Takeaways: Resilient Florida Gators baseball tops Vanderbilt, aims for national seed

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 9 Florida Gators baseball (38-14, 17-10 SEC) trailed the Vanderbilt Commodores by three runs through seven innings in the rubber match of a pivotal series on Saturday when the team huddled around coach Kevin O’Sullivan in the dugout. Whatever O’Sullivan told his team, it worked. Florida finished the game with five-unanswered runs to post a 9-7 win in extra innings and take the series 2-1.

UF remains in play for a first-place finish in the SEC. When Sunday’s conference games concluded, the Gators were three losses behind first-place LSU. Vanderbilt also holds a one-game lead on Florida in the SEC East going into the final weekend. The Gators are currently fourth overall in the SEC and can keep themselves alive for a first-round bye in the 2015 SEC Tournament if it remains in that position or makes a gain over the final week of the season.

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Florida Gators name Jenny Rowland program’s new head gymnastics coach

Making his third major coaching hire this offseason, Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley has tabbed Jenny Rowland as the program’s new gymnastics coach.

Rowland – a former All-American gymnast and member of the U.S. Women’s National Team (1985-90) who was named the 2015 NCAA co-Assistant Coach of the Year – has spent five seasons with Auburn, serving as the program’s associate head coach over the last two campaigns.

“When we started this search, there was one name that kept coming up – Jenny Rowland. What Auburn has done over the past few seasons is quite impressive and she’s played a big role in the Tigers’ progress. We feel confident she’s ready to guide the Gator program,” Foley said.

“She wants Gator gymnasts to thrive in all aspects of their student-athletic career – in the classroom, in the competitive arena and in developing the life skills to be successful following college. She knows what is like to be a competitor on the national, international and collegiate stages. She has what it takes to be a successful recruiter as she’s built relationships with so many in the gymnastics world.”

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Takeaways: Florida Gators baseball looks to make a move as postseason approaches

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 9 Florida Gators baseball (36-13, 15-9 SEC) went 3-1 in its recent four-game stretch against the Georgia Bulldogs and South Florida Bulls.

On paper, it should have been an easy sweep for the Gators, but the Bulldogs (22-25, 7-16 SEC) put up a fight until the final out. UGA shocked UF with an 11-1 upset win in the Friday’s opener. Runs were scarce in game two, but Florida managed to edge Georgia 3-2 and even the series. In Sunday’s finale, sophomore right fielder Ryan Larson hit a three-run double that lifted the Gators to a 7-4 victory for the series win. UF then topped USF 5-1 Tuesday night in Gainesville to close out the nonconference schedule.

Here are five takeaways from the past week of Florida baseball:

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Florida Gators basketball signee KeVaugn Allen plans to ask for release from letter of intent

Head coach Billy Donovan may not be the only member of the Florida Gators leaving the program this offseason as four-star 2015 guard signee KeVaughn Allen now seemingly plans to ask for a release from his National Letter of Intent following Donovan’s departure from the program after 19 seasons.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Allen’s mother “confirmed that her son will ask for a release” after her husband (Allen’s stepfather) made the same proclamation on a local radio show earlier in the day Tuesday.

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Billy Donovan leaves Florida Gators to become new coach of NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

Billy Donovan has accepted the vacant head coaching position with the Oklahoma City Thunder, ending his 19-year stint with the Florida Gators. A source close to the Florida coach told OnlyGators.com on Thursday afternoon that Donovan and Oklahoma City have agreed to terms on a five-year contract with each program announcing the deal a few hours later.

Donovan, who amassed a 467-186 (202-109 SEC) record with the Gators and won 502 games during his 21-year college coaching career after spending two seasons at Marshall, will enter the NBA ranks as a coach for the first time in his career at a salary of nearly $6 million per season.

“I want to thank Jeremy Foley, the players, coaches and staff I’ve had the chance to work with during my time at Florida,” Donovan said in a school release. “The administrative support and stability has been unbelievable here, and it is an incredibly difficult decision to leave that. I knew that it would take a unique opportunity to leave the University of Florida and that is clearly how I look at this situation.”

Donovan continued discussing his shift to the NBA in an Oklahoma City release.

“The Thunder represents so many of the values that I embrace as a head coach; the commitment to the team above oneself, the dedicated pursuit of excellence, the commitment to organizational culture, the identity they have established and the fact that the Thunder and the community are so intricately woven into the fabric of one another. To have the ability to work with such a talented and high character group of players is also rare, and I am excited to forge ahead creating those relationships,” he said.

“It is of course bittersweet as the University of Florida will always hold a very special place in my heart and in my family’s. I’ve had the good fortune of working with the best athletic director in the country in Jeremy Foley over the last 19 years, and I’ll be forever grateful and thankful for the opportunity and his friendship. Countless players, students, and other people in the administration were responsible for our success and for the meaningful connection we had with the Gainesville community.

“I have a deep appreciation for what the University of Florida will always mean to me and I’ll forever be a Gator.”

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After three straight national titles, coach Rhonda Faehn leaves Florida for USA Gymnastics

Just days after leading Florida Gators gymnastics to its third straight NCAA Championship, head coach Rhonda Faehn has decided to leave the program to become senior vice president of USA Gymnastics.

Faehn, who took over Florida gymnastics in 2003, has brought the Gators to 10 NCAA Super Six finals in 13 seasons (2004, 2006-10, 2012-15). UF under Faehn was on the precipice of a NCAA national title for nearly a decade before winning its first in 2013 – and two more in the years that followed.

Continue Reading » After three straight national titles, coach Rhonda Faehn leaves Florida for USA Gymnastics

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Three-peat: Florida Gators gymnastics makes history, wins third straight national title

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Florida Gators gymnastics continued breaking through ceilings on Saturday when it captured the program’s third straight NCAA National Championship by edging the competition with a final score of 197.850.

Despite failing to earn its league crown or win its semifinal outright, Florida – led by head coach Rhonda Faehn – took down its top-notch competition Saturday to obtain sole possession of the national title after splitting the honor one year ago.

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Florida Gators gymnastics advances to 2015 NCAA Super Six, looks to defend back-to-back titles

For the fourth straight year, Florida Gators gymnastics – the two-time defending NCAA National Champions – will compete in the NCAA Super Six.

Florida posted a score of 197.475 in its NCAA Championship Semifinal, matching the mark posted by Utah, which will also move on to the final showdown on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Fort Worth, Texas.

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