16 Gator Bites for Wednesday, March 20

From time to time, OGGOA 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.

» Though President Barack Obama‘s official 2013 NCAA Tournament bracket will be released on Wednesday at 9 a.m. on ESPN, the network released his Final Four late Tuesday night. President Obama chose the Florida Gators to win the South Region and also has Louisville, Indiana and Ohio State advancing to the Final Four.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had a hellacious experience during his team’s game on Monday evening. With 5.7 seconds left in overtime and Chicago trailing Denver by a single point, Noah got in perfect position underneath the basket and tipped in what otherwise would have been a missed shot. Though Noah scored the apparent game-winner and the referees did not call interference on the play, they checked the replay and eventually reversed their decision. The problem? Referees are only allowed to use replay to review on-court calls of interference, not to check on non-calls. Take a look at the video below to see what transpired on Monday.

Read 14 more interesting bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 16 Gator Bites for Wednesday, March 20

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Florida Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (5-1, 4-1 SEC) scored the second-highest total in program history on its way to defeating the defending national champion No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-2, 3-2 SEC) on Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida took down Alabama 198.100-196.850, avenging the Crimson Tide’s 0.075-point victory over the Gators in the 2012 NCAA Super Six.

UF’s huge score was fueled by phenomenal all-around performances from freshman Bridget Sloan and senior Ashanée Dickerson. Sloan’s mark of 39.675 is second nationally only to a 39.700 from Florida sophomore Kytra Hunter, and Dickerson’s 39.650 was highlighted by a career-best 9.975 mark that won the floor exercise.

Sloan and junior Mackenzie Caquatto shared the uneven bars title with dueling 9.950s. Caquatto doubled up in event titles with a score of 9.925 to win balance beam.

These great feats for the Gators came on a night where Hunter, an All-American the nation’s top-ranked all-around performer, fell on both bars and beam. However, when the team needed her to come through in the final event, Hunter registered a 9.950 on floor to help her team to a huge win.

A total of 8,074 fans – the ninth-largest crowd in program history – filled the O’Dome and created an electric atmosphere for Florida throughout the night. Equally impressive was the Gators’ registering such a huge score with Hunter battling a stomach flu and junior All-American Alaina Johnson still sidelined with a stress reaction in her back.

Read about what Florida lacrosse and softball did over the weekend…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

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Gators roll over Ducks 7-0, advance to fourth-straight Women’s College World Series

The first team in Southeastern Conference history to advance to four-straight Women’s College World Series, No. 3 Florida Gators softball (52-10) moved on in the 2011 NCAA Tournament with a 7-0 victory over the No. 11 Oregon Ducks (42-16) on Saturday in Super Regionals action at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida won game one 9-1 and outscored Oregon 16-1 over the weekend.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (33-6) got the start for the Gators and was consistently productive all afternoon. She tossed a complete game shutout, striking out three batters, walking one and allowing only four hits in seven innings.

With runners on first and second in the top of the second, Florida junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie hit an infield single up the middle to advance the runners. An error by Oregon second baseman Kaylan Howard allowed junior pinch runner Ellie Langley, in for senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (0-3, BB), to score and put the Gators up 1-0.

Florida added another run in the third, when senior first baseman Megan Bush (1-4, RBI) doubled deep to right center, scoring sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte (on base via a walk) from first to give the Gators a 2-0 advantage.

After Florida loaded the bases in the top of the fourth, senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-3, 2 RBI, R, BB) stepped up and worked her way to a full count. Two pitches later, she singled up the middle to score Moultrie (3-4, RBI, 2 R, SB) and sophomore designated player Ensley Gammel (1-2, R, BB) but was called out at second after trying to stretch it into a double. Schutte followed her by striking out but leaving the Gators with a 4-0 lead heading into the second half of the game.

Looking to close out the contest by tacking on some more runs, Florida found themselves with Schutte at the plate with runners on first and third in the top of the sixth. On the first pitch of her at bat, Schutte (1-2, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB) rocketed the ball out of the park, hitting a three-run homer and propelling her team ahead 7-0. Her performance on Saturday completed a fantastic weekend for the power hitter. Schutte concluded the Super Regionals going 3-4 with three homers, seven RBI, five runs scored and three walks.

