Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Brad Wilkerson becomes first Florida Gators player inducted into College Baseball Hall of Fame

A three-time All-American and the 1998 National Player of the Year, Brad Wilkerson was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first Florida Gators player to receive the prestigious honor.

A unanimous first-team All-American as a junior in 1998, Wilkerson’s abilities at the plate and on the mound were some of the main reasons why Florida won two Southeastern Conference Championships in three years and advanced to the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. His grand slam home run to defeat Florida State in the CWS is one of the standout plays in Gators baseball history, and he became the first player in NCAA history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and earn 10 wins as a pitcher (which he accomplished in 1998).

Wilkerson is first in school history to this day in career batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.531) and walks (224); he is second in home runs (55), runs batted in (214), runs (239) and total bases (499). He is also listed as part of the top-10 in seven other categories including notables like pitching wins (third with 26), strikeouts as a pitcher (fifth with 292) and hits (sixth with 266).

Following his time at Florida, Wilkerson was selected with the No. 33 overall pick by the Montreal Expos in the 1998 MLB Draft and following three years in the minor leagues spent eight playing in the majors. He earned Rookie of the Year honors from Sporting News, hit 32 home runs in 2004, smacked the last home run in Expos team history, jacked the first grand slam in Washington Nationals team history, hit for the natural cycle (in four plate appearances) and hit three home runs in a single game (2007).

Wilkerson also played for the Texas Rangers (2006-07) and spent time as a member of both the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. He signed a minor league contract with Boston in 2009 but quickly decided to retire before attempting a comeback in 2010 with Philadelphia that only lasted one month.

Wilkerson is a member of the seventh class of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, which began honoring players in 2006, and was inducted in a ceremony that took place Saturday in Lubbock, TX. He is one of four members of the 2012 class, which also includes Nomar Garciaparra, Lou Brock and Frank Sancet (coach).

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FOUR BITS: Hodge, Tebow, Young, Wilkerson

1 » Former Florida Gators guard Walter Hodge was named Most Valuable Player of the Polish Basketball League (English translation) on Friday. Hodge, who plays for Zastalu Zielona Gora in the nation’s top basketball league, received nine-of-14 MVP votes from the PBL’s coaches.

2 » New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez told the New York Post on Thursday that everything is going swimmingly so far with QB Tim Tebow in the team’s offseason program. “He’s been as advertised, as good of a guy, if not better, than anybody said,” he explained. “So, he’s been a great addition so far. I’m thrilled to work with him. From a competitor standpoint, he’s great. He’s what you want in an offseason program – working hard, competing with the guy in the weight room. […] It’s been a good transition and Tim’s been great.” It will be interesting to see if Sanchez holds those same opinions once Tebow starts competing with him for the starting job.

3 » Florida sophomore center Patric Young has been participating in some tough offseason workouts with his teammates and has been making the details known on Twitter recently. On Friday he posted a video of a four-minute portion of the workouts complete with Young lifting a keg, flipping a tire and pushing a pick-up truck.

4 » The Southeastern Conference announced this week that it has created a SEC Baseball Legends program for the sport after already having one in existence for football and basketball. In conjunction with the announcement, the league will honor one player from each member institution at the upcoming SEC Tournament from May 22-27. Former Gators first baseman/outfielder/pitcher Brad Wilkerson will be Florida’s first inductee (and deservingly so). The Gators have also decided to honor Wilkerson’s multiple inductions this year (he will join the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in June) during Friday’s game against Georgia at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The contest begins at 7 p.m. and airs live on Comcast Sports South.

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Brad Wilkerson becomes first Florida Gators player named to College Baseball Hall of Fame

A three-time All-American and the 1998 National Player of the Year, Brad Wilkerson was announced Friday as the first player in Florida Gators history to be named to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

A unanimous first-team All-American as a junior in 1998, Wilkerson’s abilities at the plate and on the mound were some of the main reasons why Florida won two Southeastern Conference Championships in three years and advanced to the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. His grand slam home run to defeat Florida State in the CWS is one of the standout plays in Gators baseball history, and he became the first player in NCAA history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and earn 10 wins as a pitcher (which he accomplished in 1998).

Wilkerson remains first in school history in career batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.531) and walks (224) and is second in four more categories including home runs (55), runs batted in (214), runs (239) and total bases (499). He is also listed as part of the top-10 in seven other categories including notables like pitching wins (third with 26), strikeouts as a pitcher (fifth with 292) and hits (sixth with 266).

Following his time at Florida, Wilkerson (the No. 33 overall pick by the Montreal Expos in the 1998 MLB Draft) spent three years in the minor leagues and eight in the majors. Some career highlights include earning Rookie of the Year honors from Sporting News, hitting 32 home runs in 2004, smacking the last home run in Expos team history, jacking the first grand slam in Washington Nationals team history, hitting for the natural cycle (in four plate appearances) and hitting three home runs in a single game (2007).

Wilkerson will be officially inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, which began honoring players in 2006, in a ceremony set to take place in Lubbock, TX from June 29-30. He is one of four members of a 2012 class that also includes Nomar Garciaparra, Lou Brock and Frank Sancet (coach).

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Bates, Wilkerson, WBK

1 » It is no secret that the Denver Broncos’ quarterback situation received plenty of coverage in 2011. With veteran Kyle Orton, former Florida Gators signal caller Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn all vying for the starting job, things were undoubtedly uncomfortable in Mile High. In the latest issue of GQ, Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports submitted “An Oral History of Tebow Time” as told by analysts, coaches and players. Quinn was one of a number of players asked to talk about Tebow; he complied and did not hold back when it came to his true opinions. He began by noting that he was the true “second-string guy” on the roster but said Tebow got the nod over him to replace Orton for one reason in particular. “I felt like the fans had a lot to do with that. Just ’cause they were chanting his name,” he said. “There was a big calling for him. No, I didn’t have any billboards. That would have been nice.”

