10 Gator Bites for Friday, April 18

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (20-2) opens up competition in the semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Championships on Friday as it looks to defend the program’s first-ever NCAA National Championship by advancing to the Super Six for the eighth time in the last nine years. UF will compete against Alabama, Nebraska, Penn State, UCLA and Utah on Friday at 8 p.m. in Birmingham, AL with the top three finishers moving on to compete Saturday at 7 p.m. A live video stream of Friday’s event is available by clicking here. ESPN3.com will air Saturday’s Super Six and Sunday’s individual event competitions.

» Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley drew some positive reviews out of his Pro Day workout on Thursday even despite the fact that he was only competing at about 80-85 percent as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. According to Sports Illustrated contributor Tony Pauline, Easley is “drawing heavy interest” from Chicago, New England, San Francisco and Seattle with the aforementioned teams believing he will go in the second round of May’s 2014 NFL Draft.

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Florida extends Billy Donovan through 2018-19

On the heels of the Florida Gators’ fourth-straight appearance in the Sweet 16, the school on Tuesday released details of a three-year contract extension signed in February that will keep head coach Billy Donovan with the program at least through the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

Donovan previously signed a three-year extension in Dec. 2011, and his new deal is a near-carbon copy of the previous extension, which was added on top of the six-year contract he signed after returning to the Gators ahead of the 2007-08 campaign.

Donovan’s latest contract will raise his salary slightly, paying him approximately $3.7 million per year, combining his base salary ($220,000) with an activities agreement ($2.77 million), apparel deal with Nike ($225,000), annual longevity bonus ($340,000) and expense/travel account ($100,000 combined).

As part of his new deal, Donovan will be paid $2.67 million for his activities agreement in 2014-15 and 2015-16 (concluding his original deal) before receiving a $100,000 raise to $2.77 million as part of the extension.

The new contract also provides him with a $250,000 bonus for this season, topping him out at $3.8 million before performance incentives. His total earnings for 2013-14 currently stand at $4 million.

While Donovan no longer has a non-compete clause – a restriction put in place as part of his 2007 deal which kept him out of the NBA for five seasons – in his contract, he still must receive express written consent from athletic director Jeremy Foley before discussing – directly or indirectly – a position with either a professional franchise or another college team.

The Gators provide Donovan with a number of incentives in his contract including $37,500 for making the NCAA Tournament, another $37,500 for earning a Sweet 16 berth, an additional $25,000 for getting to the Final Four and another $150,000 for winning the national championship. Donovan can also receive $25,000 for being named the AP SEC Coach of the Year, $25,000 for winning the SEC Tournament title, $50,000 for earning the SEC regular season crown, $50,000 for finishing in the top-10 of the final AP poll, and $50,000 for being named AP National Coach of the Year.

He can also earn either an additional month’s salary for graduating 60 percent of his players or 10 percent of his annual salary if he hits an 80 percent graduation rate.

Donovan has led Florida to five Southeastern Conference regular-season titles, four SEC Tournament Championships, three Final Fours and two NCAA Championships. The Gators will play in their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 on Thursday as they hope to advance to the Elite Eight for the fourth-straight season.

On Saturday, he passed Dale Brown of LSU for second all-time in total wins at an SEC school with 449 but still stands 426 behind Adolph Rupp of Kentucky (875).

Contract talks between Donovan and Foley are informal in nature, a source close to the coach told OnlyGators.com this fall, which is also evident as terms of his extensions have remained relatively consistent throughout his career. Donovan signing his extension is considered to be simply a formality at this point.

Photo Credit: H. Darr Beiser/USA Today

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FOUR BITS: Foley, Roper, Tebow, ESPN

1 » In a question-and-answer session with the school’s website, Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley noted Thursday that his team and the Georgia Bulldogs will both wear colored jerseys during the Florida-Georgia game. “It’s just something a little different,” Foley explained. “To be honest, a fan suggested it. He sent me a picture of what they used to do when Coach [Steve] Spurrier was playing. He had a blue jersey on and whoever was tackling him had a red jersey on. It’s a unique rivalry and just a little different something to do. There is no particular reason. Georgia agreed and we agreed. At the end of the day, you’ve still got to win the ballgame no matter what color jersey you have on. I think it’s just a little something that makes the game even more unique.” No specifics were given as to whether this is a one-off decision or has been instituted for the duration of the current contract between the opponents to play in Jacksonville, FL.

