Florida cheerleaders get up off the ground

Fans that attended Wednesday’s Florida Gators basketball game may have noticed that the team’s cheerleaders were stunting on the court for the first time since school administration banned stunts and tumbling on Nov. 11 as “a proactive stance to protect the cheerleaders, who represent the University of Florida with enthusiasm and class.”

According to a source close to the cheerleading program, this change of heart is relatively minimal on Florida’s end and only occurred after athletic director Jeremy Foley reviewed a proposal created by the cheerleaders that outlined a number of stunts that contained “zero risk” and were maneuvers that even amateurs could accomplish.

The stunts contained in the proposal were “of elementary and junior high school level” but even with that being the case, approximately “90 percent did not get approved” by Foley and others involved in the decision-making process.

Stunts that Gators cheerleaders are now allowed to perform include shoulder sits, chairs and back handsprings. The cheerleaders are also optimistic that they can “hopefully prove there is zero risk to these stunts and [the administration] will eventually consider adding” to their repertoire.

Overall, the cheerleaders are excited for the minor victory but did hope to physically demonstrate other maneuvers they felt were equally safe rather than rely on a presentation to try and convince the administration.

Though they were not provided with that opportunity to showcase safe maneuvers, the cheerleaders are pleased with the minor changes and already felt less awkward performing in front of fans now that some athleticism is involved in their routines.

“Overall the team is very happy about the stunts, naturally,” the source said. “We would love to show our talent and athleticism to the fans but this is definitely a step in the right direction and we are just happy Mr. Foley gave us any chance at all to explain stunts.”

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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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FOUR BITS: volleyball title, Needles, soccer, cheer

1 » A young Florida Gators volleyball team struggled early this season in non-conference competition but has been on a roll since, winning 17-of-18 Southeastern Conference games and clinching the 2012 SEC Championship on Sunday. Florida (23-4, 17-1 SEC) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (17-14, 5-14 SEC) in a 3-0 sweep (25-19, 25-14, 25-19) to pick up the team’s 31th SEC title, its first since 2010. The Gators have now won 20 of the 22 SEC regular season titles awarded since 1991; UF also captured 11 SEC Tournament titles in that same time frame, though the event was discontinued following the 2005 season. All 31 league championships have comes under the stewardship of head coach Mary Wise, who took over the program in 1991 and will certainly be up for more Coach of the Year awards.

2 » Florida women’s basketball (3-1) dominated the North Florida Ospreys (0-4) to the tune of a 30-point win (74-44) on Monday, but the story of the game was the performance of redshirt freshman guard Carlie Needles, who set a program record with nine three-pointers in a single game. Needles scored a career-high 27 points in the contest while going 9-of-17 from beyond the arc. She did not take a single two-pointer or foul shot in her 31 minutes of court time. Her nine treys also tied the mark for second in SEC history for threes made by a women’s basketball player in a single game. She is just the fifth player in league history to make nine or more triples in a game. The old UF record (eight) was held by Bridget Pettis and set just over 20 years ago (Jan. 20, 1983).

3 » Coming off of winning two SEC titles – the regular season and tournament crowns – Gators soccer (19-5-1) put together an impressive run in the 2012 NCAA Tournament before falling to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-5-2) in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Florida took down Florida Gulf Coast 2-0 in opening round action last week and defeated UCF on Friday before falling 2-0 to Notre Dame on Sunday. The Fighting Irish got on the board at 20’ and again at 71’; each team had four shots on goal. The match was the last in the careers of five seniors that have made a major impact on the program. Redshirt forward/midfielder McKenzie Barney, MF Jo Dragotta, MF Holly King, MF/F Erika Tymrak and redshirt defender Kathryn Williamson were all able to say goodbye to fans at home as the first three tournament games were played at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

4 » Learning last Friday that the team would no longer be allowed to perform tumbling or stunts at games, events or practices, members of Florida cheerleading were up in arms and expressed their frustration via social media. Supporters of the squad have now created SaveFloridaCheerleading.com in an effort to explain their position and give the administration reason to reverse their decision.

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Florida cheerleading grounded by school

Updated Monday, Nov. 11 at 3 p.m.

Florida Gators fans may notice cheerleaders waving their pom poms and shouting through megaphones during Saturday’s game against Jacksonville State but what they won’t see is them tumbling on the ground or being held or tossed high in the air due to a decision made by the school’s administration on Friday.

