Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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TWO BITS: Georgetown game, Donnie Jones

1 » The Navy-Marine Corps Classic on Nov. 9 aboard the USS Bataan at Navy Mayport Station in Jacksonville, FL was suspended at halftime after condensation that landed on the court made for unsafe playing conditions. At the time of game stoppage, the Florida Gators led the Georgetown Hoyas by four points. The game itself is currently classified as an exhibition as there was not a victor but that could very well change if an agreement between the two schools can be reached over the next few weeks. “Our school has reached out to Georgetown about completing and finishing the game,” head coach Billy Donovan revealed Tuesday evening. “There are some dates and there are some possibilities of that happening.”

The Gators would likely reimburse the Hoyas for a portion of their travel expenses considering the team would have to fly in to Jacksonville to play in an arena while UF would just have to drive a few hours. Donovan said there are a few dates in early January that work for both teams and the game would be forced to begin where it left off by NCAA rules. USA Today spoke with Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who said that his team is also interested though nothing is set in stone yet. “I’m not opposed to it. We’ve got to see what happens. A whole lot of things have to fall into place,” he said.

2 » Donovan on Tuesday emphatically defended the character of former Florida assistant coach Donnie Jones, who has been the head coach of the Central Florida Knights since the 2010-11 season. UCF under Jones was recently found guilty of being involved with runners for sports agents and paying recruits. The basketball team received a one-year postseason ban, five years of probation and scholarship reductions; it was also forced to vacate all victories from the 2010-11 campaign. Jones himself was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty and is limited in how he can recruit players this season. Below is what Donovan had to say about the entire situation:

“Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time talking to him. I really personally thought it was really unfortunate. Donnie is a good, good person in this profession. I think the hardest thing that sometimes as human beings you go through is, you go through what he’s going through and all of a sudden people think that, well, he’s not doing his business the right way. That couldn’t be anything further from the truth. I spent a lot of time…obviously with how serious the matter, he couldn’t share a lot with me, but I wanted to spend time on the phone just kind of letting him know I’m there.

“I would tell you this right now: There’s a lot of things in terms of NCAA and decisions that are made. People get show-causes put on them and everything else. I know Donnie Jones. I worked with him for 13 years. He is good for college basketball. He is good for those kids at Central Florida. He’s a great family man. He’s a great father. He’s a great husband. He is the salt of the Earth. There is not a better human being.

“I think some of the things that happened, in my opinion as I look at college basketball, were very, very unfortunate. With that being said, I just tried to be there for him. … He is good for college basketball. There’s a lot of bigger problems in college basketball than Donnie Jones. To me, what happened to him does not reflect who he is as a coach, a person, his integrity, his character and what he stands for. I will stand behind that for as long as the day is because that’s what he is. That whole thing that happened, again, I don’t know all the ins and outs of what happened, but that guy is a quality human being, to me, that got dragged through the mud and it was not deserved.”

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No losers Friday at Navy-Marine Corps Classic

The 2012 Navy-Marine Corps Classic was not supposed to end with the head coaches of the participating schools apologizing for ending the game at halftime. Yet while Billy Donovan of the No. 10 Florida Gators and John Thompson III of the Georgetown Hoyas echoed each other’s sentiments and explained that player safety was of paramount importance, the jam-packed 3,500-person crowd on the USS Bataan nodded in agreement and ultimately left just as happy as if it had watched a full game.

“We were very, very disappointed,” said Donovan, explaining to the crowd that condensation that accumulated on the court at halftime would not allow the game to continued. “We certainly want to play. The problem is the floor right now. We do not want anybody to get hurt out here.” [Video at end of story.]

Florida led Georgetown 27-23 at the half. Gators junior forward Will Yeguete once again showed improved offensive proficiency, going 4-for-5 for the field for a game-high eight points and adding a team-high four rebounds.

Both teams went into the locker rooms with their respective coaches trying to figure out how to win the second half but emerged to see dozens of staff members on their hands and knees trying to dry up the gathered condensation off the court.

The squads eventually returned to the hardwood for shoot around; however, when the buzzer sounded to end the session, the court remained soaked and the game was called to ensure the players were not harmed physically.

Florida and Georgetown, which had already spent a full day on Thursday at Navy Mayport Station in Jacksonville, FL meeting with members of the military, taking pictures and signing autographs, were not quick to get off the ship.

