Hello Folks. Sorry, I've been busy writing books and writing for GatorCountry.com and Gator Country Magazine, so I haven't been able to keep up with this site. But I'm going to be doing more on it in the near future and will let you know all of what has been going on in my life for the past year. So please stay tuned and if you have any questions, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks. Buddy
'Urban's Way' paperback here (10-9-09)
The new updated, expanded paperback version of Urban's Way has just arrived and can be purchased directly from Buddy Martin, who will autograph them and mail them to you for a limited time.
To place your order, email Buddy at email@example.com. For more info on how to get your book autographed by Buddy, watch this space or go to gatorcountry.com.
By BUDDY MARTIN Gator Country - Executive Editor | October 7, 2009
| 3 Comments
Tim Tebow will start. Tim Tebow
won’t start. John Brantley is ready to go, has been taking most of the
snaps and will be in the lineup. Tim, John. Tim, John.
Everybody’s in the know—or, a least, claims to have an inside scoop.
The truth is that nobody knows, including the head coach and the two players.
The country’s most famous concussion has the sports world abuzz and somewhat befuddled.
Despite the inference that Urban Meyer is playing a cat-and-mouse game
and at least one ESPN comment that coaches and players know who’s
playing but are keeping it secret, everything said about Florida’s
starting quarterback for Saturday night is speculation.
Inquiring minds want to know: Who will be taking the snaps in
college football’s regular-season Game of the Year, and maybe even one
of the most memorable matchups in SEC history between the two team
which have won all the BCS titles for the last three seasons?
The other day I asked Urban Meyer how many times he’d been asked
about Tebow’s condition. “I’ve been asked a lot by people who matter –
my family and the football team,” said Meyer.
The drama has already heightened this scenario into a theatrical
mega moment. Will No. 15 come trotting out onto the field before the
massive crowd, pumping his fist? Or will announcer Mick Hubert be
mimicking the late Ed McMahon with his famous, “Heeerrrrrreeee’s
Johnny!” when Brantley starts?
Meyer said Wednesday that after Tuesday’s practice he was told by physicians to “game plan with the chance that Tim could play.”
According to one source, “Tim ran the plays and threw the ball and
looked pretty good.” The two quarterbacks shared snaps on Wednesday.
You can book this right now, however: Until 8 p.m. Saturday we’re not going to have the answer.
The feeling among the coaches is that if doctors clear Tebow and Tim
looks Meyer in the eye and says he’s ready to go, then he will go.
However, doctors have made it clear that if any symptoms recur, Tebow
It is my opinion – yes, I’ve got one, too—that Meyer has moved
forward since last week with the idea that Brantley would be the
starter against LSU, unless there was a breakthrough on Tebow’s
condition. Therefore Brantley has been prepped for the job. That way,
both quarterbacks are ready.
Meyer made it a point to say that he has total confidence in
Brantley – “and not a false confidence” – if the redshirt sophomore
receives the nod.
For all the football talk and the importance of the game, consider
the human side. The butterflies in Johnny Brantley’s stomach don’t know
whether to flutter or go to sleep. As a competitor, he wants to show
what he can do and display the talents that made him the Gatorade High
School Player of the Year. Not at the expense of Tebow and the team, of
course, but it has to be a little stressful for him to have one foot on
the field and another on the sideline.
“Johnny has been bred and trained for just this moment,” said Whit
Palmer Jr., long-time Gator fan and friend of the Brantley family.
Chopped liver he is not. We’re talking about a player with NFL
first-round potential and maybe the best arm anybody has seen since the
days of Haywood Sullivan or John Reaves.
For a quarterback with as much talent as Brantley, this is the gray
zone: Waiting in limbo for your chance to show what you can do, while
knowing that no matter how great you perform, the job isn’t going to be
yours this season.
Success for an understudy is measured in practice reps and game cleanup
duty. Someday, though, the starring role will belong to Brantley. And
his first step in that direction could
come Saturday night on college football’s version of Broadway, the SEC stage under the bright lights of Baton Rouge.
Even though Tebow gives Florida a better chance of winning, there
are lots of Gator fans anxious to see what Brantley can do under these
kinds of conditions. Not the least of these is his football-coaching
father, who home-schooled his son to play quarterback (football, not
class) for Trinity Catholic of Ocala.
I’m rooting for Brantley and his family, who have waited so
patiently without grousing, realizing full well this was going to
happen when Johnny chose to de-commit to Texas and sign with his
father’s and uncle’s alma mater. But not at the expense of Tebow.
It’s certainly not like Johnny B. hasn’t earned the shot, with more
than two years as an apprentice and a quantum leap beginning with last
year’s spring game which caused Urban to dub him “a real Florida
The Brantleys have handled this whole situation with class. I will
never forget that night in Miami prior to the BCS title game when we
were all speculating about whether Tebow would return for his senior
year. John The Father took the microphone at a Gator Country Pre-Game
party and said to the crowd of some 200: “I hope Timmy does come back
for another season.”
Those of us who have known John The Father for a long time, however,
know that while as a coach he realizes parents shouldn’t interfere, he
understandably yearns for the day when his son gets to the field for
meaningful minutes and proves that he’s the quarterback everybody
thinks he is.
John The Father and wife Karen have learned not to get their hopes
up. From time to time over the last year, Meyer has indicated Johnny
would play “meaningful minutes.” The intensity of the game, however,
always seemed to get into the way and except for stints against
Charleston Southern and Troy, plus the final quarter of Kentucky,
Brantley hasn’t seen action. So they maintain a low-key approach.
Understandably, Meyer must first be concerned with putting his best
players on the field to win the game and not worry about keeping egos
soothed. In no way do we suggest that. Any time No. 15 is well and
wants to be on the field he should be there.
At the same time, you know the Brantleys get tired of hearing people
say Johnny is “maybe the third best quarterback in the SEC” behind
Tebow and Mississippi’s Jevan Snead.
Maybe we are about to find out.
If he starts Saturday night and beats LSU, then Johnny Brantley might
overtake Snead. As he already knows, there is no shame being behind one
of the greatest college football players in history.
Buddy Martin's Updated bio
Martin is Executive Editor of GatorCountry.com, Gator Country
Magazine and Gator Country TV. He has won more than 165 state and
national awards for writing and editing, is the author of seven books
and was a recipient of an Emmy while working for CBS Sports on "The NFL
Today." The native son of Ocala and Florida-educated journalist is the
former sports editor of the New York Daily News, Denver Post, St.
Petersburg Times and Florida Today. His authorized biography of
"Urban's Way" (St. Martin's Press) was released in October, 2009 and is now in paperback. Buddy is
the former sports editor at five newspapers: Denver Post, New York
Daily News, St. Petersburg Times and Florida Today and the Ocala
Star-Banner. He is also the co-founder of the Sports Journalism Summit
at the Poynter Media Institute and does radio/TV in Florida and
ORDER YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF BUDDY'S REVISED NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION
"The Boys From Old Florida:Inside Gator Nation"
Send a check for $20 (softcover). That includes shipping and handling. Shipment has arrived! Be sure to say how you would like it signed. Make check payable to Buddy Martin and mail to: 26337 Feathersound Dr. Punta Gorda, FL 33955
Buddy Martin Sunday Best
Spurrier, Elvis sightings are common
Tim Tebow isn’t the only one breaking records these days.
Steve Spurrier has just tied Elvis Presley for most sightings in the first week of the post-season.
Spurrier was allegedly sighted at Duke the other day, then Baton Rouge, then CrescentBeach.
Reached by phone Friday and asked about all the rumors that he was being courted by LSU, Spurrier jested:
“I thought it was Duke!”
Then he explained he had been on a recruiting trip in North Carolina with a South Carolina assistant, just 20 miles from Durham. Word traveled fast – especially back to Columbia.
“My president told me if I wanted to go back to Duke, he’d release me,” Spurrier said kiddingly. Then he went on to say he was looking over the new facilities at his old school, showing them to his assistant. He also noted he would always have a special place in his heart for Blue Devil football.
“But I’ve already been a Duke man.”
What about LSU?
“They’ve got a coach,” Spurrier said, underscoring the fact that Les Miles hadn’t yet left for Michigan.
Maybe he knew something: In less than 24 hours, an angry Miles took the microphone before the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and announced that he was staying at LSU.
Once Miles made that announcement, one of the major dominoes in the Coaching Carousel was left in play, because his departure was expected to create a big ripple in the profession.
That leaves Michigan to go another direction in replacing Lloyd Carr.
Meanwhile, the rumor mill grinds in doubletime. Spurrier’s name continues to pop up on message boards about the jobs at Georgia Tech, Arkansas and, possibly Auburn should Tommy Tuberville decide to bolt.
I don’t see Spurrier making another move at this point, mainly because almost his entirely family – one daughter and two sons – is entrenched in Columbia.
“We’ve got some issues around here,” Spurrier said, “and two of them are that we were last in the league in rushing and last in defense.”
So it appears the Ol’ Ball Coach, at age 62, is coming back for another round or two.
“I’ve got some really good players here, and I think Stephen Garcia (quarterback from Tampa) is going to be fun to coach.”
Doesn’t sound like a man whose getting ready to pack up and leave.
Hey, remember this guy named Tim Tebow?
A serious case of short memory loss appears to have set in on some of the national TV media regarding Tim Tebow’s legitimacy as the Heisman Trophy.
We all know that the Heisman race is the Flavor-of-the-Week contest and when a player is idle, like Tebow and Darren McFadden are this week, he generally gets overshadowed.
Because Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel played in the Big 12 Championship Game Saturday night, he drew the spotlight and, with an outstanding performance against Oklahoma and a Tigers win, could vault himself into serious contention. He seemed to be the TV guys’ darling this week.
Although I would have to favor Tebow at this point with McFadden a close second, I’m leaving my ballot open to evaluate Daniel’s performance. And I only hope Tebow being a sophomore cost him a chance at the nation’s highest award.
Here are a few stats for comparison:
--2007 Tebow touchdowns accounted for, 51; McFadden career touchdowns accounted for, 49.
--Passing vs. Top 25 teams, Tebow 9 vs. 4 teams; McFadden and Daniel combined, 9 vs. 9 teams
--Tebow had 22 TDs rushing this season and McFadden had 15 – and no other college quarterback in history has scored more on the ground (Chance Harridge of Air Force also scored 22).
While Tebow was pulling off two of his best plays of the year – the 23-yard rumble through almost half the FSU team and a perfect corner route toss to Louis Murphy for a score – the rest of the country was watching Tennessee and Kentucky go into overtime. So if Tebow falls about three votes shy of the Heisman, Gator fans can thank CBS for its part in cutting away from the Gators-Seminoles game.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Some people wondered why Bobby Bowden only got a one-year extension – when you’re 78 years old, long-term, contracts are not of utmost importance.
2. Count me as a fan of the new look and nickname of the Rays (and won’t they have to have a night when all people named Ray get in free?)
3. Say, did I miss that much ballyhooed comeback of Ricky Williams? (It was so short.)
4. Brett Favre is playing so great this year he makes me want to buy a pair of Wranglers.
5. Could it be that Michigan just wasn’t willing to pay Les Miles as much as LSU was?
Lots of people (like Robby of Obees) are wondering why the Rays would want to build an outdoor stadium in St. Pete, unless they’re new to the area and haven’t heard about humidity and mosquitoes … No wonder Joe Paterno didn’t want his salary disclosed publicly – at $500,000, about 20 percent of the going rate for coaches of his stature, JoePa has been working for peanuts … I will not reveal that final ballot here because of confidentiality, except to say that I will most likely pick my Heisman threesome from these four players listed alphabetically: Chase Daniels of Missouri, Darren McFadden of Arkansas, Tim Tebow of Florida and Pat White of West Virginia.
Nothing But ‘Net
(with a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
2. Empty promises. Calculated betrayal. Sociopathic greed. Just another Monday.
3. Challenge authority. Just not now.
You cannot tell which way the train went by looking at the track.
Money is the root of all evil. For more information, send me $10.
And good morning …
…To Alexander Francis Gregory, our new grandson born three weeks ago in California – I just wanted to see how his name would look in print as a byline.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/ Florida-FSU Nov.24
Tebow won’t pose, but looks very ‘Heisman’
GAINESVILLE – As the curtain came down on “The Season That Might Have Been” for the Florida Gators, Tim Tebow took one more bow, front and center. The stage belonged to him.
The crowd was chanting, “Tebow…Heisman! Tebow…Heisman!” as the clock wound down on stellar his five-touchdown night which sealed the fourth straight victory over Florida State. It was a 45-12 domination of the once-proud Seminoles which Bobby Bowden called his “worst ever” beating.
Tebow scored the five touchdowns like he was on a mission. Linebacker Geno Hayes made the mistake of talking trash to No. 15 – “some things you wouldn’t want your mother to hear,” according to the Florida quarterback.
Hayes declared during the week, “Tim Tebow is going down …That’s our plan, go out there and shatter his dream for the Heisman.”
Payback was a brilliant 23-yard dash by Tebow, under one Florida State player, then through four more Seminoles at the 5-yard line. All that was missing was the Heisman mimic.
Senior Andre Caldwell actually tried to goad Tebow into striking that famed pose while the Gators were killing the clock, but Tebow declined. He didn’t need to pose, because he looked very much like the 73rd Heisman winner.
He did take a victory lap after the game, however, which is his customary way of saying thanks to “The Gator Nation.” This time he took a couple of seniors with him.
They should have rolled the season’s credits behind Tebow: 51 touchdowns, 29 of them passing and 22 rushing, in his first year as a starter in the Southeastern Conference.
With three touchdowns passes and two rushing, Tebow also tacked on 351 yards of total offense which pushed him to 3,960 for the season.
Staggering numbers – maybe enough for to make him the first sophomore to ever win college football’s highest individual honor, the Heisman Trophy.
Equally as impressive on the second TD was the looping corner route toss he laid on a dime to receiver Louis Murphy – right on the money, if you will – for a 32-yard score.
Was it enough to keep Tebow as the leader in the clubhouse for the Heisman Trophy to be awarded in two weeks? He needed a big game to match the exploits of Arkansas running back Darren McFadden after a big showing in the upset of LSU Friday – and he got it.
“If he doesn’t win the Heisman, it’s because of that sophomore thing,” Bowden predicted. “But he might win the next two.”
Urban Meyer didn’t choose to say much about the Heisman, but praised Tebow and said he was proud of the effort of his team. He said the 9-3 record was satisfactory, given some of the problems on and off the field earlier this year. “It was awful around here for three or four games,” said Meyer.
There will be no trip to Atlanta to compete for the SEC, no defense of the national championship – no titles, except perhaps that of College Football’s Best Player.
Urban Meyer did manage to win his 31st game in his third season at Florida and collect his 70th game as a head coach. The 9-3 finish put the Gators in contention for a Top Ten position, plus a January 1st bowl game. And with 49 underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) this season, Meyer banking on 2008 as a year to compete for those titles again. And maybe with the 2007 Heisman winner as his starting quarterback.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Alabama coach Nick Saban compared losing to Mississippi state and Louisiana-Monroe to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, but he apparently he forgot about World Wars I, aids and The Holocaust.
2. Out of curiosity, how do these pundits downgrade Tim Tebow for playing on a three-loss team, but have no problem with Darren McFadden’s team having lost four?
3. Here’s how my Heisman ballot would read if I voted today: Tim Tebow, Florida; 2. Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 3. And a player to be named after the Big 12 Championship.
4. See, winning these national championships isn’t so difficult for Billy Donovan, but beating FSU in basketball is yet another story.
5. Sounds weird to say it, but the new coach at Nebraska will be challenged by the task of getting the Cornhusker program up to the level of … Kansas and Missouri?
It’s gotta be Sylvester Croom for SEC Coach of the Year, whose Mississippi Staters beat Ole Miss to go 7-5 and gain a bowl berth … Memo to Lee Corso and some of those others ESPN “experts:” When you steal stuff from newspapers and use it on the air, at least give credit … It was Senior Day at “The Swamp” as Urban Meyer said goodbye to 14 players, but only two rated a full bear hug from their head coach: Tony Joiner and Andre Caldwell … Before the game, Meyer gave back the captaincy stripe to Joiner he had taken away earlier this year for his brush with the law... Those seniors left with a 24-3 record at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The Nutt Job Is it possible to beat the nation’s No. 1 team one week and lose your job the next? Well, yes, and that’s probably going to happen to Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, whose team lost four games this season. Ever since Frank Broyles retired as AD Nutt’s job has been in jeopardy. We might say he’s been Livin’ on Fayetteville Time.
Heisman Trophy Quiz
1. What was the hometown of the trophy’s namesake, John Heisman?
2. What school has won the most Heismans? 3. Who was the model for the bronze statue?
Nothing But ‘Net
(with a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
The shortest sentence is “I am.” The longest is “I do.”
I’m busy. You’re ugly. Have a nice day.
If money is the root of all evil, why do all churches ask for it?
Things that don’t
last very long
A long time ago, a philosopher of sport told me there were two things that are short-lived: 1. Dogs that chase cars; 2. Professional golfers who have to make four-foot putts to save par.
And now we can add to that: Football coaches who push their luck and have to keep relying on fourth-down plays to win football games.
Les Miles’ luck finally ran out of fourth downs, with LSU losing in triple overtime to Arkansas after a failed two-point conversion.
ESPN’s Jim Donnan, a country music fan, called it “Livin’ On Tulsa Time.” Methinks it was more like “Livin’ on Borrowed Time.”
Heisman Quiz Answers
1. Cleveland, Ohio.
2. Notre Dame, Ohio State and Southern Cal with seven each.
3. Ed Smith of the now defunct New York University team (1934).
Notre Dame Jokes: Part II
Q: Why doesn't Fort Wayne have a Division 1 football team? A: Because then South Bend would want one.
Old age is when former classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald, they don't recognize you.
Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home and, when he grows up,
he'll never be able to merge his car onto the freeway.
And good morning... …All you Tim Tebow fans. Looks like he did enough to win it.
Buddy Martin Thanksgiving Column
A different kind of 'Thanksgiving' This week marks maybe my favorite holiday of the year because it’s more about family and feast and less about commercial giving. We don’t have to shop for anything, except groceries. And we all come together to give thanks for all that we have. I took a look at the word “Thanksgiving” recently and saw another dimension. The words “Thanks” in this context implies the showing of prayerful gratitude toward God for His blessings and bountiful provisions, followed by a table groaning with delicious food. That’s certainly the appropriate way to embrace this holiday. Most of us will invoke that tradition on Thursday, feasting on sumptuous turkey and dressing, cranberry, pies, etc., topped off by a heavy serving of football. I’d like to add another twist to my Thanksgiving this year. I’d like to say “thanks” as in “thank you” to people to whom I am long overdue in showing my appreciation — people who have made a significant difference in my life. People like Tommy Herren, whose mom gave me his handme-down clothes, including his Cub Scouts uniform with leggings which allowed me to win the “Best Dressed Cub” at the Pot Luck Supper. Before that I had been embarrassed to be the only Cub wearing shorts. To people like Jimmy Stellogeannis, who took the time to teach me how to throw a football and baseball, opening up a whole new world of competitive sports. And to pull my cap down over my eyes and look sternly at the batter to let him know I wasn’t intimidated. To Jimmy Curry’s dad, Strick, who stopped by my house every morning in grade school to give me a ride in his green truck, even though he usually had to blow the horn twice because I was often late. And to Ed Monarchik's dad, John, who provided me transportation in the family's green-and-white Buick during the early high school years. To Don Cobb, who not only coached us in several sports, but chaperoned the Wednesday night dances at the auditorium and kept the youth center open late at nights for the after-hours doubles ping-pong death matches. To Prof. Hugh Cunningham, who taught me the deeper meaning of journalism as a calling and not as a job; whose encouraging words bolstered a bruised ego and raised a sagging confidence. To John Gipson, who rented us his duplex in Nashville and then stayed up late nights to await my arrival from work so that he could share his stories of faith. To Bernard Watts, who took a chance on a journalism student who had dropped out of school for a semester and gave him his first job, probably only because Watts was a former sports editor and remembered him from playing football. To Jim Head, who gave me a job and a column and the benefit of his wisdom about big time newspapering which he brought to the job from the bright lights of big cities.
To the Miami Herald's Edwin Pope, whose brilliant writing inspired me at an early age to become a sports columnist and motivated me to try harder (still does). Those are just some of the people in my early years which, through random acts of kindness, enriched or enlarged my life through their generosity. There were many others to whom I am indebted, not the least of which are family members and close friends. It is a time like this, as we pause and reflect, that we come to realize it’s not so much a case of what we “earned” in our lives, or have the right to claim as a result of our intelligence or strong work ethic, as it is a case of people gifting us with opportunity. There should be plenty of thanks to go around for everybody Thursday.These are just a few of mine. So pass the turkey and dressing, cranberry and pie -- and then football -- and let's start emphasizing the "Thanks" in Thanksgiving.
Buddy Martin column Florida-FAU Nov.17
To celebrate or not – that was the question
GAINESVILLE-- It was a bittersweet day for the Florida Gators, filled with triumphant moments of personal achievement, buffeted by a convincing team victory for the season’s eighth victory and, yet, weighted with the disappointment of SEC elimination. There will be no trip to Atlanta for defense of their conference championship, as Georgia closed the back door with a win over Kentucky and now must wait to see if Tennessee can win over the Wildcats next week for the Vols clinch. So there wasn’t much celebrating around here after Florida’s 59-20 drubbing of Florida Atlantic, but there was special recognition for senior Andre ( Bubba) Caldwell’s breaking of the reception record. Caldwell hauled in a career-high 13 catches to break the career mark of Carlos Alvarez (172) by five, also enjoying single game high of 167 yards receiving. Alvarez was on the sideline for the special occasion, even cheering for the senior from Tampa Jefferson to break his single game mark of 15 catches set in 1969. After his record-breaking ninth just before the half, a 10-yard screen pass just in front of the Gator bench, the two Gator receivers chatted about the moment. “We had a little laugh, because I said, ‘you know, Bubba, you can break the single game record,’” Alvarez said. “He looked at me and said, ‘how many is that?’ And I said, ‘fifteen.’ “And he said, ‘I’ll give it a try.’” Caldwell fell two shy, in part because he dropped one and another was called back. But the reward from coming back to play his senior year was his name in the record book, with yet two games to fatten up those numbers. “It was a great moment,” said Alvarez. “I was really delighted for him. I was really glad to be here. I was right here when he made that catch on the sideline. What a beautiful catch and run. He really is a gifted receiver.” Coach Urban Meyer asked Alvarez to present Caldwell with the game ball in the locker room, which he did in what Meyer called “an emotional moment” for Carlos. “That tells you what kind of gentleman he is,” Meyer said of Alvarez. Caldwell said setting the record was special because of its heritage: “There have been some great receivers who have played here and to be on top of that category is means a lot for me.” Ordinarily, something as spectacular as Tim Tebow’s individual achievement would be enough for celebration. On Saturday, the sophomore southpaw pitched three more touchdown passes and ran for one, becoming the only man in college football history to run and pass for at least 20 in a single season. We’re talking national college football milestones here. This all came at time when Tebow is being considered the leader in the clubhouse for the Heisman Trophy, yet his coach not only declined to campaign for his quarterback, but was critical of his play. “Tim didn’t play his best game,” Meyer said. “I’ll be critical of Tim, because he needs a little critical analysis once in a while.” Tebow parroted his coach, calling it “not my best game,” even though he accounted for four touchdowns with a career high 25 completions for 338 yards passing. He also had 31 yards rushing, putting his total at 3,600 yards in offense for the season so far. Meyer’s criticism seems a little bit of an odd juxtaposition, what with Tebow being the Heisman front-runner and having added to his SEC records, breaking the mark for rushing touchdowns with his 20th and tossing three more for a season total of 26. Tebow’s conference record for total touchdowns now stands at 46. With Oregon’s Dennis Dixon going down with a season-ending knee injury Thursday, Tebow moved into the pole position for the Heisman race. The Florida quarterback was watching the game when it happened and said he felt badly for Dixon and “I prayed for him.” He said he had no thoughts about the Heisman at that point and continues to put them aside as the Gators prepare for arch rival FSU this week. “This is probably the greatest rivalry we have,” said Tebow, who grew up as a rabid Gator fan. “My dad would probably say Georgia, but I’d say FSU.” Knowing Tebow, I almost believe him.