A handful of Florida cheerleaders took to Twitter on Friday evening to express their outrage after learning that the school’s marketing department will no longer allow them to stunt or tumble, effectively grounding them during all games, events and practices.

“If you’re wondering why the cheerleaders aren’t doing any thing at the games ask the UF marketing department. This is not fair,” wrote four-year cheerleader and senior captain Tarin Moses.

“This is unreal. This is unreal. This is not happening. This did not just happen,” added senior Morgan Palmer. “We know what we do is risky and that there is a ‘one in a million chance we might get hurt’ but that’s why we practice. #UngroundUFCheer”

“UF cheerleaders are no longer allowed to stunt and tumble..first we aren’t a real sport now we are too dangerous? #what #UngroundUFCheer,” wrote junior Elizabeth Garcia.

“It’s a sad day in UF cheer history that we will no longer have the privilege to perform stunts and tumbling for Gator fans #ungroundUFcheer,” concurred sophomore Haley Violetta.

The school, via senior associate athletics director Steve McClain, released a statement on Monday, Nov. 11, which read in part:

“Instead of waiting for a tragedy to occur, we are taking a proactive stance to protect the cheerleaders, who represent the University of Florida with enthusiasm and class, and allow them to lead cheers at Gator games for years to come. […]

“We understand that the modern day culture of cheerleading encourages acrobatic stunts which require tremendous athletic skill. The reality, however, is that the danger associated with these types of stunts is simply not worth the risk to the cheerleaders or to the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida cheerleading grounded by school

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SIX BITS: Murphy, Noah, Parsons, Tebow, cheer

1 » As those that follow Florida Gators basketball are well aware, senior forward Erik Murphy’s perfect shooting performance on Wednesday came very close to not even being a possibility due to a number of incidents that happened over his first three years of college. Murphy had considered transferring on two different occasions (with a push coming from his father), obviously deciding to stay both times, and faced third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car in April 2011. A feature on Murphy by CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman notes that two of those incidents happened one after another with both being major reasons why the player is better than he has ever been. “It made me grow up overall in my life,” Murphy said. “I realized I wasn’t really that focused on anything.”

2 » The NBA 2012-13 season began two weeks ago (more on that at the end of the month), and a pair of former Gators have most certainly been turning heads with their respective performances. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is averaging 16.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.4 steals in 39.8 minutes per game (all career-highs) and has registered 17 or more points in five of eight games with four double-doubles. His best performance came Wednesday night when he sunk two late baskets to lead Chicago over Phoenix 112-106 in overtime. In a similar fashion, Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons is averaging career-highs in points (12.4), boards (6.4) and dimes (3.6) in a career-most 38.3 minutes per game. He also registered a career-high 25 points on 5-of-10 shooting from three against Miami on Monday and hit the last basket in a 100-96 win over New Orleans on Wednesday.

3 » It only took nine games for the cowardly New York Jets’ anonymous player sources to rip quarterback Tim Tebow with them doing so Wednesday in a story for the New York Daily News. In the story, “more than a dozen Jets players and members of the organization painted a sobering picture” of Tebow with one defender coming out and saying “he’s terrible.” Left guard Matt Slauson, months ago, went so far as to refuse to name him a quarterback, calling him “an athlete” while a member of the organization said recently that “it would take extremely poor play … like a five-interception game … something where it was just ridiculous” for Tebow to even get a legitimate shot behind center. Another player said “nobody” on the team wanted Tebow to be the starter with yet another laughing that the question was even asked. All anonymously, of course.

Read three more BITS (two on Tebow)…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Murphy, Noah, Parsons, Tebow, cheer

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FOUR BITS: Young, Jaeckel, cheer, Jenkins

1 » Florida Gators sophomore forward/center Patric Young, one of the most important pieces to the team’s 2011-12 season, was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list on Monday. The Wooden Award is presented each year to the nation’s most outstanding college basketball player and is awarded after the postseason has concluded. Every player in the nation is eligible to win except freshmen, medical redshirts and transfers. Young is one of seven players representing the Southeastern Conference on the watch list and the only one from Florida.

2 » Gators senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel picked up a pair of prestigious weekly honors after standout performances over the weekend. Jaeckel was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday and was honored with the AVCA National Player of the Week award just one day later. Over the course of two road games against Auburn and Georgia, Jaeckel totaled 29 kills, 12 blocks, four digs and two service aces. Florida swept both opponents 3-0 and is now 11-3 with a 4-1 record in SEC competition so far this season.

