FOUR BITS: Corps Classic, Beal, Donovan, Harvin

1 » Though nothing at all is finalized, the City of Jacksonville is working towards holding the Navy-Marine Corps Classic for a second-straight season and hopes to reach a deal with the U.S. Navy to do so at some point over the next few months. “The City of Jacksonville would like to continue the game and is working on a proposal to the Navy that includes several options for the 2013 Navy-Marine Corps Classic,” executive director Alan Verlander told OGGOA last Thursday. The proposal set to be delivered to the Navy includes contingencies and/or solutions to avoid the condensation issue that ended the 2012 game at halftime last year. The City of Jacksonville has also had “very preliminary” talks with programs about potentially participating in the game (with the Florida Gators being an obvious preference as the local team) but is waiting until the conclusion of March Madness before continuing to gauge interest from said teams.

2 » Grantland’s Zach Lowe sat down with Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal for a wide-ranging interview about his rookie season. In the question-and-answer session, Beal discusses his ankle injuries, playing with John Wall, watching Florida in the postseason, playing in the NBA and where he feels most comfortable on the court.

3 » Head coach Billy Donovan deciding to stick with the Gators rather than try his hand at an NBA career or leave Florida for Kentucky began what Yahoo! Sports’s Dan Wetzel describes as a trend of “choosing happiness over climbing the ladder.” In this piece published over the weekend, Wetzel looks at how Donovan may have set forth a path that other young head coaches like Butler’s Brad Stevens and Virginia Commonweath’s Shaka Smart are now following – turning down big-time coaching jobs like UCLA to build a program from the ground up at a school where they feel comfortable and happy. “I think there was a day when it was a different world, but I think that world has changed,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in the feature. “Obviously Billy had a lot of opportunities and for a brief moment there he took one at the NBA, but he’ll ask you, ‘What’s wrong with being happy?’ And at the end of the day he woke up and said, ‘We’re happy at Florida. We don’t have to do anything different.’”

4 » The Seattle Seahawks trading for wide receiver Percy Harvin (and signing him to a six-year, $67 million deal with $14.5 million fully guaranteed) was a big win for both parties. While Harvin is certainly excited about his new home, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was beaming at the thought of having Harvin in the fold. “My mind started racing,” Bevell told NFL.com’s Albert Breer. “You start thinking about all the things you can do with a player like that. And now the hard part is to harness that talent.” Bevell went on to explain that he never saw Harvin as selfish or difficult during his time with Minnesota (he was the coordinator there from 2006-10) but rather someone who was very competitive and wanted “you to show him how he can help you win.” Suddenly, one of the most exciting teams in the NFL, which boasted one of the best defenses in the league, may have an offense that can match.

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Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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TWO BITS: Georgetown game, Donnie Jones

1 » The Navy-Marine Corps Classic on Nov. 9 aboard the USS Bataan at Navy Mayport Station in Jacksonville, FL was suspended at halftime after condensation that landed on the court made for unsafe playing conditions. At the time of game stoppage, the Florida Gators led the Georgetown Hoyas by four points. The game itself is currently classified as an exhibition as there was not a victor but that could very well change if an agreement between the two schools can be reached over the next few weeks. “Our school has reached out to Georgetown about completing and finishing the game,” head coach Billy Donovan revealed Tuesday evening. “There are some dates and there are some possibilities of that happening.”

The Gators would likely reimburse the Hoyas for a portion of their travel expenses considering the team would have to fly in to Jacksonville to play in an arena while UF would just have to drive a few hours. Donovan said there are a few dates in early January that work for both teams and the game would be forced to begin where it left off by NCAA rules. USA Today spoke with Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who said that his team is also interested though nothing is set in stone yet. “I’m not opposed to it. We’ve got to see what happens. A whole lot of things have to fall into place,” he said.

2 » Donovan on Tuesday emphatically defended the character of former Florida assistant coach Donnie Jones, who has been the head coach of the Central Florida Knights since the 2010-11 season. UCF under Jones was recently found guilty of being involved with runners for sports agents and paying recruits. The basketball team received a one-year postseason ban, five years of probation and scholarship reductions; it was also forced to vacate all victories from the 2010-11 campaign. Jones himself was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty and is limited in how he can recruit players this season. Below is what Donovan had to say about the entire situation:

“Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time talking to him. I really personally thought it was really unfortunate. Donnie is a good, good person in this profession. I think the hardest thing that sometimes as human beings you go through is, you go through what he’s going through and all of a sudden people think that, well, he’s not doing his business the right way. That couldn’t be anything further from the truth. I spent a lot of time…obviously with how serious the matter, he couldn’t share a lot with me, but I wanted to spend time on the phone just kind of letting him know I’m there.

“I would tell you this right now: There’s a lot of things in terms of NCAA and decisions that are made. People get show-causes put on them and everything else. I know Donnie Jones. I worked with him for 13 years. He is good for college basketball. He is good for those kids at Central Florida. He’s a great family man. He’s a great father. He’s a great husband. He is the salt of the Earth. There is not a better human being.

“I think some of the things that happened, in my opinion as I look at college basketball, were very, very unfortunate. With that being said, I just tried to be there for him. … He is good for college basketball. There’s a lot of bigger problems in college basketball than Donnie Jones. To me, what happened to him does not reflect who he is as a coach, a person, his integrity, his character and what he stands for. I will stand behind that for as long as the day is because that’s what he is. That whole thing that happened, again, I don’t know all the ins and outs of what happened, but that guy is a quality human being, to me, that got dragged through the mud and it was not deserved.”

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Navy-Marine Corps Classic photo gallery

OGGOA was lucky enough to be on-site for the Navy-Marine Corps Classic on Friday at Navy Mayport Station in Jacksonville, FL featuring the No. 10 Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas. Though the game itself was suspended at halftime, the event was one to remember and provided plenty of great sights for the military, players, coaches, staff, media and fans in attendance. Below are 40 choice pictures, including a few panoramas, taken by OGGOA at the event. Click on the first picture below and then click the “next” arrow to view each additional picture (click to enlarge).

» Head coach Billy Donovan on what his team can take away from the event: “The thing that I think any coach is trying to do is I think share a lot of values that the military shares. Our guys are not in life and death situations. Just talking to a lot of the men and women and captains and admirals, the thing that stands out to me is the sacrifice, the unselfishness, being a part of something bigger than themselves, to realize that they’re putting their life in the hands of someone else, someone else is putting their life in the hands of them. I think those are messages you try to get across to our team. I would say not at the same level; the guys are not going to war. As it relates to their basketball future and career, there are so many valuable teaching lessons in this. For our guys to see 3,000 people working on the ship, to see the discipline, the focus, the attention to detail, all those things are things we want our basketball team to do. It was really a great experience. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t finish out the game. It was really great.”

» Senior guard Kenny Boynton on his experience: “I had a good two days here. It was an honor to be here playing in this game. I’ll always remember it. … It’s been a great experience, I think for us and them. We look up to them, and they seemed like they enjoyed us here. I had a great time here, and if I could do it all over again, I would.”

» Junior center Patric Young, who was one of a number of players to give his jersey to a member of the military after the game: “He didn’t even ask for it. I just gave it to him. That was probably the first time I’ve ever did that. I wish I could have gave him more just to let him know how thankful we are for what he’s done.”

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