Plane crashes on Flavet Field in Gainesville hours before Florida-Arkansas kickoff

A two-seat plane crashed onto Flavet Field on the University of Florida campus just hours before the No. 18/19 Florida Gators were scheduled to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday.

The plane, which contained two pilots and was flying an advertising banner across the campus, crash landed on a popular tailgating spot but did not injure any pedestrians in the area, according to initial reports.

The school released a statement shortly after the crash occurred:

“A small plane attempted an emergency landing at an open area of Flavet Field and has crashed. The plane landed upside down on a vacant pickup truck. Both pilots were ejected and transported to a local hospital. No additional injuries to report at this time. Will release any further info[rmation] as it becomes available.”

According to WUFT, the plane is registered to Beach Banners, Inc., an aerial banner advertising company out of Jacksonville, FL.



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Peterson impressed by Muschamp, ready to coach

A Gainesville, FL, native, former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson has spent the last 14 years travelling across the country with three different NFL franchises but never strayed too far away from home.

With his family still in Alachua County and his charity – the Mike Peterson Foundation – based in Alachua, FL, he has been in and out of the area plenty over the years.

It was not until 2011, however, that Peterson rekindled his relationship with the Gators football program. That year, he learned of his induction into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great” and had the opportunity to meet new head coach Will Muschamp for the first time.

“Man, I’m all for him,” Peterson told OnlyGators.com in April 2011. “I had a chance to meet with him. I love everything about him. I love the passion he brings to the game. [I’m] loving that he’s a defensive-minded guy. I’m all for him, man.”

As luck would have it, Peterson is now working on the same coaching staff as Muschamp after a suggestion from his academic advisor at Florida – he is two classes away from graduating with an undergraduate degree in sociology – led him to reach out and inquire about a coaching position with the Gators.

“I had been talking with him and going to class and slowly trying to get towards my degree. He mentioned to me, ‘Why don’t you go out and work with the team?’ It’s something I had thought about but never taken the initiative,” Peterson explained Tuesday. “I went and spoke with Coach Muschamp about it and he was very accepting of it. A little different than I would have expected, but he was very accepting of it. Just knowing him over a couple years, coming back and speaking with the team, I knew it would be a place I would definitely fit in. And the rest is history.”

Continue Reading » Peterson impressed by Muschamp, ready to coach

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Florida removes Hernandez All-American brick

The Florida Gators on Thursday decided to publicly erase former tight end Aaron Hernandez from their past when they removed his All-American brick from the front of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and later announced other reminders of Hernandez have already been taken down throughout the team’s facilities.

Hernandez, currently jailed in Massachusetts and awaiting trial on six charges including first-degree murder for the shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press in 2009 after leading the Gators with 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns that season.

He also won the John Mackey Award, handed out to the nation’s best tight end, for his efforts during that campaign.

Florida’s University Athletic Association released the following statement on Thursday:

We didn’t feel it was appropriate to celebrate Aaron Hernandez. We put together an immediate plan after the initial news broke to remove his likeness and name in various private and public areas in the facility, such as the South Endzone team area, locker room, football offices, Heavener Complex Kornblau Lobby and the brick display entrance to the football facility.

We were able to implement some of the changes immediately and this (brick removal) was a more complex process to complete with our vendors.

The plan was to have everything completed before the end of July.

What do you think? Did the school act too soon or was the brick removal appropriate?

Below are pictures of the Hernandez brick being removed and replaced courtesy of University of Florida professor Ted Spiker (first), Gainesville Television Network‘s Julie Quittner (second, third):

Continue Reading » Florida removes Hernandez All-American brick

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Billy D pleased with Hill’s humility, Walker’s effort

Five-star prospects point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) and power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL) may have committed seven months apart, but the AAU teammates knew for quite some time that they would be playing together in Gainesville, FL, for head coach Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators.

Hill, unanimously ranked as the 10th best player in the 2013 recruiting class, has already fulfilled his end of the bargain. He enrolled at Florida in late June for the Summer B session and has already pleased the coaching staff and trainers with his attitude and ability both on and off the court.