The Ducks threatened to score in the bottom of the sixth, but Moultrie nabbed a fly ball in center and tossed it back to first to get the inning-ending double play. Rogers got Oregon’s batters out in order in the seventh to end the game and clinch the Gators’ WCWS berth.

Florida will face either No. 5 Missouri or No. 12 Washington in the first round of the WCWS. UF lost to UW in the final series of the 2009 WCWS.

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Schutte breaks Ducks, leads Gators to 9-1 win

Squaring off against the No. 11 Oregon Ducks just a week after taking down the No. 14 UCLA Bruins in regional action, No. 3 Florida Gators softball jumped out to a hot start and held on for an impressive run-rule victory. On the back of a pair of two-run homers by sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte, Florida (51-10) defeated Oregon (42-15) 9-1 in five innings to open the three-game 2011 NCAA Super Regionals at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Schutte (2-2, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, BB) hit her homers in the first and third inning, giving the Gators a quick 5-1 advantage. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (19-2) got the start and played well but was still pulled after striking out three and allowing one earned run on two hits in three innings.

She was replaced by freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who tossed the final two innings of the game and struck out three during her appearance. Ending Rogers’s outing at two innings was Florida’s offense, which continued piling on runs.

Freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (0-1, R, BB) was hit by a pitch, advanced to second via a sacrifice bunt and scored on two wild pitches in the fourth. The Gators rallied to get the bases loaded in the fifth, allowing senior first baseman Megan Bush’s (1-3, 2 RBI) infield single to score two putting Florida one run away from ending the game. Coyle was walked to load the bases, and a single by the next batter, senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, RBI), scored Schutte from third and gave the Gators the victory.

Also contributing for Florida offensively was senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-2, RBI, 3 R, BB), who plated a base runner in the first and crossed the plate three times. The Gators left three runners on base at the contest’s conclusion.

Friday’s game was not without its interesting moments. The start was pushed back to bad weather in the area, a short rain/hail delay occurred during the contest and a long foul ball from Schutte in the bottom of the first actually broke the window of a car driving by.

Florida and Oregon will square off in game two of the Super Regionals on Saturday at noon. The Gators are one victory away from advancing to the 2011 Women’s College World Series for the fourth-straight season.

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Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

The last year has been one of ups-and-downs for former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. From having to deal with an unfathomable episode regarding her privacy to performing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and just recently signing a new two-year deal to remain a featured member of the ESPN broadcast team, Andrews has appeared strong, resilient and unrelenting. On the brink of the greatest undertaking of her career – hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU and joining the cast of Good Morning America – she took time out of her schedule to speak exclusively with OGGOA about her career as a Gators dazzler, recent trials and tribulations, perspective on her own fame and love for the University of Florida.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in Tampa, was the University of Florida always at the top of your list for college? How did you wind up there?
ERIN ANDREWS: “Growing up in Tampa, there are three schools: Florida State, Miami and Florida. Obviously because Florida was closest to Tampa, Tampa is really like Gator haven. I made the comment one day to my dad, which he’ll never let me live down…because I was such a sports fan growing up, I said to him, ‘Dad, I really want to go to a college that has a good football team.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great thing to live by Erin. I’m glad that’s what you’re choosing your education by.’ At the time it sounded really stupid, but actually it was kind of funny that it worked out that way because by going to Florida, I knew they had a great journalism program, but also because Florida has such a good football team, we were exposed to TBS, we were exposed to ESPN, we were exposed to all the national sports media coming to the campus to see the team, to see [head coach Steve] Spurrier. That was really good for me to kind of be around that at the time. Actually, that wasn’t a stupid comment.

AS: How much of an influence did your father’s [six-time Emmy Award-winner Steve Andrews] profession have on your major and eventual career?
EA: “My dad played a huge part in it. I grew up with my father being on TV. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. We’d turn on the TV at 6:00 and there was my dad. I grew up at the TV station; I played around on the TV set. So that just wasn’t a big deal – being in front of the camera – because I was so used to [watching] my dad. He was a giant sports fan, so that’s where I got my passion for sports and watching it and becoming familiar with the broadcasters and announcers that I liked – and the athletes. That’s where it all just kind of snowballed. I decided that I wanted to be a broadcaster. I loved the stories with coaches and athletes. I told my dad when I was young, ‘I want to do this for a living.’ He also laughed at me and said, ‘You know, everybody wants to do this for a living.’ I went to Florida, we checked out the journalism school. I really liked it. I just enrolled and it began – the whole process. The first couple years at Florida you don’t really get a taste of your major until probably your junior and senior year – that’s when I was very serious about it.