Quick Jump Starts 1. Appalachian State upsets Michigan, Stanford beats USC and now Louisiana-Monroe beats Alabama – yeah, 2007 is just another ordinary season in college football. 2. Boy, I can’t wait to see those Nielsen ratings on NBC for that Notre Dame-Duke blockbuster. 3. Here’s how my Heisman ballot would read if I voted today: Tim Tebow, Florida; 2. Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 3. Chase Daniel, Missouri. 4. Alex Rodriguez took the advice of billionaire Warren Buffett and went around agent Scott Boris to sign with the Yankees, which almost seems so logical that you wonder why other Boris clients haven’t come to their senses and done the same thing 5. This tells you all you know to need about the court of public opinion on Barry Bonds: Until last week, his rookie card sold for up to $2,500 – but now is expected to bring about $100.
Short Stuff Tebow would become the third Gator and seventh player from the state of Florida to haul in the Heisman hardware and if we spot you Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier, can you guess the other four? (See answer below) …There are only six players on the Florida Atlantic roster not from the state of Florida – and none of them are starters … Tebow says one reason he likes Caldwell as a receiver is that “he finds the windows in the defense” … Charlotte fans might remember Caldwell as the quarterback of the Tampa Jefferson team which defeated their Tarpons in the playoffs five years ago.
Nothing But ‘Net (with a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. Belly by beer. 2. Willing to sell out. Reasonable offers accepted. 3. Excess is never too much in moderation.
(Clipboard) Top Ten Reasons I Procrastinate 1.
Heisman Quiz Answer Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke of FSU, Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta of Miami.
Notre Dame Jokes: Part II Q: What do you call a Fighting Irish with a BCS Bowl ring? A: A thief.
Today’s Proverb It is never too late to be what you might have been.
Today’s Joke My weight is perfect for my height … which varies.
And good morning … … New York City. Get ready to be Tebow-ed!
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/ Florida-S.C. Nov.11
A not-so-Tiny Tim back in Heisman hunt
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Memo to the Heisman Committee: Hold off on the engraving of that trophy just a little longer.
Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon may be the leader in the clubhouse, but Florida’s Tim Tebow is back in the picture after a spectacular game Saturday night and is closing on the lead.
With star receiver/runner Percy Harvin left back home, Tebow chose a good night to pick up the slack – and then some – with one of his best performances of the year. The sophomore southpaw continued his assault on school and conference records as he moved closer to an astounding season in total offense that could approach 4,000 yards, breaking Danny Wuerffel’s touchdown record with seven total.
Tebow rolled up 424 yards total offense, with 120 yards rushing on a whopping 26 carries. He also completed 22 of 32 passes for 304 yards in Florida’s 51-31 thrashing of the Gamecocks.
It was a record-breadking performance for the former Nease High School star which put him in good company as he accounted for those seven touchdowns. He also equaled this year’s best one-game showing nationally with five rushing scores. That gave him 19 rushing for the season, which tied the Southeastern Conference single season high held by three others.
With 42 touchdowns rushing and passing, Tebow broke Wuerffel’s SEC record of 41 for most touchdowns.
Slicing up the embattled South Carolina defense more than 500 total team yards, Tebow passed and ran the Gators to their seventh victory of the season, keeping their hopes alive for the SEC East title.
Rumors were flying before kickoff about Harvin missing the game and possibly Tim Tebow having a hand injury. The latter proved to false, the former true.
Thus the possibilities that existed on the “What If?” Saturday of the Florida Gators began becoming unraveled on Friday when it was revealed that Harvin wouldn’t be making the trip due to some kind of sinus infection/migraine headache combination.
Right up to noon Saturday at the team hotel, teammates were hoping to see Harvin walk through the front door, but he just wasn’t able to make the trip. Didn’t happen.
Next came the chance for Florida to be tied for the SEC East by the end of the day if Tennessee and Georgia would have lost. The Vols demolished those hopes right off, harnessing the tandem of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in a 34-13 win.
The Gators didn’t get any help from Georgia either, as Auburn was unable to knock off the Bulldogs in Athens, losing 45-20.
That means in order for Florida to make it to Atlanta to defend its SEC title, Georgia must lose to Kentucky and Tennessee must lose to Vanderbilt. In any scenario involving a three-way tie, the Gators got the tie-breaker. That would put the Gators in a three-way tie.
The way things have gone this season, anything could happen.
Quick Jump Starts
1. If it’s true that the Florida Gators own the entire state of Ohio, then they’ve got to give the back 40 acres to their former coach, Ron Zook, whose Fighting Illini bounced the Buckeyes out of their No. 1 ranking Saturday.
2. This has to be a first: Nebraska allows 76 points in the loss to Kansas a week ago and scores 73 on Kansas State the following Saturday.
3. With Vanderbilt’s next victory, the SEC would then have no fewer than 11 teams in bowl games.
4. There must be some kind of wardrobe malfunction with college football, because I’ve seen more helmets pop off this season than in the entire four decades I’ve been covering the game.
5. I wasn’t writing sports when Fellix “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis played for Army in the 1940s – they both won the Heisman – but the idea that Arkansas’s Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are better than those two can only be held by those historical revisionists who think all legitimate records began with the founding of ESPN in 1980.
Short Stuff The streak of consecutive points after touchdown by Florida’s Joey Ijjas ended at 48 Saturday night when his second kick hit the upright … Let the coaching carousel begin: Guy Morris is out a Baylor, Dennis Franchione and BillCallahan appear to be on the way out and now there are strong rumors that Georgia Tech may dump Chan Gailey … For what it’s worth, Steve Spurrier says he respects the job being done by his former Gator quarterback, Jesse Palmer, on ESPN because “Jesse does his homework” … The last time the Gators wore all-white uniforms, which they did Saturday night, was two years ago when they lost to – ta da! – South Carolina.
Nothing But ‘Net (with a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Buddy’s E-Mail Bag
Dear Buddy: A couple years ago you mentioned interesting high school mascots in a column, and I sent you a note about the Cairo (Ga.) Syrupmakers. While in Atlanta for a ball game recently , I read an article entitled “What's in a Nickname”? Included in the (Journal-Constitution) article was a section on best mascots of an earlier time in Georgia. Here are my favorites:
Cornelia APPLEKNOCKERS, Lanier POETS, Dasher BIBLE DUCKS, Commercial TYPISTS and (my favorite) the Ocilla ORPHANS!
History has it that the children in Ocilla were so mean, that their parents routinely abandoned them, hence the name. Still, it makes me wonder if a stranger ever walked into a Georgia town on Friday night and asked, “Where are all your residents tonight?” Of course the answer would be, “They're all down at the stadium watching our boys beat the Orphans!”
Steve Rutherford Punta Gorda STEVE: How about the Port Charlotte Webs, Hardee Breakfasts and SarasotaCrackers?
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. I have a dog and I vote. 2. Just say NO to negativity. 3. Bring back the rotary phone, so we don't have to push 1 for English.
(Clipboard) Bye-Bye Can’t say I’m sorry to see the Old Orange Bowl go, though I’ve spent many a day or night there covering football games. I won’t forget seeing Super Bowl II and III there. My first Orange Bowl post-season game was as a spectator in 1963 as I watched Alabama blank Oklahoma, 17-0; after that I covered the first night Orange Bowl game ever played when Texas stopped Alabama, 21-17, as Joe Namath’s fourth-down quarterback sneak was stopped short by Tommy Nobis. To come back and see that same Namath beat the Baltimore Colts as Jets quarterback in maybe pro football’s all-time upset was of the highlights for sporting life. After the ways the Hurricanes played against Virginia Saturday night, they’ve got to be saying “good riddance.”
Notre Dame Jokes: Part I
Q: What do Fighting Irish and possums have in common? A: Both play dead at home and get killed on the road!
If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
And good morning …
… All youBuckeye fans. Now you have this in common with the Gator fans – neither will be back for another crack at the national championship.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/ Florida-Vandy Nov. 4
Nobody can slow down Percy – not even him
GAINESVILLE – Now if Percy Harvin can just learn to slow down. Sometimes he looks like he’s on Mach I fast forward when everybody is in slow-motion. To the Vanderbilt Commodores, at least, Florida’s flashy No. 1 was a blur on Saturday. And that was on a day when Harvin was trying to shift into low gear and await the opening of holes. Just a few weeks ago, it became a concern of Meyer and his offensive coaches that the Gators were getting one-dimensional because every play seemed to involve Tim Tebow and/or Harvin. So what did they do after losing three games in five weeks and winning only one game in October? They decided to give the ball to Percy even more, even using him as abetween-the-tackles runner. On Saturday, Harvin got 20 touches and produced 223 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first player in Gator football history to rush for (113) and receive (110) 100 yards in the same game. He averaged more than 11 yards per touch in Florida’s 49-22 homecoming victory over Vanderbilt. So much for the idea of sparing Percy Harvin. Harvin admitted that as a runner he sometimes outruns his blockers and has been coached to wait more patiently. It’s tough to hold back a thoroughbred. “A lot of times when you get in a zone, you feel like you can’t be stopped – and that’s how it felt today,” Harvin said. Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen once said Harvin “changes speeds like a sports car shifting into another gear” in the middle of his runs. Sometimes Mullen can’t help but stand by and admire the way Harvin slashes through a whole secondary or jets past defenders. Mullen says Harvin also puts on a show in practice “that makes you feel good because you know what you’re going to get on Saturday.” Tebow also finds himself not following through on his fakes because of rubbernecking to see The Percy Show after handing off.And he isn’t quite sure what words to use to describe the 5-11, 187-pound sophomore from Virgina Beach, Va., except that he is “naturally gifted to play football and God gave him the ability to make people miss that He didn’t give other people.” Urban Meyer calls Harvin “one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country – he’s strong, he’s powerful and he’s a heck of a football player.” Coaches know they must beware of the wear and tear on their best players. However, there’s no sign that Meyer is putting his star running back/wide receiver in moth balls anytime soon, or planning to rest him up. “I think you do get concerned – it’s the same with Tim, how many shots can a guy like Percy take?” Meyer said of his decision to Harvin more carries and receptions. “But pound for pound he’s as strong a player as we have on the team. I’ve talked to him about this and we’re going to ride this horse how. It’s down to one game. It’s November and we’re fighting for our lives in the SEC.” Part of the strategy in that “fight for our lives” philosophy is trying new wrinkles, like running Harvin between the tackles. The coaches also had to plug holes on defense because of injuries and decided to take backup freshman Mike Pouncey. Amazingly, in less than one week, 310-pound Gator true freshman Mike Pouncey of Lakeland made the switch from backup center to defensive tackle for the Florida coaches and his “high energy” was credited by Meyer with inspiring teammates around him Saturday. Meyer went to the hotel room of Pouncey Friday night for about 15 minutes and came away convinced that his young lineman was ready and so excited about playing that he told Meyer, “coach I’m not going to be able to sleep.” Well, that puts Pouncey in some good company, because there are at least three defensive staffs that won’t sleep much these next few weeks, trying to figure out how to contain the elusive Percy Harvin.
Quick Jump Starts 1. Almost lost in the shuffle because of so many other spotlight-stealing performances was Andre Caldwell’s best game since he was injured earlier this year – nine catches, 103 yards and two touchdowns. 2. When Tebow rushed for his second touchdown of the day and his 14th of the season, he tied a team record held by Emmitt Smith of Pensacola (1989) and the late Buford Long of Lake Wales/Wauchula (1952). 3. Don’t know what it meant, but Florida went to the locker room before kickoff, changed from white pains to blue, matching their jersey color, came out and played perhaps its best game of the season. 4. Meyer said several of the seniors came to him before the game to inquire about wearing the blue pants and after saying no, he recanted because “I’d set my hair on fire if it motivated” the players. 5. Yes, it was only Vanderbilt, but the best Vandy squad Meyer has faced and a Vandy squad that held Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks without a touchdown in the Commodores’ 17-6 victory.
Short Stuff The defensive coaches also came to Meyer and asked that they defer on the kickoff and take the field first, which Meyer agreed to do – and they responded with a defensive performance that “the entire Gator Nation has been waiting for, and so has the head coach” … Meyer thanked the former Gator captains for coming out to Friday nights Captain’s dinner and encouraged them to “help me get more of you back here next year” …One of the hits at the Friday night Gator Growl was a mime skit during which Tim Tebow’s “typical day”was depicted, directing rising from bed with a prayer, making pre-snap instructions, scrambling, passing, getting sacked and doing one-handed weight lifting… Gator kick returner Brandon James now leads the nation with seven kickoff returns of more than 50 yards, including two on Saturday.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. I never thought I’d miss Nixon. 2. Without geometry, life is pointless. 3. I'm schizophrenic and so am I.
(Clipboard) Tiger gets own Gatorade blend
Tiger Woods is now linked forever with the Florida Gators. Golf’s superstar will get his own brand of Gatorade, which just announced a new sports performance beverage called Gatorade Tiger. It will be available in three flavors selected by Woods – cherry blend, citrus blend and grape. Gatorade was first used on Oct. 2, 1965 when the Gator football team beat favored LSU in 102-degree heat. The drink was invented at the UF by Dr. Robert Cade and three others (Dana Shires, Jim Free and A.M. deQuesada).
Laws of Golf Your best round of golf will be followed almost immediately by your worst round ever. The probability of the latter increases with the number of people you tell about the former.
Today's Proverb Life is like a library owned by the author. In it are a few books which he wrote himself, but most of them were written for him. (Harry Emerson Fosdick)
Today’s Joke I planted a bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don’t know what to feed it.
And good morning … … to the old Head Ball Coach. Guess who’s coming to Columbia on Saturday.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/ Florida-Georgia
Georgia Bulldog ‘Bad Boys’ Storm into SEC contention
JACKSONVILLE – Georgia brought a nasty attitude into Jacksonville Municipal Stadium Saturday and the new Bad Boys of the SEC East translated that chip-on-the-shoulder attitude into a huge upset of the division-leading Florida Gators. Right off the bat they showed their nasty intentions when they cleared the bench and stormed the field to celebrate Georgia’s first touchdown – the first of three scores by running back Knowshown Moreno – with the apparent blessings of head coach Mark Richt. Yellow flags rained from the came October sky and the ‘Dawgs drew two 15-yard penalties which forced them to kick off from their 7.5-yard line. But the message was sent and Richt later said he told them if they didn’t get a celebration penalty after the first score “they would be doing morning runs.” Two weeks ago the Bulldogs stomped on the Vanderbilt logo and it made the Commodores so mad they upset South Carolina the next week. Anything the Florida Gator coaches or players say about their 42-30 loss to Georgia is almost irrelevant. Very simply, after 15 losses in 17 years, it was the Bulldogs’ turn to win. From the fans’ perspective, the 85 meeting of Florida and Georgia was an intriguing and exciting serve-and-volley game. Georgia took control in the second quarter and upped their 21-17 halftime to 28-24 halfway through the third period. Any shot the Gators had ended on fourth down and two at the Bulldog 25-yard line when Tebow handed off to Bubba Caldwell, who was supposed to reverse it to Percy Harvin – except Harvin got knocked aside by a Georgia defender. The ball went over to Georgia on downs and, with just under 12 minutes to play, so did the game. Moreno, a red-shirt tailback from Belford, N.J., gashed the Gator defense for a career high 188 yards rushing, which fueled Richt’s offense for a 413-yard offensive day. Meanwhile, Georgia’s defense put a choke hold on Tim Tebow, sacking him six times and holding to 236 yards passing and a minus-15 yards rushing. Tebow, who grew up in Jacksonville, was already suffering a severe shoulder bruise which limited his carries – “he wasn’t as mobile,” said coach Urban Meyer – but said he felt miserable after the loss. He choked back tears when he was asked how badly it felt to lose to a rival in his hometown. “It hurts a lot…” and then his words trailed off. One he regained his composure, the sophomore quarterback said: “It was a game we thought we could win. All the games are tough, but we thought we were in control of getting to Atlanta. We bounced back from the two losses and we were playing well. We thought it was a game we should have won. And anytime you lose to a rival, it’s tough.” It was the third conference loss for Florida, but its first Eastern Division defeat. And while the Gators are not yet mathematically eliminated from their SEC title hopes, at 5-3 they can kiss their dreams of a major BCS bowl game goodbye. Depending on the outcome of Saturday night’s Tennessee-South Carolina game, along with Georgia’s upcoming dates with Auburn and Kentucky, the Gators may still have a slim chance in the SEC – but only razor slim. Meanwhile, it pretty much puts a damper on any Heisman Trophy talk for Tebow and eliminates any miracle finish for a BCS Championship berth. There will be no repeat for the defending national champions. Meyer doesn’t buy that his team is out of the conference scramble because of all the craziness this season and assures himself and others “that some great things are ahead for the Florida Gators.” Perhaps next year, but what about this season? “We’ve five and three and we can still get some momentum and a lot of things can still happen in Florida football,” Meyer insisted. Indeed they can. Sometimes in the Florida-Georgia game the underdog Bulldogs win. And sometimes in bullfighting, the bull wins – but not too often. When that happens, there’s an awful lot of pain to go around.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Mark Richt was too good a football coach to be down very long and his strategy of telling his Georgia Bulldogs to “leave their hearts out on the field” worked splendidly against the Gators. 2. Richt even called on former Georgia coach Vince Dooley to speak to his team and, said the ‘Dawgs current coach “really blessed us.” 3. If Jacksonville is every going to be considered a big league city, something must be done to eliminate the parking maze which is one of the worst of any football game I’ve ever done and gets worse every year. 4. We should have known this crazy uprising of the have-nots was coming in college football for 2007 after Boise State’s mammoth upset of Oklahoma, followed by the season opener loss of Michigan to Appalachian State. 5. The pathetic performance of the Miami Dolphins may, instead of promoting the NFL, perhaps set it back 50 years after this weekend’s Miami-New York Giants game in London.
Short Stuff The reason arena formerly called AllTel is now called Jacksonville Memorial Stadium is that word of the new sponsor leaked out and the deal went south, leaving the City of Jacksonville and the Jaguars without the 50-50 split of $620,000 annually – although word of a new sponsor may come Monday … Ex-Gator quarterback Doug Johnson, who along with former UF coach Galen Hall was inducted into the Florida-Georgia game Hall of Fame over the weekend, says he was so certain he was going to stick with the Dolphins after a tryout with the Dolphins that he left his truck in Miami – and now has to go and retrieve it … I’ve never heard of a coach switching all three starting linebackers before kickoff, but that’s what Georgia’s Mark Richt did Saturday (although Mike linebacker (Dannell Ellerbee just moved over just moved to the Will linebacker spot) … Another first: Twice in the first half, double personal fouls were called and assessed on one play against Georgia …The 42 points scored by the Bulldogs were the most ever given up in a regulation game under Urban Meyer.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. I had amnesia once – or twice. 2. All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy. 3. They told me I was gullible and I believed them.
(Clipboard) He saw the 1928 Gators in action Over the weekend I visited a 96-year-old Florida grad and devout Gator fan in Ponte Vedra Beach who says “I’ve probably seen more Gator football games than anybody alive, because most of the others are gone.” Louie Badger had just checked out of the hospital and couldn’t help but feel better just because it’s Florida-Georgia weekend. He planned to watch the game on TV Saturday. Badger even remembers seeing the great 1928 Gator (8-1) team play the Bulldogs in Savannah. Of Clyde “Cannonball” Crabtree, the ambidextrous passer and star Gator quarterback, Badger says, “he could really pass the ball and Dale Van Sickel (end) was great at catching his passes.” Van Sickel, of course, was Florida’s first All-American.
Today’s Proverb The unexamined life is not worth living. (Socrates)
Today’s Joke The Florida Gator defense.
And good morning … … All you smug Gator fans out there who thought the Georgia Bulldogs were pushovers and have been lightweight competition over the past 85 games, just remember the boys in Red and Black still hold the upper hand in the series with 46 victories to 37, and two ties.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/ Florida-Kentucky
On ‘Struggling Saturday,’ guess who leads SEC East
LEXINGTON, Ky. – It was as though the Red Sea parted Saturday and the Florida Gators could suddenly see land on the other side. In reality, it was just another day in the life of Southeastern Conference football.
We’re going to have to wait a while and see if somebody emerges as Moses. However, it does feel a little bit like a tiny miracle that a two-loss team like Florida would suddenly have the upper hand in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division after back-to-back losses the two weeks prior.
While the Gators were in a track meet with the Kentucky Wildcats, handing the nation’s No. 7 team (BCS) their second SEC division loss, 45-37, Alabama was upsetting Tennessee and lowly Vanderbilt was knocking off South Carolina.
That is not a typographical error – yes, Vanderbilt! All of which at least puts Florida in the driver’s seat, if not on the banks of the Red Sea, ready to go.
Urban Meyer was coming off perhaps his two toughest weeks as a head coach, after several of his players had experienced brushes with the law and another was killed in a motorcycle accident – plus consecutive losses in the final seconds of both games. No wonder he was walking around the hotel lobby Friday night like a man with tunnel vision and a mission on his mind.
So you know Meyer was turning cartwheels about the win over Kentucky, given that he had been preaching “opportunity” to his players in the SEC chase. No doubt he was telling his team that if they won their remaining five games that they’ll be dancing in Atlanta for a chance to win another conference title. Bite your tongue, you infidel!
Urban Meyer’s song sounded more like Ray Charles – Georgia, Georgia, Georgia on his mind. He wouldn’t go for the candy.
“We look at those young guys in our locker room and if you’re worrying anything else but going to going to Jacksonville next week then you’re making a mistake,” Meyer responded. “Yes, it’s wide open. It was wide open last week. Who beat who? Just take care of your business. We’ve got a tough game and a great rivlary next week. And (we need) to enjoy this victory against a Top Ten team.”
This was a day of spectacular quarterback play by two guys who did nothing to hurt their chances for college football’s top honor.
If the Heisman Committee is still screening finalsts, it could have found two of them here at Commonwealth Stadium, as Florida’s Tim Tebow and Kentucky’s Andre Woodson rolled up a combined 50 first downs and 939 yards in total offense, nine touchdowns for a whopping 82 points.
They matched each other almost touchdown for touchdown. And the young left-handed sophomore was equal to his senior counterpart, as he used both his legs and arms to propel his team forward. Tebow, who passed for 256 yards and ran for 78, was also the beneficiary of a big game by senior Caldwell, who was returning to top form after an injury in the opening game against Troy. Caldwell caught 6 balls for 73 yards and ran twice for 20.
For most of the game, the Gators had a commanding lead, but were forced to play like they were behind. It may have seemed insane that they were clinging to a 38-31 lead with just over two minutes to play, needing only to kill the clock for the win. But Urban Meyer wanted more, so offensive coordinator Dan Mullen called a deep pass play. It was bold enough to make an offensive coordinator pucker up a bit.
“Coach Meyer said, ‘take a shot.’ I guess when the head coach says do it, there’s not much of a pucker factor,” said Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen. Especially after Tebow threw a strike to Percy Harvin at the Kentucky 2, whereupon the Gator quarterback ran it in for a touchdown for the eighth straight game.
Turns out it was needed. The spunky Wildcats went down to the final play, as Woodson tossed one up that was caught by Kennan Burton for his fifth touchdown pass of the day.
“We all heard the whistle and quit,” said Florida linebacker Dustin Doe. “It doesn’t matter what the final score is. All that matters is that we won.”
In the SEC, on “Struggling Saturday,” Mr. Dustin Doe was right on the money.
Quick Jump Starts
1. You don’t suppose we’ll be watching Kansas or Boston College – or both! – in the BCS Championship Game, do you? 2. There are no more gimmes in college football, especially in the SEC, where even the second-tier teams like Vandy, Mississippi State and Ole Miss can jump up and bite the Big Boys when they least suspect it. 3. The last time a Florida State-Miami game went this unnoticed, Richard Nixon was in the White House and the Vietnam War was going on. 4. What is there about Manny Ramirez – “if the Red Sox lose it’s not the end of the world” – that reminds me of Ricky Williams? 5. It was more than a fair offer from the Yankees that Joe Torre turned down, but I think Torre looked tired and for the first time since I met him 30 years, he appears to be feeling his age (67).
Short Stuff Maybe you didn’t care that the extra point wasn’t kicked after the touchdown by Kentucky at the gun in Florida’s 45-37 victory, but the guys in Las Vegas and those gambles who took Kentucky and 7 certainly did … NCAA rules say if it’s not a “meaningful” extra point that would decide the outcome of the game, then it’s not kicked … There’s apparently a reason Urban Meyer is 9-1 after open dates and 22-2 after a week or more between games … Percy Harvin shot through the Wildcat defense so fast on his 24-yard touchdown run that “he looked like a sports car shifting gears,” says UF Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. Silence is golden; duct tape is silver.
2. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. 3. Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. (Century 21, Charlotte Harbor)
(Clipboard) Remembering ‘Sunshine’ There’s an old saying, a well-worn piece of mythology, that football in the South is more important than like itself. As the young Florida Gator football team found out, that is nothing but a myth. The death of red-shirt freshman Michael Guilford and a female companion in a motorcycle crash eight days ago shook the Gator football team right down to its cleats. Though not a scholarship player, the defensive back with the long-flowing reddish blond hair and the smile that earned him the nickname “Sunshine,” was popular and the impact of his death will be felt one of two ways: Either the trauma of it will rip the heart out of the team, or it will respond in a resolve befitting of a memorial him. I have a feeling it will be the latter. On Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium, a moment of silence honored his memory. How ironic that would be the only time Michael Guilford’s name was called out on the public address system in a college football game.
Punderful 1. The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground. 2. In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes. 3. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.
Today’s Proverb Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn't have to experience it.
And good morning …
… to all you South Carolina fans who felt the sting of Vanderbilt, but you can blame those Georgia Bulldogs for jumping on the Commodores’ school logo last week and getting them all ticked off.
Buddy Martin Column/Oct. 4, 2007
Anymore Tigers in Gators' future?
There are bad losses and good losses. Urban Meyer is banking on the two his team has suffered as being the latter.
Thankfully, there are no more teams on the Florida schedule with the nickname “Tigers.” Unless, of course, Florida would get to the SEC championship game and play Auburn or LSU again.
With one minor exception, the Florida Gators are right where they were expected to be halfway through the 2007 season. That exception was the hiccup against Auburn. Almost nobody expected them to beat LSU.
Even in the final five minutes of the game, the Gators had what they wanted against Auburn: The ball in their hands near midfield with the score tied and five minutes to play. Because of a bad choice of plays and even poorer execution, the Gators found themselves looking at a third-and-16, which they didn’t covert. Next the punter shanked one 25 yards and Auburn took over, finishing off the job with the winning field goal.
For one play shy of three quarters, Florida played its best football of the year in Baton Rouge. The fumble by Kestahn Moore stalled a promising drive at mid-field at a time when the Gators were leading 24-14 and were about to put the dagger in the hearts of their opponent. Until then, Florida had been near flawless.
There were two other subsequent events that precluded Florida from notching one of its greatest victories in school history: An interception of a Tim Tebow pass that bounced off the helmet of Cornelius Ingram and then an eight-minute drive by LSU for the winning TD.
There has been lots of discussion on message boards and talk radio this past week about Meyer’s handling his time outs during the final minutes of the LSU game. Critics say he shouldn’t have waited until 1:14 to play in order to conserve more time for Tebow to go to work after the Tigers scored.
Meyer’s response was that the time outs were called “about the right time.” He told the Daytona Beach Quarterback Club, “I wanted to save as many time outs as I could because I thought it’d come down to a two-minute drill.”
I had another thought about the clock usage: Maybe on the fourth down and 1 ½ at the Gator 6 ½ when LSU made at the fifth conversion of fourth downs Meyer would have considered a challenge. From the press box level, both Pat Forde of ESPN.com and myself thought Jacob Hester was short after he was hit by Ryan Stamper. So did the CBS announce crew, as well as Sun Network’s Nat Moore and David Steele.
“He didn’t get it,” exclaimed Moore on the Sun Network broadcast, as Stamper wrestled Jacob Hester to the ground on what looked like about a one-yard gain. “If they give him this, the Gators ought to challenge.”
Precisely my thought. In the heat of the moment, watching live, without benefit of a clear replay, you go by instincts. Looking through my binoculars at the body language of Hester, it looked and felt like he came up short. And if he was, the game was going to be won by Florida. But it was not.
“First down LSU!” said Steele. “Unbelievable!”
“It didn’t look like he got it,” added Moore. “Boy, he got a good spot.”
I have since watched that play a dozen times on replay and still can’t conclude if it was the right call. So my question is this: With so much riding on the outcome of that spot, why didn’t Meyer choose to challenge it?
Not being up to speed on the college rules for replay challenge, I asked Urban that question in the post-game press conference. He said he felt the replay booth would “buzz down” if there had been a question and that he didn’t want to risk losing a time out.
Turns out Meyer was correct. A few days ago I spoke to an SEC official who had not seen the play, but spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“I was working another game, but based on what you are telling me, Coach Meyer was exactly right. You can bet that spot was looked at very carefully. We look at all those several times. And we also tell coaches not to take the chance and risk a timeout unless they are convinced it was a wrong call.”
Meyer could not be sure.
The official went on to say that all spots late in the game are closely scrutinized and even though the public doesn’t know it, the officials on the field are “coached up” from the booth.
“On the sidelines there is what we call the ‘eighth official,’” said my source. “If the replay booth sees the spot is off, he will buzz him and he will get the word to the on-the-field officials that the ball needs to be moved up or back a few inches. We absolutely review everything.”
We’ll never know for sure if Hester’s knee touched down before he stretched out to place the ball at the 5, but there is no video evidence to prove it one way or another. But I’ll go to my grave feeling that my instincts say he was short.
--After getting caught up in the massive pre-game crowd just prior to LSU’s Tiger Walk and nearly getting pinned against the stadium in sultry, 90-degree weather, I’m convinced the best place sports writers can be is in the press box, which I eventually reached by taking a short-cut through the LSU locker room. I’ve never seen so many people in and around and arena of any football game as I did in Baton Rouge.
--For a guy who just lost back-to-back games and was beaten by the same coach twice on successive weekends for the first time in his head coaching career, Meyer was highly optimistic about the future of his 4-2 team.
--Tim Tebow has thrown three interceptions this season – all three the result of a receiver running the wrong route.
--The turnover giveth, the turnover taketh away. LSU beat the Gators on a fumble by Moore and the interception of an errant Tebow pass off Cornelius Ingram’s helmet. In 2006, LSU marched all the way to the Gators’ 1-yard-line, only to have JaMarcus Russell’s fumble recovered by Brandon Siler.
--This is just a guess, but I’ve got a feeling Tony Joiner will earn his captain’s stripe back before the season is over – maybe, say, before the South Carolina game?
Buddy Martin Column/LSU-Florida
Meyer thinks he may have found answers
BATON ROUGE, La. – The Florida Gators have been living at Heartbreak Hotel these past two weeks. First a 20-17 home loss to Auburn, then Saturday night they had the big one on the line and let it get away from them.
The Gators had the nation’s No. 1 team on the hook, up by 10 points on the LSU Tigers in the second half Saturday night, only to commit two costly turnovers and lose, 28-24.
It came down to a matter of inches. With under two minutes to play and leading 24-21, Florida stopped LSU running back Jacob Hester on what appeared to be a fourth down, but he apparently lunged forward just enough to get the nose of the ball to the sticks for the first.
As the clock ticked down on a long drive that lasted eight minutes and 11 seconds, the Tigers got three more cracks and finally Hester punched it in for the winning score1:09 to go ahead. Even then the touchdown play had to be reviewed to be confirmed as a score.
That’s how it went for the Gators most of the night, a night when Florida got the better of their SEC West opponent until the two turnovers in the final 15:10.
This football season is getting more difficult to understand than Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, with the nation’s Top Ten teams goingup and down every week like an Empire State Building elevator. Sometimes those teams dodge the bullets, as LSU did against Florida, and sometimes they take a direct hit, as Southern Cal did from lowly Stanford.
It leaves football coaches scratching their heads and looking for reasons for a lack of consistency. The good news for Meyer, after two excruciating losses to SEC opponents, is that he thinks he’s found his answers.
Meet Urban Meyer,philosopher and football coach.
For two weeks in a row, Florida’s coach has dug deep in analyzing reasons why his fuzzy-faced Gators have come up short in close games.
Last week they took what Meyer called “a frontal assault” in the loss to Auburn on a field goal by Wes Bynum as the gun sounded and challenged his players to find their souls after the 20-17 defeat.
After a second straight loss on an LSU touchdown with 69 seconds left, there was nothing to do but “feel the sting” of defeat. That’s what Meyer told his team following Saturday night’s 28-24 loss, after his Florida Gators took the No. 1 team to the mat and couldn’t keep their opponent pinned.
These were particularly bitter pills to swallow, given that both games were so close and so win-able. After rallying from a 14-0 deficit, the Gators had possession of the ball with five minutes left against Auburn and couldn’t convert a scoring drive. And against LSU, they dominated the nation’s No. 1 defense, only to have their hopes destroyed by two second half turnovers.
Painful as it was, Meyer found a silver lining.
“I made a comment about the soul of a man and found out we have some pretty good men on our football team with strong souls,” Meyer said in this post-game press conference Saturday night.
Remember, it was two years ago in his first season that Meyer even shed tears after losing to LSU. This time he was composed and emphatic about the fact that his team wasn’t out of the conference race. The tears he cried were inside.
“Every team in the (SEC) East has at least one loss and some have two,” said Meyer. He said he felt his team wasn’t out of the race.
And he even went a step further, saying that his team was better than it was earlier in the season and that it would use the open date to improve.
"The future of Florida football is terrific, it really is," he said. "I guarantee we'll be back. The Florida Gators will be back. Smokin'."
It just doesn’t feel that way right now.
The Gators are playing at a high level, but not getting much return for their efforts. It seems that they are losing the battles of inches and, as a result, it is costing them miles.
Every time LSU needed a first down – even if it was on fourth – the Tigers seemed to come up with it. Five times they almost stopped LSU and five times the Tigers converted fourth downs, the final one the most critical.
I’m not so sure LSU didn’t benefit from the referee’s generosity on the last one.
With just over two minutes to play and Florida ahead 24-21, LSU had fourth and one at the Gator seven when Hester took the handoff and appeared to be stopped short. Had that been the case, the game was over. The official, however, seemed to give the Tigers somewhat of a generous spot – enough so that Dan Mullen remarked over the headset to Meyer that it looked suspicious.
The chain gain measured it as a first down by perhaps an inch. I asked Meyer if he thought of challenging the spot, but he said he thought they were supposed to “buzz it in from upstairs” on a call by the replay booth. There was no buzz, no call and no challenge.
Maybe it was a bad spot, maybe not, because it’s tough to tell without the benefit of the replay. Yet the officials did replay Jacob Hester’s winning touchdown when it didn’t even look close.
This was just another night of coming out on the wrong end of the close calls. Yet the Gators played some of the best football they have ever played under Meyer – so much so that the opposing coach heaped praise on them.
“I thought Florida was as talented a football team as we have played in my time here,” said LSU’s Les Miles. “Their receiving corps was big, strong and fast. Their running backs and Tebow played well.”
Indeed “their running backs” was actually Kestahn Moore, who ran harder in picking up 79 yards that he probably ever has run as a Gator. Too bad that on his best night he had to cough up the football with his team ahead 24-10 and moving with momentum at midfield. Although it didn’t result in any points when LSU missed the field goal, the fumble may have precluded the Gators from scoring and putting the game away.
Tebow was his spectacular self, especially on his 9-yard touchdown scramble. His one major miscue was throwing a fourth quarter interception.Although it goes in the records as a pick, the ball actually bounded off the helmet of Cornelius Ingram and caromed backwards into the hands of Darry Beckwith. It wasn’t even thrown to Ingram, however, because Tebow intended the ball to be for Bubba Caldwell.
One more bounce of the ball, or flip of the coin, gone bad for Urban Meyer’s team. It takes luck to win a national championship and it appears that after winning all the close ones last year, the Florida Gators are running out of four-leaf clovers and horse shoes.
Tebow saw it as a case of playing well, but not finishing strong.
“We came out here and we played, in my opinion, the No. 1 team in the country,” said Tebow. “We played ‘em, we should have beat ‘em. We played well and if we play four quarters, we know we can beat anybody. So that’s what we have to take from it. This team’s young and we can get better. The sky’s the limit and we just have to keep improving. We can’t have lapses, because we’ve lost two in a row now. We’ve just got to bounce back and play.”
So it’s back to the drawing board – don’t you always wonder where they put that proverbial “drawing board”? – for the 4-2 Gators, who have two weeks before going on the road to Kentucky.
But how do you coach a team to be luckier? Buddy Martin Column: Fla-Aub
Auburn’s back on the Gators’ rivalry radar
GAINESVILLE – There was a bad moon rising, full of upsets, and the Florida Gators were not going to be the exception on “Upset Saturday.”
Even though they say they didn’t take Auburn lightly, Urban Meyer’s Gators must have had something else on their minds the way they played for nearly three quarters — and whether or not it was true, it appeared they could have been peeking around the corner at LSU next Saturday.
The Auburn Tigers, beaten by South Florida and lightly regarded Mississippi State, set out to earn some respect in “The Swamp.”
The way they were ripping through the Gator defense for 192 yards in the first two quarters, they looked more like the nation’s No. 3 ranked team then the impersonators in orange and blue. And the Auburn defense stonewalled the Florida offense in the first quarter, allowing just 16 yards.
At stake for Florida was a perfect 4-0 start, an 11-game winning streak, 18 straight victories at home and, of course, an SEC loss (even though Auburn is in the West). Urban Meyer had never lost in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Meanwhile, the once powerful Gator offense that had rolled up an average of more than 500 yards the first four games could only muster 131 yards the first 30 minutes. Auburn went to the locker room at the half with a 14-0 lead, marking the first time since 1992 that a Gator team had been shut out in the first two quarters.
Auburn is a forgotten enemy, a rival that once ranked right up there with Florida State and Georgia – and ahead of Tennessee. The only team to beat the Gators in their national championship season. A team that knocked off Steve Spurrier’s No. 1 team at “The Swamp” in 1994.
There was certainly incentive enough for revenge, but it was the Tigers who looked more like they were playing in a grudge match.
It wasn’t until freshman safety Major Wright whacked Auburn tailback Ben Tate, causing a fumble that teammate Joe Haden recovered, that Florida began to play with some life.
On the ninth play of a 38-yard drive, Tim Tebow hit tight end Cornelius Ingram for the Gators’ first touchdown of the night, and that didn’t come until the fourth period.
That was the wake-up call Florida needed, because with 11 minutes to play in the game and 89 yards to go, these young Gators cranked up the most remarkable drive of the season. Tebow carried five times for 35 yards and hit on three passes for 48 yards, including a spectacular circus catch by Percy Harvin of 32 yards down to the Auburn 6, where in two plays Tebow plunged in for the score to tie the game at 17-all.
A remarkable comeback for Florida, but would it be enough? The Gators had what they wanted: The ball in their hands and, thanks to a kick interference call against the visitors, placement at the UF 42 with 4:49 to play. With a running game, they could have eaten up clock and negotiated better field position for a winning field goal.
Instead, Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen went for the screen pass to Percy Harvin, which backfired as the speedy sophomore tried to cut it back and lost a whopping six yards on the placed, creating a difficult second-and-16. The second mistake what Tebow checking off the call to an option, based on what he saw the Auburn defense was giving him. But the Tigers outfoxed Tebow and stuff Kestahn Moore (it was only his third carry for the night) for no gain. On the next play, third and 16, Tebow’s pass was incomplete.
“That (minus) six yards on the screen put us in the hole,” Urban Meyer would say.
And so the Gators had to do the unthinkable – with a tired defense, give the ball back to the visitors in “The Swamp” with too much time. It got worse when Chas Henry shanked the punt just 25 yards, giving Auburn the ball at its own. The Tigers began grinding away behind the running of Tate as the clock wound down to under a half minute to play.
The answer was on the foot of Wes Byrum, a 6-1 true freshman from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, who had to kick the winning 43-yard field goal twice — a second time because Florida had called time out to freeze him just prior to the first one. Both he nailed, albeit the winning kick just inside the right upright.
And so unranked Auburn knocked off the Gators, 20-17, in perhaps the biggest of all the upsets on “Upset Saturday.”
These are the kinds of games that national champions find a way to win, as was the case when the Gators did things like blocking what would have been the winning South Carolina field goal. They are national champions with a target on their backs this year, however, and the sometimes the breaks don’t always go your way.
This young team has been forced to battle through some issues, such as the loss of veteran offensive tackle Phil Trautwein, plus other nagging injuries. Saturday night they even had a coach in sick bay.
The man who calls the offensive plays for the Florida Gators was on the operating table Friday night, less than 24 hours before the kickoff of the game with Auburn. But even surgery couldn’t keep Dan Mullen down.
Offensive coordinator Mullen was rushed to Shands Hospital after complaining of severe abdominal pains late Friday night and, according to a UF spokesman, immediately underwent an appendectomy. By mid-day Saturday, Mullen was on his feet and attending meetings at the team hotel.
By kickoff Saturday night, Mullen was back in his familiar spot in the coaching booth, calling the plays that he and Urban Meyer had designed for the 4-0 Gators in their third SEC game of the season. Although he couldn’t walk downstairs for halftime, a visual-audio setup allowed Mullen to communicate to his fellow assistants. Meyer said the surgery didn’t impact Mullen and that “he called a fine game.”
Asked how he felt about the loss, Meyer said “I’m very disappointed. I’m not disappointed in the effort. I’m disappointed in losing. It sucks.”
Mostly, Meyer laid it at the feet of poor blocking in the offensive line, partly because of injuries and partly because of poor execution. Several linemen were dinged, notably guard Maurkice Pouncey, who suffered a shoulder stinger and had limited practice reps. “I don’t think it was the running backs (fault) – I don’t think we were blocking them.”
Where do the Gators go from here – besides Baton Rouge? Meyer summed up the defeat thusly: “I have a lot of confidence – I love our players, I love who they are. They are family took a frontal blow and we will see how they come through it. Some families kind of disintegrate and other families keep it going. That’s college football. It happens each week.These guys haven’t experienced that very much. There are some guys who haven’t experienced it that very much. There are some guys who are going to find out. So I talked to them about it. I love the guys, I really do.”
Clearly this team must dig itself out of a hole again to have a shot at competing for championships. The Gators are not alone in this quest, however. Five of the nation’s Top 10 teams lost Saturday – seven of the Top 13 and nine of the Top 25. Despite the loss, Florida remained in the AP Top Ten at No. 9. And if somehow they can pull off a win off no. 2 LSU at Baton Rouge Saturday night, they will be back in the hunt.
"When you get hit, you found out about the soul of a man and the soul of a team," Meyer said, offering the challenge to his players.
Auburn wasn’t one of those games on the schedule that Florida was expected to lose, plus the Tigers already had two losses, which is why the Gators went off as 18-point favorites. Somebody forgot to remind Meyer’s teams of its history, however.
Ever since Auburn and Florida stopped playing in a regular rotation in 2002 the folks from The Loveliest Village on the Plains had sort of dropped off the Florida rivalry radar. Well, guess what — they’re back on it today.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/Florida Gators-Ole Miss, Sept. 23, 2007
The Tebow-mobile chugs for record yardage
OXFORD, Miss. –Wake up the echoes from 1924 and tell the ghosts of Notre Dame’s Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley and Elmer Layden that Tim Tebow is ready to ride with them. College football may have found its fifth horseman.
The Florida Gators, in fact, rode their horse to a pound-it-out, hold-on-for-dear-life victory, 30-24, over stubborn Ole Miss on the back and legs of their 6-3, 235-pound sophomore quarterback. Tim Tebow ran the ball so many times that his head coach complained about the danger of him becoming a “crutch.”
Twenty-seven times No. 15 pounded the ball against the Rebel defense for record 166 yards, breaking a 40-year-old team mark by Larry Rentz of 109 yards. It was Tebow left, Tebow right, Tebow up the middle – he carried the ball 11 times in the final period, including seven on those times on the 61-yard drive for a field goal that gave Florida a little breathing room.
“We have to be very careful with using Tim too much,” said Meyer. “He’s a crutch. When things got tough, he’s the horse. He carried 27 times, which is far too much.”
Maybe Tebow was more like a pack mule, because out of Florida’s 79 plays, he either ran or passed the football 61 times. His Heisman-like total yardage was a spectacular 427. And had he not been trying to put the game away in the fourth quarter and kill the clock on the final Florida drive,s he may have cracked 500 yards.
The running-style of his left-handed phenom is old school. Tebow either tries to bowl over tacklers at the boundary, or takes the direct snap and patiently waits to see which way the blockers are flowing, then tippy-toes into the pile before thrusting his 235-pound body into the scrum, literally carrying tacklers with him. He makes coaches wonder about the myth of fragile quarterbacks. And yes, Meyer does worry about getting him hurt.
Tebow is a throwback, more like Bronco Nagurski or Jim Brown than Peyton Manning. He wants the ball. He wants to win the game. And he’s “always in my ear,” according to Meyer. As he was Saturday.
So on a day when he wasn’t passing his best and he was missing two of his key wide receivers (Andre Caldwell and Riley Cooper), Tebow resorted to his legs over his arm. The safe play Saturday was running Tebow. Meyer felt like his quarterback was “overstriding” on some of his throws and missed some deep receivers who were open. Had the Gators taken care of business in the second half and expanded on their 27-9 leadwith five minutes left to play in the third quarter, they wouldn’t have overloaded their pack mule.
Trouble is, the Gators couldn’t get out of their own way and kept allowing Ole Miss back in the game with sloppy play, such as the 14 penalties for 127 yards.
If he was tired, Tebow didn’t look or sound like it after the game. He said he really wasn’t aware of how many times he was carrying the ball and wasn’t sure if it was his own personal record, but he knew his team needed to drive the ball as had been doing all day and keep possession from a hot-handed Ole Miss quarterback, Seth Adams, who connected on a 77-yard scoring pass to Mike Wallace.
As Ole Miss closed the gap, there was a moment of truth for this young Gator team when some of that bad Mississippi karma came into play. Here in this Magnolia State, where Florida has lost three of its four games to either the Rebels or Mississippi State, past Gator teams have been known to come unravel. Could they make a big play on defense and stop the Rebels? Tony Joiner’s fourth-quarter interception answered that question.
Meyer knew that a case of the nerves was about to set in on his young team
“I kept telling Dan Mullen – let’s not make our defense go out there again,” said Meyer … Let your quarterback and your offensive line win the game and let your young secondary go sit on the bench.”
And so out came the human battering ram, The Tebow-mobile, ramming the ball for an average of 6.1 yards, including 18 carries in the second half.
“We just tried to get out of there with a victory,” said Tebow. “It was a four-quarter fight. I wasn’t really thinking about the number of carries.”
Or, as Meyer said, “I’m just anxious to get on the plane and get the hell out of here.”
The closeout came with the 12-play drive and a Joey Ijjas field goal. Then the fake punt by Justin Sparks and pass to Robert Lane which was stymied by the tackle of Jermaine Cunningham.
And, finally, the 7-play, clock-killer which ended with Tebow taking a knee for the victory.
Sort of an odd ending to a game with Tebow dropping to his knee – such passive maneuver for a human battering ram who had just broken a 40-year old rushing record.
Quick Jump Starts 1.Lost in all the hubbub about the close game and the spectacular play of Tim Tebow was the impressive first-half play of Percy Harvin, who caught nine passes for 104 yards and a touchdown and 11 for 121 yards over the four quarters. 2.Basically, LSU’s Les Miles out-Spurriered Steve Spurrier in the first half Saturday with a fake field goal and a backwards, no-look, over the shoulder flip by the holder to the would-be kicker for a touchdown. 3. To paraphrase the lead of an old New York sports writer about the choking Brooklyn Dodgers: “The tree that grows in Boston is an apple tree.” 4. All it takes is a trip to Corky’s Barbecue in Memphis and sampling of the roast pork sandwich with cole slaw, plus a little banana pudding, to understand why Elvis weighed 300 pounds. 5. Much as I despise the unethical way he eclipsed the home run mark, I still think the Giants owed him a little more notice of not inviting him back so that the fans could have said goodbye. Short Stuff When they asked Steve Spurrier if he’d best interested in the LSU job should Les Miles go to Michigan, the Ol’ Ball Coach just couldn’t resist a zinger: "This is my college job right here. I got a lot more to worry about than Les Miles going to Michigan. Tell LSU they had a shot at me back in 1986. I didn't even get a second interview back then"… If you don’t think Urban Meyer is concerned about the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, then consider this quote: “This hitting game five now and that’ll cost us a game; I’m busy doing other stuff, and I don’t see the quarterback getting hit.” He says he’ll meet with his defense line coach, Greg Mattison, next week to discuss the matter … Meyer admired Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron’s decision to for it on a fake punt and pass, even though the Rebels didn’t make it: “He’s going to try to win the game . I would have done the same thing.”
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. Body by Fisher, belly by beer
2. So life has a hill. Get over it.
3. You should slip into something comfortable, like your car, and leave.
Today’s Proverb If you are willing to admit faults, you have one less fault to admit.
And good morning … … All you PennState fans who are unhappy about the loss to Michigan, some of whom will starting that same only refrain that old JoeGrandpa is too old to be coaching
In life, it is good to quit smoking. It is acceptable to quit at politics. And, yes, apparently even not so bad these days to quit at marriage. But among the things where quitting is frowned upon is in the heat of sports competition and in fox holes. Derek Baldry has been in both.
