With football and basketball both in the spotlight and Florida Gators gymnastics winning a third straight NCAA National Championship last week, it was easy to overlook two other tremendous accomplishments made by Gators athletic programs in the form of regular-season league titles won this month.
Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.
Thrice is nice
Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.
UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.
The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.
In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.
1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel (-11) is in contention at the Deutsche Bank Championship, one stroke back of leader Russell Henley (-12) with the event’s final round set to begin Monday afternoon. Horschel and Henley will tee off at 1:55 p.m. as the final pairing but will also face stiff competition from Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Chris Kirk, all of whom are just two shots back at -10. Horschel’s best finish this season has been sixth (twice, most recently at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June). He’s looking for his first tournament victory since 2013 when he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Horschel has already earned $1.3 million this season. Former Gators golfers Camilo Villegas and Matt Every also made the initial cut at the Deutsche Bank, but Villegas is at the back of the pack and Every got cut after shooting an 86 in the third round.
2 » Florida freshman tennis player Brooke Austin is competing in the junior’s bracket of 2014 U.S. Open, facing Evgeniya Levashova in opening-round action. The match is suspended, as of press time, with Austin up 4-1 in the second set after falling 6-0 to Levashova in the first. Former Gators star Lisa Raymond, also participated this year, teaming with fellow American Vania King in the women’s doubles draw. Pushing past opponents in the first two rounds, Raymond/King fell 6-3, 6-7(4-7), 6-2 to Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova of Russia on Monday. The oldest woman to ever win a Grand Slam doubles title (back in 2011 at age 38 with partner Liezel Huber), Raymond has won nearly $10 million in her career with 15 Grand Slam doubles titles and a bronze medal in mixed doubles from the 2012 London Olympics.
The Florida Gators women’s athletic program was officially announced Thursday as the winner of the 2014 Capital One Cup.
It is the first time in program history that the women have obtained the award, though Florida’s men’s program captured the first two honors in 2011 and 2012.
In the four-year history of the award, the Gators are the only athletic program to win both the men’s and women’s cups.
Awarded annually to each of the top men’s and women’s Division I college athletic programs in the country, the winner of the Capital One Cup is determined by a scoring system in which points are awarded sport-by-sport depending how respective teams finish in NCAA Championships and the final official coaches’ polls.
Florida (152 points) dominated its competition, winning the cup by an 42-point margin over UCLA (110) and finishing 63 points above the next team from the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M (89).
The Gators led the way with championships and first-place finishes in gymnastics and softball. Florida also finished in the top 10 nationally in six other sports: indoor track & field (third), outdoor track & field (fourth), lacrosse (fourth), tennis (fifth), swimming (sixth) and soccer (10th).
UF’s men’s athletic program is currently ranked third overall but first among SEC teams with 86 points. Florida is 12.5 points behind the leader, Notre Dame (98.5), but 45 points ahead of the next SEC school, Auburn (41). The men’s standings will become final after the conclusion of the 2014 Colege World Series.
The women’s victory earns the University of Florida a total of $200,000 to go toward student-athlete graduate-level scholarships. The Gators will be presented with the Capital One Cup at the 2014 ESPY Awards on July 16 at 9 p.m.
For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.
13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.
12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.
11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.
From time to time, OGGOA 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.
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps missed the entire offseason while running track but officially joined the team on Monday in hopes of earning a roster spot and playing football in 2013. The Buccaneers have a roster exemption or Demps, who will have one full week to prove his worth and take one of the 53 available spots or else be released by Tampa Bay. Though the Bucs will certainly see what Demps can do for them, head coach Greg Schiano was perturbed a few weeks ago when asked where Demps was in the world and why he had not reported at the time.
» Former Florida Gators forward Cody Larson, who lost his scholarship and then quit the basketball team before the 2012-13 season but remained at Florida for academics, transferred to play for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in May and had a waiver to play immediately accepted by the NCAA this month. “We want to thank the committee and the NCAA for taking the time to look at Cody’s waiver,” head coach Scott Nagy said in a school release. “We appreciate the fact that this ruling allows him the opportunity to be eligible to compete immediately.” Larson will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining but has not played college basketball in two full seasons.
» One of the greatest tennis players in school history, Jill Craybas has decided to retire at age 39 after spending the last 18 years playing professional tennis. One of two Florida women to win the NCAA Singles Championship, Craybas captured the title in 1996 while leading the Gators women’s program to the team NCAA Championship that same season. Inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2008, Craybas never won a Grand Slam title but advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2005 after shocking Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 in the Round of 16 that year. She also represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long. But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life,” she told Tennis Panorama about her retirement decision. “I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”
Check out 12 more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11
1 » Florida Gators football released this 2013 season promo. It’s quite good.
2 » Former Gators linebacker James Bates impersonates and tells stories about former Florida head coach Steve Spurrier. Bates was recently hired as a college football analyst by FOX Sports for the new FOX Sports 1 channel.
Check out four more Gators videos…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX VIDEO BITS: Gators, Bates, Spurrier, Muschamp, Embree, Easley, Williams
1 » Former Florida Gators tennis star Lauren Embree was named the 2013 ITA National College Player of the Year on Wednesday, just months after she was named the organization’s National Senior Player of the Year. Embree, who helped lead Florida to two national titles and eight total league crowns, has been training in Boca Raton, FL, and California over the summer as she prepares to begin her career as a professional. Be sure to check out OnlyGators.com’s extensive feature on Embree from May in which she goes in-depth about the tough conclusion to her college career.
2 » According to ESPN’s John Clayton, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins plan to speak to Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, respectively, about their decision to don “Free Hernandez” hats while in a club on Saturday night. Though neither player is expected to be reprimanded by his team in any tangible way, each is considered a locker room leader and centerpiece of his respective team’s future. On Monday, Maurkice Pouncey released the following apology: “I fully recognize the seriousness of the situation involving my former teammate, and I regret that my actions appear to make light of that serious situation. I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions.”
4 » Eight-time MLB All-Star right fielder Darryl Strawberry, who has dealt with his share of drug and health problems over the past 30 years, has turned his life around and now spends his days working as an ordained minister. Using religion partially as his reasoning, Strawberry told USA Today last week that he simply wishes he could have been more like New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow as a young man. “I wish I could have been like a Gary Carter or a Tim Tebow when I was playing,” he said. “I look at Tebow. He gets bashed because of his faith. Let ‘em laugh. Let ‘em talk. He’s a greater man than anyone who might be greater than him as an athlete. He’s a real man. … I admire him more than he could ever imagine.”