Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) was riding high on Saturday as the team prepared to play in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the AT&T Center in Arlington, TX. There was so much written about the team by former and current student-athletes, in fact, that this post had to be limited to those either with ties to the basketball program or in attendance at the game.

Though the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) were victorious and eliminated Florida from the event, there was still plenty of well-wishers after the contest. Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game.

PRE-GAME

Continue Reading » Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

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Ex-Gators praise (1) Florida after Pittsburgh win

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (34-2) has been strong from former members of the program all season long, and it continued on Saturday after the team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season with a 61-45 victory over the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) in the Round of 32 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. Check out what nearly a dozen former Florida basketball players had to say about their team’s victory.


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Hill, Debose, Patchan named in Yahoo! report on Miami booster providing improper benefits

Updated at 9:45 p.m.

A report released Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports concerning the intricate dealings of a Miami Hurricanes booster who was jailed for heading up a $930 million Ponzi scheme contains the names of three members of the current Florida Gators football team.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

Of the seven coaches specifically named in the report, one is current Florida wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, who was hired by head coach Will Muschamp as he assembled his brand new staff this past offseason. Hill, a former UF player and also the Gators’ new recruiting coordinator, was receivers coach at Miami from 2008-10 and added the recruiting coordinator role to his responsibilities last season.

Among the specific incidents, Shapiro or other sources say Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland, Pannunzio and Allen all delivered top-tier recruits to Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them. Among the players who were ushered to Shapiro while they were still in high school: […] eventual Florida commitments Andre Debose (Hurtt) and Matt Patchan (prompted by Stoutland and Pannunzio) […]

In accompanying reports detailing specifics about each coach and player, Robinson notes Hill was “on hand when three recruits – Andre Debose, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye – were brought to Shapiro’s $6 million Miami Beach mansion for the purposes of the booster recruiting the players. Hill was on hand while Shapiro toured the players through his home and made a pitch to lure their commitment to Miami.” Shapiro also said he took the recruits out in his $200,000 Mercedes S65.

Robinson goes on to report that “Shapiro alleges he provided Debose with extra benefits during recruiting visits.” In addition to the dealings listed above, Shapiro said he “gave Miami equipment assistant Sean Allen approximately $2,000 to $3,000 in cash and instructed him to show Debose, Armstrong and Dye a good time. Shapiro said Allen ultimately used the money to take the players to nightclubs, including Take One Cocktail lounge and strip club.” Debose (now a redshirt sophomore) allegedly visited Shapiro’s house again “for another gathering” where he was “served food and drinks” and attended a meeting at Lucky Strike Lanes where Shapiro hosted recruits as they watched NFL games, ate and drank for free.

As far as Patchan (now a redshirt junior) is concerned, he allegedly joined “multiple members” of his family at Shapiro’s mansion for a meal. “Shapiro said the recruiting visit at his home was attended by the two Miami coaches, Patchan, Patchan’s mother, Patchan’s father and Patchan’s uncle.”

Due to their inclusion in the report, a situation may arise where Hill, Debose and Patchan might be forced to remain off the field at the very least as a precaution until a conclusion is reached one way or another on their respective eligibility.

As noted by Yahoo!‘s Charles Robinson early in the report, Shapiro’s admissions bring a lot of the Hurricanes’ recruiting practices into question and could severely damage the program and those associated with the allegations for some time to come.

All told, the length, breadth and depth of the impropriety Shapiro has alleged would potentially breach multiple parts of at least four major NCAA bylaws – and possibly many more. Shapiro described acts that could include violations of multiple parts of bylaw 11, involving impermissible compensation to coaches; multiple parts of bylaw 12, involving amateurism of athletes; multiple parts of bylaw 13, involving improper recruiting activity; and multiple parts of bylaw 16, involving extra benefits to athletes.

In addition to all of this, Robinson also details Shapiro putting bounties on the heads of star players from opposing teams, giving Miami’s student-athletes an even greater reason to play hard and make an impact on the field.

