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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TWO Video BITS: Parsons, Pease (+ Harlem Shake)

1 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, participating in the Rising Stars Challenge at 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend on Friday evening at 9 p.m., recently sat down for an interview with Grantland.com’s Chris Ryan. Check it out below.

2 » Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease participated in an interview recently with Total College Sports. He discusses Florida’s recruiting haul and the offense heading into the 2013 season.


Extra BIT » Someone at the University of Florida recently organized a mass “Harlem Shake” dance video in Turlington Plaza. After completing the video, those in attendance did a “Go Gators!” chant and Gator Chomped.

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TWO BITS: Young’s tough decision, WWE’s O’Neil

1 » According to the Bradenton Herald, the Florida Gators are still waiting to hear from one recruit though it is currently unknown when he will actually make a decision. Three-star offensive lineman Trevon Young (Bradenton, FL), who was planning to play Division II basketball at Eckerd College, was reportedly a secret visitor at the University of Florida on Saturday and picked up an offer to play tight end for the Gators. With a first love of basketball, Young is faced with a difficult decision despite the fact that playing his favorite sport at the Division II level or his second-favorite sport for a top-tier program like Florida seems like an easy choice for most. “I just don’t know,” he told the paper. “I might not know until I wake up [on National] Signing Day, and I might not even sign on Wednesday. I don’t know. If I decide to play football, my favorite is Florida. It’s great getting an offer from them. It makes you feel all the hard work you put in was worth it. But I love basketball.”

2 » WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil, previously known as former Gators defensive end Thaddeus Bullard was on campus in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday and had the opportunity to meet with both basketball coach Billy Donovan and football coach Will Muschamp. Below are a pair of video Touts from Bullard that he posted online shortly after his meetings with the coaches.


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Florida player Bill McBride passes away at 67

Former Florida Gators football player Bill McBride, best known for being the Democratic candidate for governor of the state of Florida in 2002, passed away Saturday at the age of 67.

McBride, whose football career with the Gators ended early due to a knee injury, suffered a heart attack while on a family vacation to Mount Airy, NC.

He made a great impact at the University of Florida, serving as treasurer of Florida Blue Key and getting inducted into the prestigious Hall of Fame as a student who consistently “demonstrated an outstanding commitment to improving” the school. He most recently served on the board of directors for the Warrington College of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

McBride began law school at UF but interrupted his studies in Gainesville, FL to volunteer for the Marine Corps, where he served from 1968-71. After earning a Bronze Star for valor and being discharged, he returned to the United States and taught future officers at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, VA.

He then finished law school and spent the majority of his career working for Holland & Knight in Tampa, FL, eventually becoming a partner in 1992 and staying in that role for nine years before retiring in 2001 to enter the political arena.

After losing the gubernatorial race to Jeb Bush in 2002, McBride returned to practicing law in Tampa. His wife, Alex Sink, wound up running for governor of Florida eight years later as the Democratic nominee in 2010.

“He was a wonderful guy and a great Floridian who knew a lot about this state and a lot about things things were important,” former state Senator and McBride’s gubernatorial running mate Tom Rossin told the Palm Beach Post. “He’ll be missed. He was a real part of this state and what it’s all about.”

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the McBride family.

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FOUR BITS: O’Dome, NFL Draft, Beal, Lochte

1 » University of Florida trustees on Friday approved a $10 million contribution as part of a $50 million renovation for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. According to The Gainesville Sun’s Nathan Crabbe, who spoke with trustee Steven Scott, it will take 2-3 years to raise the remaining $40 million, so the O’Dome will not be looking much different any time soon. Eventually, the arena will feature an updated entrance; new seating areas including a permanent, non-retractable lower level, club seats and boxes; and additional concession stands and team shops. Florida will also improve the audio-visual elements inside the arena. The school just completed a $900,000 renovation on the structure in the summer of 2011 that included brand new seats in the lower bowl, wider aisles, handrails and more. UF also recently remodeled the gymnastics studio on site at the O’Dome. Read more | Pictures

2 » The 2013 NFL Draft is fast approaching and no Florida Gators player is generating more buzz right now than junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. On the heels of a fantastic junior campaign in which he started every game at his natural position, Floyd is unanimously considered a first-round pick in the draft. In fact, ESPN’s Todd McShay projected him as the No. 29 pick in his first mock draft ($) and Mel Kiper, Jr. lists him as the No. 23 overall player on his Big Board ($); both lists were released Wednesday. “Floyd’s versatility to play inside or kick outside to end makes him a great fit,” McShay wrote. “He can anchor against the run, chases plays all over the field and had a monster 2012 season.”

3 » The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, guard Bradley Beal came one decision away from never suiting up for the Washington Wizards. According to The Washington Post, the Wizards turned down a trade proposed by the Oklahoma City Thunder over the summer in which the team was looking to trade James Harden for Beal and forward Chris Singleton. Oklahoma City, which had been infatuated with Beal throughout the draft process and was rumored to be looking to trade up into the top three selections in order to pick him, wound up trading Harden to Houston after Washington rebuffed its advances.

4 » Former Gators swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte won a pair of gold medals on the first day of the FINA World Swimming Championships (short-course) in Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday. Lochte took the 200 Meter Freestyle in 1:41.92 and was part of the 4×100 Freestyle Relay team that won gold in 3:06.40. The last short-course world championships were held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2010; Lochte won six gold medals including five in individual events. Fellow former Florida swimmers Conor Dwyer and Jemma Lowe also captured individual bronze medals on day one of the event.

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