Asked to explain how Tebow and Denver beat Kansas City with him only completing two passes, Quinn gave his explanation, seemingly blaming the opposing defense instead of crediting his team: “The entire game, the defensive line is chasing the quarterback around, and that wears down the pass rush. Meanwhile, the defensive backs are chasing receivers, but you only throw eight passes, so they start to feel lazy. It only takes that one play, that one big pass, for a touchdown.” Quinn later notes the obvious, that the Broncos “had a lot of, I guess, luck, to put it simply” when it came to beating Chicago in Week 14. Just moments later though, he opines about Tebow as a person and offers a not-so-glowing opinion. “If you look at it as a whole, there’s a lot of things that just don’t seem very humble to me,” he said. “When I get that opportunity, I’ll continue to lead not necessarily by trying to get in front of the camera and praying but by praying with my teammates, you know?”

Updated at 4:30 p.m.

Quinn has since released the following statement:

The comments attributed to me in a recent magazine article are in NO WAY reflective of my opinion of Tim and the Broncos. Tim deserves a lot of credit for our success and I’m happy for him and what he accomplished. Most importantly, he is a great teammate. That interview was conducted three months ago, and the resulting story was a completely inaccurate portrayal of my comments. I have addressed my disappointment with the writer and have reached out to Tim to clear this up. I apologize to anyone who feels I was trying to take anything away from our team’s or Tim’s success this season.

2 » Former Florida linebacker James Bates, a defensive captain with the Gators who has recently been working in college sports broadcasting, was recently the victim of a faulty piece of furniture. On hand to cover a college basketball game between Xavier and Dayton for CBS Sports Network, Bates’ stool collapsed live on the air. He was sent falling to the floor but kept a good disposition afterward, as you can see in the video below.

3 » The National College Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Friday that voting is underway for a new class to be selected out of a pool of “69 worthy candidates.” One of those candidates is none other than former Florida All-American hitter and pitcher Brad Wilkerson, a member of the 1996 and 1998 College World Series teams who was also a three-time All-SEC selection and the 1998 Collegiate Player of the Year, was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame on April 9, 2010. He played for four MLB teams and won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and still holds career records with the Gators for batting average, RBI, slugging percentage and walks.

4 » On Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Florida women’s basketball (17-10, 7-7 SEC) earned their biggest victory of the season with a 61-57 win over the No. 16/18 Georgia Bulldogs (20-7, 9-5 SEC). Junior forward Jennifer George (15 points, six rebounds) and senior guard Lanita Bartley (11 points, four boards) led the way for the Gators, which rebounded nicely after nearly defeating No. 24 Vanderbilt just a few days earlier UF will play their regular-season finale on Thursday against Mississippi State.

EXTRA BIT » Though Florida failed to prevail at the 2012 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships in Knoxville, TN over the weekend, the Gators did sweep one important category as sophomores Elizabeth Beisel and Marcin Cieslak were named the 2012 SEC Female and Male Swimmer of the Year, respectively. Florida won eight individual SEC titles at the event with Beisel and Marcin each taking home three. The women’s team finished second overall behind Auburn, while the men came in third behind Georgia and Tennessee.

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TWO BITS: LaPorta struggling, Harrison caught

1 » Former Florida Gators baseball star Matt LaPorta, now a starter with the Cleveland Indians, is struggling mightily in his first full season in MLB. The two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (2005, 2007) batted .254 with seven home runs and 21 RBI in 52 games his rookie season (2009) but is not coming close to that pace this year. In 20 appearances, LaPorta is hitting .214 with no homers and only a single RBI to his name. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft was expected to be a source of power in the major leagues but has yet to live up to the expectations he had garnered. Cleveland acquired LaPorta as part of the trade that sent now-New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers two years ago.

2 » Fellow former Florida baseball player Ben Harrison is also struggling, but he is facing a very different type of conflict. On Friday, Harrison – who is currently a free agent in the minor leagues – was suspended 100 games for violating MiLB’s drug program. He was caught buying and using amphetamines, which were outlawed in MLB beginning in 2006. During his University of Florida career, Harrison hit 40 home runs and 192 RBI, ranking him second all-time in both categories behind arguably the best player in school history, the now-retired Brad Wilkerson.

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Wilkerson, Taylor inducted into 2010 Hall of Fame

Eight former letterwinners, including Gator Greats Brad Wilkerson (baseball), Fred Taylor (football) and Brian Gay (men’s golf), were inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame on April 9 as members of the 2010 class. The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. presented these honors at the Hall of Fame Banquet in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace.

According to UF, “inductees are divided into three different categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners.” The remainder of the induction class included Gator Greats Leah Kirklin Anderson (women’s track & field), Jenny Manz Theis (volleyball) and Jason Odom (football) and Distinguished Letterwinners Laurie Burns (women’s golf) and William Freeman (men’s track & field).

More about each inductee and their individual career accomplishments after the jump.
Continue Reading » Wilkerson, Taylor inducted into 2010 Hall of Fame

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Gator Bites for Wednesday, February 24

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Arguably the greatest player in the history of Florida Gators baseball, free agent Brad Wilkerson has signed a minor-league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was a member of the 2010 UF Hall of Fame class, a part of the 1996 and 1998 College World Series teams, a two-time All-American, three-time All-SEC selection and the 1998 Collegiate Player of the Year. Wilkerson holds career records at Florida for batting average, RBIs, slugging percentage and walks. He played for four MLB teams from 2001-08 and won a gold medal with Team USA baseball at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

There are seven more Gator Bites for you to check out…after the jump!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Wednesday, February 24

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