SIX BITS: Miami, Cunningham, Starks, Dolphins

1 » ESPN announced on Monday that the Florida Gators will help kick off the network’s annual 24-hour college basketball marathon when they host the Miami Hurricanes on Monday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. live on ESPNU. Florida is one of four Southeastern Conference teams that will participate in the event, joining Auburn, Kentucky and South Carolina. The two featured contests for the marathon include a doubleheader on Nov. 18 featuring Duke vs. Michigan State at 7 p.m. and UK vs. Kansas at 9 p.m.

2 » For the third time in the last two offseasons, a former Gators football player has been sidelined for the entire season after suffering an injury during practice. The New York Jets announced on Saturday that linebacker Jermaine Cunningham suffered a torn Achilles and will miss the entire 2014 campaign. Cut in training camp last year by the New England Patriots, Cunningham was not picked up by the Jets until November. He played in two games for New York without registering a tackle and was considered on the roster bubble for 2014 entering team workouts.

3 » The Arizona Cardinals on Friday announced the signing of former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks, who barely played in the NFL in 2013 after spending less than a month on the roster of the St. Louis Rams. A 10-year veteran who has started 96 games in his career, Starks is well-known by head coach Bruce Arians, his former offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whether Starks ultimately makes the team out of training camp remains to be seen.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Miami, Cunningham, Starks, Dolphins

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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.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Gaffney, Brewer, LaCaze, ESPNU

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, an 11-year NFL veteran who was cut by the New England Patriots during the preseason, signed with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and officially joined his fifth professional franchise. Gaffney has only missed five regular season games while employed (all in 2006) and is the type of durable, veteran presence that Miami has desperately needed. He is also coming off the best two years production-wise. Gaffney set career-highs with 65 receptions for 875 yards with Denver in 2010 and eclipsed those numbers with 68 receptions for 947 yards (and a career-high-tying five touchdowns) with Washington last season.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (and some of his teammates) made their acting debuts this year by making cameos as football players during the acclaimed film “The Dark Knight Rises.” As it turns out, Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer will also be featured in a movie though his is set to be released on Jan. 25, 2013. In a new trailer for the ensemble comedy “Movie 43” released by Comedy Central, Brewer is shown as a basketball player being coached up by Terrence Howard. The film – which features a start-studded cast including names like Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and Kate Winslet (along with some well-known comedy stars) – will undoubtedly receive at least an R rating for language, nudity, sexual situations, etc. The “red band” trailer below, which features a line from Brewer, contains adult content and explicit language. (Hat tip to John B.)

3 » It appears as if Florida has added a second competitor from the 2012 London Olympics to its coaching staffs as former Gators steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze announced on Twitter that she has signed up to be a volunteer coach with the track & field program. LaCaze, who raced for Australia but did not medal in the Olympics, joins British swimmer and world record holder Gemma Spofforth, who was announced as a volunteer assistant by Florida last week. Spofforth, who graduated in 2010, competed in two Olympics and is now retired from the sport. LaCaze graduated this past spring and is planning to make a go of it for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

4 » ESPNU on Tuesday aired a special All Access program that took a look at the Gators football team as it worked through its bye last week. If you missed the show, ESPN informed OGGOA that it will re-air twice more this week on Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 6:30 a.m. Though the program did not provide much in the way of new information (similar clips have been featured in previous ESPN specials), it was an interesting look behind the scenes this season.

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SIX BITS: Lochte, Andrews, LaCaze, Beal, Spikes

1 » American swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps will be seeing plenty of each other in the pool during the 2012 London Olympics, but according to the Associated Press they are also sleeping under the same roof. Lochte and Phelps are two of six swimmers in one four-bedroom suite in the athletes’ village, the AP reports, with Phelps staying in the only single-bed room.

2 » FOX Sports announced Wednesday that the Fox College Football Pregame Show, set to air each Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and be hosted by Erin Andrews, will also include former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington as co-stars. The network also detailed some of Andrews’s other duties for FOX Sports. She will serve as a dugout reporter for the MLB’s National League Championship Series and World Series as well as a sideline reporter for some of the network’s top NFL games including on Thanksgiving and during the playoffs.

3 » It took an appeal to get her into the Olympics but now that she is there Australian steeplechase runner Genevieve LaCaze plans to make a name for herself – starting with competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase heats on August 4, her 23rd birthday. “I want to run in the high 9:20s and that should definitely get me to the final and I’ll be up against the top women in the world,” she told the Herald Sun. “I don’t think anything will stop me if I get to that point. How long is it – nine minutes of pain. How hard can it be?” And if she doesn’t medal in London, England? “The fact that I’ve made London 2012 is only going to make me keep going to Rio [2016],” she added.