3 » UF cheerleader Tarin Moses wrote a Sideline Report blog for AmericanCheerleaders.com, which takes readers through a day in the life of a member of the Gators’ spirit squad before, during and after a big contest at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Though the majority of Florida fans already know of the traditions Moses writes about, the entry is an interesting look at the game from her perspective.

4 » Former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, playing his final collegiate season with the North Alabama Lions after transferring due to multiple rules violations, was named the Gulf Coast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday because he had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal during his team’s game on Saturday. It was Jenkins’s third touchdown of the season (punt return, fumble return), and he is also third on North Alabama with 33 tackles through five games. The Lions have started the 2011 season 5-0.

Extra BIT » Offensive tackle Max Starks has not played a game in the NFL this season after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers when the lockout ended this summer. Due to a massive amount of injuries and an intense need for a player who knows the system, Pittsburgh flew Starks in to work out for the team on Tuesday, NFL.com‘s Jason LaCanfora reports. Starks was originally cut by the Steelers due to weight issues and concerns stemming from offseason neck surgery. When asked last week if Starks was an option to return, head coach Mike Tomlin flat-out said no.

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FOUR BITS: Howard, Horford, Beal, Moses

1 » Quarterback Tim Tebow and head coach Urban Meyer may no longer be with the Florida Gators or speaking with high school coaches daily, but they both went the extra mile to throw their support behind one recently. Former Nease High School head coach Craig Howard, who is perhaps most famous for coaching Tebow before he attended Florida, was hired for the same role by the Southern Oregon Raiders this week. “Urban Meyer helped me get the job, and Tim Tebow did, too,” Howard told The Florida Times-Union. “I really appreciate their support. You really find out who your friends are in situations like this. There were around 130 applicants for the job.”

2 » Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford made a gutsy play to win his team a game about a week ago. Unfortunately for the two-time NBA All-Star, he has missed every contest since with an injured back. “It’s not really getting any better,” Horford told the media when asked how his sore back was feeling. Though there is no structural damage to the area, the fact that he has missed a full week of action may put his ability to play in the All-Star Game on Feb. 20 in Los Angeles, CA in jeopardy.

3 » Named a 2011 McDonald’s All-American on Thursday, Gators five-star guard signee Brad Beal (and his Chaminadale Prep High School team) will be playing live on ESPNU on Saturday at 5 p.m. Averaging 32.4 points per game for his undefeated squad, Beal is the third-straight McDonald’s All-American recruited by head coach Billy Donovan and will be the fourth player with such a distinction on the team for the 2011-12 season (G Kenny Boynton, center Patric Young, transfer G Mike Rosario).

4 » American Cheerleader Magazine is currently holding voting for their 2010 Cheerleader of the Year, and none other than the University of Florida’s Tarin Moses, 19, is one of six nominees for the title. Featured on the cover of the August 2010 issue of the magazine, Moses hopes to bring home the honor. “Cheerleading has made me the person I am today; it has the power to mold a person into an amazing role model,” she told the magazine. “It would make me the happiest person in the world to give other cheerleaders the inspiration to follow their dreams.” You can read Moses’ bio and vote for her by clicking here.

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FOUR BITS: Meyer, Cooper, Whitson, Demps

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, speaking at the 40th annual UF Joint Civic Club Luncheon alongside president Bernie Machen, paid tribute to longtime Gainesville, FL, police officer Johnny Hornes who died last week of cancer at 67. Speaking about Hornes, Meyer noted that he helped change his players’ perceptions of law enforcement and even taught redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey how to tie a neck tie. During the tribute, Machen happened to say something of note regarding Meyer’s future. “And after [the Meyers] finish working, they’re going to stay in Gainesville as members of the community. So they’ve chosen this as their home, and they’ve chosen you as their friends and neighbors, and I think we’re all better for that.”

2 » According to the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News, former Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper has firmly taken control of the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 4 receiving role from veteran Hank Baskett. He has been a standout during training camp and has performed well while some of the team’s starters have been out with a variety of injuries.

Three more BITS including thoughts from baseball star Whitson, an honor for Demps and a photo spread featuring a Florida cheerleader…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Meyer, Cooper, Whitson, Demps

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