SEC Network adds Florida QB Jesse Palmer

Former Florida Gators quarterback Jesse Palmer has been hired as the lead college football color analyst for the SEC Network, which is set to launch this fall.

The network announced Wednesday that Palmer and legendary play-by-play man Brent Musburger will serve as the lead announce team for the upstart channel, which will air its first game on Aug. 28 when Texas A&M visits South Carolina.

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Harvin, Mincey, Moss, Roberson

1 » ABC is making the most of its subsidiary’s employment of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, according to The Hollywood Reporter, by having the Heisman Trophy winner sit in Friday as a guest co-host on Good Morning America. Tebow, who signed with ESPN in December to cover college football and be the face of the SEC Network (set to launch as its own channel in August), will join the Time Square-based show to discuss the forthcoming Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and his former team, the Denver Broncos.

2 » The highest-profile former Florida player actually participating in Sunday’s big game is Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has a penchant for stepping up when championships are on the line. Harvin was cleared to return to practice last Wednesday and will be full-go for the Super Bowl with head coach Pete Carroll saying the playmaker has looked “great” in practice. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey called Harvin “a dangerous man” on Sunday, “one of the most explosive guys coming off the ball” and someone who can “change the game.” Harvin on Tuesday declared himself “ready to go.” “This is what I live for,” he said. “I’m used to playing in big games since I was younger, whether it was in Pop Warner or the two with the Gators.” As a freshman, Harvin picked up 82 total yards and a touchdown in Florida’s 41-14 2007 BCS National Championship win over Ohio State. Two years later in the 2009 BCS National Championship, Harvin exploded for 171 yards and a touchdown in UF’s 24-14 victory against Oklahoma.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Harvin, Mincey, Moss, Roberson

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12 Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 21

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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.

» The three Florida Gators participating in the 2014 Senior Bowl arrived over the weekend and got measured on Monday. Guard Jon Halapio checked in at 6’3-1/2” and 320 pounds, wide receiver Solomon Patton was the smallest player measured at 5’8-1/2” and 179 pounds, and cornerback Jaylen Watkins was listed at 5’11-3/8” and 194 pounds. Watkins will be updating OnlyGators.com on his status this Wednesday as he and his teammates prepare for the game on Saturday at 4 p.m. on NFL Network.

» Patton, a native of Mobile, AL, was not initially invited to the all-star game played in his hometown but rather received the opportunity to participate in the Senior Bowl last Tuesday after winning an MVP award at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl. He is not the only one excited. “It’s going to be great,” his father Solomon Patton, Sr., told AL.com. “It’s something we’ve dreamed about since he started playing football. It’s always been a dream of ours and his for him to make it back here [to play].” Patton also spoke about proving to scouts and team executives that he can play despite his relatively diminutive stature. “I might be small, but I can make big-time plays regardless of my size,” he said. “I’m just going to go in relaxed and od what I’ve been doing all year.”

» Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on Monday said wide receiver Percy Harvin should be cleared to return to practice by Wednesday and ultimately compete in Super Bowl XLVIII. Harvin was held out of Sunday’s NFC Championship game due to lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered two weekends ago. He has only played 39 total snaps in two games this season.

Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!

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Tim Tebow kicks off relationship with ESPN

ESPN announced a new relationship with former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow on Dec. 30, 2013, one which will feature the Heisman Trophy-winning signal caller as an analyst on the new SEC Network’s College GameDay spin-off show SEC Nation beginning on Aug. 28, 2014.

While the debut of that program is still nearly nine months away, the network’s latest association with Tebow actually kicked off this week with ESPN first airing a special feature on Tebow the football player before having him don a suit to serve as an analyst on the network’s all-day coverage of the 2014 BCS National Championship.

“A month ago I got a call from Tim Tebow, asking me to come down to USC where he’s been training and give him a brutally honest evaluation of where he’s at,” began former NFL quarterback and now Tebow’s fellow ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer in the intro to Tebow’s video feature. “And as we all know, this past week, ESPN and Tim agreed upon a deal for him to work with the SEC Network. However, he has not given up on his dream of playing quarterback in the National Football League. My job was to go down there and see if he can now pass well enough for that dream to become a reality.