“I spent some time with him [Tuesday],” said Donovan on Wednesday after returning from leading USA Basketball to gold the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. “He’s doing fine. He’s done well. All the reports I’ve gotten from the strength coach and coaches working with him, he’s been great. His attitude has been really good.”

With senior PG Scottie Wilbekin likely to be suspended for the start of the season after violating team rules – and the Gators without another true floor general on the roster at this time – Hill’s work ethic during the summer and fall will go a long way to earning him a starting role (whether temporary or permanent).

Donovan is pleased with he has seen thus far from Hill, who he compared to 2011 five-star guard Bradley Beal in terms of how the young man has flipped the switch from high school star to college underclassman.

Continue Reading » Billy D pleased with Hill’s humility, Walker’s effort

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Florida Gators land 2015 PF Kevarrius Hayes

Head coach Billy Donovan only holds a pledge from one member of the 2014 recruiting class but has already added the Florida Gators‘ first 2015 commitment when, as first reported by FOXSports.com’s Evan Daniels ($), power forward Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, FL) decided on Monday to join the program.

“We came down to Gainesville together last week for a visit and he loved it,” Hayes’s high school coach and University of Florida alumnus, Jeremy Ulmer, told InsidetheGators.com‘s Russ Wood ($). “Florida was his dream school and he told me he was ready. I called Billy Donovan and told him that Kevarrius had something to tell him, then I handed him the phone.”

Hayes, who recently participated in the Nike Elite 100 basketball camp from June 3-9 in St. Louis, MO, was named Suwannee High School’s Defensive Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season. He has drawn comparisons to current Gators PF Will Yeguete for his strong defense and ability to clean up offensively around the basket.

Like Yeguete did as a high schooler, Hayes plays travel-league basketball for head coach Tom Topping and Nike Team Florida. Hayes joins Yeguete, Walter Hodge, Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, Scottie Wilbekin and DeVon Walker as recent or current Gators that previously played under Topping.

During his sophomore season at Suwannee, Hayes averaged 11.3 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks per game. Rivals lists him as a three-star prospect (the company’s 2015 rankings have not yet been released), while ESPN currently has him ranked him as a four-star and the No. 58 overall player in the Class of 2015.

Hayes (6-foot-9, 190-pounds) also had early interest from Alabama, Kansas State and Miami. Florida assistant coach Matt McCall, his primary recruiter, helped reel him in.

According to the Suwannee Democrat, he boasts a 3.0 grade point average, served as president of his sophomore class last school year and hopes to attend medical school so he can become a surgeon. He is also a member of the track and field team and currently holds the school record in the high jump.

“Kevarrius has everything it takes to be a major [Division I] player. He has athletic and academic ability, a positive attitude and a great work ethic,” Ulmer told the Democrat on June 12. “He is everything a coach could ask for in a player.”

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Gators sweep SEC All-Sports awards yet again

Any doubt that the University of Florida had the dominant athletics program in the Southeastern Conference during the 2012-13 school year was put to rest Monday as the university was named the SEC All-Sports Tropy champion for the fifth-straight season by the Halifax Media Group. Sweeping all three titles – overall, men’s and women’s – the Florida Gators won by staggering numbers in each category, literally dominating the competition.

Team (OVERALL)Total PointsScore
No. 1 Florida160.5.7230
No. 2 Georgia144.0.6372
No. 3 Texas A&M137.0.6284
Team (MEN'S)Total PointsScore
No. 1 Florida70.5.6651
No. 2 Alabama59.0.5566
No. 3 Georgia58.5.5519
Team (WOMEN'S)Total PointsScore
No. 1 Florida90.7759
No. 2 Tennessee79.7315
No. 3 Texas A&M80.5.7188

Florida is the only school to sweep all three crowns in a single season, accomplishing the feat for the 13th time, sixth in the last seven years and fifth-in-a-row (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13). UF has now won 23 overall titles (including seven-straight), 20 women’s titles and 17 men’s titles.

All 16 of the Gators’ sports (nine women’s, seven men’s) were counted with cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field combined into one unit per gender. (The lacrosse program competes in the American Lacrosse Conference.) Scoring was adjusted this year by the Halifax Media Group to account for the two teams (Missouri, Texas A&M) and one sport (equestrian) added to the conference this season.

