SIX BITS: Tebow, Spikes, Garcia, Easley

1 » Though playing in the NFL again remains his top priority, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is doing whatever he can to be the best television analyst possible in his new role with the SEC Network. According to SI.com’s Richard Deitsch, Tebow is heavily involved in his new position and going so far as to pester SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore with questions both in and out of work. “I know when Tim states a goal he stays the course, so I understand why he firmly expresses fulfilling his NFL dreams,” Tessitore told Deitsch. “It’s who Tim is. I also know that he loves this SEC Nation job with us. I know he considers us his team. I know that he has told our producers that he wants constant feedback, he wants to be coached, and he wants to be great at TV. He calls and texts me non-stop to discuss every detail of everything we’re doing. Just last week I fielded one of his pressing concerns about a potential 90 second telestration piece he was going to voice over and explain for a broadcast — a broadcast that is still 10 days away. That’s commitment to preparation.” The first SEC Nation show will air on Thursday from 4-6 p.m. on SEC Network ahead of the channel’s first-ever live college football game – Texas A&M at South Carolina.

2 » CBSSports.com senior editor Tony Moss ranked all 128 FBS head coaches by how successful they were as football players. As it turns out, two coaches tied to Florida were placed in the top 20 of the rankings. Checking in at No. 20 is current Gators head football coach Will Muschamp, a walk-on strong safety at Georgia who became a team captain as a senior. No. 1 overall, of course, was former Florida Heisman Trophy-winning QB Steve Spurrier.

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 27

Florida basketball staff reloads

Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan knew for a while that he would have two staffers leaving the program this offseason, and it all became a reality last week when assistant to the head coach Mark Daigneault and video coordinator Oliver Winterbone both departed to join the Oklahoma City Thunder organization.

Daigneault was hired as the head coach of the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the 66ers, while Winterbone accepted a basketball information analyst position with Oklahoma City’s front office. (The 66ers are moving from Tulsa to Oklahoma City this season.)

Donovan did not wait long to fill the staffing holes and keep his machine running.

On Tuesday, ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman reported that Donovan will hire veteran assistant coach Billy Schmidt to fill the off-court assistant position vacated by Daigneault.

Schmidt has spent the last 11 seasons coaching under Brian Gregory including eight at Dayton and the last three at Georgia Tech. He was Gregory’s first hire, joining the Flyers after spending nine seasons coaching in major conferences. Schmidt’s journey began as a manager with Wake Forest (1988-92) but continued with stops at Tennessee (1994-97), Northwestern (1997-2000) and under Tommy Amaker both at Seton Hall (2000) and Michigan (2001-03).

OnlyGators.com learned Monday evening that Donovan has also desired to hire Peter Gash to replace Winterbone as video coordinator.

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TWO BITS: Gators soccer, Florida All-Access

1 » The No. 8 women’s soccer team opened up the 2014-15 athletic season for the Florida Gators on Friday with a dominant 3-0 win over the in-state rival Miami Hurricanes at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Senior forward Jillian Graff scored two goals, the first in the eighth minute of the contest, and sophomore F Savannah Jordan added one of her own to fuel the victory. The match marked the first in Florida’s 20th season of women’s soccer, each of which has been led by head coach Becky Burleigh. The Gators have won seven of the last eight Southeastern Conference regular-season titles and were predicted by the league’s coaches to finish on top of the SEC once again this year.

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Updated: SEC Network, Verizon FiOS agree to deal

Updated on Aug. 26 at 2:30 p.m.

Just one week old, the SEC Network will soon be available in approximately 60 million homes after coming to terms on a carriage agreement with Verizon FiOS, according to a Thursday report in the SportsBusiness Journal.

Already available on AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV, DISH Network, Google Fiber, Cox Communications, Comcast/Xfinity, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, SEC Network now has contracts signed with nine of the top 10 cable distributors across the nation with Verizon FiOS the latest added to the fold.

SBJ reports that “the channel will be on an expanded basic tier within SEC territory” though “it is not clear where Verizon will carry it outside of SEC territory.” All subscribers will also have authenticated access to WatchESPN.com and SEC Network +.

The Verizon deal is big for SEC fans in Florida and Texas, the two SEC states where FiOS television service is currently offered.

The only top 10 cable distributor without an SEC Network deal is the New York-based Cablevision, which does not provide service to any SEC territories.

Now every major cable operator (including Bright House Networks) and both satellite providers that service Florida will give customers access to the SEC Network. Verizon FiOS is currently available in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

UPDATE: The SEC Network and Verizon FiOS jointly announced the agreement on Tuesday, Aug. 26, noting that the channel should be on the air before its first college football game is telecast Thursday evening.

It will be found on channels 75 and 575, making the SEC Network available in 62 million households nationwide.

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Florida Gators basketball’s 2014-15 schedule

Florida Gators basketball’s 2014-15 schedule was officially announced on Friday when the Southeastern Conference released its full league schedule for next season.