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Continue Reading » No losers Friday at Navy-Marine Corps Classic

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Navy-Marine Corps Classic – Jacksonville, FL – No. 10 Florida Gators vs. Georgetown Hoyas

Event: Navy-Marine Corps Classic
Location: USS Bataan at Navy Station Mayport – Jacksonville, FL [Capacity: 3,500]
Weather Forecast: 51°F, clear, winds NE at 3 mph
Time: 21:15 EDT

TV: NBC Sports Network (Tom Hammond, Stan Van Gundy, Carolyn Manno) [Channel]
SiriusXM: 136/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: None | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper

No. 10 FLORIDA GATORS GEORGETOWN HOYAS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Thompson III
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5 | O/U 123.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on what has been going on with the Gators over the last week? No problem. OGGOA has been here the whole time posting a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam on Saturday.

Preparing for windy, cold outdoor game | Casey Prather concussed, again | Scottie Wilbekin suspended

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 2-2 all-time against Georgetown but has been victorious in each of the last two meetings. The Gators are 16-10 against Big East teams overall under Donovan.
» UF has won 21-straight season openers (16-in-a-row under Donovan) dating back to 1991. Florida normally dominates its first game of the season but is playing a much more difficult opponent this time around.
» One season ago, the Gators led the nation in three-pointers by netting 9.8 per contest. UF was so proficient from beyond the arc that the team connected on 10 or more treys in 22 games during the 2011-12 campaign.
» Florida was 10th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.3 in 2011-12.
» The Gators were 25-1 last season when holding opponents under 71 points.
» Florida was just 3-5 against top-25 opponents last season with all five losses coming to top-three teams. UF is currently scheduled to take on seven top-25 opponents as part of the 2012-13 campaign.
» Three Gators players, 10 coaches and paid staff members, and six members of the student staff have military connections in their families.
» The USS Bataan (LHD 5) is an amphibious assault ship and part of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG). It often holds up to 3,200 crewmen and troops and can “embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support all elements of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).”
» The USS Bataan is 844 feet long with a 267-foot long deck.

Read the rest of the Florida-Georgetown preview including injuries and absences and which players to look out for from both bench.
Continue Reading » Navy-Marine Corps Classic – Jacksonville, FL – No. 10 Florida Gators vs. Georgetown Hoyas

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11/6: Prather concussed again, rebounding issues

Just a few days before his team boards the USS Bataan to take on the Georgetown Hoyas in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss his concerns heading into the 2012-13 season.

A MISSING PIECE FOR FRIDAY

Junior forward Casey Prather broke out in a big way last postseason, but concussion issues have stalled his court time in a big way this fall. After suffering the second concussion of his career nine days ago during a scrimmage, Prather finally returned to practice Monday with hopes of playing on Friday. Unfortunately, he took an elbow to the head during practice and suffered his second concussion in as many weeks, effectively knocking him out of this week’s contest.

“He was totally healed from the first one, so there is no problem as it relates to this necessarily being prolonged because he did have a concussion before that,” Donovan explained. “He got elbowed on a rebound and went down midway through practice. Obviously now with what everybody is doing with concussions, he’s got to go through a series of baseline tests and do those things. They don’t think it’s as bad as it was before, but I would say that he right now is probably not going to play on Friday.”

Though Prather is not a full-time post player, his size (6’6”, 208 lbs.) gives Florida another option down low, especially on defense and when trying to rebound. Considering the Gators are relatively light in the frontcourt this season, not having Prather on Friday is going to hurt and has Donovan considering other options such as playing junior center Patric Young, senior F Erik Murphy and junior F Will Yeguete at the same time.

“I think we’re going to have to look at that now. We have to look at that now just because of Casey’s situation,” Donovan said. “We have not done that a lot. I felt like, with Casey’s injury, I knew he was going to be back for this game. I didn’t anticipate that happening again to him. We’ve got three days here … that we’re going to have to look at some different lineup things.”

REBOUNDING THE GREATEST CONCERN

Donovan was dismayed last week when Florida outrebounded Division II Nebraska-Kearney by just three boards. He tore into the Gators’ effort in the game but said Tuesday that he was pleased the way the team, including his veterans, bounced back and practiced on Monday.

“I was very pleased with the way we came back the next day on Friday. I thought we had a really good practice. I thought they agreed that there were a lot of things we did in that game that were uncharacteristic of the way we practiced. I think there was a recognition of areas that we needed to get better in,” he said.

Though Donvoan recognizes that rebounding with an undersized team is difficult, especially without Prather in the fold, he is indeed worried that UF is not getting better in that area fast enough heading into the regular season.

