Florida Gators doing best to ignore BCS hype

Gator Nation was energized on Sunday night when it was officially announced on ESPN that the Florida Gators, one year removed from a 6-6 regular season that appeared to leave little hope for the program in the near future, were ranked No. 2 in the first BCS standings released for the 2012 season.

Florida, which was ranked No. 1 by the computers and edged Oregon for the No. 2 overall spot, was immediately the hot topic of conversation by broadcasters.

Did the Gators deserve to be the No. 2-ranked team?

Most believe the answer to that question is yes considering Florida has racked up a 5-0 record in the Southeastern Confernece with three come-from-behind second-half victories (two on the road), two wins over ranked opponents (one that was a top-five team) and another over a team that is currently ranked in the top 25.

Can Florida maintain its high ranking?

That is where the debate raged and will continue until the end of the regular season.

If you ask the Gators about being just one spot behind defending national champion Alabama in the latest BCS, you will not hear much debate or celebration for that matter.

“I guess it’s something that came out [Sunday],” senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic said dismissively on Monday. “It’s only halfway through the season. We still got a long way to go. We still have some more SEC opponents on our schedule ahead of us. Everything is not said and done yet.”

“It’s whatever,” redshirt senior defensive lineman Omar Hunter added. “That’s not going to get you to Atlanta or to the national championship. [We] still got a lot more games to play and it’s whatever right now.”

In fact, sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel was the only player who even mentioned Florida being deserving of some praise even if it is an empty honor at this point.

“We don’t get too caught up in the rankings, but we’re undefeated and we had a tough schedule,” he said. “The rankings don’t matter until the end of the season, but we’re 6-0 and that’s what we look at. We can’t be any better than we are now.”

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
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TWO BITS: soccer shocked, Spurrier featured

1 » No. 21 Florida Gators soccer (0-1) was thrashed in their season opener on Friday, dropping the match 4-1 to the visiting Miami Hurricanes (1-0) at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Miami was fast and furious in the first half, taking an early 3-0 advantage thanks to goals at 12’ (header off a corner kick), 17’ (inside the box) and 31’ (rebound off a saved corner kick). Senior midfielder Erika Tymrak got a goal back for Florida at 57’, but UM regained its three-goal lead by knocking in a rebound at 67’ to ice the match for the Hurricanes. The Gators now must play three-straight road games over the next two weeks against top 10 opponents including No. 8 North Carolina and No. 2 Duke in Chapel Hill, NC as well as No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee, FL.

2 » In an ESPN The Magazine feature former Florida quarterback/head coach Steve Spurrier discusses his entire career including what initially drew him to UF as a high school football player. Check out the rest of the feature including Spurrier’s thoughts on coaching the Gators and how he draws parallels with South Carolina.

“The last visit I made was to Gainesville, where Ray Graves had started in 1960. He was an East Tennessee guy like me. He played at Tennessee for General Neyland, but he wasn’t satisfied just to let places like Alabama and Tennessee do their thing while everyone else laid down because they were supposed to. He was attracted to the Florida Gators program because it had never done much, and he wanted to shake things up. He also wanted to throw the ball and see what happened. It’s not that he didn’t want to run it all the time and play defense like everyone else. He just knew Florida couldn’t. He wanted to do something different. I liked the sound of that.” [...]

“Most of the SEC had beaten up on Florida over the years, so maybe they took us lightly. But we’d come in there throwing it around the field, and you could see them thinking, What is this? Everyone had been running the single wing for 100 years, so we looked radical. Whenever another team beats you with something new, it’s natural to take that back to the office and say, Do you think we might could do some of that? I’m not saying the SEC suddenly became a place where people started passing all the time. But it got them thinking.”

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Florida Gators, WR coach Aubrey Hill part ways

Florida Gators wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill has resigned from his position with the team, the school announced on Friday.

Hill, who has been twice named by Yahoo! Sports in connection with major recruiting violations in his former position with the Miami Hurricanes (Aug. 16, 2011 | July 20, 2012), resigned for “personal reasons” according to head coach Will Muschamp.

“I have too much love and respect for this program to become a distraction as I deal with some personal issues,” Hill said in statement released by the school. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Coach Muschamp, a tremendous staff and great group of players. The future is very bright here and the University of Florida will always have a special place in my heart. Go Gators.”

Muschamp said in a release that he appreciated Hill’s decision to move on.

“Aubrey informed me he was resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the University of Florida,” he said. “Aubrey didn’t want to be a distraction to our team and our football program and he thought it was best for him to move on. I appreciate Aubrey’s efforts and wish him the best moving forward. He will always remain a Gator.”

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three SEC titles. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and coached wide receivers at four stops over 12 years before being hired by Florida. He also served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season, his last year with the team.

Filling in for Hill at least temporarily will be offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who also coaches the Gators’ quarterbacks, and offensive graduate assistant Bush Hamdan. Pease previously coached wide receivers at Boise State from 2006-10, and Hamdan was a backup quarterback in his offensive system.

Muschamp will likely hire a new coach after the season.

