Grossman, Mitts, Pearson, Fogg headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2013 inductees

Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Rex Grossman (football), Heather Mitts (soccer), Mike Pearson (football) and Josh Fogg (baseball) – and one honorary letterwinner will be inducted as the UF Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2013 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Monday that the honors will be bestowed upon these former players at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 5, 2013 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2013 class includes Gator Greats Jeff Davis (wrestling), Riko Higashio (women’s golf) and Chrissy Van Fleet (gymnastics) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Morris (football) and Honorary Letterwinner Ernestine Russell Weaver (gymnastics).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments…
Continue Reading » Grossman, Mitts, Pearson, Fogg headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2013 inductees

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FOUR BITS: Georgetown, Tucker, Wambach

1 » Making an appearance on 1010 XL radio on Tuesday, executive director of sports and entertainment for the City of Jacksonville Alan Verlander confirmed that tickets for the Navy/Marines Corps Classic will be bundled with the Jacksonville Jaguars-Indianapolis Colts game and will begin at $1,000. That package would include two tickets to watch the Florida Gators take on the Georgetown Hoyas on an aircraft carrier and two more to see Jacksonville-Indianapolis on that Thursday. Verlander also noted on the program that a well-known artist will hold a concert before the Florida-Georgetown game. A press release is supposed to be available Thursday with tickets going on sale Monday. OGGOA reached out to Verlander late Tuesday and is currently awaiting his reply.

2 » The University of Florida has chosen former Gators outfielder Preston Tucker to represent the school when the men’s athletic program accepts the 2012 Capital One Cup at the ESPYs in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday. It is the second-straight year that Florida’s men’s program has won the award; forward Chandler Parsons was in L.A. to accept the award one year ago.

3 » Former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach is a part of the latest edition of ESPN Magazine – “The Body Issue.” In it, Wambach and a number of other big-name athletes bare all in carefully chosen poses that show plenty of skin but hide their private parts. Check out the picture of Wambach in the magazine, an extensive interview with her about the process and a video of her discussing the experience (below).

4 » The Gators announced the hirings of two more coaches over the last few days as Janice Olivencia was added to the women’s golf team as an assistant on Friday and Nic Peterson was named an assistant track coach (jumps) on Monday. Olivencia, who played for Texas, served as an assistant for South Florida last season after spending seven years playing professionally. UF notes that “she was the first Puerto Rican woman to have ever qualified to play on the Ladies European Tour.” Peterson comes to Florida after a successful career as an assistant at Texas Christian by way of Nebraska, where he competed and served as a volunteer coach.

Extra BIT » Though she did not confirm it directly, new FOX sports reporter/host Erin Andrews did not dismiss the fact that she interviewed for a hosting gig on X Factor, a story first reported by SPORTSbyBROOKS and more recently by Entertainment Weekly. EW (and E! Online) noted on Monday that Andrews has some stiff competition for the gig going up against names like Stacy Kiebler, Mario Lopez and Rocsi Diaz (among others). “Sources emphasize that prospective hosts are still being interviewed and actual testing for the gig is not expected for several more weeks,” EW reports.

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FOUR BITS: Fulwood, Gal, Raymond, Hernandez

1 » Four-star wide receiver commit Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL) was one of a number of Florida Gators commits and targets participating in The Opening, a three-day skills competition run by Nike that took place in Eugene, OR over the weekend. InsidetheGators.com recruiting analyst Blake Alderman was in attendance at the event ($) and tagged Fulwood as the Florida commit/recruit who is “ready to play today.” With wide receiver being a major position of need for the Gators, Fulwood’s frame (6’4, 189 lbs.) and ability to “climb the ladder and catch the ball at its highest point” are major positives that offensive coordinator Brent Pease should be able to utilize as soon as he gets on campus. Fulwood did not see many passes go his way due to the quarterbacks spreading the ball around, according to Alderman, but impressed every time it was thrown to him and made a pair of touchdown grabs over the weekend.

2 » Though she ended the event eight shots off the lead, former Florida golfer Sandra Gal of Germany finished in third place (+1) at the conclusion of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, the best position she has finished in a major in her five-season LPGA Tour career. After a rough start to her career in which she missed numerous cuts and fell well outside the top 25 players in major championship events, Gal has really turned the corner the last two years. In the last 16 months she won her first tour event (the Kia Classic in March 2011) and has registered three top-15 finishes in majors – T-15 in the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, T-12 in the 2012 LPGA Championship and third in this weekend’s U.S. Women’s Open.