Florida matched a school and league record by winning eight SEC titles over this period – basketball, gymnastics, men’s swimming, soccer, softball, volleyball, women’s cross country and women’s tennis – compared to three in 2011-12. UF soccer and women’s tennis each captured both the regular season and tournament championships.

The Gators lead the SEC with 213 all-time team titles.

The SEC All-Sports titles were previously awarded by The New York Times Regional Newspaper Group from 1994-95 to 2010-11.

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Florida vs. FGCU: The Griffin family connection

There will be plenty written over the next four days comparing the Goliath Florida Gators with the David Florida Gulf Coast Eagles – the teams meet in the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Friday – and while the schools do contrast in a number of abundantly apparent ways, they actually share a bond that has plenty to do with how each has been able to grow and develop over the years.

In 1930, Ben Hill Griffin, Jr. enrolled in the University of Florida where he studied economics, marketing and agriculture. After three years at UF and before he was able to graduate, he left school during the Great Depression in 1933 to begin working on his own and supporting his family. Griffin, Jr. wound up becoming a successful businessman and politician and he and his family have chosen over the years to donate large sums of money back to Florida for both higher education purposes and to partially fund its then-burgeoning athletic program.

Griffin, Jr. donated more than $20 million to the school and Gators athletic program before his passing. He credited Florida for his marketing education and felt that it was only right to share his fortune with the school that he believed made his success possible. In 1982, he was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as an honorary letter winner for his financial support.

In 1989, UF renamed its football stadium Ben Hill Griffin Stadium because of his generous contributions. Four years later, due to donations that led to the restoration of a historic building on campus, Floyd Hall was named Griffin-Floyd Hall. Even to this day, the school hands out academic and athletic awards and scholarships in his name.

Following his passing, his son Ben Hill Griffin III (who first attended UF before transferring to a community college) decided to begin financially assisting another school, the upstart Florida Gulf Coast University.

Continue Reading » Florida vs. FGCU: The Griffin family connection

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Florida Gators DE Thaddeus Bullard making his mark as WWE superstar Titus O’Neil

Former Florida Gators defensive end Thaddeus Bullard, a reserve member of the football team from 1997-2000, played in 44 games over the course of his career and was a true student-athlete on campus at the University of Florida.

Bullard won consecutive Goodwill Gator awards in 1998 and 1999, was the primary backup at defensive end in 1999 and 2000 and registered totals of 56 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles in his four years. He also served as UF Student Body Vice President beginning in the spring of 2000 through the summer terms.

He then played for four separate Arena Football League teams from 2003-07 before deciding to retire from the game and focus on his family. Two years later, he took up professional wrestling and soon established himself as Titus O’Neil.

O’Neil quickly rose through the ranks of the WWE and is now a featured superstar on the company’s roster and one half of the popular Prime Time Players tag team. Partnered with Darren Young, he hopes to one day become a champion and earn millions of dollars while holding a belt.

Bullard has visited Gainesville, FL twice over the past year, most recently stopping by during the first week of February. He met with the football coaching staff during National Signing Day, hung out with the basketball team and even attended Florida’s big 83-58 win over Mississippi State on Feb. 9.

Bullard sat down with OGGOA for a half hour last month to discuss his most recent stay in Gainesville, his love for the Gators and what fans can expect to see from him in the near future as he continues rise in the WWE.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What does it feel like for you when you come back to Gainesville now that you have a family to bring with you?
THADDEUS BULLARD / TITUS O’NEIL: “I’ve been back there before with them – to football games and stuff – but now at this point in my career with the WWE, being able to come back is special. I come back as a different person to many that see me, and it’s a great feeling. It’s fun for my kids, too, since they were involved in the process of me coming back as Titus O’Neil on the big stage. They obviously see their dad every week and they have to share me with the world. It’s a different life for us now going out to eat and going different places. Everyone knows dad as ‘Titus O’Neil’ whereas four years ago, daddy was just ‘daddy.’”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Thaddeus Bullard…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators DE Thaddeus Bullard making his mark as WWE superstar Titus O’Neil

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