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is an early candidate to take over Hill’s recruiting coordinator duties; Florida already has 21 players verbally committed for the 2013 cycle as of press time and has an early jump on its 2014 class.

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FOUR BITS: Florida Field, Bullard, Pease, Donovan

1 » With renovations to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium almost consistently occurring since 2003, it was only a matter of time before the University of Florida also decided to make some changes inside the bowl. In June the Florida Gators completely removed the playing surface and installed a new field of Celebration Bermuda grass, a renovation that takes place once every 7-10 years, according to Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs Chip Howard. OGGOA learned late Tuesday evening that what is being painted on that new grass will also be changing. According to information obtained by this website, the Gators will be removing the block “F” from midfield and replacing it with a Gator Head, the school’s primary athletic logo. Additionally, Florida will replace the Gator Head logos that were previously found on the 35-yard lines with the slanted “F” that is steadily being used more and more including in the end zones.

UF has also begun the process of changing the font adorning The Swamp‘s famous orange walls (see the picture above from July 27). It is believed that all four will retain their respective sayings – “This is…The Swamp,” “This is…Gator Country,” “Home of the Florida Gators” – in the new lettering. Making adjustments to the walls and field are not new for the Gators. The block “F” at midfield at one time replaced the intertwined “UF” that is still used occasionally by the baseball team. The walls were previously painted blue with orange letters in a different font prior to being repainted orange with the lettering that many have grown used to over the last few decades. One of the walls also used to read “This is…Florida Field” before former head coach Steve Spurrier coined the term “The Swamp” in the 1990s and the school decided to make a change.

Read three more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
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Matthews thrilled with Gators coaching staff

Former Florida Gators quarterback Shane Matthews has been quite vocal about his displeasure with his college team over the last few years, so much so in fact that it even earned him a spot (at least temporarily) in head coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse.

With Meyer now at Ohio State and head coach Will Muschamp at the helm in Gainesville, FL, Matthews told host Dan Hicken of Sports Radio 1010XL in Jacksonville that he sees a bright future ahead for his Gators.

“This coaching staff at Florida is the best we’ve ever had at that school – hands down from top-to-bottom – when you go from position-to-position and see where they’ve coached, what they’ve done,” he said. “I love the staff. It’s going to take time because we just don’t have the athletes that the other big boys in the conference do.”

Matthews, who took over as head coach of Nease High School in January, said his appreciation for the coaching staff begins at the top with Muschamp.

“I love him. I love him. I’ve known him for a long time,” he said. “I played for Nick Saban. His last year [2006] at Miami was my last year [in the NFL]. [Muschamp is] a combination of a little bit of [Steve] Spurrier and a lot of Nick Saban. I like the guy. He was dealt a bad deck of cards. I don’t think people realize how bad that situation is and was.”

Though Florida has brought in highly-ranked recruiting classes over the last few years, Matthews believes Meyer and company failed in their talent evaluations and relied on speed more than overall football talent toward the end of his tenure.

“We ain’t put anybody in the league the last couple of years, so that shows you how we were recruiting. They missed big-time,” he said. “We had a track team, which track teams don’t play on Sunday. You better run like a track player but be able to play football.”

Muschamp’s rocky first season as the man in charge of the Gators may be in the rearview mirror, but Matthews does not believe the coach is out of the woods yet. He said that Muschamp has plenty of tough decisions ahead of him starting with who he will name as Florida’s starting quarterback in September.

Read the rest of Matthews’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
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Alvarez added to College Football Hall of Fame

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Carlos Alvarez was officially inducted into the prestigious College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2012 class in a ceremony held Saturday in South Bend, IN.

One of 79 All-American players and nine coaches made eligible for selection by the voting committee last year, Alvarez was voted in May 2011 to be one of 16 inductees (14 players, two coaches) enshrined in July 2012.

He played on the Gators for three seasons (1969-71) and still holds three school records for career receiving yards (2,563), receptions in a single season (88) and receptions in a game (15). Alvarez also set the then-University of Florida and Southeastern Conference career receptions mark with 172 catches in 1971.

“I’m hardly ever speechless, but I am,” he said in May when he learned of the honor. “When you look at college football and the number of people who have played…I feel honored just to be mentioned.”

Alvarez is the third Florida player elected to the Hall of Fame since 2006.

He is also the ninth overall representative of the Gators to be enshrined in the hall, joining coaches Charlie Bachman (1978), Doug Dickey (2003) and Ray Graves (1990), and players linebacker Wilber Marshall (2008), running back Emmitt Smith (2006), quarterback Steve Spurrier (1986) and defensive ends Dale Van Sickel (1975) and Jack Youngblood (1992).

“Carlos is a great example of all that is good in college athletics. His tireless work and commitment to excellence translated into success both on and off the field,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a school release. “He has maintained his level of commitment and success in his professional career as well. I’ve had the opportunity to see Carlos a number of times when he visits Gainesville and he remains a tremendous ambassador for our program. The honor is well deserved.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida archives

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2012 SEC Media Days – Slive, Spurrier, highlights

The 2012 Southeastern Conference Media Days began on Tuesday in Birmingham, AL and will last for three days concluding on Thursday. Though the Florida Gators contingent will meet the media on Wednesday morning, below are some highlights from the first day of the event, which featured SEC commissioner Mike Slive and representatives of South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE

» On improved minority hiring in the league: “Today we have three minority head football coaches, eight minority head basketball coaches and five minority women’s basketball coaches, all bucking a national trend as outlined in a recent [Associated Press] article. I am very grateful that the hiring of minority coaches in the Southeastern Conference is no longer a story; it is simply part of who we are.”