3 » Former Gators tennis player Lisa Raymond had a nice tune-up for the 2012 London Olympics by competing in Wimbledon over the weekend. Though No. 1 Raymond/Liezel Huber fell in the semifinals of the women’s doubles tournament to Serena and Venus Williams, she went all the way to the finals of the mixed doubles tournament as the No. 2-ranked team with fellow American Mike Bryan. The duo defeated No. 4 Elena Vesnina/Leander Peas 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. It was the fifth Grand Slam mixed doubles title of Raymond’s career and 11th overall Grand Slam doubles title.

4 » With the New England Patriots extending tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason, many fans of the team wondered what will become of TE Aaron Hernandez in the near future. Considering the team spent so much money to retain Gronkowski, conventional wisdom is that New England will let Hernandez’s deal expire but keep him in the fold by giving him the franchise tag in consecutive seasons before either allowing him to seek another contract or re-signing him when the time comes. However, according to The Boston Globe, that may not be so easy for the Patriots considering Hernandez could very well throw a wrench in those plans.

“Don’t expect Hernandez to accept the franchise tag number at tight end. The argument is there to be made that in his role, Hernandez is more of a receiver than a tight end,” writes Greg A. Bedard. “And considering that the receiver tag ($9.515 million) is almost double that of tight end ($5.446 million) this year, you can almost bet that Hernandez [...] will prepare an argument for the receiver tag. That’s exactly what agent Blake Baratz did in February for tight end Jermichael Finley. It’s not known how much the threat affected the Packers, but they ultimately signed Finley to a two-year contract worth around $15 million.” Read more from Bedard on the subject by clicking here.

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Florida Gators hire Emily Bastel as women’s golf coach, Bryan Shelton as men’s tennis coach

Less than two weeks after the resignations of a pair of head coaches, the Florida Gators announced on Friday that new leaders have been hired for the women’s golf and men’s tennis programs. Florida promoted assistant Emily Bastel to head up the women’s golf team and brought in Georgia Tech head women’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton to take over the men’s tennis squad.

Though both will be new to UF, Bastel and Shelton have drastically different levels of experience and success in the coaching profession.

Former Gators head women’s golf coach Jan Dowling surprised Florida administrators last month by resigning for personal reasons. Luckily for athletic director Jeremy Foley and senior associate director Mike Spiegler, the top candidate to be her replacement was a young up-and-comer positioned right under their noses.

Bastel was hired 10 months ago to be Dowling’s assistant and immediately submitted her resume when learning of her boss’ departure.

“I was just blown away,” Foley said remembering how he felt after interviewing Bastel for the position. “We had a diamond in our midst and didn’t even know it.”

Spiegler added: “When she left the room, we all sort of looked at each other and said, you know, ‘Wow.’ It was that impressive. She may be on the quiet side, but she’s confident and has an idea about the direction we’re headed and will continue to go.”

Also working to her benefit was the fact that “every member of the UF team called, texted or e-mailed to lobby on Bastel’s behalf,” according to GatorZone.com.

Before joining Florida last season, she served as an assistant at Michigan State (2002-03) and Duke (2009-10). Bastel replaced Dowling (who left for UF in 2009) as an assistant at Duke after spending three years on the LPGA Tour (2005-08).

Shelton’s path to the Gators came through Florida head women’s tennis coach Roland Thornqvist who, according to the Gators, submitted a “short list of candidates” to Foley but pushed heavily for Shelton to get a shot.

“He’s the best in the country – on the men’s or women’s side,” he reportedly said.

Unlike Bastel, Shelton has plenty of head coaching experience and immense success. He has spent the last 13 years at Georgia Tech coaching the women’s team and even lead them to the university’s first and only NCAA Championship in 2007.

He began his career playing for GT, won ACC singles and doubles titles while a part of the team and is even a member of the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame. Shelton then turned pro and played on the circuit for seven years before going into coaching.

Under Shelton’s tutelage, GT won a national title, two ITA National Indoor Team Championships, four-straight ACC regular season titles and four ACC Tournaments. He also coached two ACC Players of the Year, an NCAA Singles Champion and two ITA National Players of the Year. Shelton was named USTA/ITA National Coach of the Year in 2007 and ACC Coach of the Year four times (2002, 2005, 2007-08).

Foley is confident Shelton’s impressive coaching career will translate to the men’s game and thinks he is the man to lead the Gators back to the promised land.

“I don’t tell coaches how many games or championships they have to win, but men’s tennis needs to be in the hunt every single year,” said Foley, according to GatorZone.com. “Does that mean the Final Four every year? No. But when the season starts, you need to be one of the teams that has a chance to get there.”

Now Shelton is a member of the orange and blue and the man charged with rekindling the success UF once had at the start of now former coach Andy Jackson‘s tenure.

