horschel, Donovan

1 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal opened some eyes on Tuesday, both early in the day and later in the evening when his team took down the Chicago Bulls 101-99 behind a great performance from the 20-year-old. Beal on Monday tweeted that he was visiting Giordano’s, a popular Chicago-style deep dish pizza restaurant in the Windy City. The Washington Post asked him about the experience. “I can’t eat that fat pie piece, whatever it’s called,” he said. “Deep dish pizza, I can’t eat that. I got the regular thin one. I didn’t eat a lot because I heard it’ll just sit there and you’ll be in the bathroom for hours.” It was probably a good thing Beal chose the New York-style slices because he went off that next day against the Bulls, scoring a game-high 26 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three with seven boards, two assists, two steals and a block in 42 minutes. Beal led the Wizards to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, scoring six-straight points and nine of his team’s last 11 to knot the contest at 91-91 with 52 seconds remaining.

2 » Chicago center Joakim Noah, fresh off his NBA Defensive Player of the Year honor also played well Tuesday, notching a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds while also registering three dimes in 46 minutes. Noah was 8-of-14 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line but did commit five turnovers and five fouls in the contest. In other Noah news, it was revealed by TMZ.com Wednesday that he and the footwear company Le Coq Sportif, of which he was an endorser after signing a six-year, $6 million contract, are in the midst of a lawsuit. Noah claims he is owed $1.65 million from the company, which “shut down its U.S. offices, fired the guy who signed Noah and started looking for ways to back out of the deal.” Furthermore, he “held up his end of the bargain and wore Le Coq shoes in every NBA game he played even though he claims they were ‘not well designed and likely contributed to [my] development of plantar faciitis,’” an injury that bothered him for each of the last two seasons. Noah now wears adidas.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Beal, Noah, Horschel, Donovan

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