FOUR BITS: Meyer, Merklein, Harvin, Miami

1 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for a question-and-answer session with’s Jeremy Fowler (believe it or not) that was published on Friday. In the piece, he mentions the Florida Gators on a few occasions, the highlights of which are below. Check out the other topics by clicking here.

On why ‘no question’ he would still be at Florida if health issues never surfaced
“I realized not too long after [around February 2011]. I called Jeremy [Foley] and said, ‘I made a mistake.’ Once I felt like everything was under control, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I do?’ I just told Jeremy as a friend in conversation. The talk was more about one day getting back into it. He was very supportive. Then I started at ESPN and had a ball with that, but is that enough? Is that what I was called to do? I planned to take more than a year [off] though.”

On regrets for the way his Florida tenure ended
“I didn’t at first. I thought we did a good job. We did our best. I look back now, the way it ended was certainly a regret. Does that mean it haunts me? Not at all. I’ve always felt our job is to do a good job and do it the right way, do it ethically and for the best interest of the student-athlete — check, check, check. I’ll always be associated with the school, and my great friends are there and all that. Absolutely none with that. It just wasn’t a normal way to move on. There would have been if I would have stayed out. I was worried about survival for a little bit.”

2 » Florida brought back a huge name in Gators tennis on Friday when the school announced that Mark Merklein has returned to the program as an assistant coach with the men’s team. Merklein, a two-time national champion (doubles in 1993, singles in 1994) and the 1994 SEC Player of the Year, earned four All-American nominations and three All-SEC nods while at Florida and was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. Considered by many to be the best men’s tennis player in school history, Merklein wound up competing as a professional for 12 years and even serving as a volunteer assistant for the Gators from 1998-2002 while he was on the tour. He was the head coach of the USTA Player Development Center for six seasons (2006-11) before being hired by Michigan as an assistant coach for the past two years (2012-13). “When I left I even said to everyone, including Mr. [Jeremy] Foley, that it was a goal of mine to one day come back and coach and win national championships,” Merklein said in a school release. “I’ve said it so much now, it’s time to actually do it and put the work in. I’m excited to do that alongside [head coach Bryan Shelton].”

3 » Wide receiver Percy Harvin has only been employed by the Seattle Seahawks for a few weeks now, but he is already turning heads at the team’s facility. According to The Seattle Times, Harvin’s teammates and coaches have already begun taking notice, and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is ecstatic about the potential of Seattle’s offense this season. “His talent level is unbelievable, off the charts,” said Wilson of Harvin. “He brings an explosive mentality to the game, which a lot of our guys already have. But to have him is truly tremendous. He’s a guy that’s been one of the best football players in the National Football League for the past several years.” Harvin also told the paper that he expect to play some running back on occasion and will likely be back for kickoff returns.

4 » ESPN’s decision to kick-off Florida second football game of the season, on the road against the Miami Hurricanes, at noon has caused quite a stir amongst fans over the past 24 hours. The Gators and Hurricanes will square off on Sept. 7 in Miami Gardens, FL at Sun Life Stadium in a game which everyone involved assumed would be played at night, likely at 8 p.m. Instead, Florida-Miami will take place under the extreme heat of the South Florida sun with kickoff just after noon, earlier than any UF-UM game has been played since at least 1987. The Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro did some digging to learn why ESPN chose that time slot.

According to the network, ABC will be airing a NASCAR race at 8 p.m. while ESPN is broadcasting Notre Dame-Michigan. The 3:30 p.m. slot on ABC will be used for regional games (those in Florida will see Oregon at Virginia). Hurricanes AD Blake James apparently tweeted that Miami “requested and lobbied” for the 8 p.m. slot, while ESPN spokesman Mike Humes pointed out that the network values its noon window. “We average probably around three million viewers for that time slot. So it wasn’t like, ‘Let’s put the worst game on at noon.’ The noon window does really well with fans,” he said. “We view this as a great matchup. Scheduling games is like putting together different puzzles with different time zones and commitments, and this was the best window.”

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FOUR BITS: Davis, lacrosse, Miami, Wambach

1 » For the second time in as many offseasons lighthearted comments from a Florida Gators football coach have been turned into some sort of controversy by the national media. Last year it was head coach Will Muschamp poking fun at College Station, TX (as a former coach at Texas, Muschamp is quite familiar with Texas A&M and its town). This time around it is offensive line coach Tim Davis joking about Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his demeanor while participating in a Gator Gathering speaking event. (Saban, Muschamp and Davis all worked together at the Miami Dolphins.) “Will coached under the devil himself [Saban] for seven years. I only did three. He did seven. And his DNA is different than Nick,” Davis quipped, according to 24/7 Sports, while comparing the coaches. He later added: “[Muschamp’s] like the other guy, only he’s got a personality. He’ll smile at you. He’ll talk to you.”