“I think that Florida and Florida tennis speaks for itself,” he said. “In my mind, this is the best job in the country. [...] I’m talking about resources. I’m talking about academics. I’m talking about the opportunity to grow and develop a program to the highest level; the opportunity to win championships and be successful year in and year out.

“This place is a gold mine.”

Photo Credits: Duke University/Georgia Tech University

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FOUR BITS: Machen, Taylor, Tebow, Beal

1 » University of Florida President Bernie Machen announced Friday that he will conclude his tenure sometime in 2013 after nearly a decade at the helm of the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the state. Machen, 68, made his announcement at the UF Board of Trustees meeting, and the school sent an e-mail to students, alumni and faculty almost simultaneously. “This decision reflects our joint feeling that there’s a time for everything in life and it’s now our time to pursue the next chapter,” said Machen while also referring to his wife Chris, according to The Gainesville Sun. “Of course, it will be pursued here in Gainesville and it will be pursued at the University of Florida.” The Sun notes that his most recent contract extension, signed last year, “establishes a post-presidency role for Machen at the university.” The school expects that it will have a decision on Machen’s replacement in the next six months; a smooth transition will take place with Machen handing over the reins and responsibilities at a time both parties deem to be the most convenient and effective. Read the school’s official announcement on Machen’s decision.

2 » The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Thursday that recently retired running back Fred Taylor would be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars this season. Taylor, who will join offensive tackle Tony Boselli as the second member of the Pride, is arguably the most talented and popular player in team history. He finished his career in Jacksonville (spanning 11 years) with 11,271 yards (4.6 yards per carry average) and 62 rushing touchdowns along with 2,361 receiving yards and eight reception scores. Taylor is not a member of the Florida GatorsRing of Honor as he is not yet eligible but could become eligible should he be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is, however, a member of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame and UF Athletic Hall of Fame.

3 » It has been obvious from day one of the trade that New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan believes in quarterback Tim Tebow. Though he may have his reservations about him as a signal caller, Ryan continues to be impressed with Tebow’s character and football-playing abilities. He also seems to be infatuated with his strength. “Let me give you a little story about Tim,” Ryan said on Thursday, according to Pro Football Talk. “I saw this in the weight room. A player had challenged him, holding these big huge sledgehammers. They held them doing this big iron cross kind of deal. The big lineman went first. [Tebow] said you want to go first or second. The big lineman said he’d go first. He went for about a 1:04, shaking. Tim went for 1:18. This guy is crazy with how strong he is and the kind of focus [he has]. I see that from him. He’s super competitive.” Ryan also said that he understands Tebow likes to use his athleticism in the pocket and is perfectly with that in the correct situations. “He’s done some things in some previous practices, where it’s like, wow, that’s a football player,” he said. “The defense will start chirping about him, ‘Come on. Throw the ball, stand back and throw the ball.’ Why? If he sees two-man [deep defense], he’s running with it. Someone better go out there and make a tackle. I think everyone sees Tim for what he is. He’s a super competitive guy and a good teammate. I’ve noticed he’s always building guys up. By the way, he’s a talented kid, or young man.”

4 » At the 2012 NBA Combine as a partial participant, Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal has been getting plenty of work done off the court. According to the Chicago Tribune (the combine is taking place in Chicago, IL), Beal “had interviews with Detroit, Denver and Sacramento on Wednesday,” several more planned for Thursday and individual workouts scheduled with Charlotte (No. 2 overall pick) and Washington (No. 3 overall pick) in the near future.

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Noah, Harvin, golf

1 » Though OGGOA covered former Florida Gators defender Heather Mitts’s decision to retire from soccer following the 2012 London Olympics, we glossed over the fact that both Mitts and former Florida striker Abby Wambach were both officially named to the 2012 U.S. Women’s National Team roster. Both last seen on an international stage during the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Mitts and Wambach have each been members of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams though Wambach was unable to appear in the latter event after fracturing her leg. With 135 goals in 179 international matches, Wambach is just 13 scores behind Mia Hamm for No. 1 on the United States’ all-time scoring list. At just 31 years old, it is likely that Wambach has additional World Cups and perhaps one more Olympics (2016) ahead of her.

2 » Again speaking about playing for the French Men’s National Team in the Olympics, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said he plans to “fight for a medal” and believes he will regain his health and then some in time for the games. “It would be incredible to take part in the Olympics,” he told FIBA.com. “It’s one of the best competitions for an athlete. Playing in London will be a dream come true. It will be extraordinary for all my teammates. Especially for some of them like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Florent Pietrus, who have been fighting for 10 years to take part in this competition. Our group is very talented. We have a lot of very good players and everyone is extremely motivated to help France do its best during the competition.”