4 » Named to the “All-Summer League Team” after posting averages of 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Washington Wizards last week in Las Vegas, NV, former Florida Gators guard Bradley Beal was still hard of himself, noting that he must improve his shooting efficiency and be more aggressive on the court (he’s right on both counts). “Honestly, if I feel as though I’m open, coach is going to tell me to shoot it. It’s times I was open and passed and coach got all on my head [telling me to shoot], so I mean, certain situations, I’m an unselfish player,” Beal told the Washington Post. “I’d rather get somebody else going. I’ll eventually get going myself. That’s just my mentality. But it’s really just staying focused and staying within the flow of the game, actually.”

5 » The New England Patriots pulled linebacker Brandon Spikes off the active/physically unable to perform list on Wednesday after he passed his physical following offseason knee surgery. Spikes missed eight regular season games in 2011 but played great in the NFL Playoffs, recording 26 tackles and sack, nabbing an interception and forcing a fumble in three postseason games.

6 » Below are player profiles for former Gators striker Abby Wambach and defender Heather Mitts, two members of the U.S. Women’s National Team competing in the Olympics. Team USA won its first game on Wednesday 4-2 over France; Wambach’s header at 19’ cut an early 2-0 deficit in half and gave the Americans the momentum they needed to pull out the come-from-behind victory.

For full coverage of Gators in the Olympics, be sure to visit and bookmark OGGOA‘s dedicated and constantly updated page.

Photo Credit: Michael Dodge/Herald Sun

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LaCaze wins appeal, heads to London Olympics

Nearly 48 hours of aggravation has resulted in a moment of pure joy for Florida Gators distance runner Genevieve LaCaze, who learned Saturday that she will allowed to compete for her home country of Australia in the 2012 London Olympics.

Though LaCaze achieved an Olympic ‘A’ Standard qualifying time of 9:41.15 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Wednesday, one that automatically qualifies her for the Olympics and should earn her a spot on the Australia National Team, she achieved the mark just over a day after an arbitrary cutoff date mandated by Athletics Australia despite the organization not being forced to submit nominations to the Australian Olympic Committee until June 22.

LaCaze lodged an appeal against her exclusion with AA, noting that the reason she achieved the time after the cutoff date was because she was competing in a collegiate system in America and did not have her next race scheduled until after June 11. She was initially told her chances of winning the appeal were not good (watch her interview).

However, LaCaze received a ton of support from Australians (Twitter account @LetLacazeGo had 572 followers as of Saturday morning, numerous of Twitter users tweeted the hashtag #LetLacazeGo and many others wrote to AA and stood outside the building in Australia to protest). AOC president John Coates even threw all of his support behind her inclusion on the team.

“I certainly urge Australian athletics to nominate her and use whatever discretion they’ve got,” Coates said on Friday, according to The Australian. “She’s clearly passed the A qualifying time and as far as I’m concerned she should be going to the Games. My understanding is that while there are cutoff times and dates, there is the opportunity for discretion to be used where someone is going to finish in the top eight or has the potential to do so in Rio [at the 2016 Olympics].”

However, AA’s representatives still felt that LaCaze did not deserve to a part of the team as it would be unfair to the other competitors despite the fact that she would not be taking anyone’s spot because Australia did not have another female runner who hit either the A or B qualifying times in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

In the end, as the AOC noted, “common sense prevailed,” and LaCaze won her appeal to have her qualifying time counted as AA extended their cutoff date to June 22, the day in which the official submissions must be made to the AOC.

“It’s a terrific decision because Genevieve is not only a great talent, who has done a great time for London, but she’s also someone for the future and we’re all about nurturing athletes and talent for the future,” AOC spokesman Mike Tancred told The Australian. “It’s not only the fact she’ll be running in London but we’re looking forward to her hopefully continuing on to Rio 2016.”

AA chief executive Dallas O’Brien said his organization took their cue from the AOC.

“The AOC certainly made it clear they were keen to extend [the deadline] out to the 22nd of June for everybody so we’re happy and it’s hopefully a win-win for everybody,” he said. “Obviously we’re really thrilled for Genevieve to be in the team. And, from Athletics Australia’s point of view, it looks like we’ll now have an additional A-qualifier which takes it up to 55 athletes for the Olympics, which is a great result for us.”

