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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Gators center Dwayne Schintzius dead at 43

Former Florida Gators center Dwayne Schintzius has passed away after an extensive battle with a rare form of leukemia. He was 43 years old.

The Tampa Tribune reported Sunday evening that Schintzius passed away from respiratory failure while surrounded by family Sunday afternoon at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

He received a bone marrow transplant on Jan. 12, 2010 from his brother Travis, and his father told the Tribune on March 3 that doctors were “very optimistic” he would make a full recovery after declaring him “leukemia-free.” Schintzius declared himself cancer-free in July of that year and said that his extensive fight for survival gave him a new perspective on life.

“There was a time when I just fell on my bed and cried and said, ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve leukemia?’” he said at the time. “But then it became, ‘OK, time to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I’ve got work to do. I’ve got to beat this.’ And that’s what I emphasized to all the doctors. ‘OK, what are you going to hit me with next? Let’s go.’ I wanted to give everything I had.

“You’ve got to enjoy every day you’re on this planet. I never knew there were so many people who cared about me. I’d tell anybody to tell people you love them and make up with the ones who you feel have done you wrong. Relationships keep you going. They kept me going. I never felt alone.”

He had a second bone marrow transplant this year but complications following the procedure coupled with the chronic myelomonocytic leukemia he had been suffering from eventually led to his death.

Schintzius, the sixth all-time leading scorer (1,624 points) in Florida history and the Gators’ career blocks leader, made his first appearance at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in 21 years on Feb. 24, 2011 as Florida defeated Georgia 71-62.

“Wasn’t sure if I felt right about it or [if] people would want me back. I do like coming back and I want to come back again,” he said during his visit, referencing some of his off-the-court issues including allegedly hitting a student with a tennis racket and quitting on the team well before his senior season was over. “I’m very proud to be a Gator. I feel like I helped start something. I don’t want to call it ‘The House That Dwayne Built,’ because that’s not true. I helped to build it. Makes me feel good where the program has come.”

Schintzius remains the only player in SEC history to register more than 1,000 points, 800 blocks, 250 assists and 250 blocks. He also helped lead UF to the team’s first three NCAA Tournament appearances. Upon leaving the Gators, he was drafted with the No. 24 overall pick of the 1990 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs and spent nine years with six different teams in the league.

Many sports fans recognize Schintzius from appearances he made on both the big and small screens. He was a Russian center for the New York Knicks in the movie “Eddie” and played himself on an episode of “Arli$$” on HBO.

Schintzius is the second former Gators student-athlete to pass away this week. Former Florida running back Tony Waters was shot and killed on Friday morning.

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Schintzius family.

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FOUR BITS: Whitson, Calipari, Pittman, Schintzius

1 » The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday announced that Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson has been named a first-team Freshman All-American. One of 16 standouts to earn the distinction, Whitson is also in line for the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year award, which will be announced Tuesday. With an 8-0 record, 2.45 ERA and 83 strikeouts on the season, he the only player on the first team representing the Southeastern Conference.

2 » Remember when the Kentucky Wildcats and head basketball coach John Calipari defeated Florida in Lexington, KY and the school held a mini 500th victory celebration? Well, according to the NCAA, that should never have happened, and the organization is now taking steps to ensure that Kentucky does what they can to make that information public. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader

Earlier this month, the chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions sent University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. a letter asking the school to publicly acknowledge it was wrong to recognize John Calipari’s 500th coaching victory this past season. Chairman Dennis E. Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, also told Todd that the wording of UK’s statement “must be approved by the office of the Committee on Infractions prior to its release.”

Because the NCAA forced Massachusetts and Memphis to vacate a total of 42 victories achieved under Calipari due to a variety of transgressions, the governing body insists that his victory total was only 458 on that day and now stands at 467 for his career. For more on the matter, click here.

3 » Speaking with The Gainesville Sun after a recent visit to Gainesville, FL for a football camp, Gators four-star 2012 wide receiver commit LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL) discussed his experience. “It felt great just getting out there, getting a feel for Coach [Aubrey] Hill, how he coaches and how he sees me,” he said. “As far as hands-on and doing drills, that was the first time I really got to see how he would coach me.” Pittman, Florida’s first commit of the 2012 cycle, plans to return for Friday Night Lights.

4 » Surviving a serious leukemia scare last year, former Gators C Dwayne Schintzius made his first major public appearance during a Florida basketball game on Feb. 24 and was in great spirits. Last week he attended a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission with the belief that he would be supporting his father, Ken, who was going to be handed an award from the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s alumni association. Schintzius was instead surprised to learn that he was being honored with a special award for courage. “He wouldn’t have wanted to come to the dinner but after I told him the award was for me, he said he’d come,” Ken told Joe Henderson of The Tampa Tribune. “It worked. We got him. We played it right to the hilt.” Though he has been praised extensively for his strength in fighting his disease, Schintzius wanted the praise to go where it belongs. “People are giving me an award, I guess, for fighting for my life,” he said. “I don’t deserve the award. The people at Moffitt [Cancer Center] are the ones who are the true heroes. They saved my life.” Click here to read more about Schintzius’s battle and the events of the night.

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4 BITS: Andrews, Schintzius, Brewer, Calathes

1 » Name a major sporting event, chances are ESPN reporter and former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews has covered it. Talk about one of the most popular reality shows (Dancing with the Stars), her name pops up as a contestant who almost won it. Just over a month after college football has ended and with college basketball in full swing, Andrews will be taking on a new task: reporting live from the red carpet and interviewing some of the winners at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. She has been in Hollywood, CA all week taping segments for Good Morning America but is still a bit edgy for the event. “I’m really, really nervous for Sunday,” she told Newsday. “I was talking to a couple of my buddies who are in the NFL and I was like, ‘I’m really nervous.’ They were, like, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘I know you guys. I can talk to you guys. These people, they don’t know me. I’m really out of my comfort zone.’ It’s kind of cool to feel that way.”