“To me it is still a major concern. I don’t like it. I think we can be a whole lot better. I think it’s got to be a collective effort by our guys in the game,” he said. “In the exhibition game, I think Patric and Erik together combined for a total of 40 minutes and they grabbed seven rebounds – two guys. That’s not good enough. They’ve got to go after the basketball on the glass. They’ve got to come down with it. They got to go hard after it, and our guards have got to get in there now, too. One of the things that is bothering me as a coach is we don’t leave the floor. We are the best on-the-floor rebounding team in the country but unfortunately as we’re standing on the ground, someone else is jumping. It’s a point that has really been pounded home.”

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Florida Gators Nike camouflage sneakers, t-shirt

Two of eight teams set to play in a military-themed game aboard an aircraft carrier on Nov. 9, the Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas will be wearing camouflage-style uniforms when the teams square off in Jacksonville, FL on the deck of the USS Bataan in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic.

On Thursday, fans got a sneak peak at what will likely be the uniform that Florida will wear for the special game. It is a version of the team’s current orange alternates (introduced in 2011-12) infused with a noticeable camouflage pattern.

The Gators will also be wearing these shoes (below), the Nike Hyperfuse 2012 “Carrier Classic” Florida PE, during the game. The camouflage is digitized and off-set by an eye-catching blue fabric as well as a blue translucent sole.

Nike has also released a special “United We Stand.” t-shirt that can be purchased by fans to commemorate the occasion. The t-shirt, pictured below and available for sale here, is blue with orange camouflage letters.

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Florida’s Nike camo uniforms for Corps Classic

One of eight teams set to play in a military-themed game aboard an aircraft carrier on Nov. 9, the Florida Gators received what appears to be a first-look at the uniforms that the team will be wearing when they take on the Georgetown Hoyas in Jacksonville, FL on the deck of the USS Bataan in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic.

The above picture, snapped by Andy Hutchins of SBNation’s Alligator Army while taking a tour of Florida’s locker room during the Rowdy Fest event put on Monday, shows the same uniforms the Gators debuted in the 2011-12 season but with a camouflage design.

Aside from the fact that this was posted in the Florida locker room, it makes sense that these would be the uniforms worn by the Gators for the game as the Hoyas do have a blue, grey and white color scheme.

Though it has not yet been confirmed that Florida will be wearing these uniforms, OGGOA will update this post when more information (and/or a confirmation) is available.

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SIX BITS: Jenkins, Dunlap, Tebow, Lochte

1 » After weeks of posturing, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and the St. Louis Rams finally came to terms Tuesday evening on a four-year rookie contract that will pay Jenkins $5 million over its duration including $3.1 million guaranteed. As first reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the contract ensures that Jenkins will be in camp on time. He will compete for a starting role immediately and could prove to be the steal of the drat that St. Louis hoped he was when the team selected him No. 39 overall.

2 » Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap has proven that he can be an effective pass rusher when he is on the field; unfortunately nagging injuries have kept him from being as consistent as either he or his team would have liked over the first two years of his career. In a recent conversation with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer indicated that Dunlap could be dominant if he finds a way to become a tougher player. “He doesn’t know how to fight through nagging things yet,” Zimmer said of Dunlap. “In this game, you can’t be a track guy. You’ve got to be a football player. Because you’re going to have bruises and bumps and be sore, so you’ve got to fight through it. That’s a little bit of immaturity and growing up. Usually they say with defensive linemen it takes about three years before they really kind of figure it out. So this is his third year, and I’m hoping he can live up to my expectations.”

3 » The ways in which the New York Jets plan to use quarterback Tim Tebow seemingly increase by the day, which is why it should probably come as no surprise that the team is now considering using him on its kickoff coverage team. According to the New York Daily News, Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff thinks there may be a benefit to throwing a quarterback on the field for one of the roughest plays in all of sports. “There are certain situations [on kickoffs] where he might be on the field that he could be utilized possibly to block or possibly to field a ball,” Westhoff told the paper. “If a team squibs it at you or pops it at you, he might be the perfect guy to put in that could make an adjustment. If they kick it deep, he could block. If they squib it or pop it, he could be a guy that we’d have with a ball in his hands.” He went on to clarify that stance. “His role with me won’t be a paramount role,” Westhoff added. “I’m not counting on Tebow coming in and being a hardcore special teams player. That’s not what we want. We have a limited role for him, but it will be one that presents problems. That’s what Tebow is all about. He presents problems to good football teams in a lot of aspects. You have to be aware of it. If you’re not aware of it, it could jump up and smack you.”

Read three more BITS on Lochte, Florida/Georgetown and Taylor…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Jenkins, Dunlap, Tebow, Lochte

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