3 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, who underwent minor shoulder surgery on April 24 to clean out bone spurs that had accumulated over the course of the season, has yet to participate in organized team activities but should be allowed to practice with the team sooner than later. Harvin’s surgery was initially delayed, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, due to a family emergency that lasted more than week. He may have otherwise been back in time to be a full participant in workouts but will once again have to miss time before officially joining his teammates on the field.

4 » Competing in the 2012 NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA, No. 23 Gators men’s golf shot an opening round 288 to tie for second place at +4 (three shots back of leader Alabama) following one day of competition. Additionally, junior golfer Tyler McCumber’s personal first-round score of 68 (-3) puts him one stroke back of the leader (UCLA’s Anton Arboleda). Florida has not captured a national title since 2001, but you can win on partybingo.com.

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TWO BITS: Will advances, Dowling resigns

1 » Action continued in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with Florida Gators women’s tennis fielding a singles competitor and doubles pairing.

No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 6 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (Texas A&M) – 6-3, 6-3

No. 10 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (Tennessee) def. No. 22 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (junior/senior) – 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3)

Will’s victory advances her to the Final Four round of the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships on Sunday at noon where she will face No. 3 Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) whom she defeated 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 earlier this season in team competition. The winner will take on either No. 5 Mallory Burdette (Stanford) or No. 13 Zsofi Susanyi (California) in the national title game on Monday.

2 » Florida athletics lost a head coach for the second-straight day after women’s golf’s Jan Dowling resigned from her position on Saturday. “It truly has been an honor to coach at the University of Florida for the past three seasons, and I want to thank Mr. [Jeremy] Foley and the entire administration for this opportunity,” Dowling said in a school release. “I am very proud of what these young women have accomplished, and feel very fortunate to be involved with such a great athletic association. My decision was extremely difficult, however, I have to make the right choices for my personal life too. I will cherish my time at Florida, and wish nothing but the very best for the future of the program and the entire athletic association.”

The women’s golf program made steady progress in Dowling’s three seasons at Florida improving from 10th in the Southeastern Conference in 2010 to fourth in 2012. The Gators did not participate in the NCAA Championships in her first year at the helm but finished tied for 10th in 2011 and alone in 12th in 2012. Downling also recruited and coached the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year in Camilla Hedberg. A statement from Foley indicates that Dowling’s decision was her own and that she was not relieved by the university. “I was surprised with Jan’s decision, but I respect her decision to do what is best for her. We wish her the best in whatever her future holds,” he said. Foley and Florida announced the resignation of head men’s tennis coach Andy Jackson on Friday in a move that, while titled a resignation, appeared to be at the behest of Foley.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Hunter, Every, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (31-9, 11-7 SEC) won their second-straight weekend series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (24-17, 8-10 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won the series opener 3-2 in 16 innings on Friday before dropping Saturday’s contest 5-3 and needing a victory Sunday to clinch the series. The Gators started with a 1-0 lead via a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) in the bottom of the second, tied the game 2-2 in the fourth thanks to a RBI double by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott and fell behind 3-2 in the top of the sixth after the Bulldogs rallied. However, Florida would match and exceed that rally in the bottom frame, scoring four runs including three coming from a homer to right by Pigott (3/3, HR, 4 RBI, R, BB) to take a 6-3 lead.

Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (3.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K) got the start for the Gators but struggled with his command in the fourth. Florida’s bullpen allowed two more earned runs over the next 2.2 innings but was able to close out the contest with 3.1 scoreless innings including junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez striking out three of the five batters he faced. Senior RHP Greg Larson improved to 6-0 with the victory, and junior RHP Austin Maddox notched his 11th save of the season.

2 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics may have come up just short of winning the overall national championship on Saturday but that did not stop freshman Kytra Hunter from picking up her second individual 2012 NCAA Championship on Sunday. Hunter, who won the NCAA all-around title (first in school history) on Friday with a final score of 39.725, captured the NCAA vault title on Sunday with a score of 9.8750. Hunter also came within a hair (0.0125) of taking the floor exercise championship as well.

3 » Speaking of heartbreaking losses, former Florida golfer Matt Every (-7) finished two spots back of Ben Curtis (-9) in the 2012 Valero Texas Open on Sunday, losing out on the title and a $1.116 million championship purse. Every did, however, bring home $545,600 for tying for second place and was not the only former Gators golfer to win big money as Brian Gay (-5) tied for fourth and banked $244,125 and Billy Horschel (+14) came in 75th and won $12,090.

4 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons – averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while starting 56-of-62 games as a rookie so far – was recently profiled in the video below. Hours after this initial posting Parsons posted one of the best lines of his young NBA career, scoring a personal-best 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block.

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