Baldry never saw anybody quit in Afghanistan, where he served two tours of duty as an Army Ranger. And until last Saturday, Baldry had never seen anybody quit on the football field until a player from Tennessee pulled a “no mas.” On the 49th point, the Vol defender waived the white flag.
‘I don’t to rush this s--- anymore, I’m too f----g tired.” the unidentified player reportedly told Baldry about defending Florida’s extra point.
When the exhausted Vol begged off of the contact in the fourth quarter, the Gator tight end couldn’t wait to run off the field and tell strength and conditioning coach Mick Marotti.
It wasn’t about gloating or chiding the opponent. In Urban Meyer’s “Plan to Win,” the players begin pushing themselves in the off-season so they can be in tip-top shape. It is uppermost in their minds to win the fourth quarter -- and in doing so, finish off the opponent. They just don’t expect SEC players in big-time programs to give up.
Baldry, 25, is a 6-6, 269-pound walk-on senior from Gainesville High School and Santa Fe Community college who plays special teams as a blocker for field goals extra points. His story is one of courage and bravery and tenacity, carved out on the battlefields where he jumped out of planes and waded through ambushes with fellow Rangers.
Sometimes Baldry’s teammates didn’t survive. On one mission Baldry was heroic enough to be nominated for a Bronze star. He says this part was “overblown,” but he did decline the nomination because he felt he didn’t deserve it.Others on his team were wounded; he also said his commanding officer was new to combat and didn’t understand what it was like.
But it was there, in the hot, arid climate of this foreign soil, that Derek Baldry learned his first football moves.
“One of my really good friends over there (Jeff Meredith) was a huge LSU fan,” Baldry said. “So when we beat them in 2003 it was an awesome deal.”
In Afghanistan he began tossing a football around – “we ran the red routes” – with Meredith. In their training for the Rangers, they also sometimes emulated football-like conditioning. He had never played football before in his life, but his agility, size impressed friends so much they began encouraging him to try out for football one day.
He joined the Army before 9/11, arriving in Afghanistan Oct. 2001 and staying to January 2002. Then he returned on July 2003 and stayed through April of 2004. From there he returned home and finished community college in 18 months.
On Valentine’s Day 2006, he went out for the Gator team. Marotti told some of the coaches about his size and agility. They never really asked about his high school football experience until later, but Urban Meyer was impressed with his commitment to physical fitness. Finally, right before two-a-days practice in 2006, Baldry was awarded a scholarship. He soon learned that his conditioning and training as a Ranger was an asset.
Around the Florida locker rooms there are signs everywhere, pushing the athletes to the limit that he says “are competitive and almost comical.” Everywhere you turn there is another sign that says “4-6 seconds, go as hard as you can.”
The point is that “if you buy into it and work real hard, you can make guys quit if you try real hard,” said Baldry.
Right up to kickoff Saturday, Marroti was going around the locker room chanting, “you train for this s---. This is what we train for. They’re over their worrying about the heat.”
The heat, and the Gators, overwhelmed Phil Fulmer’s team.
Baldry was both amazed and elated that the enemy had been dominated morally, physically and on the scoreboard. This game of football is still relatively new to him, but having lived his live on the principles of his Army Ranger training, Baldry just expected his opponent to fight to the end. As a Ranger, Baldry was taught never to give up. He couldn’t fathom somebody rolling over on his teammates. “This guy was just giving up,” said Baldry, almost aghast at the thought.
“The whole week leading up to it, we were told the best conditioned team, mentally and physically, is going to win the game. They harped on this day after today, for five or six days – that preparation was everything and ‘we’re going to out-conditioned them.’ Coach Meyer brought up statistics of how Tennessee dominated us in the fourth quarter in previous games, but also provided examples of how we dominated the fourth quarter since he’s been coaching here.
“On the point after attempt, after the 48th point, one of the guys rushing, I guess, decided he didn’t want to go too hard. Instead of shooting through the gap, which is where he would have come through me, he kind of ran into me and kind of pulled up and said ‘whoa, whoa, whoa’ as if I were going to deliver a hit to him. Verbatim he said, ‘I don’t to rush this s--- anymore, I’m too f----g tired.’ That’s what he said.
“As he was saying ‘whoa, whoa, whoa,’ I thought the play had been whistle dead or a flag had been thrown or something. I didn’t understand what was going on. I kind of looked around real quick and I saw the refs with his arms up in the air, showing it was a good kick, and that’s when I tapped him on the head and ran off.”
Baldry isn’t sure of the player’s number, but believes it was a linebacker or safety. But when he came off the field, he couldn’t wait to tell Marotti and the other coaches and players what had transpired. Why?
“Because that was the culmination of everything we worked for. They had harped on us that we were the ones that decided when they quit and they didn’t have a choice. It was up to us when we were going to drive that stake home. Basically we did that. And to have it pan out was phenomenal.”
Marroti was pleased to hear Baldry’s news.
"We have a philosophy that the most invested and best-conditioned team wins the game,” said Florida’s strength and conditioning coach. “That investment has a lot to do with what happens in the off season. The way we prepare then translates into what happens during the course of a Saturday and our goal is to get stronger as the game goes on. When Derek came off the field and told me what happened, it was a credit to the approach our players take."
Baldry said that the Gators “beat them down for four quarters and they just gave up.”
As they say in the Army, “Mission Accomplished.”
Buddy Martin Column/Gator Country
Writers get paid to look ahead, and I see hope at Baton Rouge
Please forgive me, Urban, while I commit the mortal sin of looking ahead. But I’m going to have to get back to you later on the next game.
Sure, it’s Mississippi week, an SEC road game. And after that, Auburn at home. There are some injuries. In this wacky year, David is abusing Goliath with regularity. And we all know our history about Florida’s lack of success in the Magnolia State. But, hey, we are paid to stir the pot and so it’s our job to peek around the corner.
All you would-be coaches wearing the orange and blue glasses – turn your heads for a moment and plug up your ears. Here comes some heresy. And please don’t start preaching to me in coachspeak about taking them one at time.
It’s a long way until Oct. 6, but Florida looks very capable of beating the de facto No. 1 team in the nation. The Gators should be arrested for assault and battery, the way they hammered Tennessee. They match up well with the speed of LSU – it’s just a question of how fast this young can learn to win on the road in the land of Big Boy Football.
All we’ve heard is how spectacular LSU’s defense is – and yes, it’s that – but would they be that spectacular against the weaponry of Urban Meyer? And, in fact, how well will they do against Steve Spurrier’s offense on Saturday?
I’m not yet ready to concede that Florida’s trip to Baton Rouge is a Gator Death March.
The Tigers are not ranked first, but you wouldn’t know it. All week long the blabberheads have declared them the unofficial leaders of the pack – superior, even, to Southern Cal. Given the Trojans’ walkover in Lincoln, however, that trendy anointment could be over. But LSU is definitely the team d’ jour with the national media.
Meanwhile, in other anointment news, the blabberheads also have been sending LSU coach Les Miles packing for Ann Arbor.
Such praise can be poison. All Miles needs now is to have somebody prominent in the media say his quarterback, Matt Flynn, is the leader for the Heisman Trophy. Then LSU would have the triple whammy.
Urban must be loving this LSU Mutual Admiration Society and the Les Miles-for-President movement. Meanwhile, Meyer is holding Football 101 Classes for his Gator Kindergarten of 46 freshmen and sophomores – a group Dick Vitale would call his “Diaper Dandies.” And these Dandies are maturing right before Meyer’s eyes as they fly under the radar toward Baton Rouge and, after that, possibly Atlanta. They’re even growing beards.
“That team in there has grown some whiskers since three weeks ago,” said Meyer, then adding that he meant that figuratively and not literally. “There weren’t as many confused looks on young faces.” Some of the Dandies are reading to take off those diapers, but the learning curve can be scary.
While the raves went to the offense, it was the defense which drew the praise from Meyer.
The thought of a football coach looking out there at his secondary and seeing half the back field occupied by true freshman as they up against an experienced quarterback like Erik Ainge – as Meyer did with safety Major Wright and cornerback Joe Haden – is enough to keep you up nights and turn you to sleep aids. Meyer admitted he considered taking an Ambien the night before, but later said he was joking.
Turns out Haden and Wright gave him sweet dreams and appear ready for kindergarten graduation. “They had 19 plays and they made 18 of them,” said Meyer. They tackled like veterans. And they didn’t get beaten deep. Most of all, they look like playmakers, something the defense has lacked since the departure of Reggie Nelson.
Offense and special teams were a veritable bonanza, thanks to Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow and Brandon James. Those three produced a whopping 748 yards and six touchdowns on some of the most exciting, circus-like playmaking in these parts since the days of the Ol’ Ball Coach and even beyond.
Brandon James produced 193 yards in punt and kickoff yardage, setting the tone of the day with an 83-yarder on Britton Colquitt’s first effort and dept putting the Gator offense in envious field position with his returns.
Then there was this pass that Tebow threw which appeared it would be knocked down or intercepted, except that No. 1 turned on the afterburners and dove as the football bounced first off of the Vols’ DeAngelo Willingham and then Harvin’s face mask. While in mid-air, Harvin kept his concentration and came down with it. You don’t even see those plays at the NFL level.
Again, the numbers don’t do it justice. Harvin touched the ball 13 times, catching four passes for 120 yards, and rushed for 75, including that ballet-like move for the score.
This was “The Spread” at its best, the way Meyer designed it – with the concept that the highly skilled players needed to have more than a couple of touches in a game. I asked about the concept of that design and the distribution of touches.
“The best thing we’ve got going is that it’s a street fight for the ball,” said Meyer. “Every skilled athlete … you don’t come to Florida to stand on the sideline and watch others guy play. It’s getting so that at a place like Florida, you’re fighting for the ball starting on Tuesday and Wednesday – the touches. We’re experiencing that and that’s the way it should be.”
Some of the Tennessee writers inferred after the game that Meyer’s only advantage was having more playmakers – that he and Fulmer really weren’t all that much different in coaching skills. One of them finally did admit that the Vols’ defense “might be the worst since the days of Johnny Majors.”
Every week it seems to be inferred that the Florida Gators are lucky to have won 10 straight games and 18 consecutive home games. Earlier this year, they were downgraded by experts for having an inexperienced defense and a green quarterback. Or playing inferior opponents.
Life can be beautiful underneath the radar because you can see what’s ahead of you and who’s above you, too. So sleep well, Urban Meyer. Even though your Gators are No. 3 in both polls this week, they really don’t see you coming to Baton Rouge yet.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/Florida-Tennessee Sept. 16, 2007
Florida-Tennessee game was like Broadway: So many big plays
GAINESVILLE – The last time I saw this many big plays was on Broadway in New York City, and they were performed over a period of five years. When it comes to football games, however, I have haven’t seen many with the number of game-changing moments as Florida-Tennessee produced on Saturday.
Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators smacked down Tennessee Saturday, 59-20, in their first Southeastern Conference outing of the 2007 season in what surely become known as the “Blowout at the Blueout” for reasons to be named later. And America was introduced to three college football stars of the future – Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon James.
Those three produced a whopping 748 yards and six touchdowns on some of the most exciting, circus-like playmaking in these parts since the days of the Ol’ Ball Coach and even beyond.
Matter of fact, if some of the more venerable Gators fans will forgive the reference, this was like the days of Ray Graves’ “Super-Sophs” team in 1969 when John Reaves, Carlos Alvarez and Tommy Durrance roamed Florida Field before it was known as either “The Swamp” or Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, foraging the end zones.
Sophomores Tebow, James and Harvin were spectacular. The numbers don’t really tell the story of the drama or the superb execution.
The left-handed sophomore quarterback had a hand, or leg, in much of the 556 yards of Gator offense, including 299 yards passing for two scores and 67 yards rushing for two TDs. His offense averaged 8.6 yards a play.
Tebow laid the ball out beautifully for Riley Cooper on a 30-yard connection for Florida’s first offensive touchdown. He leaped through the air to score another one from eight yards. He made two completions on underhanded throws. He made another while falling down. From his own end zone, he lasered a perfect pass into Harvin’s hands for a 49-yard gain while his receiver was on a dead run. His accuracy was remarkable.
One more time: Can Tim Tebow pass? Yes. And can Tim Tebow measure up as a starting quarterback against SEC competition? Yes.
Then there is Percy Harvin, an athlete with so many gifts that he amazes his coach. “I’ve not had one like him before,” Meyer said of the playmaker his teammates call “electric.”
“He is a weapon. I think you witness one of the best players in college football in Percy Harvin.”
Harvin’s two plays were the most spectacular. Those two in particular will go down in his archive as keepers.
Get ready to see this one on Sports Center over and over and over, if you haven’t already. Harvin takes the reverse handoff from Tebow, jukes once, cuts once as he slices through two Vol defenders and, as he does a complete 360-degree pirouette, darts into the end zone for a 19-yard scoring run. Could you please play that back so we can be sure that we saw it, or was that Reggie Bush flying through the air?
Then there was this pass that Tebow threw which appeared it would over Harvin’s head, except that No. 1 turned on the afterburners and dove as the football bounced first off of the Vols’ DeAngelo Willingham and then Harvin’s face mask. While in mid-air, Harvin kept his concentration and came down with it.
Again, the numbers don’t do it justice. Harvin touched the ball 13 times, catching four passes for 120 yards, and rushed for 75, including that ballet-like move for the score.
“This offense is fun,” said Harvin. “Just throw it, catch it and run. We have so many playmakers on this team, you never know when somebody will break it open.”
Somebody did break it open on Florida’s first possession as little Brandon James, still trying to get back into his teammates’ and coaches’ good graces after a late-summer indiscretion that got him in trouble with the law, hauled in Britton Colquitt’s punt and raced 83 yards to put Florida ahead, 7-0. For the day, James had 193 yards in returns and kept his team in good field position.
“Brandon James dug himself out and continues to dig himself out,” Meyer said.
As for the “Blueout,” last week Meyer asked the fans to all wear blue attire and to boycott orange for a week since it’s also Tennessee color.
“This is a great night for Florida football,” said Meyer. “I took a look up there at all that blue – you can’t help yourself sometimes, you just have to look – and I’m thinking how lucky I am to be coaching here.”
Yes, and lucky to be coaching the likes of Tebow, Harvin and James, too.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Tim Tebow and Tony Joiner are roommates, but Tebow would like for his roomie to stop kissing him on the cheek in public places – like he did on national TV Saturday – or people will start to talk.
2. You’ve probably heard how many batteries it takes to beat Michigan, but it’s too good not to repeat: One double A.
3. Apparently Charley Weis brought the wrong kind to Ann Arbor, however.
4. Don’t you think they should invoke the 10-run rule for Tiger Woods today at East Lake in Atlanta?
5. Say what you will about Pete Carroll, but the “missing kicker formation” USC ran last week against Idaho in honor of the deceased Mario Danelo, who was found dead at the base of a 150-foot cliff earlier this year, and the 5-yard penalty he was willing to take on the play, offered us one of the most poignant moments ever in college football.
Among those in attendance at Saturday at “The Swamp” were former UF quarterback Chris Leak and ex-Viking and Ohio State receiver Cris Carter … It’ll probably get lost in all the offensive firepower by Florida, but the Arian Foster fumble picked up by Dustin Doe, who rambled 18 yards for a touchdown, was a huge play for the Gators, who at the time were leading only 28-20 … After scoring 167 points in their first three games, most ever by a Florida team to open the season, the Gators are averaging almost a point-a-minute: 55.6 per game … Tebow took a victory lap around Florida Field after the game, slapping the hands of the fans, sayinglater that “The Gator Nation” has been so supportive that “the least you can do is take one more lap.”
Nothing But ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s Cyberfriends) Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. Stable relationships are for horses. 2. The winner of the rat race is still a rat. 3. When life hands you gators, make Gatorade.
If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?
And good morning …
…Phil Fulmer. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about that cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/Florida Gators Opener/Sept. 1, 2007
Maybe these Gators are pretty good
GAINESVILLE – Perhaps Urban Meyer, his players and his coaches had just better shut their ears for now and quit reading the newspaper and Internet all together. Because it’s hard to keep this stuff secret.
The news is out: It’s time to start taking these Florida Gators more seriously. Maybe they really are, as the polls have indicated, the No. 3 (USA Today Coaches) and No. 4 (AP) team in the nation.
Yeah, I know it was only Troy they beat Saturday and Western Kentucky last week. They played with a split personality in the first and second halves Saturday night. Not so well in the second half, but so terrific in the first two quarters that they were up 49-7 and could coast in the final 30 minutes for a 59-31 victory.
It was impressive enough for losing Troy Coach Larry Blakeney to say, “From an offensive standpoint, they can repeat (as national champions) and beat anybody.”
Meyer said when he team came in at halftime, leading by 42, quite a few of the young players had “confused looks” on their faces and didn’t really seem to understand the mission in the second half of finishing the job. But he attributed that to the youth of his team and therefore stopped short of being critical.
Surprisingly, the fact that the Gator defense gave up 336 yards and 31 points didn’t really upset Meyer, who said his team “played great defense in the first half” and was particularly proud of two blocked punts.
“The big ones we’ve had against Tennessee and LSU and some of the big wins around here are because we played football like we did in the first half,” said Meyer.
Even the coach had to admit that his team’s offensive firepower was “exciting.”
We can only measure what’s in front of us, and in this season of Appalachian State giant-killers and Michigan tank jobs, coaches are learning to be grateful for every point, every touchdown, every win -- no matter by how small or how un-esteemed the opponent.
This is The Season of Uncertainty and there were some hearts fluttering Saturday night as the partial scores started trickling out of Knoxville and Athens. Between the hedges it was a tough place to be for Georgia fans, who once again saw their season hijacked by South Carolina’s Head Ball Coach.
So any win is a good win. Just consider how the Gators have responded to the “Appalachian States” on their schedule – no offense to the Mountaineers and their fans – so far.
Think about these stats:
In the first 5 ½ periods of play – remembering that the Western Kentucky game was cut 8-plus minutes short by lightning – the Gators outscored their opponents 98-10. The Florida offense scored seven touchdowns on 10 possessions. In their first seven drives Saturday against Troy, the Gators scored seven times. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 14 touchdowns in 17 tries.
That’s pretty good against the wind.
Now it’s time for Big Boy football.
“Officially this is SEC week,” Meyer said. “You’ll see us practice a little different tempo. My concern is lot of the young players don’t understand that yet. When I talk about the ‘confused’ look I saw at halftime (tonight), it’s all of those ’07 players (freshmen) and some of the ‘06s.”
For the moment, however, in this topsy-turvy season, Urban Meyer is one happy football coach.
“I’m good, I’m 2-0,” he said, no doubt stopping to think how much better off he is today than Michigan’s Lloyd Carr.
Quick Jump Starts 1. The first full slate of the NFL unfolds today and I just hope it doesn’t evolve, again, into the “No Fun League.” 2. Finally, baseball gets a feel-good story in Cardinal comebacker Rick Ankiel, thenf we have to read the depressing news about his alleged use of HGH – even if it really was prescribed by his physician. 3. It may not rival “Remember The Alamo,”but college coaches who need a wakeup callfor their teams playing against big underdogs will always have “Remember Appalachian State!” 4. OK, who were the first-half coaches and who were the second-half coaches last weekend when Florida State failed to show up for the first two quarters in the loss to Clemson? 5. Given that last week’s game at Florida Field with Western Kentucky was canceled in the middle of the final quarter, will Urban Meyer’s pre-game speeches now become: “Go out there and fight for 60 minutes, or 52 minutes … or for however long we play the game!” Short Stuff Former Gator QB Shane Matthews, son of a coach, gets a chance to pursue his dreams in his dad's profession as coach of Team Florida in the All American Football League, which will feature players from the state and play three games in “The Swamp” … It was a “home game” for 29 players from the Sunshine State on Troy’s roster Saturday … Appalachian State coach Jerry Howard attended Florida’s spring practice and took notes of Meyer’s strategy … And out of mutual respect, Meyer asked Howard for a copy of the game film from the upset of Michigan… Drawing the AppState assignment Saturday wasLenoir-Rhyne College, coached by ex-Charlotte Tarpon coach and former Duke head coach Fred Goldsmith.
I see the ESPNU drum beat has begun as Mark May and Lou Holtz predicted the entire 2007 College football year. Why even play it? Let's just move to the playoffs. Naturally, their final top 10 contains two Pac 10 teams and two Big Ten teams but only one SEC team. They were chastened enough to let LSU play in the BCS Championship game, but naturally had it losing to USC. Won't they ever learn? Best regards, David Baird, Punta Gorda David: Let them have their fun. Anybody can pick the games when they are over. I agree, however, that they just seem to forget about the dominance of the SEC.
Nothing But ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s Cyberfriends)
Buddy’s Believe It Or Not (But don’t ask him to prove it)
1. Men can read smaller print than women, but women can hear better.
2. If you leave Tokyo by plane at 7:00am, you will arrive in Honolulu at approximately 4:30pm the previous day.
3. China has more English speakers than the United States.
PUNDERFUL 1. I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me. 2. If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory. 3. The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1.Be alert. The world needs more lerts. 2. Custer wore an Arrow shirt.
3. You cannot get to the top by sitting on your bottom.
Today’s Proverb All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.
And good morning … … to Lee Corso, who is on te record as saying Steve Spurrier will never beat Florida, Georgia and Tennessee and never win the SEC. Would you like a little mustard with that crow?
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/Florida Gators Opener/Sept. 1, 2007
Even with leg irons on, Tebow is a tough quarterback to stop
GAINESVILLE – In a manner of exaggerated speaking, Tim Tebow was given a low dosage of testosterone, told to play nice and not hurt the other boys out there on the field and then shackled with leg irons.
OK, none of that really happened, but he was put in a more conservative mode than usual Saturday in his first starting role on Florida Field. The new, more mild-manner Tim Tebow -- more like Clark Kent than the other guy --got a passing grade in his first start and, ironically, excelled in the one area where he has been said to be possibly lacking.
This just in: Tim Tebow can not only pass, but throws a deep ball with a deft touch. Ask Riley Cooper, who caught two of his long passes for touchdowns.
“He proved today he could throw the ball,” said Cooper, who isn’t even in the starting lineup. “And he’s going to be a great quarterback.”
The Tebow Era officially began about 23 minutes before 1 p.m. after the Gators stopped Western Kentucky’s bid to score on the opening drive with linebacker Dustin Doe’s tackle of Tyrell Hayden on fourth and one. His offense and coaches were huddled around him just inside the boundary, as the strapping, good-looking young man with the square jaw and the eternal smile let his chinstrap hang looselyl. His coach went over the last minute instructions. First Meyer first slapped his quarterback’s shoulder as a show of encouragement, then his open palm before jugging on the field.
A short gain by running back Kestahn Moore officially got the Tebow Era underway. Three players later, Tebow was finishing off a 90-yard drive by sneaking over for the game’s first touchdown. Fifty-six of those yards he got himself, running or passing. This was the first of four touchdowns he would produce in the first half in the first four offensive series in Florida's weather-shorted 49-3 win opening day over Western Kentucky.
So, yes, Tim Tebow can pass. And he can run, even though he didn’t do much of that Saturday. And he can also lead, but needs to learn to manage his game better.We are not sure that he is able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, but he reportedly does change his wardrobe in a phone booth.
After four straight impressive drives, there was a little lesson to learned on the next series. At one point, the offensive unit looked like the Bad News Bears. In one stretch of four plays there were three penalties and a fumble by the quarterback. It served a reminder that that this is a work in progress, because Tebow’s management of the running was somewhere between mediocre and awful.
“He didn’t manage the game well,” Meyer said, meaning that the 25-second clock got away from him at times, some of the offensive players were out of position and the execution of the running game left something to be desired. “But I thought he threw the ball well.”
Here’s how Tebow answered those critics have been chirping “Can Tim Tebow pass?” Take a look at these stats in three quarters of a game: 300 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and 13 completions in 17 attempts. He was poised in the pocket. He had nice touches on the long ball, including the 59 and 42-yard touchdown throws to Cooper.
The second piece of irony is that Tebow was throttled down by his coaches, given no pre-designed running plays, told to keep his raw emotions intact if he came to the sideline vs. several would-be tacklers to step out. He did that twice, only both times he got into a ruckus when a Western Kentucky player got after him.
“I think I took out the whole bench,” Tebow said with a smile. “That No. 70 (Defensive tackle Cody Hughes of Bradenton) got a piece of me. That was probably the hardest hit of the game.”
Hughes was guilty of a sort of semi-cheap shot when he found himself confronted with Florida’s No. 15 and put his forearms in semi-self defense. It didn’t go down well with the crowd. The crowd behind the Hilltoppers’ bench got so raucous that several managers had to create a human shield for him.