2 » Surviving a serious leukemia scare last year, former Gators Dwayne Schintzius has been cleared as healthy and made a very public appearance at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Thursday to cheer on his Florida basketball team as they faced and defeated the Georgia Bulldogs. Wearing an “I’m Awesome” shirt, one worn by WWE wrestler The Miz, Schintzius stepped into the O’Dome for the first time in 21 years and was introduced by the public address announcer to an ovation. “I did come back for a football game, when they brought us back once, but never for a basketball game since the time I played,’’ he told GatorZone’s Scott Carter on Thursday. “Wasn’t sure if I felt right about it or [if] people would want me back. I do like coming back and I want to come back again.’’ Schintzius’s hesitation to return was due to some off-the-court issues he had as a player (including allegedly hitting a student with a tennis racket and quitting on the team well before the season was over) but all of that is in the past now. “I’m very proud to be a Gator,’’ he said. “I feel like I helped start something. I don’t want to call it ‘The House That Dwayne Built,’ because that’s not true. I helped to build it. Makes me feel good where the program has come.’’

“It was important to me for Dwayne to come back here,” head basketball coach Billy Donovan told the Tampa Tribune. “Every time I’m down in Tampa or St. Petersburg for a Gator function, Dwayne is there. He’s very supportive. He still feels part of it. Yet he never came back. I think he felt he wasn’t welcome here, but that wasn’t true. He is an important part of this program’s history. He needs to feel welcome here, regardless of what happened in the past.”

Read two more BITS on Corey Brewer and Nick Calathes…after the break!
Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Andrews, Schintzius, Brewer, Calathes

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FOUR BITS: Chapman, Parsons, Macklin, Brown

1 » Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals, Florida Gators junior closer Kevin Chapman realized his dream and solidified his future by officially signing with the team on Monday. Posting a 1.64 ERA and 3-0 record with 11 saves in 43.2 innings last season, Chapman struck out 44 batters and only walked seven. He has been assigned to the Royals’ Class A affiliate Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Carolina League and will do his best to work his way through the minor leagues and into the majors soon.

2 » While a number of the NBA’s top free agents were deciding their futures last week, some of college basketball and high school basketball’s top players participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, OH. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla was on-site and had this to report about the two Gators who were invited:

Redshirt senior forward/center Vernon Macklin
Macklin is not a fluid athlete but is tough around the basket and gives a very good effort. He’s a big key for a Gator resurgence this season.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons
Parsons played well at the camp, showing an ability to slash to the rim and make jump shots, as well. For a right-hander, he’s a very dominant left-handed driver. I would work on that right hand the rest of the summer if I were Parsons.

An interview with Jenn Brown and update on Dwayne Schintzius…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Chapman, Parsons, Macklin, Brown

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TWO BITS: Schintzius recovers, Henderson out

1 » Former Florida Gators All-American center and NBA first-round draft pick Dwayne Schintzius‘ long battle with leukemia has hopefully come to an end. Schintzius, 41, is the Gators’ fifth all-time leading scorer (1,624 points); the team’s career blocks leader; the only player in SEC history with more than 1,000 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 blocks; and a nine-year NBA veteran who was drafted No. 24 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 1990. He received a bone marrow transplant on Jan. 12 from his brother Travis, and his family, friends and Gators fans prayed each day that his condition would improve. The Tampa Tribune, which spoke with Schintzius’ father, reports that he is in the process of making a full recovery and has even been released from the hospital. “The doctors are very optimistic,” Ken Schintzius said. “He has been declared leukemia-free. There’s a ways to go before he’s back where he was, but it’s moving in the right direction.”

2 » Though Florida was on his short long list heading into National Signing Day, it is unlikely that five-star 2010 offensive tackle recruit Seantrel Henderson would switch over to the Gators should he be displeased with the NCAA’s investigation into the USC Trojans. Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel confirms a previous OGGOA report that the Miami Hurricanes would be one of the frontrunners for his services.

Extra BIT » Former Florida forward/center Joakim Noah his being held out of action for three more weeks by the Chicago Bulls due to his nagging plantar fasciitis.

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FOUR BITS: Schintzius, Demps, Walker, Addazio

1 » Former Florida Gators All-American center and NBA first-round draft pick Dwayne Schintzius is in the middle of an extensive battle with leukemia. Schintzius, 41, is the Gators’ fifth all-time leading scorer (1,624 points); the team’s career blocks leader; the only player in SEC history with more than 1,000 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 blocks; and a nine-year NBA veteran who was drafted No. 24 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 1990. He received a bone marrow transplant on Jan. 12 from his brother Travis, and his family prays each day that his condition will improve. You can read more about his past career and present condition here and here.

2 » Florida sophomore running back Jeff Demps, a freshman as a track and field sprinter, was awarded his second SEC Male Freshman of the Week award by the conference on Tuesday. Demps, who won the men’s 60-meter dash at the Tyson Invitational last week, set a NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 6.59, tying teammate Terrell Wilks for the school record. His time in the 60 is the fastest in the nation so far this season and ranks 15th in the world.

Two more BITS on Erving Walker and Steve Addazio after the jump!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Schintzius, Demps, Walker, Addazio

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