Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

The last year has been one of ups-and-downs for former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. From having to deal with an unfathomable episode regarding her privacy to performing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and just recently signing a new two-year deal to remain a featured member of the ESPN broadcast team, Andrews has appeared strong, resilient and unrelenting. On the brink of the greatest undertaking of her career – hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU and joining the cast of Good Morning America – she took time out of her schedule to speak exclusively with OGGOA about her career as a Gators dazzler, recent trials and tribulations, perspective on her own fame and love for the University of Florida.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in Tampa, was the University of Florida always at the top of your list for college? How did you wind up there?
ERIN ANDREWS: “Growing up in Tampa, there are three schools: Florida State, Miami and Florida. Obviously because Florida was closest to Tampa, Tampa is really like Gator haven. I made the comment one day to my dad, which he’ll never let me live down…because I was such a sports fan growing up, I said to him, ‘Dad, I really want to go to a college that has a good football team.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great thing to live by Erin. I’m glad that’s what you’re choosing your education by.’ At the time it sounded really stupid, but actually it was kind of funny that it worked out that way because by going to Florida, I knew they had a great journalism program, but also because Florida has such a good football team, we were exposed to TBS, we were exposed to ESPN, we were exposed to all the national sports media coming to the campus to see the team, to see [head coach Steve] Spurrier. That was really good for me to kind of be around that at the time. Actually, that wasn’t a stupid comment.

AS: How much of an influence did your father’s [six-time Emmy Award-winner Steve Andrews] profession have on your major and eventual career?
EA: “My dad played a huge part in it. I grew up with my father being on TV. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. We’d turn on the TV at 6:00 and there was my dad. I grew up at the TV station; I played around on the TV set. So that just wasn’t a big deal – being in front of the camera – because I was so used to [watching] my dad. He was a giant sports fan, so that’s where I got my passion for sports and watching it and becoming familiar with the broadcasters and announcers that I liked – and the athletes. That’s where it all just kind of snowballed. I decided that I wanted to be a broadcaster. I loved the stories with coaches and athletes. I told my dad when I was young, ‘I want to do this for a living.’ He also laughed at me and said, ‘You know, everybody wants to do this for a living.’ I went to Florida, we checked out the journalism school. I really liked it. I just enrolled and it began – the whole process. The first couple years at Florida you don’t really get a taste of your major until probably your junior and senior year – that’s when I was very serious about it.

AS: You obviously spent a good amount of time at Weimer Hall but some of your most exciting times were likely at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. While at Florida, you were famously a member of the Dazzlers for four years. Was that something you had planned on doing from the beginning?
EA: “I grew up dancing my whole life with my little sister [Kendra Andrews]. That was just something I knew that Florida had – a dance team. I loved mine growing up and the experience that I had. I actually auditioned my senior year of high school and didn’t make the team and then went back out my sophomore year and I was on the team my sophomore, junior and senior season[s].”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

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FOUR BITS: McNabb, baseball, softball, tennis

1 » Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles traded star quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins for two draft picks. Monday, Florida Gators fans are trying to connect the dots to Tim Tebow and the 2010 NFL Draft. Here is what you need to know: (a) The Redskins acquiring McNabb makes it unlikely they draft Tebow, even after paying him plenty of attention. (b) The Eagles, with two QBs on one-year deals, are more likely to consider Tebow or any available passer for that matter – but not likely until the second round. (c) Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen may fall in the first round, potentially pushing Texas’ Colt McCoy and Tebow into later draft selections.

2 » Looking to salvage a road season in which they already lost the first two games, No. 20/17 Vanderbilt Commodores baseball (24-6, 5-4 SEC) shutout the No. 8/11 Gators (20-7, 5-3 SEC) 7-0 on Sunday in the series finale at McKethan Stadium. Starter Jack Armstrong (4-0) tossed six innings of four-hit ball for Vanderbilt, which also benefited from a pair of solo home runs by third baseman Jason Esposito (2-5, three runs). Freshman Hudson Randal (2-3) earned the loss for Florida, giving up two earned runs and seven hits in 5.2 innings with six strikeouts.

Two more BITS on Gators softball and tennis’ weekend sweeps…after the jump!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: McNabb, baseball, softball, tennis

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SEC reigns as Alabama takes home BCS title

Chants of “S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!” rained down from half of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, as the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide completed its dismantling of the No. 2 Texas Longhorns 37-21 Thursday night in the 2010 BCS National Championship. Winning its first title since 1992, Alabama’s defense led the way – first knocking Texas quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game and then finishing with a fumble recovery and interception to ice the game in the fourth quarter.

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban became only the second coach (next to the Florida Gators’ Urban Meyer) to win two BCS titles, and the first to accomplish the feat at two separate schools (LSU Tigers). Alabama’s victory propelled the Southeastern Conference to its fourth-straight BCS National Championship, its sixth overall and fifth in seven seasons. The Crimson Tide also became the third different SEC team to win it during the last four seasons.

The SEC is 6-0 in BCS title games (Florida 2-1, LSU 2-0, Alabama 1-0, Tennessee 1-1) and has won as many (6) as every other conference combined. Four SEC teams finish the 2009 season ranked in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 polls (Alabama 1/1, Florida 3/3, LSU 17/17, Ole Miss 20/21).

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FOUR BITS: Heisman, Tebow, Meyer, Strong

1 » The 2009 Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday at 8 p.m. live on ESPN from the Nokia Theater in Times Square. Finalists for the trophy include Stanford Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart, Alabama Crimson Tide RB Mark Ingram, Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy, Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow, the winner in 2007 and third-place finisher in 2008, is expected to finish fifth in the voting. OGGOA will not be covering the Heisman ceremony live on Saturday, though we will post a message about the winner on twitter soon after the ceremony.