2 » Five Gators lacrosse players were named to the 2013 IWLCA All-American teams on Wednesday. Seniors attacker Kitty Cullen, midfielder Brittany Dashiell and goalkeeper Mikey Meagher were all given first team honors. Cullen is Florida’s first three-time All-American while Dashiell and Meagher earned first team honors for the second-straight year. Senior defender Sam Farrell and sophomore M Shannon Gilroy were named to the second team.

Check out two more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Davis, lacrosse, Miami, Wambach

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SIX BITS: NBA, baseball, Tebow, women, Gillespie

1 » Former Florida Gators currently playing in the NBA collectively had an interesting last three days. Centers Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls each started March off on fire after concluding February with a career game. Horford averaged 22 points, six rebounds, 3.5 assists and three steals in two weekend games, while Noah posted two more double-doubles and averages of 17.5 points, 10 boards, five assists and 2.5 blocks in his two games. Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal posted a career-high 29 points in a double-double performance (11 rebounds) on Friday but then went down hard on Sunday with a sprained left ankle that was so painful it reportedly caused him to blackout on the court. X-rays came back negative but Beal remains day-to-day for the Wizards. Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons capped off the weekend with an explosive performance Sunday, scoring a career-high 32 points on 12-of-13 shooting (6-of-7 from downtown) in just 30 minutes. He became the first player since Larry Bird to score 30+ points, shoot 92 percent or better and attempt at least five three-pointers. Parsons, a second-round pick and second-year player, continues to be an incredibly valuable player for the Rockets; he has scored 20+ points in four-straight games.

2 » Entering the weekend unranked and losers of five-straight games to Georgia Southern, Florida Gulf Coast (three) and North Florida, Florida baseball first dropped its sixth-straight contest before rallying to win the final two games of its weekend series against the Miami Hurricanes. The Gators (5-7) handed the Canes (10-2) their first two losses on the season, toppling their foes with a four-run eighth inning on Saturday and a four-run third inning on Sunday. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (3/8, 4 RBI, R, 2 BB) led Florida offensively and helped both freshman right-handed reliever Jay Carmichael (1-1) and sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi (1-0) pick up their first victories of the season. UF plays five games in the next seven days including a home-and-home against Jacksonville and a three-game series at home against Indiana.

Read five more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NBA, baseball, Tebow, women, Gillespie

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FOUR BITS: Harris, Beisel, Zunino, Parsons, Hill

1 » Florida Gators junior center Damontre Harris was arrested early Wednesday morning after he failed to appear at an arraignment scheduled for Aug. 16, 2012. Harris, who was cited by a member of the University Police Department on July 16 for driving without a valid in-state license, was supposed to take care of the necessary paperwork and pay the fines associated with his infraction but never did as instructed. He was served a delinquency notice after failing to pay his original fine within 30 days and assessed an additional $32 in fines between Aug. 21 and Sept. 28.

2 » Florida announced Wednesday that junior swimmer Elizabeth Beisel (swimming) and former catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named winners of the 2012 Ben Hill Griffin Award. The honor, given to the top male and female student-athletes each season, “is based primarily on athletic achievement” with “academic achievement and extra-curricular involvement” also a consideration, according to UF. Zunino, who received the award for the second-straight year, won every major collegiate baseball award at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Beisel, the 2012 SEC Female Swimmer of the Year, also earned an individual national title in the 200-meter backstroke.

3 » NBA Hall of Fame C Hakeem Olajuwon taped an Egraph message to current Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons recently. Listen to it here.

4 » Stemming from the NCAA’s investigation of the Miami Hurricanes and his time as wide receivers coach with the team, former Gators assistant Aubrey Hill has been hit with an ethical-conduct charge (NCAA Rule 10.1). According to the Associated Press, which obtained information regarding the notice of allegations sent to Miami, Hill and at least one other assistant “provided meals, transportation and lodging to either recruits, current players, or both in either 2008 or 2009. Both were interviewed by the NCAA during the course of its probe and allegedly denied providing those extra benefits, statements the NCAA said were contradicted in each case by what players told them separately.” Though forthcoming punishments have not yet been levied against Hill, it can be expected that he will be out of coaching for the foreseeable future. He resigned from his post with Florida before the beginning of the 2012 season.

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TWO BITS: soccer shocked, Spurrier featured

1 » No. 21 Florida Gators soccer (0-1) was thrashed in their season opener on Friday, dropping the match 4-1 to the visiting Miami Hurricanes (1-0) at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Miami was fast and furious in the first half, taking an early 3-0 advantage thanks to goals at 12’ (header off a corner kick), 17’ (inside the box) and 31’ (rebound off a saved corner kick). Senior midfielder Erika Tymrak got a goal back for Florida at 57’, but UM regained its three-goal lead by knocking in a rebound at 67’ to ice the match for the Hurricanes. The Gators now must play three-straight road games over the next two weeks against top 10 opponents including No. 8 North Carolina and No. 2 Duke in Chapel Hill, NC as well as No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee, FL.

