The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 20

Couple thousand student season tickets remain unsold

Attendance at sporting events is a growing problem across the nation, and the Florida Gators have been attempting to do whatever they can to try and address the issue in order to reach full capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium each week.

Florida has wired the stadium to drastically improve cellular phone reception (though high-speed wireless internet, at a cost of about $3 million, has not yet been implemented throughout the stadium), begun offering more affordable tickets to recent graduates, opened spring and fall practices to all comers and even formed a council of boosters and students to ensure the program is doing everything it can to get its tickets sold.

UF also worked with the Southeastern Conference and its television partners to ensure that its early-season games were played in the late afternoon or evening, rather than the grueling early-afternoon heat.

Unfortunately for the Gators, the problem has only continued to grow. What was once limited to declining season ticket sales from boosters, those unwilling to spend thousands of dollars to get a couple of seats in The Swamp on Sunday, has now jumped across the field to the student section.

A Florida spokesman told OnlyGators.com last week that the school had “a couple thousand” student season tickets unsold with just two weeks to go before the start of the season. Pressed for a more specific number with 10 days left, the spokesman divulged this week that there are approximately 2,000 student season tickets available (as of press time) with that number shrinking minimally each day.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 20

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TWO BITS: Ice Bucket Challenge, Easley practices

1 » The Florida Gators football team and head coach Will Muschamp were officially singled out on Tuesday to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden challenged the team, while Nick Saban called out Muschamp before he and the Alabama Crimson Tide completed the task.

UPDATE: Muschamp completed the challenge on Wednesday.

Check out the videos and another Gators news item…after the break!
Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Ice Bucket Challenge, Easley practices

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Florida starts unranked in AP Top 25 Poll

Coming off their first national tile in more than a decade, the Florida State Seminoles earned the No. 1 spot in the 2014 preseason Associated Press Top 25 Poll released Sunday, while the Florida Gators will enter the season unranked after finishing 27th with 87 total votes in the first poll of the 2014 campaign.

Despite opening the 2013 season at No. 10 in the poll, Florida finished with a 4-8 record, the program’s worst since it went winless in 1979. It is the first time since 2003 that the Gators have not been ranked by AP voters to open the season.

Florida State received 57 of 60 possible first-place votes with Alabama (1), Oregon (1), Oklahoma (1) and Ohio State rounding out the top five.

Eight Southeastern Conference teams were ranked by AP voters this preseason – five in the top 15 – including: Alabama (No. 2), Auburn (No. 6), South Carolina (No. 9), Georgia (No. 12), LSU (No. 13), Ole Miss (No. 18), Texas A&M (No. 21) and Missouri (No. 24). UF will face six preseason-ranked teams in 2014.

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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.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators basketball’s 2014-15 schedule

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FOUR BITS: Daigenault, Hayden, Murphy

1 » A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball staff since, Mark Daigenault is on the verge of being hired as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s NBA D-League team, according to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman. Daigenault, who served as “assistant to the head coach” under Billy Donovan, is 29 years old and never coached on the court at Florida. Instead, he was tasked with a variety of tasks including helping players with their off-the-court needs and scouting prospects. “If you work with [Donovan], whether you are a player or his staff, there is a connection that he has with you,” he told the Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise back in March. “He’s just one of those people that are extremely genuine and authentic. He’s about as normal a person that you can be around for someone who has experienced as much success as he has. He is very grounded and doesn’t see himself above anyone else.” Daigenault previously served as an assistant coach at Holy Cross for three seasons.

2 » The Gators basketball team participated in “strongman”-style workouts again this offseason. Some of the exercises were caught on camera and compiled below.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Daigenault, Hayden, Murphy

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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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SEC Network reaches agreement with DirecTV

Florida Gators fans across the country got more good news on Monday when it was announced that ESPN and the SEC Network have reached a distribution deal with DirecTV, which will carry the channel when it launches nationwide on Aug. 15.

Already set to be available on AT&T U-Verse, DISH Network, Google Fiber, Cox Communications, Xfinity TV, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, as well as a variety of local cable carriers, SEC Network will now be in approximately 87 million homes after this latest agreement.

“The SEC boasts powerhouse athletic programs, especially in football, representing deeply loyal communities, many of which do not have any professional teams,” said Dan York, DIRECTV’s Chief Content Officer, in a press release. “The depth of SEC competition and the quality ESPN brings to game production and complementary programming makes SEC Network a valuable addition to our sports programming lineup, and we’re excited to bring it into our customers’ homes and on their devices.”

DirecTV had previously stated that it expected to ink a deal to carry SEC Network and had already agreed to cost-per-subscribe terms with ESPN.

The announcement leaves Verizon FIOS as the only major nationwide provider not currently slated to have the channel when it launches.

Every major cable operator and both satellite providers that service in Florida will provide customers with access to the SEC Network. Verizon FIOS is currently only available in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

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SIX BITS: Miami, Cunningham, Starks, Dolphins

1 » ESPN announced on Monday that the Florida Gators will help kick off the network’s annual 24-hour college basketball marathon when they host the Miami Hurricanes on Monday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. live on ESPNU. Florida is one of four Southeastern Conference teams that will participate in the event, joining Auburn, Kentucky and South Carolina. The two featured contests for the marathon include a doubleheader on Nov. 18 featuring Duke vs. Michigan State at 7 p.m. and UK vs. Kansas at 9 p.m.

2 » For the third time in the last two offseasons, a former Gators football player has been sidelined for the entire season after suffering an injury during practice. The New York Jets announced on Saturday that linebacker Jermaine Cunningham suffered a torn Achilles and will miss the entire 2014 campaign. Cut in training camp last year by the New England Patriots, Cunningham was not picked up by the Jets until November. He played in two games for New York without registering a tackle and was considered on the roster bubble for 2014 entering team workouts.

3 » The Arizona Cardinals on Friday announced the signing of former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks, who barely played in the NFL in 2013 after spending less than a month on the roster of the St. Louis Rams. A 10-year veteran who has started 96 games in his career, Starks is well-known by head coach Bruce Arians, his former offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whether Starks ultimately makes the team out of training camp remains to be seen.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Miami, Cunningham, Starks, Dolphins

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