Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining – “Failure” is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

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Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics

The 2012 London Olympics concluded on Sunday with the Florida Gators bringing home 16 event medals including four gold, six silver and six bronze over the course of 19 days worth of action across the pond.

In an effort to highlight the Gators’ praiseworthy accomplishments while simultaneously recapping over two weeks worth of athletic action, OGGOA presents this wrap up of the presence that Florida’s athletes made at the Olympics. Below you will find facts, figures and highlights of what the Gators accomplished from July 25 through Aug. 12.

You can check out the Olympic results as they happened as well as the official Gator Nation vs. The World medal count and plenty of other information by checking out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

FACTS AND FIGURES

» If Gator Nation was its own country, it would have been ranked 17th overall in the final Olympic medal both in weighted and grand total calculations. The Gators won as many gold medals (four) as Jamaica and Czech Republic and captured one more than Spain, Brazil and South Africa (among others).

» Twelve Florida athletes won a grand total of 18 individual medals (16 event medals) for three countries. Fourteen of the 16 medals won were captured for the United States.

» 35.3 percent of the Gators that competed in the Olympics (12-of-34) won at least one medal. 50 percent (17-of-34) at least reached a final or competed for a medal.

» Ryan Lochte (swimming, United States) led the way with five medals including two golds (one shared in a relay with Conor Dwyer), two silvers and a bronze. Following Lochte with two each were Elizabeth Beisel (swimming, United States) and Will Claye (athletics, United States), who both brought home a silver and a bronze.

» Three other Florida athletes won gold including Christian Taylor (athletics, United States), Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts (football, United States). The rest of the medals included a silver each from Tony McQuay and Jeff Demps (athletics, United States) as well as a bronze each from Lisa Raymond (tennis, United States), Melanie Booth (football, Canada) and Novlene Williams-Mills (athletics, Jamaica).

» Beisel is the only current UF student-athlete that medaled in the Olympics. She will be entering her junior year in 2012.

» Seventeen countries were represented by Gators including the United States (11), Great Britain (6), Cayman Islands and Iceland (two each) and Australia, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Spain and Tunisia (one each). Florida athletes also competed in five sports categories including swimming (19), athletics (10), football (three), basketball and tennis (one each).

Read the rest of “Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics” after the break…

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FOUR Olympic BITS: Lochte, Wambach, band

1 » Former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte said he was disappointed in his performance at the 2012 London Olympics, but it appears as if he will use that as motivation going forward after saying Sunday that he plans to not only compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics but participate in more events as well. “I’m probably going to swim more events in 2016, and I’m going to swim as long as I’m having fun,” he said. Lochte plans to concentrate on shorter events but will keep swimming the 400 Meter Individual medley, an event he says he has not lost in three years. “I told my coach, ‘I’ll stop swimming that event when someone beats me,” he said. Lochte will prepare for 2016 outside of Gainesville, FL as he will now be training on the West Coast. He did say, however, that he will visit from time-to-time to work with Florida head coach Gregg Troy and strength and conditioning coordinator Matt DeLancey.

2 » Already 32 years old, U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach also told the Associated Press over the weekend that she has designs on remaining with the team the 2016 Olympics despite the fact that she’s had a nagging Achilles injury over the last three years. “It’s eased over the last couple of weeks, and I am happy,” she said. “I’ve even been talking about for sure playing through the next Olympics right now if my body can hold up.” Wambach, who entered Monday’s quarterfinals match against Canada with 142 goals in 186 international matches, would almost guarantee herself of matching and surpassing Mia Hamm’s international goal record.

3 » Though Lochte admitted that he was disappointed in his Olympic performance, fans expressing a similar sentiment after having their expectations raised to impossibly high levels have been criticized by some for having those opinions. Taking a different look at Lochte’s successes and failures is Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde, who notes that the effort is what should be praised even if the accomplishments fell short in the eyes of some. “Michael [Phelps] and Ryan are the only guys who have ever done that,” Troy told Forde about the program that the duo took on in London, England. He also notes that Lochte is in a special category with Phelps as two American generalists who “have remained elite across three Olympiads” as each won I.M. medals in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

4 » The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band completed its Olympic experience one week ago but posted the video below upon their return featuring all 230 band members singing the school’s alma mater at the Tower of London. Check it out:

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TWO BITS: band off to London, Tebow’s motion

1 » The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band will be in the air on Monday as they travel to London, England to represent the United States in ceremonies preceding the 2012 London Olympics. According to Florida, the band will be dispersed over 10 different planes (more than 245 people will be travelling abroad) and will be spending a full week in town both playing music and taking in the sights and sounds. To see the band off, Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp and head soccer coach Becky Burleigh gave them a pep talk (video via GatorVision); former softball player Jenn Brown (now a sideline reporter for ESPN) also sent in a video message to the band. The Gainesville Sun reports that the total cost of the trip is nearly $1 million. “The band received about $100,000 from the UF provost’s office and $25,000 from the Univeresity Athletic Association” but raised the vast majority of the money privately.

2 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow – for the third consecutive offseason – is working on his throwing motion, doing so this time with a “throwing guru” and former minor league pitcher who had previously worked with Tom Brady and Drew Brees among others. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com, Tebow spent five days last week tweaking his delivery with Tom House on campus at USC but has since flown back to New York.