2 » Tebow sat down with a number of reporters and beat writers on Friday in New York, allowing them to informally ask questions regarding a number of topics including his Heimsan ballot. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald broke down Tebow’s thoughts on who should be the 2009 winner and came to the conclusion that he voted for Suh. (This would be the correct vote, in OGGOA‘s opinion.)

3 » Losing former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to the Mississippi State Bulldogs and then former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to the Louisville Cardinals in back-to-back seasons, Gators head coach Urban Meyer‘s greatest test my be perfecting his coaching turnover, writes Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union. Couple that with the loss of a large group of seniors and several big-name juniors, and Florida’s transition to 2010 will have to be seamless in order to keep them at the top.

4 » Speaking of Strong, the new Cardinals coach spent his first two nights in Louisville sleeping at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium as he got acquainted with the program and university. “It’s kind of a whirlwind,” Strong said. “There are a lot of things to be done. The best thing is just catch your breath and take your time and make sure I do the right things.” He even gained a commitment from quarterback recruit DeMarcus Smith, “arguably the state’s best junior” according to The Courier-Journal. Strong will leave the program at the end of the week and return to Gainesville, FL, to coach the Gators’ defense for the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

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Pouncey, Hernandez win; Tebow, Spikes, Haden and Henry shut out of College Footbal Awards

Two Florida Gators juniors came home from The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards in Orlando, FL, Thursday evening with awards; unfortunately, four other players were not as lucky. Center Maurkice Pouncey was awarded the 2009 Rimington Trophy (best collegiate center) and tight end Aaron Hernandez was honored with the 2009 John Mackey Award (best collegiate tight end). Each was the first Gators player in history to take home his respective award.

Senior quarterback Tim Tebow, who was up for the 2009 Davey O’Brien Award (best collegiate quarterback) and 2009 Maxwell Award (best all-around player), was defeated for both by Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy. Tebow took home the O’Brien Award in 2007 and is a two-time winner of the Maxwell Award (2007, 2008). Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes lost the 2009 Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) to Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh; junior cornerback Joe Haden was defeated by Tennessee Volunteers safety Eric Berry for the 2009 Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back); and Georgia Bulldogs punter Drew Butler won the 2009 Ray Guy Award (best collegiate punter) over junior Chas Henry. 2009 Heisman Trophy ceremony is on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

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Tim Tebow selected as Heisman Trophy finalist

Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow was named as one of five finalists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy on Monday. Only the second player in history to be a finalist for the award three times (Herschel Walker, 1980-82), Tebow will compete against running backs Mark Ingram (Alabama Crimson Tide) and Toby Gerhart (Stanford Cardinal), defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska Cornhuskers) and QB Colt McCoy (Texas Longhorns). Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and finished third in 2008 but is not projected to be in the top three this season.

“Having the chance to go back to New York means a lot to me,” Tebow said. “It is a special honor but it wouldn’t be possible for me to have this opportunity without my teammates and coaches.”

The 2009 winner will be announced at the Nokia Theatre in New York, NY, on Saturday, Dec. 12. Prior to the Heisman ceremony, Tebow will be up for the Maxwell Award (best college football player) and Davey O’Brien Award (best college quarterback), both of which will be presented on Thursday night. Tebow has won back-to-back Maxwell Awards (one of only two players to do so) and took home the Davey O’Brien Award in 2007. He has already won the Academic All-America of the Year for the second consecutive season, the first student-athlete ever to do so.

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Haden named an All-American, Tebow to present

Florida Gators junior cornerback Joe Haden was chosen to the 2009 All-America Team by the American Football Coaches Association on Thursday. Haden, who is also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, was the only Florida player to land a spot on the team, the first Gators CB since Keiwan Ratliff (2003).

Beating out senior quarterback Tim Tebow for the honor was Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy, while Georgia Bulldogs punter Drew Butler was selected over Florida junior Chas Henry. Four Alabama Crimson Tide players (running back Mark Ingram, offensive lineman Mike Johnson, linebacker Rolando McClain, CB Javier Arenas) were honored.

Tebow received a different distinction on Wednesday, however, as he was announced as a presenter for The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Thursday, Dec. 10. Along with Faron Kelly, Disney’s director of sports marketing, Tebow will be presenting the Disney Spirit Award (for college football’s most inspirational figure) that he won in 2008. Tebow is a 2009 finalist for the Maxwell Award (most outstanding college football player) and O’Brien Award (nation’s best college quarterback) while teammates Haden, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (Bednarik Award – outstanding defensive player) and Henry (Ray Guy Award – nation’s best punter) are also listed as nominees.

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SIX BITS: Strong is No. 1, vote for Tebow, Alabama players, Jones vs. Haden, volleyball in NCAAs

1 » Over the past few days, OGGOA has reported that Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is the leading candidate to replace Steve Kragthorpe as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Yesterday, it was reported that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich planned to wait until after the 2009 SEC Championship game to contact Strong after asking Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for permission. Jurich expanded on his stance to the Courier-Journal Tuesday evening. “I want to get the program rolling, I want to get after it, but I gave my word to several people that I didn’t want to be a disruption to their program,” he said. “A lot of guys are still playing for a lot of important things. I’m the last person I want to get in the way.”

2 » Senior quarterback Tim Tebow has been named as one of three finalist for the 2009 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, which is given annually to the top quarterback in college football. The other two finalists are Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy and Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum. Fans are given 5 percent of the vote and can cast their ballot for Tebow to win the award every day until Dec. 6 by visiting http://www.VoteOBrien.org.

Check out four more very informative Florida Gators BITS after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Strong is No. 1, vote for Tebow, Alabama players, Jones vs. Haden, volleyball in NCAAs

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