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Tebow, Beal, LaCaze

1 » After having ended each of his last two seasons standing on the sidelines and unable to play due to an injured ankle, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey made it his goal this season to ensure that it was completely healthy and as strong as possible heading into organized team activities. Pouncey had offseason ankle surgery and, after four weeks of OTAs, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it feels as healthy as ever. “I’m doing great so far,” he said on Wednesday. “It feels awesome – the best it’s ever felt.” Pouncey also told the paper that he actually needed surgery following the 2010 season and made a mistake not getting it done. “I came back and wasn’t healthy. I played through it. At the end of the season last year it got too weak and I needed the surgery,” he said.

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow has arguably been criticized more than perhaps any other player through his short tenure in the NFL though most of the shots fired at him have been about his on-field play. Former player now-ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi joined the barrage and jumped on Tebow’s back last week but not for the same reasons as others. Bruschi believes that Tebow is to blame for his own popularity and the hysteria surrounding him and a potential quarterback competition because he is never shy about talking to the media even when he’s not the starter on his own team. “Stop talking to the media so much,” Bruschi said on the network’s NFL 32 television program. “You need to disappear, okay, Tim Tebow? You’re not the starting quarterback, it’s Mark Sanchez’s team. I want my [team’s] voice to come from my head coach and my quarterback – my starting quarterback. That message has to be consistent. I don’t want all this competition brewing, and every time you speak and anytime you talk about competition or anything like that, you’re twisting things. I want one voice. One quarterback, not two.”

Asked to respond to these accusations, Tebow said this week, according to USA Today, that media appearances and interviews are completely out of his hands. He does what the New York Jets tell him to do – plain and simple. “To be honest, I just do what I’m told – and this [is the] day to talk to you [reporters], so I’m gonna talk to you,” he said on Wednesday after minicamp. “And to be honest, I just go about it however the Jets set it up – the rules that they want us to [follow], who they want us to talk to, who they don’t want us to talk to. And so I don’t get paid enough to make all those decisions. I just do what I’m told and try to do it as best as I can.” He continued, “I don’t know that I’m [outside the locker room] talking. I’m here talking to y’all because that’s what they want. Like I said, I just do what I’m told and try to make the most of it. So that’s something you’d figure that he would understand though. He’s a guy that I’ve always respected, and he always makes a lot of great points. I’m sure he had a great reason for it. But like I said, I’m just doing what I’m asked to do.”

3 » DraftExpress was on hand to capture a four-minute portion of Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal‘s interview at the 2012 NBA Combine. Check it out:

4 » Florida senior distance runner Genevieve LaCaze dominated the 2012 SEC Outdoor Championships last month, becoming the first woman in league history to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 1,500-meter run and 5,000-meter run titles in the same event. Though she did not capture a national title in early June, LaCaze was hoping to compete for Australia in the 2012 London Olympics this summer. In order to do so she had to achieve an Olympic ‘A’ Standard qualifying time in the steeplechase, one that would automatically place her on the team. She passed that mark and ran a personal best 9:41.15 on Wednesday; unfortunately the Athletics Australia-mandated cutoff date for achieving the mark was on Monday and she is just a few days too late. According to Australia’s Herald Sun, LaCaze has a “glimmer of hope” left as AA’s nominations are “not due to be forwarded to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection until June 22.” LaCaze “intends to lodge an appeal against her team exclusion…even though she has been advised by officials that her chances don’t look good.” She told the paper, “Please let me run for Australia. I know it’s late, but it would be great if they could just give me a chance. They haven’t had to pay a dime during my whole career and I’m still young. I’m only going to get better. [...] It’s just so frustrating because I knew they were selecting on Monday. But I’m running in the American college system where, every time I run, I’ve got to run heats and finals and more than one event. I finally got to do a race that was purely designed to run fast and run once and run fresh, but it was two days too late.” Australia does not have a woman representing the country in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, meaning if they accept LaCaze she would not be taking another athlete’s spot.

If you wish to lobby on LaCaze’s behalf, click here, use the contact form and address a message to Dion Russell – Chairman of Selectors.

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Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team on Tuesday, falling just seven points short of earning a first-team nod. Parsons averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals while starting 57 of 63 games for Houston in his rookie season.

» Hoping to achieve a similar feat in his rookie season, Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal is currently getting ready to work out for teams as he prepares for the 2012 NBA Draft. He will have some help towards that goal thanks to the league, which invited him to be one of 60 players who will compete at the 2012 NBA Combine in Chicago, IL. Gators senior point guard Erving Walker was not included on the list.