2 » In an ESPN The Magazine feature former Florida quarterback/head coach Steve Spurrier discusses his entire career including what initially drew him to UF as a high school football player. Check out the rest of the feature including Spurrier’s thoughts on coaching the Gators and how he draws parallels with South Carolina.

“The last visit I made was to Gainesville, where Ray Graves had started in 1960. He was an East Tennessee guy like me. He played at Tennessee for General Neyland, but he wasn’t satisfied just to let places like Alabama and Tennessee do their thing while everyone else laid down because they were supposed to. He was attracted to the Florida Gators program because it had never done much, and he wanted to shake things up. He also wanted to throw the ball and see what happened. It’s not that he didn’t want to run it all the time and play defense like everyone else. He just knew Florida couldn’t. He wanted to do something different. I liked the sound of that.” […]

“Most of the SEC had beaten up on Florida over the years, so maybe they took us lightly. But we’d come in there throwing it around the field, and you could see them thinking, What is this? Everyone had been running the single wing for 100 years, so we looked radical. Whenever another team beats you with something new, it’s natural to take that back to the office and say, Do you think we might could do some of that? I’m not saying the SEC suddenly became a place where people started passing all the time. But it got them thinking.”

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Florida Gators, WR coach Aubrey Hill part ways

Florida Gators wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill has resigned from his position with the team, the school announced on Friday.

Hill, who has been twice named by Yahoo! Sports in connection with major recruiting violations in his former position with the Miami Hurricanes (Aug. 16, 2011 | July 20, 2012), resigned for “personal reasons” according to head coach Will Muschamp.

“I have too much love and respect for this program to become a distraction as I deal with some personal issues,” Hill said in statement released by the school. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Coach Muschamp, a tremendous staff and great group of players. The future is very bright here and the University of Florida will always have a special place in my heart. Go Gators.”

Muschamp said in a release that he appreciated Hill’s decision to move on.

“Aubrey informed me he was resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the University of Florida,” he said. “Aubrey didn’t want to be a distraction to our team and our football program and he thought it was best for him to move on. I appreciate Aubrey’s efforts and wish him the best moving forward. He will always remain a Gator.”

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three SEC titles. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and coached wide receivers at four stops over 12 years before being hired by Florida. He also served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season, his last year with the team.

Filling in for Hill at least temporarily will be offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who also coaches the Gators’ quarterbacks, and offensive graduate assistant Bush Hamdan. Pease previously coached wide receivers at Boise State from 2006-10, and Hamdan was a backup quarterback in his offensive system.

Muschamp will likely hire a new coach after the season.

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is an early candidate to take over Hill’s recruiting coordinator duties; Florida already has 21 players verbally committed for the 2013 cycle as of press time and has an early jump on its 2014 class.

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Hill again named in Yahoo! report on potential recruiting violations occurring at Miami

For the second time in as many years, a report released Friday by Yahoo! Sports concerning potential recruiting violations occurring within the Miami Hurricanes football program includes the name of current Florida Gators wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill.

Writes Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson:

Less than one week after the University of Miami hired Al Golden as coach, members of Golden’s coaching staff began using Sean “Pee Wee” Allen – a then-equipment manager and onetime right-hand man of convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro – to circumvent NCAA rules in the recruiting of multiple Miami-area players.

He adds that Golden “had direct knowledge of Allen’s improper involvement with Miami recruits” and that “Allen has become a focal point into the [NCAA’s] probe into Miami athletics” with a focus on how he provided “impermissible benefits to Hurricanes players, as well as his contract with Miami recruits.”

One of those so-called “recruiting infractions” took place with the assistance of Hill, according to Robinson’s report.

On Dec. 17, 2010, five days after Golden was hired as Miami’s coach, Allen testified that he was summoned to the restaurant Dan Marino’s in South Miami to pick up Miami Northwestern High school quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. […] Allen testified that Bridgewater, Golden and other Miami coaches were at the restaurant during an unofficial visit and that a member of the coaching staff asked Allen to pick Bridgewater up. […] Allen’s phone records show eight calls exchanged with Bridgewater that afternoon and early evening, as well as four calls exchanged with Hill. The former Miami staffer told Yahoo! Sports that Hill, a then-Miami assistant, was present at the restaurant and arranged for Allen to pick Bridgewater up and transport him home – a violation of NCAA rules.