“Maybe it’s not safe to run out of bounds after all,” Tebow mused.
Thus Tebow became the fourth lefthander to start regularly since Tommy Shannon took over in 1962 as starting position as quarterback. After him were Jackie Eckdahl in 1968 and Bobby Hewko in 1980.
Historian Norm Carlson couldn’t remember any others, but did cite written references of ambidextrous Clyde “Cannonball” Crabtree using both of his wings back in 1928 when the Gators missed going undefeated after a loss to Tennessee in the final game. And throwing with both arms is something that even the wunderkind Tebow can’t do – at least yet.
Of course, no other Florida quarterbacks have been gifted with the legs of Tebow, who could easily be a starting running back in most programs, so whatever nuances or minor influences the southpaw might caused were worth the tradeoffs.
Is there a difference?
During camp, when Urban Meyer was asked that, he replied: “Not I can see any. About the only difference is that the ball comes out of the other side. But I wouldn’t mind it if Cam Newton (Tebow’s backup) was left-handed, too.”
There are some subtle adjustments, however, as Shannon found out. While taking snaps during a practice one day in Miami, Shannon noticed a guy watching him for several minutes. The stranger approached the lefty from Miami Archbishop Curley, telling him how he might improve the exchange with the center.
He said, “Son, just have your center turn the ball over so that when you receive the ball it will have the aces on the proper hand.” It worked.
That stranger was none other than Fran Curci, himself a lefty, and later to become the head coach at Tampa, Miami and Kentucky.
None of those other Gator QBs came with the credentials of Tebow, who established a state high school passing record with 9,950 yards and 95 touchdowns. And, unlike the other four “wronghanders,” Tebow played as a freshman, giving him a jumpstart on the Gator passing records.
I’m not sure we could say Tebow looks like a quarterback, because most of them are not 6-3, 235 pounds. He does look like a football player, however, and he plays at a high caliber. With the wealth of talent surrounding him, this is going to be an explosive Florida offense. Get back to me on the defense after Tennessee, Auburn and LSU.
Quick Jump Starts 1. So I’m wondering if Tim Tebow gets the win after the rain-shortened opener, even though he really didn’t go the full five innings. 2. Memo to Michigan coach Lloyd Carr after the loss to Appalachian State: Call 1-800-Mayflower. 3. Cowboys Assistant Coach Wade Wilson certainly has to be the first in his profession to get a five-game suspension for admitting he took an illegal, but unnamed substance. 4. It can never erase any part of the pain of the massacre in Blacksburg, but thankfully the Hokies have made the next step with a public gathering for a football game. 5. If they keep taking A-Rod’s bat everything he homers, he’s going to need all that dough over the years just to buy some new wood. Short Stuff Saturday’s Florida-Western Kentucky contest, which was called in the fourth quarter, was the only known game in Florida football history to have been canceled. . .After an hour delay, Meyer was worried about getting his players back on the field, but joked that Associate Head Coach Doc Holliday was “going to get them motivated to go back out there” . . . Tim Tebow said this Saturday felt a lot different than last because “last year I was just trying to get in there and make a play.” Nothing But ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s Cyberfriends)
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. High Maintenance Cowgirl. 2. I yodel for beer.
3. Professional trash talker.
Today’s Proverb It is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.
And good morning … … to you Wolverine fans who thought you team should have been in the BCS Championship Game last season over Florida. It’s a tough day in Ann Arbor, isn’t it?
BUDDY MARTIN COLUMN SUNDAY AUG. 25, 2007
Remembering the Ol’ Gray Lady: It’s Goodbye to the Orange Bowl Stadiums come and go these days like pre-fab homes, so maybe it’s not such a big deal anymore when an old arena falls prey to the bulldozers. And we knew that Miami’s Orange Bowl was on life support.
This will be the last season that the Miami Hurricanes play football in the complex at 1501 NW 3rd St., which was built with WPA funds in 1935 and began hosting the post-season game as part of winter festival in 1938.
There are many good memories for me in the Orange Bowl, which is now about to become nothing more than an empty relic and then a pile of rubble. The Orange Bowl to us was what Yankee Stadium has been to New York. And it’s sad to see Ol’ Gray Lady go away.
As for favorite games played there, everybody has his or her own list. And while I did not attend the Boston College-Miami game won on Doug Flutie’s “Hail Mary” touchdown to Gerard Phelan for a miraculous 47-45 victory in 1984, or any of those Miami-Nebraska-Florida State Orange Bowls of the 1990s, I did attend all five of the Super Bowl games played there. I saw my first Super Bowl Game there (II) won by the Packers over the Raiders 33-14.
Not the least of those memories was Super Bowl epics like Joe Namath Jets’ 1969 upset of the Baltimore Colts and Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers over the Cowboys -- and far too many great college games to recall.
When I attended my first Orange Bowl game, I sat in the stands to watch Bear Bryant’s Alabama team, led by LeRoy Jordan, beat Oklahoma.
I remember seeing Florida Gator running back Larry Smith’s pants falling down as he ran for a long touchdown against Georgia Tech; the entire Gator team do the “flop” to allow Miami to score get the ball back for quarterback for John Reaves to set the NCAA passing record in 1971; Alabama’s Joe Namath stopped cold by Texas linebacker Tommy Nobis on fourth and goal at the 1-yard line, preserving a 21-17 Longhorn victory.
As a random guess, I’ve probably covered over 100 football games there over the years. I’ve been locked in there late at night and even split my pants crawling over the barbed wire.
As college football venues go, for ambience it was nowhere near “Death Valley” at Baton Rouge, or “The Swamp” in Gainesville, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, or Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
The Orange Bowl, however, was the site of many historical football moments, a museum of sorts, and it’s never good to see those kinds of landmarks go away.
We just to seem to have the will to protect our history.
I often wonder what it would be like if the Greeks had torn down all the ruins where the Olympics were held.
Quick Jump Starts 1. The season we college football fans have awaited so long starts Thursday night and ends on Jan. 7 with the BCS Championship Game at the New Orleans Super Dome. 2. If I were picking two teams today to play in that BCS title game it would be Southern Cal and Texas. 3. So they tell me the PGA Tour has started its FedEx Cup Playoffs, but how would we know? 4. Why must Randy Shannon make such a secret about his starting quarterback – is Kyle Wright or Kirby Freeman? 5. One reason Florida coaches are expecting Andre (Bubba) Caldwell to have a huge year: In a poll of players for captains, he was the leading vote getter, proving his senior leadership will be an asset. Short Stuff Like father like son: John Elway, who was coached in college by his late father Jack, is coaching his son, a senior at Cherry Creek High School in Denver … At the rate South Carolina players are getting in trouble, Steve Spurrier may have to get a bigger dog house and Columbia a new jail house … Notre Dame has obviously been keeping it a secret that young Jimmy Clausen, starter for the Irish, has off-season surgery to remove bone chips on the elbow of his throwing arm.
This just in: A surprise in Gainesville It may be that Florida stumbles against Tennessee or LSU or Auburn or South Carolina, but for all these experts who downgraded the Gators for a)The lack of a good defense; or b)A questionable passing attack, are going to be in for a surprise. Even though they lost nine starters, co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison reloaded with an impressive array of young talent, so stay tuned for that. As for passing, Tim Tebow has thrown with decent accuracy to a splendid group of receivers that go eight deep, including speeders Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy and Bubba Caldwell. It one of the finest group of pass-catchers I’ve ever seen in Gainesville. Nothing But ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s Cyberfriends) Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. If you are willing to admit faults, you have one less fault to admit. 2. There are three faithful friends an old wife, an old dog, and ready money. 3. You cannot get to the top by sitting on your bottom.
Buddy’s Believe It Or Not (But don’t ask him to prove it) 1. The electric chair was invented by a dentist. 2. The average person falls asleep in seven minutes. 3. The name of all the continents ends with the same letter that they start with.
Today’s Joke Actual call center conversations: Customer: “I’ve been calling 700-1000 for two days and can't get through; can you help.” Operator: “Where did you get that number, sir?” Customer: “It’s on the door of your business.” Operator: “Sir, those are the hours that we are open.”
Today’s Proverb If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?
And good morning … … to all you Alabama football fans. At $4 million a year, you ought to demand that Nick Saban at least bring you back two victories per million bucks.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best Aug. 19, 2007 Ed Seay wasn’t a king -- he just helped make one
The sports media seems to always focus on those in the spotlight, not so much the legionbehind it who make the show possible. There are more king-makers than kings in this universe, but they are almost invisible. Such a man was Ed Seay, the high-spirited, fun-loving, Florida Gator superfan and proud Marine. Not so much invisible perhaps, but certainly intentionally out of the spotlight.Hundreds turned out Saturday at the Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra to say goodbye to the guy whose close friends called “Pugy.” Among them were Arnold Palmer and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.
Ed Seay never won a golf tournament, never ran a golf tournament and never owned a golf course. But as Palmer’s chief golf course architect, he designed and/or built more than 300 of them around the world. Literally, he was one of The King’s Men.
“He was brilliant as an architect,” said Palmer. “But more importantly, he was my good friend.”
Together Palmer and Seay traveled the world, from China to Hawaii to Ireland.
“My dad loved you, Mr. Palmer,” Pugy’s son Mason Seay said in the eulogy. “He loved traveling the world with you. He loved everything about working for you.”
Many good times were had and many stories remain to be told about those adventures.
The Episcopal priest, Richard Westbury, pointed out than in life there was a difference between achieving “success” and achieving “significance.” Ed Seay, he said, did both.
Pugy’s legacies, Mason pointed out, were those golf courses he left behind for people to enjoy “for several hundred years.”
Among Seay's were courses are Sawgrass C.C., Ponte Vedra Beach.; The Tradition G.C., LaQuinta, Calif.; The K Club, Straffan, Ireland; Four Seasons Resort at Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica; Kapalua Village Course, Maui, Hawaii; Aviara, Carlsbad, Calif.; Old Tabby Links, Spring Island, S.C.; Tralee C.C., Tralee, Ireland; and Adios G.C. in Coconut Creek, Fla.
I knew Pugy as a Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother in Gainesville and a resident of the attic, where poor boys could rent space between dry walls for $5 a month. We called ourselves “The Attic Rats.” We had no money, but lots of big dreams. Another one of the “Rats” was Cecil Edge, who went on to become a successful Tampa car dealer. Another, Don Rutledge, was a premier college basketball official who refereed about a half dozen Final Fours.
Pugy once told me a story about how they were surrounded by hundreds of people in Japan after an appearance there by Arnie. “There we were, back to back, like Butch and Sundance, signing autographs as we move toward the door. I was signing everything they handed me and they didn’t really even know who I was,” he said.
Sometimes, even when he tried, Pugy just couldn’t dodge the spotlight.
Along with his high school swimming coach and mentor, high school classmates and swim teammates, members of his college fraternity, fellow Marines, family and friends, the “Attic Rats” were there as Pugy was laid to rest. We all agreed it was a lousy day, but that Pugy would want us to all head to the local country club for a reception which was pre-paid by him. Even in death, Ed Seay wanted his friends to enjoy their lives. We did, and we all celebrated his.
Quick Jump Starts
1.Odd isn’t, that the term “rollover” – the old trick we teach our dogs – best describes what the former friends and co-defendantsdid to Michael Vick.
2. It’s bad enough for Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans that he’s having a lousy year, but even worse for them that pretty boy Jeff Gordon is having a good one.
3. He should have been in the first class last year, but Florida finally got it right by adding ex-defensive star Wilber Marshall to the school’s Ring of Honor.
4.I’m not convinced John David Booty is mistake-free enough to be the best quarterback in America, which is why I like a couple of colts – Colt McCoy of Texas and Colt Brennan of Hawaii – as my preseason All-American choices … with a tip of the hat to West Virginia’s Pat White.
5.Dan Patrick said a classy goodbye on his ESPN radio show Friday, simple, sincere – and then the network spoiled the moment by tacking on the tape of him reading an Auto Zone commercial.
Short Stuff: Bobby Bowden and his offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher aren't saying who the Seminoles' quaterback will be, but indicate there is "seperatrions" between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee . . . Florida was No. 3 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Pre-season Poll, but was sixth in the Associated Press ranking … The Gators are one of the nation’s youngest teams, maybe the greenest bunch overall that Urban Meyer has had since his first year at Bowling Green …Don Rutledge, the former college official, said that when he heard NBA ref Tim Donaghy admitted to betting on games, “I wanted to go outside and throw up, it make me so sick.”
This just in: Gators can thank Belichick
Urban Meyer surprised his team on Wednesday by taking all the players on an unscheduled trip to Wild Waters in nearby Silver Springs because the young team had practiced so diligently in the heat. When asked whose idea the trip was, Meyer responded: “Bill Belichick” – meaning he got the idea of giving them a “treat” from his friend, coach of the New England Patriots. Following afternoon practice, the players were also treated to a special video about “Champions,” featuring two-time national championship basketball coach Billy Donovan, which got good reviews from Tim Tebow and the players.
Nothing But ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s Cyberfriends) Buddy’s Believe It Or Not (But don’t ask him to prove it)
1. The three most valuable brand names on earth: Marlboro, Coca-Cola, and Budweiser, in that order.
2. Yo-Yos were once used as weapons in the Philippines
3.Blue is the favorite color of 80 percent of Americans.
4. The average four year-old child asks over four hundred questions a day.
5. In Chinese, the KFC slogan “finger lickin' good” comes out as “eat your fingers off.” Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
Don't make me striptease.
Life was better when we didn't know what the government was up to.
Struggling hair farmer.
Today’s Joke Higher Power: A Sunday school teacher said to her children, “We have been learning how powerful kings and queens were in Bible times. But, there is a higher power. Can anybody tell me what it is?” One child blurted out, “Aces!”
Today’s Proverb Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. (Franklin P. Jones)
And good morning … … to all you people feeling a little unstable today. Don’t worry about it, because this is National Mental Health Care Week and we could all use a little help.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best Column/July 29, 2007
Not a pretty start for the NFL commissioner
I say just start a professional prison league and let them all compete.
Begging the pardon of all you football fans out there who are salivating and can’t wait to cheer for the Bucs or Dolphins or Jaguars or some other professional team, but the Roger Goodell Era seems to be experiencing more than just a wardrobe malfunction. So far more than 40 NFL players have had brushes with the law since last season.
Bully for Roger, calling out all the bad boys of the NFL, but it’s beginning to look like that, alone, is going to be a full-time job.
Here we were, still aglow from the feel-good story of Peyton Manning’s and Tony Dungy’s first Super Bowl victories, when up jumps Pacman Jones – and now there’s this Michael Vick dog-fighting thing.
Where have you gone Bart Starr, Johnny U. and Sweetness?
New England newcomer Randy Moss is beginning to look like leader in the clubhouse for NFL Man of the Year.
Quick Jump Starts
--Hey, why doesn’t Mike Vick come back as Ron Mexico? --You could almost sense the Bucs’ discontent with Simeon Rice but it was still a shock that he got cut and makes you wonder if they really do they put that much faith in rookie defensive end Gaines Adams of Clemson?
--The Big Ten (11 teams) wants to expand, so why not choose from Notre Dame (won’t do it), Syracuse (doesn’t want the competition) or Pittsburgh (probably the best fit) and make it the Big Eleven, with 12 teams (sorry, the Big 12 is taken).
--There’s going to be very little joy in Mudville when Mighty Barry Bonds breaks the home run record, but his place in history cannot be denied, even if tainted.
--And please, Lord, as he goes into the Baseball Hall of Fame, if Cal Ripkin used drug enhancement to make it through those 2,632 consecutive games, don’t let us find out about it.
Former Charlotte High swimmer Katie Gehring, State 2A champion in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle champion, is competing this summer with the Tennessee Aquatics club team and hoping to raise money for the 2008 Olympic trials, so if you’d like to send at tax-free donation, mail the check to 2106 Andy Holt Dr., Knoxville, Tenn. 37996 … The sudden death of 56-year-old Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser was even more tragic than normal because of his developmentally challenged son Scott, who often traveled with his father … Apologies to Miami Hurricanes fans for failing to mention last week that All-American defensive back Bennie Blades was also inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame, along with Bobby Bowden, Charlie Ward and Emmitt Smith. . .
Buddy’s E-mail Box
Buddy: I think a big key to Florida’s offense this year will be someone emerging at tailback. It will be very interesting to see what Chris Rainey can add. Do you see him as a potential star? I think the month of August will be key for him. It is a shame Mon Williams is out this year. I don't know if (Kestahn) Moore can be a leader, but if James, (Percy) Harvin, (Chevon) Walker, and Rainey, can add some explosive threats it could be interesting. With Tebow I see a lot of options and reverses. I see the speed guys lining up at QB and tailback. If a star emerges I could see us averaging over 40 points a game.
Phil Banks, Naples
I don’t know about Rainey, the true freshman from Lakeland, and how he will fit in exactly. Unlike Walker, Rainey didn’t report early to spring practice. But if Rainey is half as good as his high school highlights look, he will be special. Chevon Walker is promising. I also like Harvin and Jarred Fayson lining up at the running back position because of their speed. It will be a mixed bag – but plenty of talent in that bag.
Nothing But ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s Cyberfriends)
Clipboard Moments to Remember (Or Not)
I counted these nine plays involving Florida schools on the list of ESPN’s Ivan Maisel as “College Football’s 100 Greatest Moments.” One of the most bizarre I’ve ever seen –Florida 31-31 tie with FSU and so-called “Choke At Doak” in 1994 – didn’t make it for some reason. Nor did Tim Tebow’s double-pump-jump pass in the win over LSU last season or the winning field goal block by Jarvis Moss to preserve the victory over South Carolina.
Here they are:
17. U-Turn: Pass interference turns Miami celebration into Ohio State jam. (Jan. 3, 2003)
40. Great Scott: Georgia's Lindsay Scott scores 93-yard game-winner vs. Gators. (Nov. 8, 1980)
47. Twice As Nice: FSU holds off Nebraska for Bobby Bowden's first title. (Jan. 1, 1994)
52. Well Dunn: 79-yard TD catch/run by FSU’s Warrick Dunn seals Florida's fate. (Nov. 27, 1993)
60. Wide Right I: Trailing Miami by 1, FSU's Gerry Thomas misses 34-yard FG. (Nov. 16, 1991)
64. Wake Up The Echoes: Notre Dame upsets top-ranked Miami. (Oct. 15, 1988)
68. Gathering Storm: Miami announces arrival with win at Penn State. (Nov. 3, 1979)
77. The Tao Of Steve: Florida arrives under new coach Steve Spurrier. (Sept. 15, 1990)
86. Death Valley Deception: Florida State's puntrooskie topples Clemson. (Sept. 17, 1988)
91. Spur Of The Moment: Florida QB Steve Spurrier's field goal beats Auburn. (Oct. 29, 1966)
Buddy’s Believe It Or Not (But don’t ask him to prove it)
1. The “pound” (#) key on your keyboard is called an octothorp.
2. On the average, 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily.
3. The average person presses the snooze button on their alarm clock three Times each morning.
4. The only domestic animal not mentioned in the bible is the cat.
5. Right handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left handed people do.
1. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
2. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat. 3. A plateau is a high form of flattery.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
--Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.
--I’m having an Out of Money experience. --I’m a recovering something or other.
Guy from rural Kansas says this is a true story: “We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the Deer Crossing sign on our road. The reason: ‘Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.’”
An optimist thinks this is the best possible world. A pessimist fears this is true.
And good morning …
… to our own John Fineran, executive sports editor of Sun Newspapers, who was installed over the weekend as president of the Florida Sports Writers Association.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best Column July 15, 2007
The Myth about Meyer: Can he win with his own?
While interviewing some of America’s brightest journalism prospects recently at the Poynter Media Institute in St. Petersburg, I happened upon young lad from the University of Illinois who had a penchant for sports writing.
“How do you like Ron Zook?” I asked him.
“Oh, he’s fine – he’s a good recruiter,” said the lad from UI. “I’m hoping he will get fired after next year and then we can win the national championship.”
Touché! Point taken. Urban Meyer has yet to prove that he can win titles with all his own players, although it seems a fate accompli.
Giving credit where it is due, Zook deserves to be recognized for his contributions to the 2006 national champion Florida Gators. However, there is this misconception that Urban Meyer is an opportunist that wins with other people’s talent.
It is true that 21 of the starters from Florida’s national championship team were signed by Zook, including Chris Leak, DeShawn Wynn, Dallas Baker, Jemalle Cornelius, Andre Caldwell, Tate Casey, Drew Miller, Jim Tartt, Jarvis Moss, Derrick Harvey, Ray McDonald, Brandon Siler, Earl Everett and Tony Joiner.
However, without the presence of these Meyer signees, there would have been no championship: Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Reggie Nelson, Ryan Smith, Jarred Fayson, Wondy Pierre-Louis and Brandon James.
So in 2007, it will be mostly Meyer’s recruits defending “The Swamp” and all that glitters. Just 15 Zookmen will be on the 85-man roster.
This is folly, of course, because football players are football players. No matter who signed them, it took the discipline, focus and attention to coaching detail by Meyer and his staff to produce the ultimate result. Right now, Florida has the hottest football coach in America and a staff second to none. That’s why they all recently got nice raises, following the bump their boss received to $3.25 million.
Having said that, there will be those who will point to the fact Meyer has won three consecutive championships in three two-year stints without ever coaching a team of all of his own players.
Not that there are any flies on his two recruiting classes, which by all accounts have either been ranked No. 1 or in the Top Five by scouting services since he has been at Florida. Coaches are licking their chops over the 27 new arrivals.
It has always been my practice not to pass judgment on the incoming freshmen until I’ve had a chance to see them perform in pads at the college level. However, based on observing some of early enrollees in spring ball and tape or live performances I’ve witnessed in high school, I’d be a fool not to admit that this group isn’t loaded with talent.
Much of what happens to the Gators in 2007 will be decided by external forces.
As Steve Spurrier recently told me, Florida was fortunate to win sl many close games last year and, without belittling their effort and result, pointed out that you can’t count on things always going your way.
As far as players getting into trouble, I have it on good authority that so far those who have run afoul with the law have mostly been dealt with and that as of this writing, the only real loss for 2007 will be that of offensiveRonnie Wilson, who may yet get a chance to redeem himself after this season.
Injuries must be factored in, too, and that more than everything else, they might determine the outcome of the Gators’ 2007 season. Meyer has shown the ability to adapt upon loss of key personnel, i.e. Marcus Thomas last season, but there are some players who are nearly indispensable. If, say, Tebow goes down for the year, then forget about Atlanta and maybe a lot more.
Fragile is the nature of all football fates, which only underscores why championships should be cherished and celebrated. Unfortunately, the rings don’t mean a thing once the season kicks off Sept. 1 against Western Kentucky. Gator fans should enjoy the last few remaining days of the national championship afterglow, because in about six weeks they start all over again.
Quick Jump Starts
1. I honestly don’t think Bob Stoops is a cheater, but he and his administration at Oklahoma must do their diligence to know about things like the two players who were subsidized by sweetheart jobs from a Norman car dealer that recently wiped out all eight wins from 2005.
2. Don’t know about you, but I completely missed the David Beckham’s arrival with the Los Angles Galaxy Friday – and nobody even called to remind me of it.
3. Why not go with a reverse salary cap rule in baseball,requiring that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ entire payroll be at least equal a year’s salary of either Alex Rodriguez or Ichiro Suzuki, whichever is greater?
4. The decision of President T.K. Wetherell to not renew the contract of Athletic Director Dave Hart after 18 months was probably not influenced that much by this, but the fact that Florida’s Jeremy Foley keeps knocking it out of the park just 150 miles down the road didn’t help Hart’s staying power.
5.College athletic programs have been ordered by the NCAA to reduce the size of their sports media guides, but did that mean the University of Florida had to completely wipe out the yearly game-by-game results for the past 100 seasons?
If you want to know the inside story of the often corrupt world of baseball card collecting, read Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson’s “The Card, Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card” – the story of the $2.35 million Honus Wagner T206 card … You always wonder who those two jokers from the stands were, tagging along with Hank Aaron around the basepathes after home run No. 715 in Atlanta, and what would happen today if they tried that (they’d either be shot or maced once they jumped the fence )… I appreciate Aaron’s willingness to boycott Barry Bonds’ record home run when it happens, but remind him of the fact that he never forgave Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for doing the same thing at his 715th.