Foley also notes that there is a “sense of urgency” in remodeling the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and that a decision on upcoming Southeastern Conference football scheduling (whether to go to nine league games) will come in June, which you can read along with some other less-interesting topics by clicking here.

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Led by Donovan (Coach) and Wilbekin (Player), Florida Gators clean up at 2014 SEC awards

Updated on Wednesday at 1:15 a.m.

The No. 1 Florida Gators cleaned up on Tuesday when the Southeastern Conference released its 2013-14 year-end awards as voted on by league coaches, earning five of the six honors and placing three players on various All-SEC teams.

SEC Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan
SEC Player of the Year: Scottie Wilbekin
SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Patric Young
SEC Sixth Man of the Year: Dorian Finney-Smith
SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Patric Young

Leading the pack were head coach Billy Donovan, who captured his third SEC Coach of the Year award (all in the last four seasons), and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who became just the second Florida player in the history of the award to win SEC Player of the Year.

Senior center Patric Young was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and picked up his third-straight SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor, while redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith was awarded SEC Sixth Man of the Year for his contributions off the bench.

It took Donovan 14 seasons to receive his first conference coaching honor despite winning two national championships (2006-07), coaching in three title games (2000, 2006-07) and leading his team to three-straight SEC Tournament victories (2005-07). Since winning his first SEC Coach of the Year award in 2011, he has dominated the voting with three in the last four seasons.

Continue Reading » Led by Donovan (Coach) and Wilbekin (Player), Florida Gators clean up at 2014 SEC awards

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Charlie Strong officially named Texas head coach

Updated on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals for the last four seasons, officially accepted the same job with the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night.

According to SI.com, Texas and Strong came to an agreement on a five-year deal worth approximately $5 million per season.

Horns247 first reported Friday that Strong decided to take over for Mack Brown, who coached the Longhorns from 1998-2013, and the school officially announced his arrival on Sunday with a press conference scheduled for Monday.

A respected defensive mind who spent 16 years as an assistant at Florida, Strong became a head coach for the first time in 2010 and has led Louisville to a 38-15 record (23-3 over the last two seasons).

“I’m excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country,” Strong said in the Texas press release announcing his hiring. “Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It’s special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football.”

He added: “This was a difficult decision because the University of Louisville gave me my first opportunity as a head coach. I have so much respect for President [James] Ramsey and [athletic director] Tom Jurich. They have been great to me and my family, and it was very hard to say goodbye, but they know this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Strong served as a graduate assistant with the Gators from 1983-84, outside linebackers coach from 1988-89, assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach from 1991-94, and defensive coordinator from 2002-09. He worked under Charley Pell, Galen Hall, Gary Darnell, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer at Florida and also served as interim head coach for the 2004 Peach Bowl (L 27-10).

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NOT Top 13 for 2013: Moments for Gators to forget

At the conclusion of each year, on Dec. 31 to be exact, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. This year, which will go down as a difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 13 for 2013 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 13 for 2013 to end your year on a positive note!

13 » OFFSEASON GARBAGE
The time between the conclusion of spring practice in April and the start of summer practice in July can be long and seemingly endless for some, especially the media, which drummed up controversy where none should have exited in May. Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis, taking part in a Gator Gathering with boosters, jokingly referred to Alabama head coach Nick Saban as “the devil himself.” The slight was made public and Saban took great offense, despite the fact that Davis was kidding. Davis got called “a classless backstabbing coward” for his joke and received other undue ridicule.

Two months later, one of the top college football headlines was a report that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer actually turned in Florida (and running backs coach Brian White) for a petty secondary recruiting violation that the NCAA deemed to be meaningless. Meyer denied his actions and got taken to task for reporting his former school, especially considering he has previously been accused of violating NCAA secondary recruiting rules in a similar fashion.