» On providing student-athletes with a true “full ride” scholarship: “It remains important for us to continue to focus on increasing the amount of a full scholarship to provide student-athletes with financial resources to meet the full cost of attendance. And we also need to eliminate rules, for example, that are hurdles for former student-athletes to come back after their eligibility is exhausted. And if they’re committed to getting their degrees, we need to have financial aid rules that allow us to do that.”

» On avoiding a situation like what recently occurred at Penn State: “We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration. There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves. No one program, no one person – no matter how popular, no matter how successful – can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”

» On the current SEC Network and plans for a national network: “The SEC Network syndicated package that now reaches 80 million homes and includes such markets as New York, Chicago, Boston and LA, amongst others. On a Saturday afternoon, it’s ESPN’s third most widely distributed platform behind only ESPN and ESPN2. [...] There has been a whole lot of speculation about ‘Project X.’ Is it still a secret? I don’t think so. But we now call it ‘Project SEC.’ Our objective long term to work with our television partner to provide fans with greater access to favored teams, more opportunities to watch rivals and more insight into who we are: a conference of 14 great universities. I’d love to say more. I know you want me to say more. I won’t say more. I will, though, before I get too much older and before you get too much older.”

SOUTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH STEVE SPURRIER

» On how things have changed at USC: “A lot has changed at South Carolina in seven years. Yeah, I got a couple good friends that have been there for 30, 40 years and so forth. One of the guys said, ‘We used to come to the ballpark hoping for a good game. If we’re playing Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, we were just hoping for a good game, not get blown out. Now we sort of come to the ballpark thinking we’re going to beat those guys. We’re sort of mad if we don’t.’ I said, ‘That’s the way you’re supposed to feel, mad or a little upset if you don’t beat them.’”

Read the rest of this post (including more from Spurrier)…after the break!
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2012 SEC Spring Meetings notes – Day one

The Southeastern Conference is currently holding the 2012 SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, FL with head coaches, athletic directors and presidents representing each school in attendance to discuss a number of league and national issues over the course of the week from Tuesday-Friday. Below are some notes and quotes from day one:

» Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp said redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball, who himself said months ago that he was cleared to return to the team, has one more hurdle to overcome before being allowed to return to the field. “He’s got one more appointment with the doctor. I think he should be fine. He is in Gainesville,” Muschamp said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “You never know, something might pop up at the end. But he’s going back for one more deal to make sure he’s really cleared. Our medical people would not clear him if they thought there was an issue of any sort. I totally trust their opinion. Nor would he want to play if there was any chance for anything happening.” Ball, when mentioning that he was cleared previously, was likely talking about being able to join his team in the gym and do similar activities.

» As he noted at numerous Gator Gatherings in May, Muschamp again explained that sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard is doing everything asked of him since his arrest and is doing what it takes to make his way back onto the team. “He’s got some things he continues to do. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do up to this point,” Muschamp said. “He’s got to continue to make good choices and decisions with regard to our football team. If he continues to do that, we’ll handle it.” Muschamp added that Leonard was technically never suspended from the team itself but rather from “team activities” such as practice and the spring game. Leonard is almost certainly facing suspension in the fall with the number of games determined by how well he does at continuing to be a positive member of the team going forward.

» South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and LSU head coach Les Miles were both adamant Tuesday that SEC games played outside their division should not count toward a berth in the SEC Championship. The basis for their argument is that some teams have more difficult permanent rivalry games (think Florida-LSU) while other teams have it easier and that one game could be the difference between winning your division or not. Muschamp disagrees with both Spurrier and Miles, saying he believes every game should count equally.

» Despite stories from back in March stating that LSU was trying to get out of its annual game against UF, CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that the SEC plans to announce a 12-year conference schedule on Friday based on a previously reported 6-1-1 format (six divisional opponents, one permanent cross-division rival, one game on rotation). Rather than that rotational game being a home-and-home lasting two years (it would take 11 years to play every team at least once), it will change every year so the league is on a six-year rotation. The report also notes that LSU and Florida, as expected, will remain permanent cross-division rivals. The rest of the permanent cross-division games will be: Alabama-Tennessee, Arkansas-Missouri, Auburn-Georgia, Mississippi-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky, Texas A&M-South Carolina.

» Basketball will play an 18-game conference schedule in 2012-13. With divisions eliminated prior to last season, the SEC has decided to rely on the latest football designations to help sort out the schedule. The Gators will have Kentucky as their permanent rival that they play twice each season. Florida will then play the other 12 teams once for a total of 14 games. The remaining four games will come from a three-year rotation among the 12 teams (likely two from each “division”).

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