And good morning …
... Gary Sheffield. The more you talked about Barry Bonds, you using the “clear and the cream” and then do a drive-by on Joe Torre by alleging he is racist, the uglier it gets. Do yourself a favor and stop running your mouth like you did to Bryant Gumbel on his HBO Real Sports program.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best
Not many sports flicks made AFI Top 100 list
It’s summertime, the livin’ is easy, the fish are jumpin’ and we’re talking movies here on the first full weekend of the solstice. Last week, the American Film Institute re-ranked its Top 100 movies and, of course, Citizen Kane was No. 1 again. No newspaper guy is going to knock that choice. Sports movies, however got only a few props, with the boxing movie about Jake LaMotta’s life, Raging Bull, moving up to No. 4. Then you had to move all the way down to No. 57 before Rocky surfaced, and never mind making the comparison. Any resemblance ends after the boxing theme. And that was it for sports flicks. You may be surprised to know that Dr. Strange(g)love (No. 39), The Philadelphia Story (44th), Raiders of the Lost Ark (66) and Yankee Doodle Dandee (98) were not about sports teams or figures. Maybe I’m no film critique, but somewhere in the mix I’d have to find a place on my list for Field of Dreams, Hoosiers, The Natural and Jerry Maguire – four of my favorites. If you’ve got your list of Top 5 or 10 best sports movies, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Quick Jump Starts 1. We didn’t know whether to cry, laugh, boo or cheer when Sammy Sosa launched home run No. 600 last week. 2. I agree with the ESPN pundit who predicted that when their careers are over, Alex Rodriquez will wind up with more career homers than Barry Bonds. 3. Odd, isn’t it, that ex- Florida teammates Joakim Noah and Al Horford wind up competing for the affections of the Atlanta Hawks for whom they both worked out,hoping to be the No. 3 pick in the NBA lottery. 4. All the talk about four starters from the Gator national champions being drafted and yet the SEC 3-point shooting record holder, Lee Humphrey, may have to go abroad to play pro basketball. 5.I’m thinking that LeBron James’ son and Tiger Woods’ daughter will both be playing Duke basketball in 2026 – for the men’s team.
Short Stuff Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is reportedly one of the key figures in the plans for the new professional United Football League, with an eye toward several cities, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Mexico City, San Antonio and Orlando … Speaking of football leagues, there’s also another concept floating around out there for an All-American Football League featuring franchises stocked with their former state collegian -- ex-Gator coach Doug Dickey being one of those involved in talks about a team playing in Ben Hill Griffin … LSU just left Sirius Radio to become the seventh SEC school to join XM and will be followed by South Carolina in 2008 and Florida in 2009, giving XM 9 of the 12 schools … There is also talk of the SEC, which just received $43 million from CBS, possibly having its own TV network one day. Clipboard Honoring A Friend It was my privilege and honor Friday in St. Louis to present my late friend Van McKenzie as the posthumous winner of sports journalism’s highest honor, the Red Smith Award, given by his Associated Press Sports Editor peers. In dinner table discussions in an authentic Italian restaurant on “The Hill,” several of us decided if there was a Mt. Rushmore of modern sports editors, McKenzie would be on it. He died in January while still orchestrating the Orlando Sentinel sports section from home and was of the giants of our industry. He crafted award winning sections at the Sentinel, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New York Daily News, St. Petersburg Times, Florida Today, Ocala Star-Banner and the National Sports Daily. The influence of this bold, innovative editor is still felt today in sports departments around the country, many of which have emulated some of his practices and concepts – including the Charlotte Sun. He died in January. There will never be another one like Van.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
This just in: Mascot exclusive! In a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism, somebody named Rebecca Kelley ranked the 25 worst college mascots for a Website known as Drivl.com, with Stanford’s Cardinal at the worst, Florida’s Albert The Alligator No. 16, Florida A&M’s Rattlesnake No. 22 and Miami’s Sebastian Ibis No. 23. Wow, now that’s news!
Things You Should Know By Age 50 (From AARP Magazine) 1. How to give a compliment (sincerely). 2. How to take a compliment. 3. You are not going to win the lottery.
Funny Golf Quotes “I found out that all the important lessons of life are contained in the three rules for achieving the perfect golf swing. 1. Keep your head down. 2. Follow through. 3. Be born with money. --Unknown
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. I plan on living forever. So far, so good. 2. Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand. 3. I am NOT overweight. I am nutritionally challenged.
Today’s Joke While attending a marriage seminar dealing with communication, Tom and his wife Grace listened to the instructor say, “It is essential that husbands and wives know each other's likes and dislikes. Can you name your wife's favorite flower?” Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, “It's Pillsbury, isn't it?”
Today’s Proverb A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.
And good morning … … and congrats to Florida AD Jeremy Foley, who just got bumped to $1.2 million a year after three straight national championships, making him the highest paid member of his profession. He’s worth it.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best /Kirk Herbstreit Interview
FIRST OF A 3-PART SERIES
A chat with Gators’ Public Enemy No. 1
On a late summer Saturday in 2006, the guy with the short-cropped, Army-style haircut and the girly piercing blue eyes was up there on the high-and-mighty-definition ESPN College Game Day Ivory Tower, squawking over the TV screen from his bully pulpit.
In the eyes of some, Kirk Herbstreit was espousing pure blasphemy, unwittingly seeding rebellion. To him, it was just simple, plain old, off-tackle, up-the-middle football as he laid out the almost insurmountable obstacles the Florida Gators would have to navigate to achieve contender status.
What hardcore members of “The Gator Nation” were hearing, however, sounded outrageous: There are no championships hopes for your Gators, so just don’t get all lathered up. The Gators aren’t gonna do it, he predicted, because they have been overscheduled.
Diehard Gator optimists felt that kind of logic was for sissies. And so the debate was underway.This is how it went down in the Holy Rumble between the sports TV network’s Town Crier and the Disciples of Urban.
Herbstreit: You can’t expect any team to come out alive against the likes of four consecutive opponents the caliber of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia.
Angry Gator Fans: This Ohio-bred, Buckeye-born-and-raised Herbstreit is not only Big Ten prejudiced, but probably against motherhood, apple pie and Mr. Two Bits. Now he’s Gator-Hater, too. (This was not a good-thing to be perceived as during Florida’s 366-day Run To Glory, especially when the Gators were eventually going to be all up in there against his beloved Buckeyes in the championships.)
Herbstreit felt like he was saying the same thing he said to fans of Auburn two years before … FSU before that … Miami before that … USC before that: That the odds don’t favor your team as a title contender, but no disrespect for your program. Zealots don’t hear well, however.
By December there was chasm about the size of Grand Canyon. Kirk Herbstreit’s name and face were on a Wanted Poster in “The Gator Nation.” In fact, Gator fans wanted a lot from him. They not only wanted a divorce, they wanted the kids, the house, the car, the credit cards, the dog and his wallet. They were convinced that this “miscreant, this former Ohio State quarterback pretty boythis card-carrying Buckeye with the Big Ten agenda, was out to destroy the Gator football program and everything sacred to the Orange and Blue cloth.
Seemingly,Herbsteit loved every team in America except the one in Gainesville. Frankly, some wondered if Herbstreit could find Gainesville anymore with a compass, Mapquest and a Global Positioning Satellite. Critics said all of his roads led to Columbus and Ann Arbor. He was blinded by his Buckeye red and gray glasses. He was The Enemy. The gauntlet had been laid down, the debate was underway and neither side was going to give in for the next four months.
Some of the often vile, sometimes funny, always combative comments on message boards about Herbstreit you wouldn’t see written on a bathroom wall.
To sort this out, I conducted an exclusive 40-minute interview with Herbstreit this week and found him to be forthright, honest and willing to stand behind his opinions.
Herbstreit says he never dis-respected the Gators and nobody will ever be able to produce a tape where he said Ohio State would hammer Florida in the BCS Championship Game. But he doesn’t deny saying that the Gators lacked “Style Points” all season.
“I challenge anybody and everybody to find one time when I said that Ohio State was a superior team and ‘they’re going to kill Florida,’” he told me. “Not one time did I say that in any interview or anything I ever did on air. It was always, ‘Florida’s going to come in with an attitude, because their getting disrespected. Florida’s coming in with SEC speed. And with a defense that can fly.’
“It was all very positive toward Florida. I happened think that Michigan, based on … not because of the way they played against USC, but the way had played for 12 games in the regular season … and the way Ohio State had played for 12 games … and the way Florida had played for 13 games…”
And it wasn’t about him being a former Ohio State quarterback or pulling for the Big Ten, he says. It was just an opinion based on the handicapping charts from the regular season. Except at that moment, the estrangement between Herbstreit and the Gators had begun to fester.
Kirk Herbstreit, 37, born in Centerville, Ohio, the son of a former Buckeye football captain and coach under Woody Hayes – himself a four-year letterman at and former co-captain, married to a former Ohio State cheerleader – regularly shares his opinions on college football with America.He is generally regarded as the most knowledgeable of the College Game Day Troika.
If Lee Corso is Emmett Kelly and Chris Fowler is Henry Kissinger, then Herbstreit is probably a combination of Brad Pitt and Alex Trebek – the good-looking, brainy one. To Gator fans last year, however, Herbstreit was Dr. Kevorkian..
What usually separates Herbstreit is his intelligent analysis of conference strength and the objective forecasting of various teams and his willingness to deny those roots – sometimes to a fault.
Herbstreit can understand why some people think he messed up and admits to falling in and out of love with his Sweetheart Team of the Week. He got lost on the train to Louisville and West Virginia and Rutgers, then had a revelation that his alma mater, Ohio State, was the greatest team in the world and was about to play against the second best team in the world (Michigan) in the Greatest Game Ever Played. And then he loved it so much he wanted a rematch for the Greatest Game Ever Played II.
None of this he denies.
He says he’s always been a huge fan of the SEC and considers it the best conference in football. But you’d have a hard time convincing Gator fans of that in recent days and months. Because they took it personal.
“Every single year it always seems to get personal with one fan base or another,” Herbstreit said. “A couple of years ago it was Auburn. Last year it was Florida. In the past it’s been Florida State. In the past it’s been Miami. In the past it’s been USC. This year it will be a new team that gets upset. Florida fans will probably think that, if I say great things about Tim Tebow and Florida that I probably know what I’m talking about.
“It was never personal. It was just based on the way they were playing throughout the year, thinking eventually that it would catch up to them, but to their credit it never did. And if my opinions about their shortcomings provided motivation for them, then so be it. I’m happy for them.”
Nobody is more aware of what an emotional game college football has become than Herbstreit, who stokes the fires every Saturday by extolling the virtues or deficits of one team or another. He’s like your stockbroker – a genius when the market goes up, an idiot when your portfolio goes down. He is the Point and college fans are The Counterpoint. Somebody, somewhere is going to be unhappy with what he says. The alternative is to play it safe, go all vanilla and say nothing. Instead, he polarizes.
“That’s part of it. You can never make everybody happy,” Herbstreit said. “You just kind of do your thing. As long as you’re true with what you believe, if you end up being wrong, that’s OK. That’s part of college football. That’s part of the position I’m in.”
There is a caveat here, however, because Herbstreit’s opinions impact coaches and polls which factor into the BCS rankings and ultimately decide which teams Dance. He never did jump on the Gator train or bandwagon and only after they slobber-knocked his beloved Ohio State, 41-14, did he praise them. Kirk doesn’t see it that way. Gator fans do.
In his own defense, Herbstreit would ask that his biggest Gator critics would go back and review the 150 minutes of tape he and others did after the BCS Championship Game, praising Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer and everything in Gainesville except the Century Tower and Shelley Meyer’s favorite barbecue recipe.
Then there was Phoenix. “We will always have Phoenix, just like we had New Orleans,” Gator fans bragged. “And we will always have the entire state of Ohio and Herbstreit’s Buckeye Athletic Program. We own them.” (Drug roll please. Begin the Ohio State standup routine here.)
So go ahead and take your whack at the Kirk Herbstreit piñata. Urban Meyer has taken his share of them, all in good fun. It’s good therapy for Gator fans. For Herbstreit, who says he offered to tour with Meyer as a two-man comedy act, this verbal abuse is like taking sacks when you are the Ohio State quarterback. Comes with the job.
Buddy Martin Column/June 9, 2007
Jon Gruden’s genie may not be enough
In this Summer of Discontent, Jon Gruden can be thankful for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, whose pitching incompetence has pushed the ineptitude of the Bucs to the back of the sports page. Blowing a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth at Toronto two weeks ago caused enough angst on sports talk radio to make them forget that Gruden’s pathetic offense produced fewer touchdowns (23) than his mediocre defense did sacks (25) in 2006. Obviously aware of this, Gruden decided to let the genie out of the bottle last week and pretend like he had three new wishes. That must be the only reason that he told those in attendance at the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce that his starting quarterback was going to be the newly acquired Jeff Garcia. This is no real news bulletin, but it was a little surprising that he noted that Garcia would have “a big lead” over recovering Chris Simms. All Simms did for his coach after rupturing his spleen was put his life on the line for his coach. Ah, NFL loyalty. Then Gruden tired to play down his Garcia maneuver. He would probably also like to play down the fact that the 37-year-old Garcia, playing with his fifth team in five years, was signed to a similar contract as Simms, who gets $7 million with bonuses that could potentially double that. This is the action of a desperate man coming off a miserable failure of a season – 4 wins, 12 losses – who was merely throwing a bone to his rapidly eroding fan base. There are rumblings afoot that Gruden is working on a short leash in 2007 and that if there isn’t some significant improvement, he’ll be thrown overboard by the Big Pirate. In other words, by the time Gruden gets to the open date, anything short of 4-4 will be unacceptable. Realistically, I see losses for the Bucs in the opener against New Orleans, at St. Louis, at Indianapolis, against Tennessee, and against Jacksonville. Presuming they can beat Carolina, Detroit and Arizona, that puts them at 3-5 by Nov. 11. Jeff Garcia, bring your ear plugs. Jon Gruden, keep the telephone number of Mayflower nearby.
Quick Jump Starts 1. Congratulations to Matt LaPorta and his family for him being picked seventh overall by the Brewers, but maybe it’s time for MLB.com to change its info on him as a “big, strong left-handed power-hitting first baseman.” (He’s right-handed.) 2. Some of those brilliant folks in the State Legislature who originally hiccupped at Billy Donovan’s $2.9 million deal wound up costing the University of Florida another $600,000 total on Donovan’s and Urban Meyer’s final contracts. 3. When Paris Hilton said she enjoyed frequenting bars, I don’t think she meant being behind them. 4. The San Antonio Spurs are not only the most unselfish offensive team in the NBA, but deceptively great with their shut-down offense 5.Blame long-departed Nick Saban and his staff for the mess Daunte Culpepper finds himself in, because they pushed the Dolphins quarterback to come back and play before he was ready – and now Daunte is about to be released as damaged goods.
Short Stuff Here’s the bad news for Bobby Bowden: The Seminoles’ 2007 schedule is ranked toughest in the country by Sporting News … John Daly showed up for the St. Jude in Memphis with cuts on his face and told police his wife took a steak knife after him, but I think he really cut his cheek while going after a stray Twinkie … Maybe Michelle Wie needed to go to qualifying school, after all.
This just in: Ranking the BCS Coaches The new Sporting News dares to rank the best BCS coaches, with Pete Carroll of USC first, Jim Tressel of Ohio State second, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer sixth, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier eighth, Florida’s Urban Meyer 12th, FSU’s Bobby Bowden 14th. Penn State’s Joe Paterno was 18th, Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer 31st, LSU’s Les Miles 41st and Miami’s Randy Shannon 62nd. How on earth somebody thinks they can lend any credence to such a poll is just plain astonishing. (Is that you, Matt Hayes?) If you’re talking body of work here, you’d have to put Bowden, Paterno, Spurrier and Beamer in a different category, right up there with Carroll. Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
The Name Game The nickname given 6-9, rubber-pretzel-like Corey Brewer with the helter-skelter style of play by his former teammate, Joakim Noah, was “Wild-Buck Basketball” … Alabama fans Diana and Keith McMunn of Huntsville, Ala. named their new son Bryant Crimson M. – honest … The nickname of the local high school girls’ basketball teams in Georgetown, Ohio is “Lady G-Men” and Tuscaloosa, Ala. “Holt Lady Ironmen.”
Things You Should Know By Age 50 (From AARP Magazine) 1. The $25 wine won't impress them (your hosts) any more than the $10 wine. 2. If you buy it, use it. 3. Don’t try to talk like a teen. By the time you understand their lingo, it won’t be cool anymore.
Funny Golf Quotes “There are two things you can do with your head down – play golf and pray.” – Lee Trevino.” “The only thing in my bag that works is the bug spray.” – Bruce Lansky. “He said he wanted to get more distance out of his drives. I told him to hit it and run backwards.” – Ken Venturi.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. Life not only begins at 40, it also begins to show. 2. Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician. 3.A pessimist's blood type is always b-negative.
Today’s Joke Golf balls are like eggs. They’re white. They’re sold by the dozen. And you need to buy fresh ones each week.
Today’s Proverb Lead me not into temptation. I can find it myself. And good morning … … to ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, considered by some as enemy of “The Gator Nation.” Perhaps picking Tim Tebow as the SEC Player of the Year and Florida to play in the SEC game title this year will heal some wounds, but I doubt it.
Buddy Martin Column June 3, 2007-06-03 Billy has his own version of 'Magic' Maybe I will become a fan of the NBA again. Maybe the best thing to happen to America’s premier professional league since Magic and Bird will be Billy Donovan. His youthful enthusiasm. His platinum work ethic. His integrity, his openness with the media and his knowledge of the game. And, most of all, his heart. I think a lot of you, like me, need a reason to turn on the TV for a regular season NBA game once in while, but are finding it increasingly difficult. The league needs more than LeBron James to regain its lost luster. And, in fact, it needs more than Billy Donovan --- but at least this is a start in the right direction. Orlando’s Magic Kingdom also needs more than Mickey Mouse to fill the arena. Donovan’s presence ensures national and state media coverage, as well as some fannies in the seats. If they win, tickets will become a hot commodity because of Billy’s built-in fan base and the short trip for Gator fans from Gainesville, Tampa, St. Petersburg, etc. Credit Magic Chairman and Amway founder Rich DeVos for marketing genius. He didn’t get rich without understanding how to sell. “Hey, the Magic matter again,” Orlando Sentinel columnist David Whitley told me Friday at Donovan’s goodbye press conference in Gainesville. “At least they’re worth going to cover with Donovan there.” Donovan will be good for the NBA, good for the Magic, good for the Central Florida sports scene. But can he win? Maybe he will fall flat on this face, as others have done (see Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian, etc.) after making the leap from college to pro coach. But I doubt it. Having played 44 games for the Knicks before leaving for a short-term job on Wall Street --- “I hated my job and I want to be a coach,” he told his father --- Donovan has an idea of what’s ahead. The grueling 82-game schedule, plus pre- and post-season games. Spoiled crybaby athletes and the gangsta element. Salary cap headaches. On the other hand, he adds vigor to the sagging Magic franchise and immediately brings credibility to the fan base with his juice from “The Gator Nation.” In college he had the pressure of a round-the-clock, 24/7, year-long recruiting agenda. Had he the impossibility of trying to duplicate his own epic feat of back-to-back national titles. And, most of all, at 42, he knew that his challenge would grow stale in “four or five years down the road.” None of us really knows why it took the University of Florida so long to pull the trigger on getting his contract approved at the highest level or how much that played a part in Donovan’s decision. For sure, the back door was left open. But it really doesn’t matter anymore, because Billy made the best decision for himself. And it was never about his ego or the big dough, despite what you hear or read. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the challenge,” he tells his close friends and they will back it up. Just as it was about the challenge when he left Wall Street and went to work for Pitino at Kentucky for $12,000 a year. In fact, it’s never been about Billy Donovan and his ego. So why did he go? “It was in my heart,” he explained. Donovan is nothing if he’s not about heart. And if he can convey that passion to players at the professional level --- something that’s not going to be easy --- then a championship will be coming to Orlando one of these days. Providing, of course, that he can get the players. It was heart at Providence college, where he re-tooled his chubby body, that earned Donovan a spot in the starting lineup. He dove for balls on the floor and knocked down 3-pointers with the dead-eye skill of his namesake “Billy The Kid,” spiriting the Friars to their best record in history as Pitino’s team made the 1987 Final Four. It was heart in his 11-year reign at Florida, where he was hired as a 31-year-old baby-face who struggled through his first two years. Right up until two seasons ago, Donovan was often criticized for not being able to get past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Fans weren’t the only ones concerned about that. At a birthday party prior to the 2005 season, Billy’s parents expressed concerned to a family friend that their son might be in trouble if he couldn’t clear that first-round blues hurdle in 2005. Everybody apparently had their doubts --- except Billy. Bouncing back from the loss of his top three scorers to dominate college basketball for two years with underclassmen was one of the most incredible feats in college sports history. It is his heart, also, for his close friends --- looking after them. He cared about his assistant coaches, making certain their names were brought up for openings at South Alabama (John Pelphrey, who later went to Arkansas), Virginia Commonwealth (Anthony Grant, most likely his successor at Florida) and Marshall (Donnie Jones, who just took the head job there). His heart doesn’t stop there. At the risk of making it sound like we are canonizing the guy, Donovan is a sucker for the people he cares about. And he is a man of strong faith; with that comes his personal obligation for shepherding his flock. He also took care of his players --- ex-, present and future. This was perhaps as painful a part of the separation as anything for him. Other than choking up and crying when he had to tell friend and Boss AD Jeremy Foley about his decision to leave, Donovan’s hardest chore then was telling current squad members and those incoming about his choice. That choice had come after five days of agonizing. During that period, Donovan talked to people he respected and asked for their advice --- the Van Gundy brothers, Pitino and Steve Spurrier. It was Spurrier who once said of himself, “sooner or later, people get tired of you.” And you wondered if that factored in Billy’s choice, although he says nobody advised him to go, not did they advise against it. After getting the offer from the Magic Thursday morning, Billy went to church at 8 a.m. and asked a higher power for help. Most of all he sought “peace.” He’s not sure he got all the peace he needed, but he got the answer. And at high noon he called his father, who had encouraged his son to “at least see what they (the Magic) have to say.” At 3:52 Thursday, when the story leaked out, the siege began. In a barber’s chair in San Destin, Fla., Jeremy Foley saw his phone begin to light up and knew it was the media calling. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, return their calls for the moment. Donovan’s phone exploded, too. “From 3:52 p.m. through the night, I counted 252 calls on my cell phone,” Billy said. One of those calls came from my good friend Augie Greiner of Ocala, who befriended Donovan when he first arrived from Marshall in 1996. Donovan has a unique relationship with the former Gator basketball player of the 1950s and over the years they’ve had great fun taking pot shots at each other. Donovan has always supported Greiner’s Ocala Gator Tipoff Club with three appearances a season, either himself or a staff member being in attendance, and remains close to Augie. More than $200,000 in scholarship money has been raised by Greiner’s organization. Greiner, a former clothing store proprietor and wardrobe advisor who often picks out Billy’s shirts and ties to wear at games, is fighting a serious illness. They talk a good bit and Billy often calls to check on him. But they were unable to hook up this week. “I need to call Augie,” Donovan told me after the press conference Friday. “He called me Wednesday night and I was just overwhelmed talking to players, etc. I had 252 calls since 3:52 yesterday!” You can book this: Sometime in the next few days, Donovan will pick up the phone and call his haberdasher friend from Ocala. Although Greiner is saddened about the loss of Donovan at UF, he is also very happy for his friend. “I’m very happy for Billy,” said Augie. “He made a good move for himself, but I can tell you for sure it’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money for Billy. I’m going to miss him. But I’m very excited about the possibility of getting Anthony Grant. And we’ll be okay.” You’ve heard of a “walk-off home run”? Donovan just did a walk-off-double-national-championship, all compressed into a remarkable 366-day run. So he leaves with panache and dignity and style. This was the appropriate time for Billy Donovan to ride off in the sunset against a Gator-orange-colored sky, with his two crystal trophies and reputation intact. Not many coaches anymore get to experience those
Buddy Martin Column/May 27, 2007 Meyer enjoying the fruit of Gator championships
On the final leg of a seven-stop tour, the coach in the khaki shorts, sneakers and light blue golf shirt took the podium in front of the 800-or-so friendlies and repeated most of the same stories he’s been telling around the state. He looked a little weary, but he tried to entertain this group of Florida Gator loyalists who had come out to Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater. And they responded with bursts of applause here and there, most appreciative and somewhat celebratory. “Well,” said Meyer, “we’re a basketball school again.” When you’ve got a pocketful of championships at your school, the basketball and football coach, who just happen to live on the same cul de sac in Gainesville, can work a little shtick. So while Billy Donovan is finishing up his victory lap and working out the fine print on his new contract, Meyer is winding down his statewide tour and cheering for his neighbor. Believe me, Meyer wishes his neighbor all the best in his negotiations, because as soon as Donovan’s new deal is done, it will be time to re-do Meyer’s. When the dust clears, Florida will have close to $7 million invested in its two coaches. And you’ve got to also think there will be a little something extra on the paycheck of Athletic Director Jeremy Foley. Championships come with a price.But you can never relax. Meyer joked about telling his staff to “put on their shorts and flip-flops and take out your golf clubs” in the off-season. “But then Billy won another one (national championship),” Meyer said. This unprecedented run in college athletics should, indeed, be celebrated. Time is nearing, however, when the pads will go back on and the expectations will be higher than the Century Tower and the memories of that 366-day run will be, indeed, only memories. There will be work to be doen. The supernatural has become the standard. Truthfully, event coordinators were a little disappointed at the turnout in Clearwater, which drew from seven counties. And there’s an undercurrent among some Gator fans about the school cutting back the Gator Gatherings from 22 to 7 over the past two seasons. This was planned, however, before the national championship season to allow Meyer more time at home with his family because of his rigorous schedule in the recruiting trail. Like everybody else, Meyer enjoys a good joke at the expense of the enemy, so he was quite pleased on his recent trip to Atlanta when he picked up this line about the Gators having won three titles last year in the Georgia Dome. “The name is going to change. It’s going to official become the ‘Florida Dome,’” he said, and the crowd roared. After all, he and Billy have bragging rights for another six months.