“Well, I spend 365 days of the year looking at quarterbacks – high school, college, pros – and I don’t have all the answers. I do know this,” Dilfer began in his outro from the feature. “If you put Tim Tebow on a football field right now with four other NFL quarterbacks and you don’t know who they were and you just watched the ball – don’t watch the player, just watch the ball – you wouldn’t know which one was Tim Tebow and you wouldn’t know which one was another NFL quarterback.

“I want you to understand this in this context: This is one of the greatest players that ever played college football and he didn’t know how to pass. I believe now he knows how to pass. Every GM, every scout, every personnel person out there should go at least watch Tim Tebow now because it’s a different guy.”

The day after the video aired, on Jan. 6, 2014, Tebow sat behind ESPN’s desk for the first time as an analyst. He was first introduced as the newest member of the Worldwide Leader in Sports before being asked by the future host of SEC Nation, Joe Tessitore, about Texas hiring former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong as head coach.

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ESPN, SEC Network hire Tim Tebow as analyst

Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has been hired as a college football analyst for the SEC Network, which is set to launch in August 2014.

The three-year deal announced by ESPN on Monday will position Tebow as the lead analyst on the SEC Network’s College GameDay spin-off show SEC Nation. The pregame program will travel across the country and air from a different Southeastern Conference venue each week starting Aug. 28, 2014.

Tebow will essentially take Kirk Herbstreit’s chair on the program, which will be hosted by Joe Tessitore and have Paul Finebaum on board in the role Lee Corso made famous.

The Heisman Trophy winner will also be a contributor across other ESPN platforms. His first assignments with the World Wide Leader in Sports come on Jan. 6, 2014, when he serves as an analyst during pregame coverage throughout the day ahead of the 2014 BCS National Championship featuring Florida State and Auburn.

“I am so excited that ESPN has given me this incredible opportunity,” said Tebow in the press release. “When I was six years old I fell in love with the game of football, and while I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC.”

According to the network, “Tebow’s role with ESPN will not preclude him from continuing to pursue playing opportunities in the NFL.” Should Tebow be signed by an NFL team, he would be able to opt out of his contract with ESPN and return to the gridiron.

“Tim is a SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal. He will be a significant contributor to the compelling content we will deliver with the SEC Network,” said Justin Connolly, ESPN‘s de facto SEC Network head honcho in the release. “Tim brings a wealth of knowledge about the game, the conference and the passion among SEC fans.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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OGGOA Week in Review Updates: Offensive coordinator, point guards, Tim Tebow

Though Florida Gators football saw its season come to an end last Saturday and Florida basketball does not have a game until Tuesday, there has nevertheless been plenty of Gators news to cover this week.

A number of the stories covered by OnlyGators.com deserve updates now that the week has come to a conclusion, hence this special edition of OGGOA Week in Review. Some updates can be found below while others are in the appropriately linked stories.

SEARCH FOR AN OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CONTINUES

When offensive coordinator Brent Pease was released on Sunday, OnlyGators.com published an early look at some candidates to replace him. That list has been updated throughout the week and once again on Saturday. Check out the original post – Replacing Brent Pease as offensive coordinator – for the latest information.

POINT GUARDS HEALTHIER THAN ADVERTISED

Sources close to the program and players told OnlyGators.com multiple times over the last week to expect both of the Gators’ point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill – to play on Tuesday at home against Kansas. This was information strongly hinted at during a post earlier in the week.

Florida announced on Tuesday that Wilbekin, who left Monday’s game at UConn with an ankle injury, had suffered a high-ankle sprain despite the fact that the player reportedly left the arena that night under his own power without the use of crutches or a boot. On Saturday, the Gators released a long post on their own website detailing the rehabilitation that Wilbekin has been undergoing. Hidden within the piece, Wilbekin was suddenly listed as “questionable” for Tuesday’s game despite there previously having been “no timetable” for his recovery.