The booster told Yahoo! Sports he had a number of individual payouts for “hit of the game” and “big plays.” He also put bounties on specific players, including Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and a three-year standing bounty on Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix from 2002 to 2004, offering $5,000 to any player who knocked him out of a game.

In the one contest against the Hurricanes that Tebow participated in (Sept. 6, 2008), the Gators signal caller went 21-of-35 for 256 yards and tossed two touchdowns while also carrying the ball 13 times for 55 yards. He was only sacked once.

One more Florida reference from the report involves former Gators guard Teddy Dupay, whose name was used as an alias by Shapiro when registering rooms at the Mercury Hotel in South Beach for players to copulate with prostitutes.

The University of Florida declined Yahoo!‘s request to make Hill, Debose or Patchan available for comment, but associate athletics director of communications Steve McClain released an official statement Tuesday evening.

“While we declined comment for Yahoo’s request, Coach Hill indicated he was very comfortable with, and very confident in how he conducted himself while at the University of Miami.”

Robinson’s report, which details alleged widespread illegal activities throughout Miami’s football and basketball programs, can be read in full by clicking here.

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Haslem: “I’m always going to be a Hurricane”

From 1998 to 2002, Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem attended the University of Florida and played basketball for the Florida Gators. He was so instrumental to Florida’s success, in fact, that upon graduation he was the winningest player in school history, the first player in team history to play on four consecutive NCAA Tournament teams and only the second UF player to be named to the first three Associated Press All-America teams.

For Haslem, though, his time playing in Gainesville, FL was a business decision – one made to further his athletic career. When it comes down to loyalty, for the Miami native, it is apparently all about The U.

“A lot of people are probably going to be mad at me, but at the end of the day I only know one thing and that’s loyalty,” Haslem said Tuesday on the Dan LeBatard Show on 790 The Ticket in South Florida. “In my house growing up, you were a Hurricane or you were homeless. I went to the University of Florida, which was a business decision. You have business decisions in life. And I love the Gators, I love coach [Billy] Donovan, I love the opportunity that they gave me. But I’m always going to be a Hurricane in my heart and I’m always going to root for the Canes.”

When pressed on the subject, Haslem admitted that his love for the Hurricanes stemmed from growing up as a big fan of the football team. As far as basketball goes, he still apparently bleeds orange and blue.

“[To] be honest with you, growing up, I was a football player. I played football all the way up to 10th grade. So the only thing that mattered to me was Hurricane football,” he said. “Basketball? I’m going with the Gators. I played for the Gator basketball team.”

Haslem also recounted a story about bumping into former teammate Teddy Dupay immediately after the Heat won the 2006 NBA Title. He said while the entire team (players, coaches, trainers) was celebrating on the court in Dallas, TX, he turned around and saw Dupay right beside him and had no idea how he got there.

“That’s my boy. Me and Teddy go back to high school where we played against him all the way to the state championship. We beat him pretty bad. Ted’s a great guy and we still keep in touch.”

College thoughts aside, Haslem has now set his sights on a second NBA title, which he will pursue with the triumvirate of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

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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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TWO BITS: Ex-Gators Gailey, Dupay in the news

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chan Gailey has been hired as the new head coach of the NFL‘s Buffalo Bills. A three-year letterman for Florida, he graduated in 1974 and stayed on the staff from 1974-75 as a graduate assistant before taking his first coaching job with the Troy Trojans.

2 » Once known as the state’s Mr. Basketball in 1998 and a star with the Florida basketball team for three seasons, former point guard Teddy Dupay has had a fall from grace over the last decade. After leading the Gators to the finals of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, Dupay was dismissed from the team when evidence surfaced that he was betting on Florida games. In June 2008, Dupay was charged with raping a woman at a ski resort in Utah. Now? He is trying to legalize marijuana. “You know me,” Dupay told Fanhouse senior NFL writer Chris Harry. “Controversy is my middle name.” Harry does a great job profiling Dupay and diving into his new passion in this article, which includes a revealing quote about another former Gators PG, Jason Williams. “All I knew about pot was that Jason Williams smoked a lot of it,” Dupay admitted.

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