Quick Jump Starts 1. This is a little bit scary: The hottest sport on closed circuit TV these days is Ultimate Fighting Championship where two men brawl with no rules in an octagon cage. 2. There has to be a little poetic justice that the Duke Lacrosse team is playing Johns Hopkins for the national championship. 3. Hurrah for 80-year-old Joe Paterno, who decided to discipline his whole team for the actions of the small group which got in trouble with the law and will make them clean up the stadium this fall after every game in Happy Valley. 4. Now that college basketball has lengthened the 3-point line one foot, or 5 per cent, why wouldn’t they give the scorer 3.15 points? 5. I never thought I’d see ESPN break in with a bulletin to announce that Roger Clemens was going to pitch another game in the minors on Monday night.
Short Stuff Billy Donovan says there’s not truth the rumors about the NBA and he’s working out his contract with the Gators … University of Florida has jumped from No. 8 to No. 3 in royalties for Gator sports gear, collecting more then $2 million between January and March since winning the two titles – behind only Texas and Notre Dame (the money was split equally between the athletic program and the school’s general fund, according to The St. Petersburg Times) … Promising Florida offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, a 6-4, 283-pound freshman from Lakeland, suffered a non-career threatening injury on a scooter last week in Gainesville and required “30-40 stitches” on his forearm, causing one Gator fans to comment,“I'd had to see what the car looked like” … Sports figures have kept the police blotter full lately, but I don’t remember any violation as bizarre as the one alleged against Florida A & M basketball coach Mike Gillespie, who was arrested in Tallahassee for stalking.
This just in: Charlotte Gators Shine This has been a great last few days for former Charlotte County high school athletes turned Florida Gators, with Matt LaPorta being named Most Valuable Player in SEC baseball and discus thrower Wes Stockbarger breaking the meet record at the NCAA East Regionals.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Buddy’s E-Mail Bag Buddy, (Re: last week’s Believe-It-Or-NotGeography, a Rome on all seven continents) I looked and looked in my atlas. I can find no “Rome” in Antarctica. Fred Holzweiss, Englewood. (Four days later) Buddy,Re: There was a Rome in Antarctica. Now I may be in real trouble. I told a friend about this who is a retired geologist. He called back and told me that about 1988 he had a student visit Antarctica on a field trip named “David Rome.” It’s up to you. Fred Holzweiss Fred: I’ll take it.
Buddy’s Believe-It-Or-Not Geography
(But don’t ask him to prove it)
Woodward Avenue in Detroit, carries the designation M-1, so named because it was the first paved road anywhere.
The nickname for New York, “The Big Apple,” was coined by touring jazz musicians of the 1930's who used the slang expression “apple” for any town or city.
The deepest hole ever made in the world is in Texas, 20 empire state buildings deep, but only 3 inches wide
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign . 1. Garnders tend to soil their plants. 2. I eat three servings of vegetables per day. Ketchup, ketchup, ketchup. 3. If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done? Today’s Joke A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.
Today’s Proverb A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
And good morning … … Mr. Stockbarger and Mr. LaPorta. You’ve done your communities proud as college athletes.
Buddy Martin Column/May 20, 2007
UF needs to execute Billy Donovan’s deal The word on the street was that by now – or even as early as last Tuesday – Billy Donovan would have his name affixed to a new contract. Sometimes the street is the wrong place to look for the truth, however, even if that source was about as close to Donovan as possible. The fact that University of Florida and its superstar basketball coach haven’t consummated a signed contract is not necessarily reason for major concern, but one does wonder if there hasn’t been some kind of breakdown in communications. You remember Billy Donovan, right? The guy who just won his second straight national championships? The guy who in his 11 seasons at Florida has a coaching record of261-103, nine straight 20-win seasons and nine-straight NCAA Tournament appearances? The last time we saw him on camera, Donovan was taking a confetti bath and hoisting a crystal trophy. And then came more good news: He was turning down Kentucky. There were simultaneous celebrations last month when the Gators bagged the second of the back-to-back championships and found out that their coach wasn’t leaving. The contract should have been a reward for loyalty and a job well done, another triumphant moment – a contract said to be worth $3.5 million a year for seven more seasons.Instead, it was a hiccup and a tiny embarrassment for UF. Somehow we were led to believe that the document was drawn up and all Billy D. had to do was sign it. Apparently they haven’t worked out the financials yet. ESPN reported on Thursday that the deal worth nearly $25 million, the highest ever for any college basketball coach, had been agreed upon and was about to be signed. On Friday, both parties put the kibosh on that report. Athletic Director Jeremy Foley denied it. Donovan said those numbers were nowhere near what he had been told. “Jeremy and I have not reached an agreement,” Donovan said. “The school and I have no agreement. I understand there's a process this needs to go through, and I respect that process.” Foley has yet to sit down with President Bernie Machen and the University Athletic Association's compensation committee. Donovan told the media that when that happens, Foley will meet with him and say, “‘Here’s where we are. Here’s what we’re thinking on this.’” How does Donovan feel about that? “I'm fine with how that is going,” Donovan said. Well, sorry, but some of us are not fine with it. These bureaucrats need to get their briefcases packed, head to Gainesville and make the deal happen before somebody offers him half an NBA franchise. Don’t leave anything to chance and don’t allow Donovan to think that he’s being taken for granted. Give the guy the money, for cripes sake! Close the deal! Every day there’s another rumor about Donovan being offered an NBA job. It has gotten to a point where even Foley admits he’s expecting to hear Donovan’s name linked to the recent Houston Rockets opening. Any businessman will tell you that no deal is a deal until the contract is signed and the check has been cashed. So for all practical purposes, Billy Donovan remains a free agent. That is not a good thing for the University of Florida. Period.
Quick Jump Starts 1. Even if he never makes it to the majors, Erik Lis of the Fort Myers Miracle will always have Tampa – and the night he hit a solo homer off of Rocket Roger Clemens, who was working his way toward the Yankees with his 55-pitch appearance in the Florida State League. 2. Didn’t there used to be a Stanley Cup playoff this time of year? 3. I enjoyed watching the Spurs-Suns series – at least as much as I could see before falling to sleep at midnight – but, please, could they make the NBA Playoffs a No-Whine Zone and tell the players that the constant griping about calls is getting old? 4. Future lawyers listen up: Consider a career in criminal defense of all football players and get rich! 5. Maybe a new slogan for NASCAR should be, “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t racin’!”
Short Stuff College football’s five best game day atmospheres, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sportline: Florida, LSU, Ohio State, Tennessee and Texas A&M … Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel, who rode Street Sense to victory at Churchill Downs, has plenty of it – although he can barely read and write, but has no problem signing checks “and they don’t bounce” … In a recent Gatorcountry.com straw poll of “The Greatest Gator Coach Ever,” a sort running consensus was 1. Steve Spurrier, 2. Billy Donovan, 3. Urban Meyer, 4. Ray Graves and 5. Charley Pell … Howie Long’s son Kyle, a 6-7, 285-pound lineman from Charlottesville, Va., is going to FSU, but to play baseball.
This just in: Shock Jock Talk They crucified Don Imus for his racially charged comments about Rutgers women basketball players, but some of the most sexually explicit banter about women that I hear is on AM620 “The Animal” out of Tampa-St. Pete, which is equally as insulting, as well as disgusting and repulsive. The dialogue on Ian Beckles/Ron Diaz morning show is especially offensive. The most intelligent radio sports talk show within earshot of Charlotte County is AM770 afternoon drive time program out of Fort Myers, with David Moulton and Mark Miller.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Buddy’s Believe-It-Or-Not Geography ■There is a city called Rome on every continent. ■ Siberia contains more than 25 percent of the world's forests. ■ Spain literally means “the land of rabbits.”
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. If you look like your passport picture, then you probably need the trip. 2. It’s not the jeans that make your butt look fat. 3. Every calendar's days are numbered. Today’s Joke My neighbor was bitten by a stray rabid dog. I went to see how he was and found him frantically writing on a piece of paper. I told him rabies could be treated, and he didn't have to worry about a will. He said, “Will? What will? I’m making a list of the people I want him to bite!”
Today’s Proverb By the time you finally makes ends meet, they move the ends.
And good morning … … Calvin Borel and thanks for the ride, even if you couldn’t boot Street Sense home to victory in the Preakness.
Buddy Martin Column/May13, 2007
The Great Sabbatini dares to challenge Tiger Woods . PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- His name was Kenneth and he was the meanest, nastiest bully on our high school football team, a skilled boxer who wouldn't hesitate to punch out one of his own teammates in a locker room scuffle. We were all afraid of him. Once, as we were riding the bus to the stadium, Kenneth The Bully decided he liked the style of my helmet better than his, so he took mine and put it on. I didn’t dare say no, because I was terrorized by him. Then one day, Jimmy and Kenneth The Bully duked it out for about 10 minutes before it was finally stopped – Jimmy being the recipient of a bloody nose and swollen jaw. Jimmy, however, earned our respect because he at least had the courage to stand up to Kenneth the Bully. Finally, somebody showed some guts. It would be a reach to use the parable of Kenneth the Bully as a metaphor for Tiger Woods, but the truth is that while the world’s most famous golfer doesn’t resort to meanness, he certainly does kick everybody’s butt. Mostly his competitors just wilt under the pressure and are sometimes mentally defeated even before they tee off. They never lay down challenges. In fact, some seem afraid of even making eye contact with Tiger. Then along came The Great Sabbatini, who dared to say he wanted to joust with The Crown Prince of Golf. In fact, when the two of them were paired in the last round of the Wachovia last week, Rory let mouth roar, saying he wanted the head-to-head with Woods. Then Tiger put a tidy little 68 on his opponent, who skulked off with a 74. OK, so Rory Sabbatini talked a little smack and paid for it. Hey, at least he stood up to the bully. Furthermore, The Great Sabbatini showed up against for The Players Championship and did it again! When Woods faltered with 75 in the opening round, Rory roared: “I like the new Tiger!” Normally not one to engage in chirping, Tiger fired back on Friday. “I like the new Tiger, too. Let’s see: I’ve won 9 of the last 12 and three this year. That’s about the same number that he’s (Sabbatini) won in his career!” Bada bing! Hey, it was PGA TOUR SMACKDOWN! Then The Great Sabbatini responded by shooting 7-over-79 on Friday, including a quadruple bogey 7 at the island green 17th, where he dunked it in the water twice. Tiger brought it back with a 1-over par 73. At the end of the day, Woods was 5 over, Sabbatini was 2. You can’t exactly call it a victory, but The Great Sabbatini’s round of 71 Saturday was two better than Tiger in put him in a good half dozen shots off the lead in the final round. And you know what? That smack talk added a little juice to a sport that is becoming deadly dull these days. Playing “Tiger Woods Wins” ever other Sunday may be good for history, but it’s not good for the game. On the other hand, Woods being a walking Neilsen point, it’s much worse without him. What the PGA Tour needs is some kind of rivalry, real or imagined. Certainly Rory Sabbatini isn’t challenging The Crown Prince for the throne, but at least he’s throwing pebbles at the castle. And he’s willing to get a bloody nose, much like Jimmy did against Kenneth the Bully.
Quick Jump Starts 1. After a stunning 64 Saturday, Jeff Quinney was contending for the title in his first Players Championship through 54 holes, which translates to a claiming horse leading the Kentucky Derby in the home stretch. 2. The verdict is in: Holding The Player Championship in May instead of March is better in every way – especially the weather, which has been picture postcard. 3. My spies say Billy Donovan will sign his new contract at Florida on Tuesday. 4. Bud (Do Nothing) Selig gets closer and closer to locking up the title as the worst baseball commissioner in history. 5. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have an addiction to marijuana, but if I had as much at stake as Ricky (“Let me blow my career up in smoke”) Williams does, I think I’d go live in a monastery for a year.
Short Stuff It can’t be good when a guy named Earnhardt leaves a company which has the name of his father in it ... If you like nostalgia, join Urban Meyer and former Florida Gator greats like James Bates, Scot Brantley, Chris Doering, Ike Hilliard, Terry Jackson and Jack Youngblood at the Gator Flashback Football camp on Thursday, June 14-16, 2007 … The Fort Myers Miracle will give out plastic ears to the first 1,000 fans to commemorate the “Chomp Heard Round The World,” the 10-year anniversary of the “ Bite Fite” June 28, 1997 when Mike Tyson chewed off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.
This just in Understandably, the mediocre players on the PGA Tour are against reduced field sizes like the one Tiger Woods will have at his new AT&T National on July 4th week, but the truth is that professional golf is badly overexposed and in need of a facelift. A faster-paced game might ensue. And while they’re at it, the PGA Tour needs to have the networks streamline their telecasts which have become an abominable conglomeration of commercial breaks with a few golf shots in between.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Buddy’s E-mail Bag Buddy: We moved to Port Charlotte from St. Louis in 2004 and you quickly became one of the best sports writers I have ever read. Sunday's Quick Jump Starts column did contain an error. The Cardinals haven't been owned by the (Busch) brewery since 1996. A group of four businessmen, headed by Bill DeWitt, bought the Cards from the brewery. Keep writing great columns. Go Gators! Bob Stevens, Port Charlotte
BOB: My bad. That is, indeed, a key point, since the Cardinals recently banned alcoholic beverages in their locker room. And thanks.
Buddy’s Believe-It-Or-Not Geography ■Brazil got its name from the nut, not the other way around. ■Istanbul, Turkey, is the only city in the world located on two continents. ■There are no natural lakes in the state of Ohio – all of them are manmade.
Sliding Down the Banister of Life It used to be only death and taxes were inevitable. Now, of course, there's shipping and handling, too.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. In golf, no matter how bad you are playing, it is always possible to play worse. 2. Careful or you'll end up in my novel. 3. I love the nights I can't remember with friends I can't forget. Today’s Joke A Canadian fact: A 2006 study found that the average Canadian walks about 900 miles a year. Another study found that Canadians drink an average of 22 gallons of beer a year. That means, on average, Canadians get about 41 miles per gallon. Today’s Proverb Age doesn't always bring wisdom. Sometimes it comes alone.
And good morning … … to all you moms. Happy Mother's Day. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Another Award for Buddy
Buddy Martin was recently named one of Florida’s top sports columnists, winning his 12th national or state writing award in six years. Martin’s columns on the Florida Gators’ football and basketball championships, the Masters and other topics were judged among the state’s top three in the Charlotte Sun’s circulation category. He received second place in the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors sports column writing competition for 2006. Martin has notched more than 150 writing, editing and producing awards in newspapers, magazines, radio and television since he began as a journalist more than four decades ago.
Veteran journalist Buddy Martin has just won his 12th state or national writing award in six years. Buddy's columns appear here, as well as in the Charlotte Sun and on GatorCountry.com.
Martin Joines Gator Country GatorCountry.com is proud to announce that Buddy Martin, whose award-winning columns and books have delighted Gator fans for more than five decades, will be bringing his considerable experience and unique perspectives to Gator Country. Martin is considered by many to be the definitive source on Florida football history and one of the great story-tellers of the Gator Nation’s rise as a force in college athletics since World War II. Martin’s columns on the Florida Gators begin in May and will feature a variety of topics – news, commentaries, historical flashbacks, blogs and humor. Martin will also write a regular column for Gator Country’s new glossy magazine.
Buddy Martin Column/May 6, 2007
The joy of winning the Kentucky Derby
To be one of America’s epic events, we probably know the least about the horses in the Kentucky Derby than participants in anything all year on the sporting calendar. We take a cram course, become instant experts on these magnificent animals and their diminutive pilots and then launch full tilt into the office pool or neighborhood drawing. In every way possible, the Kentucky Derby is a game of high risk. It takes a near-miracle just to get a horse into the race. To win it is a fairy tale comes true. Imagine the odds on a horse taking all three Triple Crown races. On rare occasion, a spectacular animal beats those odds and maneuvers through the land mines of Triple Crownhood. It’s been 29 years since Affirmed became the 11th. We never saw it coming with Affirmed. We never even saw it coming with Secretariat, the Babe Ruth of horse racing. Funny thing about that first Saturday in May, 1973, is that I was exulting about my best day of betting ever at Churchill Downs, with more than $700 in winnings – quite a haul for a $10-a-race bettor – and didn’t fully realize what I’d witnessed. I did have sense to tuck away two winning tickets on Secretariat, however, and have never cashed them. We didn’t know what heartache lay ahead for Barbaro. And we’re not exactly what we saw Saturday with the victory by Street Sense, the 9-2 favorite trained by Carl Nafzger and ridden by Calvin Borel, who brought his mount from 19th place to the winner’s circle. If you never knew the joy of winning a Kentucky Derby, Borel showed us after his victory. He rose up in his irons, thrust his whip into the sky as a joyous salute, slapped hands with fellow jockeys and wore a smile wider than the 2 ½ lengths that he won by. Borel, never wanting the moment to end, took an extended victory lap, lifting his jockey’s helmet with both hands as if he were tipping it to the crowd, then pointing downward at the horse over and over as if saying “it was all him.” Eyes filled with tears, he reached down and kissed the mane of Street Sense. We don’t know if we saw the makings of the 12th Triple Crown winner or not, but what we saw was the emotional gratitude of a man who had ridden more than 4,000 horse races, but never experienced anything close to this. That’s why there is nothing like the Kentucky Derby, even if we don’t know much about it until it is finally over. Quick Jump Starts 1. Money Magazine is apparently set to name Gainesville, Fla. as No. 1 among America’s best places to live, adding yet more credence to that braggadocio term “Titletown” which Gator folks are throwing around ad nauseam these days. 2. The study by twos guy from Penn and Cornell made for an interesting topic in academia, but the charge of racially bias calls by NBA officials was refuted by virtually everybody in the league. 3.Now that they’ve finally moved back the college 3-point line, I agree with Billy Donovan’s suggestion that it’s time to widen the lane. 4. I realize they are standing on ceremony by banning alcohol in their clubhouse following the DUI-induced death of pitcher Josh Hancock, but remember that the St. Louis Cardinals are owned by the Busch brewery. 5. If Michael Vick thought the NFL defensive linemen were attackers, wait until he begins to feel the wrath of the animal rights activists after him about the rumored connection with breeding fighting dogs.
Short Stuff This Redfish Cup thing is catching on, as evidenced by the Sun’s weeklong coverage of this year’s premier fishing event and the crowds at motels and restaurants in Charlotte County … What does a guy do after winning two national championships in 366 days? Why if you’re Billy Donovan, you go to Ireland to play golf with eight of your buddies … Golden State’s Baron Davis has suddenly emerged as the freshest new face in the NBA Playoffs. Numbers Please ■ Impressive stat: With the selection of linebacker Lawrence Timmons at 15th overall, FSU has now had at least one first rounder in 16 of the last 17 NFL Drafts. ■ The Atlantic Coast Conference brought in a record $148.9 million this year, a 35 percent increase, which vaulted the 12-school league ahead of the Big Ten, the SEC and the Big 12. ■ The 20 3-year-old colts in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby were racing for a $2,210,000 purse with winner Street Sense getting $1,450,000.
This just in We don’t need a survey to tell us the image professional athletes badly needs a makeover, which is why NFL Commissioner has stepped up to hold organizations, coaches and players responsible for bad behavior. It should have been a clue that the public is fed up with the gang-banging when the owner of several casinos in Las Vegas asked that the NBA All-Star Game not return. Terri Lanni, owner-operator of most of the casinos on the strip, said the crowd that followed the NBA “was bad for business.” This time they’re hoping that what happened in Las Vegas does NOT stay in Las Vegas. Wonder what that does for hopes of bringing an NBA franchise to Glitter City?
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. Sorry, First National Bank of Dad is closed. 2. Who is General Failure and why is he reading my hard disk? 3. Well behaved women rarely make history.
Today’s Joke A woman came home, screeching her car into the driveway, and ran into the house. She slammed the door and shouted at the top of her lungs, “Honey, pack your bags. I won the lottery!” The husband said, “Oh my God! What should I pack, beach stuff or mountain stuff?” “Doesn't matter,” she said. “Just get out.”
Today’s Proverb The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music.
And good morning … … all you Yankee fans. By now are we all getting a little sick of this “Fire Joe Torre” mandate that pops up in the New York tabloids every year when the pin-stripers are struggling. Don’t fall for it!
Buddy Martin Column/April 29, 2007
NFL Draft Day tough for Quinn
For someone whose interest level in the NFL draft is about what yours’ would be in my home movies, it’s getting increasingly difficult to defend my position that this is the most over-hyped non-event in all of sports.
Hey, people watch, just like people watch American Idol, C-Span and political debates.
So Saturday, I tried. After an hour my interest was flagging, the Tampa Bay Bucs already having selected Clemson defensive end Gaines Adam at No. 4. I waited around to see if the Dolphins would take Brady Quinn at No. 9 (they didn’t) and who the Jaguars might select at No. 21 (Florida’s Reggie Nelson).
Aside from watching to see what players would be chosen from the state, like linebacker Lawrence Timmons of FSU at No. 15 (Pittsburgh) and defensive end Jarvis Moss of Florida atNo. 17 (Denver) , it reminded me of one big meat market.
Experts say it’s really impossible to rate a draft until five years later. So I took a look at some of the high picks in 2002. David Carr (formerly of Houston) at No. 1. Joey Harrington (formerly of Detroit) at No. 3. They didn’t get around to picking Clinton Porter (Denver/Washington) until No. 51.
So I’ll give the draftniks this: Even though they don’t know nearly as much as they think, neither do the Mel Kiper types, or many of the NFL player personnel directions.
Hey, any of us could have chosen John Elway or Troy Aikman or Bo Jackson or Bruce Smith or Terry Bradshaw or O. J. Simpson as No. 1 selections. And most of us wouldn’t have picked Carr, Tim Couch, Jeff George or Terry Baker at No. 1.
Remember this: Elway, rated by many as the best value ever for a No. 1 overall pick, wasn’t even drafted by the team he wound winning two Super Bowls for. The Baltimore Colts (yes, Colts) chose Elway and he refused to play for coach Frank Kush, so he was traded to the Broncos – one of the worst trades in NFL history.
In the end, the 2007 Draft Day was a soap opera, “As The Brady Falls.” Every time another team passed on the Notre Dame golden boy, I felt like I wanted to give him a hug and say, “it’s OK Brady, you’ll be just fine.”
He will be. In fact, in appearance and composure, Quinn reminds me a great deal of Elway, who I saw play a gazillion games. It turned out well, as the team he wanted to pick him at No. 3 wound up trading up for him at No. 22. Frankly, I hope he makes the other 20 NFL player personnel directors pay for their bad oversight.Quick Jump Starts 1.The Denver Nuggets have me interested in watching the NBA Playoffs again. 2. St. Louis University basketball fans should hope that Rick Majerus has as much success coaching the Billikens as another former Utah coach has had in football since leaving Salt Lake City. 3. OK, if the blood on Curt Schilling’s sock turns out to be paint, I’m not believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Oprah anymore. 4. Not trying to convict the guy of anything without evidence to the contrary, but given all the bad news that he has generated lately, why do I suspect Mike Vick is in for a big fall? 5. Tony Stewart was right on, comparing NASCAR to the WWL, so how come they made him apologize?
