1 » No. 1 Florida Gators softball (50-6) earned the top national seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and as such will host the Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, for the 13th consecutive season. Florida will see the Florida A&M Rattlers (18-37), Florida Atlantic Owls (37-17-1) and Hofstra Pride (37-12-1) come to town for the double-elimination tournament, which begins on Friday. The winner of the Gainesville Regional will face the victor from the South Bend Rgional, which features No. 16 Notre Dame, Kentucky, Northwestern and Ball State. The Gators are the defending 2014 NCAA Champions, capturing the first national title in program history.
Doubling up on league titles in its first season as a member of a new conference, Florida Gators lacrosse dominated the Connecticut Huskies 20-6 to win 2015 Big East Tournament.
Florida, which ended the regular season with an 11-10 loss to UConn in Storrs, Connecticut, found its way back into town for the tournament, routing Villanova 18-8 in the semifinals on Thursday before squaring off and earning a measure of revenge over the Huskies on Saturday. UF led 8-2 early and held on for the rout.
With football and basketball both in the spotlight and Florida Gators gymnastics winning a third straight NCAA National Championship last week, it was easy to overlook two other tremendous accomplishments made by Gators athletic programs in the form of regular-season league titles won this month.
For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.
14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET
Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.
13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME
Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.
Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.
At the conclusion of each year, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. For the second-straight year, which will go down as another difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 14 for 2014 – 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 14 for 2014 (COMING THURSDAY) to begin 2015 on a positive note!
14 » SEE YA NEVER
Over the final two months of 2014, the Gators football program saw three seniors decide – whether through purposeful actions or team rules violations – to end their careers early. Learning he would not be starting at Vanderbilt, redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr argued with then head coach Will Muschamp and was sent home on a bus before the game; he later tried to explain his side of the story. On the final day of the year, redshirt senior wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose (mutual decision) and senior DT Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) were ruled out for the bowl game. Debose had an up-and-down hear overall, suffering a defenestration in the spring and barely playing on offense during the season; he was excellent as Florida’s all-purpose returner, however, and ends his career tied for the SEC record in kick return touchdowns (four).
13 » CHARACTER CONCERNS
Maurkice and Mike Pouncey kept their noses clean when they were with the Gators and continue to be fan favorite from their time at Florida. However, since becoming professional football players, some character questions have been raised – stemming in large part from the brothers wearing “Free Hernandez” hats last year – and those continued in 2014. Pouncey was one of the main players named in bullying allegations levied by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and both Pounceys were accused of serious assault during a night club incident in Miami. The brothers were not ultimately charged with assault from that evening’s incident but all of the allegations continued to paint UF in a bad light.
12 » UNEXPECTEDLY UNDRAFTED
It started in the 2014 NFL Draft when a pair of Gators junior cornerbacks that declared early – Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson – were not selected. Purifoy had a drug incident in the offseason that contributed to him not being drafted – and both players dealt with character concerns – but it was nevertheless a surprise. (Purifoy and Roberson, respectively, signed undrafted free agent deals with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams. Both saw limited action this season with Purifoy getting cut by the Colts, dropped by the Seattle Seahawks after a waiver claim [failed a physical] and ultimately suspended four games by the NFL for an undisclosed reason.)
There was even more of an expectation that center Patric Young would be picked in the 2014 NBA Draft with many believing he could go as high as the lower portion of the first round. Instead, Young fell out of the first and did not even get picked in the second as many NBA teams chose to select international players that they could stash and not sign to contracts. Young ultimately signed with the New Orleans Pelicans but was later cut by the franchise and is now playing in Turkey. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather also went undrafted, and though Wilbekin performed well in NBA Summer League action, he did not get an opportunity in the league either.
11 » BAD OMENS
Though there was some positive momentum for the football program as the 2014 season approached, with the roster looking healthy and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper expected to turn things around for Florida, a number of bad omens cast doom over the Gators’ campaign. It started with the Orange & Blue Debut spring game, which ended in a tie. Though there was no reason to continue the game per se, fans in attendance hoped to see a little bit of extra Florida football action and left disappointed.
The ominous offseason continued with wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips resigning from his position in June after Miami staffers reported him for a recruiting violation. Muschamp named former Gators quarterback and team graduate assistant Chris Leak as the replacement receivers coach, giving UF four different coaches at that position in as many seasons. The last omen was even more obvious than the first two with lightning storms cancelling Florida’s season opener against Idaho. Though options were considered to play the game at a later date in the season, it was ultimately decided to take the contest off both teams’ schedules with the Gators and Vandals only playing 11 contests in 2014.
The Florida Gators women’s athletic program was officially announced Thursday as the winner of the 2014 Capital One Cup.
It is the first time in program history that the women have obtained the award, though Florida’s men’s program captured the first two honors in 2011 and 2012.
In the four-year history of the award, the Gators are the only athletic program to win both the men’s and women’s cups.
Awarded annually to each of the top men’s and women’s Division I college athletic programs in the country, the winner of the Capital One Cup is determined by a scoring system in which points are awarded sport-by-sport depending how respective teams finish in NCAA Championships and the final official coaches’ polls.
Florida (152 points) dominated its competition, winning the cup by an 42-point margin over UCLA (110) and finishing 63 points above the next team from the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M (89).
The Gators led the way with championships and first-place finishes in gymnastics and softball. Florida also finished in the top 10 nationally in six other sports: indoor track & field (third), outdoor track & field (fourth), lacrosse (fourth), tennis (fifth), swimming (sixth) and soccer (10th).
UF’s men’s athletic program is currently ranked third overall but first among SEC teams with 86 points. Florida is 12.5 points behind the leader, Notre Dame (98.5), but 45 points ahead of the next SEC school, Auburn (41). The men’s standings will become final after the conclusion of the 2014 Colege World Series.
The women’s victory earns the University of Florida a total of $200,000 to go toward student-athlete graduate-level scholarships. The Gators will be presented with the Capital One Cup at the 2014 ESPY Awards on July 16 at 9 p.m.
1 » Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jaylen Watkins and New England Patriots guard Jon Halapio, both third-day selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, signed rookie contracts with their respective teams on Monday. There is already talk that Watkins may be able to push for a starting cornerback job at some point this season, though Philadelphia’s plan right now is to work him out at corner, nickel and safety in order to figure out how he can contribute the most from the get-go. Halapio is expected to start out as a reserve in New England, which is trying to strengthen its offensive line this offseason. OnlyGators.com will post full stories on each signing once it is able to obtain the detailed contract information for the players.
By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
In order to advance to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons, the No. 4 Florida Gators had to take down the rival No. 5 Northwestern Wildcats for the third time in as many meetings this year.
Unfortunately for the Gators, which defeated the Wildcats on the road by one point apiece in each of the first two meetings, Northwestern took control at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, and defeated the hosts 12-11 in double-overtime .
UF has now been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinal round for the third time in four years. It was the second time in three seasons that a team took down Florida in a double overtime quarterfinal match.
The Wildcats (14-6) thumped the Gators (18-3) on draw controls, 16-9, with Northwestern attacker Alyssa Leonard, the NCAA career leader in the category, registering a match-high seven, more than double anyone else on the field.
It was a back-and-forth game on offense for both teams. After Leonard opened up the scoring 2:41 into the game, Florida went on a 4-0 run over the course of 9:06 in the first half to take a 4-1 lead. The Wildcats finished off the half by similarly scoring four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.