Saturday evening at 6 p.m., UF relented and finally announced that Wilbekin not only practiced in the afternoon but has already been cleared to play on Tuesday. The school is now referring to his injury only as an “ankle sprain.”

Hill, on the other hand, legitimately suffered a high-ankle sprain three weeks ago, and the one-month recovery timetable provided by Florida was indeed accurate. However, he has been working extremely hard at his rehabilitation and is also expected to suit up for the Gators on Tuesday as long as he can stand the discomfort. Hill is unlikely to be at 100 percent for the game but would instead spell Wilbekin at point guard for a couple minutes each half. He is legitimately questionable.

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SEC, ESPN officially announce SEC Network

By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

The Southeastern Conference and ESPN jointly announced on Thursday the creation of the multi-platform SEC Network, which is set to launch on Aug. 6, 2014 as part of a 20-year media rights extension between the conference and World Wide Leader in Sports that will take relationship through 2034.

Termed the “longest agreement in all of sports” by ESPN president John Skipper, the deal not only locks up the SEC with ESPN as its primary rights holder but also ensures that 1,000 league games will be aired each year including 450 live on television. The other 550 contests will be distributed digitally across a variety of platforms.

“The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “We will increase exposure of SEC athletics programs at all 14 member institutions, as we showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league. The agreement for a network streamlines and completes an overall media rights package that will continue the SEC’s leadership for the foreseeable future.”

College football, the only sport with all 14 schools’ coaches in attendance on Thursday, will obviously be featured prominently on the new channel. The SEC Network will televise 45 league football games each year, including three every Saturday of the 13-week season. CBS will continue to have first pick of each week’s SEC football games but will no longer have exclusivity to air an SEC game in the middle of the afternoon.

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SEC Network set to be announced on Tuesday

It took less than a year for “Project X” to completely transform into the SEC Network with the newest joint venture between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN set to be announced at a special event on Tuesday in Atlanta, GA, according to a report released Friday by the SportsBusiness Journal.

Commissioner Mike Slive admitted to Yahoo! Sports in March that an announcement about the SEC Network would occur in the following month and that is exactly what will happen on April 16 at noon.

“The Southeastern Conference has completed the buy-back of its TV, digital and sponsorship rights from third parties, clearing the final hurdles to launch its TV channel with ESPN next year,” SBJ’s Michael Smith and John Ourand reported Friday. “[The SEC Network] will be a national channel, with broad distribution within the SEC’s territory and sports-tier carriage elsewhere.”

ESPN – through its network, ESPN2, ESPNU and the standalone SEC Network – will carry every conference football contest not chosen by CBS as its weekly game.

ESPN, which previously owned all of the SEC’s television rights, had sold third-tier access to CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, IMG College and Learfield Sports. Those rights included one football game, eight men’s basketball games and other non-revenue sports that ESPN did not choose to air. The network is currently in the process of buying back syndicated rights that it sold to Comcast SportsNet and FOX Sports Net.

In order to make the SEC Network a reality, ESPN needs to own all of the league’s games. It has also taken over the SEC’s corporate sponsorship program and will also acquire the league’s digital rights, which the SEC is buying back from XOS Digital.

The SEC Network will launch in August 2014 with each school likely receiving $8-10 million per year on a contract set to last 15-20 years.

Last season, two of the Florida Gators’ 12 football games and 12 of the school’s 30 basketball contests (regular season) were not carried on national networks.

UPDATE: ESPN and the SEC sent press releases announcing a joint press conference scheduled for noon on Tuesday. Florida president Bernie Machen, who is also the Chairman of the SEC’s Presidents & Chancellors, will be in attendance alongside Slive, ESPN president John Skipper, ESPN senior vice president of programming Justin Connolly and more than 30 head coaches from the SEC (football, basketball).

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