The Gators will face at least four (but up to six) opponents who took part in the 2014 NCAA Tournament while participating in special non-conference events including the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Paradise Island, Bahamas, SEC/Big 12 Challenge and Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, Florida.

Florida will face Georgetown in its opening Battle 4 Atlantis game. Other potential opponents over the final two rounds include Butler, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, UAB and UCLA.

UF also takes on Kansas in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge rematch in Lawrence, Kansas. Last season, the Gators took down the Jayhawks 67-61 in Gainesville.

Florida meets Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic and links up again with UConn in non-conference action for the third time in the last two seasons.

The Huskies were one of two teams to beat the Gators during the 2013-14 season, winning 65-64 on a buzzer beater in Stoors, Connecticut, on Dec. 2 and 63-53 during the Final Four in Arlington, Texas. This year, UConn travels to Gainesville.

In-state rivalry games at home against Miami (Nov. 17) and on the road at Florida State (Dec. 30) also highlight UF’s non-conference slate.

The Gators open their 18-game SEC schedule on the road at South Carolina before playing consecutive home games against Mississippi State and Auburn. Florida plays its permanent rival, Kentucky, twice this season but will also take on LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt in home-and-away games.

The Gators and Wildcats will meet twice on Saturday; the first game could wind up hosting ESPN College GameDay, while the second is the regular-season finale for both teams.

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 13

SEC Network debuts on Thursday

Though fall practice for the Florida Gators is in full swing and there is plenty of football to discuss, let’s start this week’s TSL with a quick look at the SEC Network, which debuts nationwide on Thursday.

The list of cable and satellite providers is long. The talent signed to broadcast games, events and studio shows is strong. And the fact that the SEC Network will air three football games every Saturday, not to mention a ton of contests from the dozen other sports played by Southeastern Conference teams, means most of the time you tune in, there will be something exciting going on.

There are some that think the channel will fail to live up to its hype but there is not much to support that assertion. The SEC Network is better positioned to succeed than any of the other conference-only channels have been at the time of their debut. It has the strongest partner possible in ESPN and enough unique programming to give it some substance at launch.

All of that, coupled with the tremendous amount of live sports programming it will carry (especially in the spring during basketball and baseball season), gives the SEC Network every chance to be a major success right out of the gate.

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TWO BITS: Tebow to interview Driskel, Kansas set

1 » The SEC Network on Tuesday announced that the channel will kick off with a three-hour edition of SEC Now that will feature a number of segments of interest to Florida Gators fans. Starting at 6 p.m., the show will open with an essay featuring 31 familiar Southeastern Conference voices including former Florida swimmer Dara Torres. The program will then air live from the network’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Dari Nowkhah and Maria Taylor hosting the program. As part of the broadcast, SEC Now will have “live whip around reporting” from all 14 schools with former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore live in Gainesville, Florida. (Tebow, of course, will serve as an analyst on SEC Nation during the season.) While on campus, Tebow will have a sit-down interview with Florida redshirt junior QB Jeff Driskel (likely taped earlier in the day). The Gators and head coach Will Muschamp will also be featured as one of three programs in all-access segments with an exclusive look at spring practice. The program will air until 9 p.m., at which point the network will debut its latest SEC Storied documentary, “The Stars are Aligned.”

If fans would like to participate in the broadcast, UF announced Wednesday that they can be a part of live shots featuring Tebow and Tessitore at 6:05 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. outside the Heavener Football Complex next to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

RELATED: First two weeks of the SEC Network’s schedule

2 » ESPN announced on Tuesday details of Florida basketball’s showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks as part of the 2014 SEC/Big 12 Challenge. UF and KU will square off on Friday, Dec. 5 at 9 p.m. in the featured game of a doubleheader set to air on ESPN. Florida took down Kansas 67-61 in the first challenge in 2013, so the Jayhawks will certainly be looking for some revenge on their home court.

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FOUR BITS: Grossman, Gillislee, Hargreaves, first two weeks of SEC Network schedule

1 » The list of former Florida Gators on the Miami Dolphins could be adjusted this week as the team has scheduled a workout for quarterback Rex Grossman on Monday after practice. The 33-year-old is hoping to play in his 12th NFL season after spending 2013 inactive most weeks as the third-string signal caller in Washington. He has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2011. For the first time since 1992, the Gators do not currently have a former quarterback playing the position in an NFL training camp. Update: According to multiple reporters, the team was not interested in Grossman following his workout. In other Dolphins news, running back Mike Gillislee is set to miss “extended time” with a hamstring injury, according to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Gillislee has been making a case in training camp to open the season as Miami’s second-string rusher after being inactive most of the 2013 season.

2 » A poll of seven writers and analysts on NFL.com resulted in a ranking of the top 20 college football players entering the 2014 season. Coming in No. 17 on that list is Florida sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was ranked as high as No. 4 by one voter and in the top 10 of two ballots. He was also the highest-ranked sophomore on the list. “Florida has put a lot of good defensive backs in the NFL of late but this guy could end up in a class by himself,” wrote Mike Huguenin. “As he becomes stronger, he is going to be able to shut down one side of the field by himself.”

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