Hill was one of seven coaches specifically named in Robinson’s 2011 report on the Miami football program being infiltrated by booster Nevin Shapiro. He was accused of ushering recruits (including eventual Gators commitments wide receiver Andre Debose and offensive lineman Matt Patchan) to “Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them.”

Hill coached the Hurricanes wide receivers from 2008-10 and added the role of recruiting coordinator in his final season. He was hired away from Miami by Florida head coach Will Muschamp just three weeks after Golden took the job in South Florida.

Neither Hill, Debose nor Patchan suffered any penalties or punishments after being named in the 2011 report. Hill, through the University of Florida, declined comment prior to the publication of both the 2011 and 2012 reports.

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No. 1 Florida shines in sweep of No. 8 Miami

In their second three-game series against a top 25-ranked opponent this season, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball swept the No. 8 Miami Hurricanes at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, FL thanks to a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s finale. Florida (10-1), extending their winning streak to eight games with the three victories, has now won 11-straight contests over Miami (8-3) dating back to 2010.

The Gators defeated the Hurricanes 7-5 in the season opener, scoring in five of nine innings and never falling behind once in the game. Florida rallied for single runs in the top of the first, second, third and fifth and used a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino to spark a three-run fourth inning. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (2-0) earned the victory in 5.1 innings, striking out six while allowing four earned runs on seven hits and one walk.

Zunino (4-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) and senior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-3, 2 RBI) each knocked in a pair of runs, while junior first baseman/closer Austin Maddox (3-3, RBi, R) was dynamite from the plate and on the mound, notching his third save of the season with seven strikeouts in 3.1 innings.

Miami took the early advantage in Saturday’s contest, hitting a two-run homer off of left-hander Brian Johnson in the bottom of the first and taking a 3-0 lead through three innings. Johnson got a measure of revenge in the top of the fourth, smacking a two-run bomb to right; UF first baseman Taylor Gushue immediately followed with a solo shot, knotting the game at 3-3.

The Hurricanes regained the lead in the bottom of the inning by hitting another two-run dinger of Johnson, who was quickly pulled for senior RHP Greg Larson. The Gators turned up the intensity from there, rallying for five runs in the top of the fifth and crossing the plate at least once in every remaining inning.

Gushue (3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) homered for a second time in the fifth and was matched hit-for-hit by Johnson (4-5, 5 RBI, 2 R). Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-5) crossed the plate three times, and Pigott (4-5) and Zunino (1-6) each scored two runs as well. Larson (1-0) picked up the win in the 13-5 victory by striking out four Miami batters on 51 pitches in 4.2 no-hit innings.

Having already clinched the series with consecutive victories, Florida found themselves in danger of floundering in the finale on Sunday afternoon. Though the Gators got on the board first by plating a run in the top of the second, the Hurricanes bested them with three runs in the bottom of inning, tagging sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford for four hits in the frame. Crawford, starting the first game of his career, regrouped and struck out eight in 4.2 innings but also gave up another earned run (four total) on seven hits with a walk in his appearance.

A solo homer by Fontana reduced Florida’s deficit to a single run in the top of the fifth, but Miami rallied for a matching run in the bottom frame. The Hurricanes repeated that process in the seventh, negating another Gators’ run with one of their own to maintain a two-run advantage heading into the top of the ninth.

With starter Bryan Radziewski already out of the game for UM, E.J. Encinosa entered in the eighth to close out the final 1.2 innings. UF left two on base in the eighth, seemingly putting a major dent in their chances of making a comeback as only three outs remained.

Fontana walked on five pitches to lead off the inning, and Pigott (1-4, RBI, R) soon joined him on base after being hit by Encinosa. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-5) grounded out and advanced the runners, who were both sent home to tie the game when Zunino cleared the bases by doubling to center. Encinosa then imploded even further, advancing Zunino to third on a wild pitch, hitting Gushue on a 3-2 count, allowing Gushue (1-3, R, BB) to move to second and Zunino to score the game-winning run on another wild pitch, and finally walking Maddox (0-4, BB) before being pulled.

Florida crossed the plate twice more before the frame ended, scoring five runs to take an 8-5 lead. Freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi (1-0) earned the victory in 1.0 inning of work after coming on in the seventh with two outs, and sophomore LHP Daniel Gibson picked up his first save by striking out the final batter of the game. Zunino (1-4, 2 RBI, BB) and Fontana (2-5, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) led the way for the Gators at the plate on Sunday, concluding an impressive three-game performance for each player.

Florida will begin a 10-game homestand spanning two weeks by hosting Florida Atlantic on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. The Gators will face six non-conference opponents (including Florida State in the first of three scattered games and the Ontario Blue Jays in an exhibition contest) before beginning their SEC slate against Vanderbilt on March 16.

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