AS: You obviously spent a good amount of time at Weimer Hall but some of your most exciting times were likely at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. While at Florida, you were famously a member of the Dazzlers for four years. Was that something you had planned on doing from the beginning?
EA: “I grew up dancing my whole life with my little sister [Kendra Andrews]. That was just something I knew that Florida had – a dance team. I loved mine growing up and the experience that I had. I actually auditioned my senior year of high school and didn’t make the team and then went back out my sophomore year and I was on the team my sophomore, junior and senior season[s].”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

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UF accused of illegal contact with USC RB Baxter

ESPN‘s Joe Schad reports that the Florida Gators are one of five programs being accused of illegally contacting USC Trojans running back Dillon Baxter about a transfer.

Florida – along with Alabama, Oregon, Washington and Fresno State – allegedly reached out to Baxter (a true freshman) on June 10, according to USC. This potentially occurred one day before the NCAA announced that schools could recruit the Trojans’ juniors and seniors. Players wishing to leave will not have to sit out a year.

Baxter does not fall under these guidelines and told USC director of compliance Matt Billings about the illegal contact immediately; the Trojans have officially requested that the Pac-10 reach out to and speak with the accused parties.

“I just met with (Baxter) and he told me that he received phone calls from five institutions (June 10th),” Billings wrote to Pac-10 associate commissioner for governance and enforcement Ron Barker, according to ESPN. “All of the institutions asked if he was interested in transferring [from] USC due to the NCAA decision. Would you please speak with these schools to remind them they cannot speak to this student athlete?”

Gators associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain, Crimson Tide associate athletics director for football communications Jeff Purinton and Ducks head coach Chip Kelly have all denied the respective accusations.

The allegations, if determined to be true, would amount to secondary violations.

OGGOA will have more on this breaking story as it is made available.

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Billy Donovan on Shipman, recruiting, coaching

From falling to the Brigham Young Cougars in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament and losing sophomore guard Ray Shipman to transfer to being a name rumored in two head coaching openings (St. Johns, Oregon) while recruiting players for his 2010 and 2011 classes, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has had plenty on his mind in recent weeks.

Speaking with the media Wednesday, Donovan appeared somewhat distraught at losing Shipman, a “great kid” who he empathizes with and would take back “in a heartbeat.”

Read what Donovan said about Shipman and the team’s future after the break!
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SIX BITS: Tebow, Andrews, baseball, softball, lax

1 » Between critics, supporters and analysts, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow always has plenty of people talking about him. You can add former USC Trojans safety Taylor Mays to that list. Mays – who has grown close with Tebow after appearances at college football awards shows, 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl and 2010 NFL Scouting Combinegot defensive when asked about his new friend’s ability to transition to the NFL. “I don’t understand it. He did everything right,” Mays said. “It’s not like everybody thought he was going to be the first quarterback taken, so I don’t understand why they’re killing him like that. You’re looking at one of the most established players in college football, ever. Ever! All these people they’re talking about don’t have half the credentials he does.”

2 » While Mays was defensive, New England sports writer Tom Curran went on the offensive against Tebow Wednesday. Curran opines that Tebow’s very public meeting with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is out of character for the team and was perhaps done in order to boost Tebow’s 2010 NFL Draft stock and, in some way, help out his friend and Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Side note: Tebow spent two days in Boston; he was not just there for a dinner. Curran also questions what Tebow is as a person. “I mean, how do we know the kid’s a virgin? He talks about it. And just as it’s his right to talk about it, it’s the right of observers to wonder what the motivations for doing so are,” Curran wrote. “Is he a football player? A spokesman? A vessel of the Lord? A well-crafted public relations creation? All of the above?”

Four more BITS on Erin Andrews’ ESPN contract and future as well as results from baseball, softball and lacrosse…after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Andrews, baseball, softball, lax

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