» Florida head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease made it a point to note that they plan to bring on a quarterback commitment each and every year. To that end a pair of three-star 2013 signal callers, Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, MS) and Tim Boyle (Middleton, CT), will be visiting Gainesville, FL over the weekend. Though UF has struck out with some big name quarterbacks this recruiting cycle and has four signal callers that will be on the roster for at least the next two years, the coaches have not changed their minds about brining another one into the fold. “It’s a very difficult position to evaluate and then take the right guy,” Muschamp said at a Gator Gathering on Tuesday, according to InsidetheGators.com. “Guys that worry about depth charts, we don’t want them. You hit it with them one time, if they ask you to go over it a second time. If they ask a third time, you need to move on.” If the Gators have their way, either Buchanan or Boyle will put an end to their search for a 2013 quarterback.

» Speaking of recruiting, things are getting interesting (or aggravating, if you prefer) for Florida basketball as the team looks to add at least one more player before heading into the 2012-13 season. South Carolina transfer power forward Damontre Harris, a former four-star recruit who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing 25.9 minutes per game last season, was supposed to make his decision between UF, Kansas or staying at USC last week but has yet to make a call. The Gators are also under consideration by Virginia Tech transfer F Dorian Finney-Smith, another former four-star recruit who averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from three last season. Finney-Smith has only “narrowed” his list to Florida, Georgetown, Iowa State, Louisville, Marquette, Ohio State and Texas. He will take visits and speak to coaches before making his decision.

» Joining the undecided party is 2012 four-star PF Montrezl Harrell (Tarboro, VA). Formerly a VT signee, Harrell decided to pursue other opportunities after the team fired head coach Seth Greenberg and is heavily considering playing for UF, which is one of a handful of schools on his short list (Alabama, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Carolina are the others). The Gators may have an inside track on Harrell due to head coach Billy Donovan being the head coach for the USA Basketball U18 National Team during training camp from June 5-12 in Colorado Springs, CO. Harrell will be playing on the team and have the opportunity to see first-hand what it would be like to practice and play for Donovan. Some are of the opinion that Louisville, a team he did not list when mentioning his top five, has an opportunity to be his eventual destination.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

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LaCaze leads Florida to 12 titles at SEC Outdoors

Florida Gators track & field was unsuccessful in its bid to win a team title over the weekend but 12 members of the team combined to win 12 individual titles at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships in Baton Rouge, LA.

Senior distance runner Genevieve LaCaze led the way for Florida with three individual titles in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:13.99), 1,500-meter run (4:13.44) and 5,000-meter run (16:26.38). She is the first student-athlete in SEC history to win both the steeplechase and 1,500-meters after picking up the second title early on Sunday and similarly became the first student-athlete in conference history to win all three championships after finishing the 5,000-meters later Sunday afternoon.

LaCaze is also the first UF female to win the Commissioner’s Trophy (awarded to the highest point scorer) since 2002 and tied the school women’s record for most points scored at an individual meet (30).

Junior jumper Omar Craddock continued the Gators’ domination of the triple jump, capturing the outdoor championship with a mark of 54-08.75. Florida has won the SEC Outdoor title in the triple jump three years in a row and both the SEC Indoor title and NCAA Indoor championship four-straight years. Craddock has completed a trifecta by winning three already in 2012 and will look for the sweep later this season.

Also finding success in the triple jump on Sunday was freshman jumper Ciarra Brewer, who won the women’s title with a mark of 44-6.75 – the best in the nation this season. UF has won four of the last five women’s triple jumps a the SEC Outdoors.

Florida’s men captured five more titles with junior sprinter Tony McQuay winning the 400-meter dash (45.48), sophomore thrower Stipe Zunic winning the javelin (77.87m/255-06), junior thrower Jeremy Postin winning the hammer (68.18m/223-8), junior jumper Dwight Barbiasz winning the high jump (2.25m/7-4.50) and the foursome of freshman Dedric Dukes, freshman Hugh Graham, junior Leonardo Seymore and McQuay winning the 4×400-meter relay (3:03.44).

The Gators’ women contributed two more championships as freshman jumper Taylor Burke won the high jump (1.83m/6-0) and sophomore multi-event participant Brittany Harrell brought home the heptathlon (5,838 points) title.

Neither the men nor women won a team title with the men finishing in fourth overall and the women finishing second after getting edged 161.5-138.0 by LSU. Florida’s men’s team captured the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championship, while the women’s team won the 2012 SEC Indoor Championship.

The Gators were without seniors sprinter Jeff Demps and heptathlete Gray Horn in the meet. Demps (hamstring) was injured and had to rest up for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, while Horn was suspended for the meet after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence in April. Their absences made it nearly impossible for the Florida men to have a legitimate shot at the team title.

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