12 » LACROSSE AND VOLLEYBALL COME UP SHORT
With revenge on their minds and the program’s first national title within reach, Florida lacrosse failed to take down Syracuse on the latter’s home turf in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Orange got the best of the Gators for the second-straight season, winning 13-9 on May 18 after picking up a controversial victory in the 2012 NCAA Final Four. UF had the opportunity to make SU pay while trying to win a championship but instead sent its fourth-year players – the first senior class in program history – home with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Florida volleyball saw its 2013 season come to a crashing halt when it fell 3-2 at home to Florida State in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. One of the top seeds in the tournament and a potential national title team, the Gators allowed their in-state rival to knock them out of postseason play as UF failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. Like the lacrosse team, which sent its upperclassmen out in a disappointing fashion, the same happened to senior middle back Chloe Mann.

11 » SAME TEAM!
The moment that checked in No. 1 on ESPN’s own Not Top Plays of 2013 was simply a microcosm of Florida being unable to get out of its own way this year. Redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison and redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar blocked each other on a rushing play that actually gained some positive yardage against Georgia Southern in the second-to-last game of the season. In the same game, redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye was accused of gouging an opponent’s eyes.


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Florida and Michigan set to open 2017 football season in Cowboys Classic

The Florida Gators announced on Wednesday that the program has agreed to open up the 2017 season against the Michigan Wolverines at AT&T Stadium – formerly known as Cowboy’s Stadium – as part of the 2017 Cowboys Classic in Arlington, TX.

When it kicks off against Michigan on Sept. 2, 2017, Florida will be playing its first non-conference regular season game outside the state of Florida since 1991.

“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” said UF athletic director Jeremy Foley in a school release. “Our schedule has been pretty consistent through the years. We were presented this opportunity and just thought it was something that our fans would embrace, our program would embrace. It would give us great national visibility. Obviously, a very difficult ballgame against a storied program – that excites us.”

Though a broadcast partner has not yet been signed for the showdown, which will kick off in prime time, it will no doubt be an extremely attractive national matchup. More than 90,000 fans will be able to attend with each school getting 25,000 tickets to divvy up.

The Wolverines announced in their release that they will be the away team with the Gators set as the home team. The Big 12 will send a crew to officiate the game between teams from the Southeastern Conference and Big 10.

Florida and Michigan have not squared off on the gridiron since the 2008 Capital One Bowl. The Wolverines topped the Gators 41-35 in former head coach Lloyd Carr’s last game and the final contest of Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy-winning season.

UF also fell to UM 38-30 in the 2003 Outback Bowl.

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11/30: Florida vs. Florida State report; Purifoy declares, Foley speaks, Muschamp promises

The Florida Gators (4-8) lost their seventh-straight game on Saturday, falling 37-7 to the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley held an impromptu session with the media before the game, and head coach Will Muschamp spoke after the season-ending loss.

SENIOR DAY

DECLARATIONS BEGIN

Minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s game, Florida junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy declared his intention to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He told ESPN‘s Joe Schad as much after the game, but the Gators are unlikely to announce his decision (as well as those of others) for a few days.

Purifoy had an up-and-down season for Florida but did register an interception return for a touchdown earlier in the year and actually picked off Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on Saturday. He struggled at times in coverage and with his discipline but will nevertheless be a second-round pick at worst in April. OnlyGators.com will have more on Purifoy’s declaration, as well as that of others, when the time comes.

“That is something I’ll discuss in the coming days. I’ve had discussions with a couple guys but I really don’t want to comment at this time about that,” Muschamp said.

INJURY UPDATES

Senior wide receiver Trey Burton was knocked from the game early in the first quarter after taking a zone read 50 yards down the field for one of his best plays of the season. Burton immediately went to the locker room and was ruled out with a shoulder injury, ending his career at Florida. As it turns out, the Gators actually planned to use Burton extensively on Saturday.

“We were probably going to have about 30-35 snaps with Trey, some of the misdirection runs now go out of the game plan so you got to make adjustments and you got to change,” Muschamp explained. “I hurt for Trey because he’s a senior and it was his last game in The Swamp. It was very difficult for him. He’s a great young man. But that kind of sums up what’s happened this year. It’s been very frustrating.”

Continue Reading » 11/30: Florida vs. Florida State report; Purifoy declares, Foley speaks, Muschamp promises

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