The typical quarterback’s schedule is a weeklong program at the Rod Dedeaux Research and Baseball Institute on the USC campus, where 3D video analysis is used in coordination with traditional drills to break down individual motions to a thousand frames per second and discover small inconsistencies or errors.

House said Friday he believes Tebow benefited from the week’s worth of workouts. “I think he’s getting better, but the proof is in the pudding,” House said. “Being out here at USC is different than being with the New York Jets.”

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Charity Challenge, band

1 » St. Louis Rams second-round draft choice, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, remained unsigned as of Wednesday, and Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole explained that there is “one major hurdle to clear” before the process can be completed. “The Rams…[are] asking for safeguards in Jenkins’s rookie contract,” Cole reports. “According to two sources close to the situation, the Rams have proposed a deal to Jenkins’s agent Malik Shareef that features the signing bonus being split into four equal parts over the course of the contract – protection against Jenkins not panning out with the club.” He goes on to note that Shareef has declined the deal ($5 million total, $2 million signing bonus) because “according to sources, Shareef is concerned about how he will be viewed by other potential clients (and how he’ll be criticized by other agents) for taking such a deal.” Sources close to the team also told Cole that the Rams will give Jenkins interest in the held over money and that St. Louis eventually expects to consummate the deal.

2 » A Florida Gators spokesman on Thursday confirmed to OGGOA that the team will no longer be holding the annual Gator Charity Challenge (which was put on four-straight years including last year on July 29) but plans to replace it with another event in the future. “Although the Florida football program will not host the Charity Challenge event this fall, the program remains committed to charity work and serving the community through the efforts of the Goodwill Gators initiative,” Florida explained. “The Goodwill Gators program is active year-round and allows UF student-athletes to build a strong relationship with the Gainesville community. The football staff is also looking into alternative events for future years in place of the Charity Challenge. Student-athletes on the football team volunteered a total of 475 hours of community service during the 2011-12 year, working with 8 schools, 12 non-profit organizations and 3 civic organizations. Since the new coaching staff took over in January of 2011, the football program has tallied 778 hours of community service to date working with 37 unique entities, including 14 schools, 18 non-profit organizations and 5 civic organizations. Every football student-athlete volunteered during the 2011-12 year, highlighted by the St. Augustine Thanksgiving Food Distribution in which the entire team participated.”

3 » The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band is scheduled to leave Monday to represent the United States at the 2012 London Olympics. According to UF’s itinerary for the event, the band (more than 230 members strong) will spend a full week in London, hold three performances (including one just before the Opening Ceremony) and take in plenty of sights and sounds. “The Gators have been raising funds and working intensely to make this dream a reality for six months, and for many it is the pinnacle of their performance career to date,” said Jay Watkins, associate director of bands. “The band is deeply honored by the unique invitations they have received.”

4 » Four-star defensive tackle and Gators 2012 commit Dante Phillips (Venice, FL) has found a new home after the admissions board at UF denied his enrollment this summer. Phillips on Wednesday announced that he signed his scholarship papers to play for Tennessee, meaning he will be going head-to-head with Florida each season.

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New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a Florida Gators booster, passes away at 80

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has passed away. He was 80.

Steinbrenner, who will be remembered for leading the Yankees to 11 American League pennants and seven World Series victories as its principal owner, ceded day-to-day control of the team to his sons Hank and Hal Steinbrenner in 2006 as his health began to fail and he spent more time in Tampa, FL.

Purchasing the team for $8.7 million in 1973, Steinbrenner’s shrewd business acumen, tough decision making and unparalleled demand for success raised the Yankees’ value to over a $1.5 billion at the time of his passing.

He had notable disagreements with the commissioner’s office, fellow owners, managers and even his own players but also made significant and game-changing baseball moves in his career including being the first owner to sell his team’s television rights, turning the Yankees into a worldwide brand, signing free agents like Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Alex Rodriguez, and building the most lavish stadium in baseball history.

Steinbrenner’s son Hal, the franchise’s co-chairperson, general partner and de facto public face who earned a Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida in 1994, is one of the reasons his father decided to become a full-fledged Bull Gator and generous contributor to the Florida Gators program.

Though Steinbrenner did donate the lights at McKethan Stadium to the school in 1977, his largest contribution is the Steinbrenner Band Building, which was made possible by a generous gift commitment (believed to be in the seven-figures) from the family in 2002. Completed in the spring of 2008, it is located adjacent to the Music Building and serves a number of purposes for The Pride of the Sunshine, The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band.

He also donated $260,000 in 1989 to help UF build the College of Veterinary Medicine’s large animal hospital and another $400,000 in 2005 which went toward the purchase of an equine imaging machine. Steinbrenner owned stables and horses.

Recently, George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, hosted The Florida Four, a two-game baseball tournament featuring arguably the four best schools in the state including the Gators. It was something Steinbrenner had hoped to see before he passed on, and he had the chance to do just that on March 2.

“As a past collegiate coach, it is George Steinbrenner’s dream to create this event for Tampa,” said Felix Lopez, the Yankees’ senior vice president.

A native of Ohio, the only time Steinbrenner did not root for Florida was during the 2006 BCS National Championship; instead, he cheered on his Ohio State Buckeyes.

“I wish the University of Florida luck in the championship game,” Steinbrenner said at the time, “but I have to say that I’m rooting for Ohio State.”

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