Phil Mickelson, still reeling from last year’s numbskull decision to hit driver on the 72nd hole in the U.S. Open, has changed coaches and is going with former Tiger Woods mentorButch Harmon … Bobby Bowden must be looking for advice from Socrates and Plato these days; his player personnel director, Bob LaCivita, has a doctorate in philosophy … The Web site EveryDayShouldBeSaturday.com, which keeps tabs of the college football players who break the law and awards its annual (Phil) Fulmer Cup to the top violators, assessed Penn State with a record 42 points in its recent six-player skirmish which resulted in arrests and suspensions.
Numbers, Please A lesson for all communities (including this one) who might not realize the financial impact of sports: The two college bowl games in Phoenix pumped $401 million into those Arizona coiffures … Auburn, the only team to defeat national champion Florida in 2006, has won 33 football games in the last three seasons – more than the Gators, LSU or Ohio State … Of all the 69 early enrolled recruits for college football this spring, Florida had the most with 8 … Tickets are getting tougher for UF students; only 83 percent of those who played the ticket lottery for seats in “The Swamp” were able to attain them.
This just in Talent ebbs and flows in college football, as evidenced by what has happened at Florida since 1990. During the tenure of Steve Spurrier, the Gators produced 13 first-round NFL draft picks. After 2001, there was only one – Rex Grossman, until Moss and Nelson went in round one. The talent scouts have been sniffing around Gainesville since Urban Meyer’s national championship team and, based on what kind of recruiting classes Meyer has enjoyed, they will be booking plenty of rental cars and hotel rooms there in the coming years.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. Too many people with problems ARE THE PROBLEM! 2. I have a nice body. It's in my trunk. 3. Invest in America. Buy a Congressman!
Today’s Joke I dialed a number and got the following recording: “I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes.”
Today’s Proverb A conclusion is simply the place where someone got tired of thinking.
And good morning … … All you jubilant NFL fans. Isn’t it remarkable that all 32 teams, including yours, had the best draft?
GATOR BOOK SPECIAL!
GATOR FANS, CHECK OUT THIS SPECIAL PRICE FOR SOFTCOVER COPIES OF 'THE BOYS FROM OLD FLORIDA.' IF YOU CAN READ THIS MESSAGE, YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR A 30 PERCENT DISCOUNT ON YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY. JUST SEND AN E-MAIL TO email@example.com AND REQUEST YOUR COPIES WHILE THEY LAST. THERE ARE ONLY ABOUT 100 AVAIABLE, SO HURRY -- Buddy
Buddy Martin Column/April 21,2007
Guns have no place on college campuses
The issue of guns on college campuses has never been more magnified as now. What happened in Blacksburg, Va. last week is a primary example of why there should be better security at institutions of higher learning and a more vigilant attempt to eliminate weapons. Never mind all the NRA lobbyists who will say it was the deranged student who caused the death of 33 and not the gun. The fact is that firearms have no place on campuses, just as they don’t in airports, high schools, courtrooms, etc. A disturbing trend has emerged among athletes brandishing guns, first at the professional level and now among college athletes. It’s bad enough to have NFL players being shot and killed by gang members as happened in Denver or Adam “Pacman” Jones setting off a riot in a Las Vegas strip club which later resulted in the shooting of two people. It can’t be tolerated by college athletes, who should be booted off the team and out of school for possession and/or firing of guns. Most recently, according to police in Gainesville, offensive lineman Ronnie Wilson shot a semi-automatic weapon in the parking lot of a night club in attempt to intimidate a rival. His case is awaiting trial, but my guess is that Wilson will be punted out of the program like a football. There was an incident last year involving a Gator football player who was leaving for the NFL who hosted several in-school players at his apartment when an automatic weapon went off the bullet went through the wall. Disciplinary action was taken, but if it happened today the punishment might be much more severe. There is already a school policy against guns on campus at most colleges, but it ought to be layered with yet more NCAA legislation punishing the athlete, the program and the institution for such incidents. I applaud the tough stance on bad actors by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s time for college administrators to follow suit.
Quick Jump Starts 1.Boy, this is a new techno bashing technique: Coaches whining because Urban Meyer sent “too many” text messages to college prospects, something that was well within the rules but may soon be frowned upon by the NCAA. 2. On the other, given that some embarrassing personal messages sent by Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt came to light when through a public records request, perhaps coaches will cease and desist on their own. 3. I suppose there will be a core of fans in New York who will bust on Alex Rodriguez for not driving in the tying run against the Red Sox Friday night at Fenway – even though A-Rod had homered twice earlier. 4. Now that NFL Draft Poster Boy Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech has owned up to smoking marijuana, you wonder had badly that will impact his draft position and wonder why Florida defensive Marcus Thomas has done a free fall for doing the same thing. 5.Do you suppose maybe Bobby Bowden’s refusal to name a starter between Xavier Lee and Drew Rutherford means he’s going to do the two-headed quarterback thing that worked so well for Florida?
Short Stuff: The University of Central Florida is dropping the word “Golden” from its team name and will be known as just the “Knights,” which makes you wonder what group was offended by that term … Joey Crawford calling a technical foul on Tim Duncan and then challenging the Spurs’ center to a fight was one of the most reprehensible acts by an NBA official that I’ve ever seen … As many as 14 Florida Gators are likely to go in the NFL Draft on Saturday, with safety Reggie Nelson and defensive end Jarvis Moss being taken in the first round – the first Gators taken that high since Rex Grossman since 2003.
Buddy’s E-Mail Bag
Dear Mr. Martin: Not all Ohio State alumni go north after March 31st. A few of us linger behind to suffer abuse from columnists (such as yourself), and from the general public should we venture outdoors wearing anything bearing the words “Ohio State.” The Florida Gators have won back-to-back basketball national championships, wrapped around a football national championship. They are on top in collegiate athletics, and deservedly so. But they, and their fans, would do well to display (or pretend to display) a little modesty. Ohio State has more Heisman winners, more national football championships, and more basketball championships than the Florida Gators. Coach Jim Tressel constantly instructs his players to hand the ball to an official after scoring a touchdown, admonishing them to “behave as if you've been there before.” Florida sports fans continually make it clear to the rest of the country that they haven't been there before, and lack the class to be there now. Dale H. Gleason, Arcadia Dale: To the victors go the spoils. It’s best that neither side take themselves too seriously, but most importantly, let’s at least keep a sense of humor.
This just in I’m not one of those bowl bashers who see the excessive post-season games as evil, so the fact that there will be 32 of them this fall is OK with me. However, some of the sponsor names are a little obscure and almost humorous, although none will ever equal the former Weedwacker Bowl. My favorites on the new list are: Brut Sun, PetroSun Independence, Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas, R+L Carriers New Orleans and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Church Marquees --God so loved the world that he didn’t sent a committee. --Wal-Mart isn’t the only saving place. --It is unlikely there'll be a reduction in the wages of sin.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. Struggling hair farmer. 2. I'm a recovering something or other. 3. When life hands you gators, make Gatorade.
Today’s Joke A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you please say the blessing?” “I don't know what to say,” the girl whispered.” Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the mother answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people? to dinner?” Today’s Proverb Never insult an alligator until after you have crossed the river.
And not such a good morning … … for all those impacted by the tragic slayings at Virginia Tech. Sports is a good medium for the inducement of healing because so many communities get behind those who are afflicted. I, too, will be rooting for the Hokies.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best column April 15, 2007
Picking up jewelry in ‘The Swamp’
GAINESVILLE – It may have seemed like only a spring practice football game to some, but anytime the defending national champion Florida Gators open the gates these days they draw a crowd. Especially on a day when they come to pick up their rings.
In this case only 47,500 turned out at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for “The Orange & Blue Debut” to see the Blue defeat the Orange, 27-21. That was about 2,300 more than attended the 2006 spring game and 11,000 less than Meyer’s first one in 2005, but a major traffic accident on I-75 outside Ocala caused a traffic jam which caused some fans to miss the entire first half may have also discouraged others from making the trip.
Never you mind: 95,000 will be here when the Gators kick off their 2007 season.
Just how important is a spring practice game? To one Gator fan from Jacksonville, very important. He came into the stadium on a stretcher hoisted by four people. “He was an older fellow and he had all kinds of tubes coming out of him,” said security guard and elevator operator Dan Campione. “I’ve seen many of them leave that way, but I’ve never seen one come in that way.”
It was a pretty important day for some Gator players, too, including sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow, who has inherited the keys to this big Orange and Blue offensive machine from Chris Leak.
From the looks of things, Tebow has the wheel well in hand, at least well enough to please his coach. Tebow hit 17 of 27 for 216 yards, passing for three touchdowns. He threw one to emerging starter Louis Murphy, one to promising incoming freshman tight end Aaron Hernandez and one to sophomore Cade Holliday. More importantly, Tebow was able to connect on deep passes to Murphy for 41 yards and senior Andre Caldwell for 27, showing he can throw the deep ball.
It was Tebow’s improvement on the short passing fundamentals that impressed Urban Meyer, however. “The way he throws the short ball is great,” Meyer said. “A lot of people are going to stack the box against us this year (bring in a safety) and we need to be able to protect the run with our quarterback play. Tim Tebow is a professional quarterback now at Florida. He wakes up every morning wanting to get better.”
The player who drew the most raves, however, was Murphy, the 6-2 junior from St. Petersburg, whose only claim to fame in 2006 was catching a long touchdown pass from Tebow against LSU when the Tigers had only 10 players on the field. This spring, Meyer said, Murphy has earned a starting job as a wide receiver, as did Jarred Fayson.
“He’s (Murphy) got the best fundamentals of any receiver on our team,” Meyer said of Murphy. “He has really taken himself seriously this year. Last year all he did was eat up a scholarship.”
Murphy and Fayson join a very talented group of receivers that already includes Caldwell, Hernandez and speedster Percy Harvin -- plus the towering threesome of 6-4 Cornelius Ingram, 6-4 David Nelson and 6-6 Tate Casey.
This will be the long-awaited season for Tebow fans who wanted to see him start last year when he became half of the two-headed quarterback. It was suggested to Tebow that he had an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver.
“Not many guys in college football have the same kind of talent I have,” Tebow confessed. “I have five or six guys who can catch the ball and take it to the house at any time. They’re a special group of guys and I’m lucky to have them.”
It was a productive spring for Tebow, who suffered a shoulder injury and had to focus on fundamentals while working it out, which he said, “turned out to be a blessing.” He is more balanced throwing on the run, which is something he’ll be doing a lot this year. Meyer says Florida will be more of an option/run-pass offense than last year with Leak.
As one of the key members of the 2006 national championship team, Tebow was awarded his ring in the locker room. The seniors had been presented their’s earlier on the field.
As he spoke to the media, Tebow stole an admiring glance at his new jewelry.
“This thing is heavy,” he said. “Heck, it might cause my shoulder to be even sorer!”
Quick Jump Start
1. Embarrassing moment of the week: Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip was been charged with reckless driving and failing to report an accident after hitting a telephone pole and rolling his car about a mile from his home, then leaving the scene of the accident.
2. I saw Jackie Robinson speak once, years after he left baseball, and even with diabetes and a snow-white head of hair, you could still sense the fire in the belly of this remarkable man.
3. Seems to me if the Ohio State band became famous for “dotting the i” in Ohio, they should now defer that honor to Florida, or perhaps give away the famous “THE Ohio State University” to “THE University of Florida.”
4.OK, I promise from now on this will be a “no-gloating zone” for all Gator fans.
5. Just one more -- did you see the new 2007 Gator football schedule, recently e-mailed to me? (See below)
All of a sudden Billy Donovan has his own coaching tree, now that John Pelphrey is at Arkansas, Anthony Grant is at Virginia Commonwealth and Donnie Jones is at Marshall … Urban Meyer said he had a team meeting after Saturday’s scrimmage to ask the players and coaches if they were good enough to compete for the SEC title and – not surprisingly – the answer was “yes!”
Proposed 2007 Gator football schedule Sept. 6. Ohio State Home Sept. 13.Ohio State, Miami Sept 20. Ohio State, Cleveland Sept 27. Ohio State, Tampa Oct. 1. Open date, visit Columbus Oct. 15. Ohio State, Orlando Oct. 21, Ohio State, Jacksonville Nov. 5, Ohio State, Miami Nov. 12, Ohio State, Tallahassee Nov. 21, Ohio State, Baton Rouge Dec. 4, Ohio State, Atlanta *Dec. 11, Ohio State, New Orleans *BCS could penalize Florida for strength of schedule.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
“I’m workin’ here!” – Billboard.
Don’t be so open-minded your brains fall out. (Church marquee)
What was the greatest thing before sliced bread?
And good morning …
… to all your Cubs fans in Chicago, Now that Mt. Lou has erupted, stay tuned for a wonderful July 4 fireworks show that Piniella will no doubt offer up this summer.
Buddy Martin Column/Don Imus/April 15, 2007
Somebody please stop us, before it’s too late My son says he wants to invent a cell-phone breathalyzer, so that when he or some of his friends decide it’s a good idea to call old girl friends late at night, after a few beers, the phone will automatically shut off. Maybe it could spare them some embarrassing knucklehead moments. Perhaps we need delete buttons on our mouths. So many times when we blurt out something hurtful to a friend or relative – even in jest – we know before the words get airborne that we shouldn’t have said it. Radio stations have 7-second delays to block outrageous or off-color comments from being broadcast. Humans work without that net. There is no deterrent for blatant stupidity which fuels erroneous accusations or mean-spirited commentary. The First Amendment may protect our freedom of speech, but it does not protect us from the reaction to our words. Nor does it validate those words.
As bad as the words might be, it’s usually the motivation for using them that’s most damning. Which brings us to the hot issues of the week: Former radio-TV talk show host Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong and the three Duke Lacrosse players who were exonerated from rape charges. These two issues are not necessarily related, but yet they are. No matter what you feel about the firing of Imus for his lame attempt at humor and his racial and sexist remarks about the Rutgers women, there is no denying that the lapse in judgment was only superseded by ignorance and his lack of sensitivity. Engaging in “edgy” humor is risky business. Any kind of attempt to incite laughter by demeaning a certain segment of our society can be a recipe for disaster. All of a sudden Imus looked older, out of touch and disingenuous. And not funny. Maybe it was time for Don Imus to pull the curtain and move on anyway. But the inglorious exit was painful to watch. He joins the ranks Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and Al Campanis. And so all the good work he did for children with his ranch and his fundraisers couldn’t save the man who claimed “I’m a good person,” but to no avail. The fate of Nifong, whose political motivations were held in question as he pressed hard for rape indictments against the three Duke players, hangs in balance at this writing. He went public, apologizing for embracing erroneous testimony of the exotic dancer, but the damage has already been done. In this case, racial tensions likely played a part as well, since the Lacrosse players are white and the dancer is black. Nifong wasn’t the only one who was ready to pre-judge the facts. Was there a preconceived bias about college athletes that led Nifong and others to presume the guilty of David Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Collin Finnerty? Perhaps, but given the bad behavior of athletes lately, it would be an earned reputation. Don Imus. Mike Nifong. Self-destruction. Sometimes we need to be saved from ourselves. Neither could be. Sadly, we are all culpable in this matter, media included, allowing this kind of sick humor, mean-spirited commentary and blatant stereotyping to abide in our communities. On Wednesday, at the Poynter Media Institute Sports Journalism Summit in St. Petersburg, this topic will be discussed by a faculty of leading sports journalists and 100 seminar participants. It could be the first step of a long overdue journey that will hopefully lead to enlightenment.
Buddy Martin columnSunday April 8, 2007 This isn’t your grandpa’s Masters golf tournament AUGUSTA, Ga. -- This isn't the Masters I remember – that lush green monster softened with the bright hues of the azaleas and the popcorn-white dogwoods, all glimmering in the Georgia sunshine. I haven’t been to all the Masters since 1934, but this was my 36th and I can’t ever recall it being worse for spectators and players alike.
This week, we got dusty walking trails around Augusta National and a noseful of pollen, coupled with stiff winds and chilly temperatures. Yucky brownish red caked shoes and puffs of dust played havoc with contact lenses.
The golfers might as well have been hitting their drives down the straight-aways of Daytona International Speedway, because they spent more time on pit stops in the rough trying to negotiate shots or splashing in the water.
It was difficult to keep the ball on the playing surfaces. And once they reached the slippery greens, finding the bottom of the hole was as difficult for some as it was locating the prize golden egg at one of today’s Easter egg hunts. Saturday’s scoring average was over 77 shots.
They came to the House That Bobby Jones Built expecting to play a Masters, but wound up with U.S. Open conditions, without the warm weather. Result: By the end of the day Saturday, no player near par.
Even Tiger Wood said the conditions were brutal and among “the toughest I’ve ever seen here” and no doubt almost as difficult as those he faced at Winged Foot in 2006 when he missed his first cut at a major.
The difference is that Woods, though struggling this week, has battled back into contention, just one shot off the lead with his score of 3 over par. By the time he had moved up to one shot out, Woods was probably back in his room, perhaps doing nothing, but working his way back up the leader board.
There was so much blood dripping from the carnage late Saturday that most of the fairways and greens were a sea of red. Earlier this week, the players went out like the tide, awash over Tiger. By Saturday afternoon, they came back to him like the onrushing waves. The tide had turned.
Having said all that, I could make a case for Tiger not winning being a good thing for golf; and for the players’ struggles making them more human. The modern players are viewed by some as techno-freaks whose equipment is far superior to that of Jones’ hickory shafts, anyway, and beneficiaries of a huge competitive advantage.
Those who enjoy seeing crackups in NASCAR no doubt delight in watching Vijay Singh giving his Titleist a bath in Ray’s Creek and Phil Mickelson bouncing off the Georgia pines like a pinballer.
It might also be good for golf is somebody besides Woods and Mickelson won a major. For all the good Tiger has done for golf, he has also dwarfed some of his fellow competitors and turned perfectly good events into a Kiwanis Scotch Foursome.
Tiger may not win his fifth green jacket today, but he is going to keep it interesting. The truth is that Tiger is in better shape to pounce today that at any time during the previous 54. And I’ll still take him over the field.
Quick Jump Starts
1. I never thought I’d live to see the day that Florida’s football coach would have turned down Notre Dame to coach the Gators and its basketball coach would say no to the Kentucky job.
2. If he hadn’t chosen stop playing basketball for Billy Donovan and concentrate on playing tight end for Urban Meyer, Cornelius Ingram could have been the only college athlete in history ever to have three national championship rings in 366 days.
3. I’ve heard of makeup calls, but never makeup games, which is what the officials of the Final Four apparently had when they refused to call fouls on Ohio State’s Greg Oden after fouling him out against Georgetown.
4. I tend to believe Bobby Bowden when he tells his players that all 22 positions are not set for the Seminoles and that most of them are “up for grabs” in next Saturday’s FSU spring game.
5. It’s good to hear the voice of Pat Summerall back on the CBS broadcast of the Masters, even if he’s just the house announcer who introduces the event.
Urban Meyer went on a rant last week about athletes with guns following the arrest of offensive lineman Ronnie Wilson, who fired off an AK47 and was arrested because the Florida coach takes those kind of events as personal failures by himself and his assistant coaches … Don’t know how far down the list of Kentucky basketball coaching candidates Billy Gillispie was, but you had to love his comments that “anywhere above seventh or eighth would have been fine by me.”
Nothing but ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s Cyberfriends – and a few of my own)
The Gospel according to St. Titleist “If you are going to throw a club, it is important to throw it ahead of you, down the fairway, so you don't have to waste energy going back to pick it up.” – Tommy Bolt.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any. 2. Don't bother me, I’m living happily ever after. 3. Florida Gators, National Chomp-ions.
Today’s Joke: His “Street Name”
“I'd like the number for Jennifer Smith in Richmond, Virginia,” the
young man said to the 411 operator.
“There are multiple listings for Jennifer Smith in Richmond, Virginia,”
the operator said.“Do you have a street name?”
The young man hesitated a moment, then replied, “Well, uh, most people call me ‘Snake.’”
To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
And good morning …
... to all you Florida basketball fans. Consider yourself fortunate to have Billy Donovan and remember that with gratitude next year when his young team is struggling.
Buddy Martin column for April 3, 2007 ‘The Gator Boys’ should be cast in bronze forever OK Hollywood, here’s your chance for Hoosiers II. You can call this film “The Gator Boys.” The whole feel-good story line is in the same spirit of that little high school team from Milan, Ind. which stole the 1954 state title and wound up stealing the hearts of American moviegoers. Florida’s basketball team wasn’t so much about being underdogs this year. “The Gator Boys” is the parable of six unselfish college athletes who turned down millions of dollars to stay and play for the honor and glory of their team and their school by winning back-to-back national championships. A true parable of selflessness. We should never forget the names of those six young men who took a stand for everything pure in the otherwise money-grubbing, fame-grabbing world of sports. At least three of them could have been millionaires at the end of last season. Instead, they wisely chose the treasure that will last an eternity. The likenesses of Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Lee Humphrey, Joakim Noah and Chris Richard – and they are listed alphabetically, because that’s how they would prefer it – should be cast in bronze and hung in the O’Connell Center forever. And, yes, I mean six – because if ever a sixth man could be considered a starter, Richard would be it. On a technicality, just five of the 2006-2007 team will be remembered in perpetuity as the only starters in college basketball to win consecutive championships. We all know better. Even that accomplishment, remarkable though it might be, is not the true legacy of “The Gator Boys.” Their legacy isn’t just about becoming the sixth team in history to win back-to-back titles – the first time since Duke did it in 1991-92 – or even their part in helping Florida become the only school in history to claim football and basketball national championships in same school year. As long as coaches preach the gospel of team, team, team, these six players and this group will held in awe and esteem not just for what they accomplished, but for what they were willing to sacrifice. A lot of coaches and players talk the talk. “The Gator Boys” lived it. They lived it in their generosity, a willingness to share the basketball and let somebody else have the glory. It may never happen again that all five starters will score more than 1,000 points in a season, all averaging double figures, but none higher than 13.3. That happened by design. Vicariously, sports fans got to experience the joy of these “Gator Boys” when they finally realized Monday night they had beaten Ohio State, 84-75, and were living their dream.Even if you were sick and tired of hearing and reading about the University of Florida’s athletic success, you had to applaud the motivation of players who wanted to send a message to us about the real core values of sports. We heard it loud and clear. It is true that all six of them may wind up handsomely rich playing basketball and that coach Billy Donovan might even depart for Kentucky after 11 years in Gainesville. I don’t care. As Donovan told them all season long, it’s not about living in the past or the future, “it’s about the moment.” In my four decades of a journalist, I’ve never run across a moment like this.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best,Sunday April 1, 2007
It's only 50-50 that Donovan
will turn down Kentucky job
In a matter of days, if not hours, Billy Donovan will be making a decision that is going to rock the world of college basketball, with epicenters in both Gainesville, Fla. and Lexington, Ky. Either way he goes, it’s an 8 or a 9 on the Richter Scale.
A month ago, I would have bet my house that Donovan would be coaching at Florida next year and for many seasons to come. Today I’m not sure I’d bet $20, going either way. That’s because I have a very good source from the inside who informs me that the Donovan family, itself, isn’t sure how things will come out.
This doesn’t mean I’m predicting Donovan is taking the job at Kentucky, but I know enough know not to rule it out. I say it's 50-50 if he stays or goes.
The reasons for or against it? Of course, he can make Florida the "new Kentucky." Of course, he can make just as much money as the Gator coach. Of course, he has the Gator program in the groove and it would be harder for him starting over at Kentucky.
But coaching Kentucky night be the next thing in the progression of a young coach’s ladder of success.
Despite all those who claim to have insight, information and knowledge regarding The Donovan Sweepstakes, nobody can really know, because Billy hasn’t yet made up his own mind. He owes it to himself and his family to explore every option. Florida says it will match everything that is match-able. But a couple of things aren’t.
As a matter of fact, I can make a strong case here for why, indeed, Donovan ought to accept the Kentucky job (sorry Gator fans). Because this is not really about what’s best for the University of Florida; it’s about what’s best for the Donovans.
Put it like this: You’re happy in your job, love the town where you live, profess a sense of fondness for your boss and loyalty to the institution that governs your work, and your spouse has no real desire to leave.
Along comes your dream job, maybe the best of its kind in America, and not only can it be yours for the taking, but you can have just about anything else – money, fame, influence, longevity, etc. You’re on the lower side of 40 and you’ve accomplished something that will never be equaled by your successor of your old job – let alone surpassed. If you stay, you can only hope only to maintain.
In the words of another former Florida coach, Steve Spurrier, who left after 12 seasons,“sooner or later they get tired of you.”
This is Donovan’s 11th season as Gator coach. Barring an unforeseen change or heart, four of his starters will leave early for the NBA; two others key seniors graduate. No matter how great his next season may have turned out, you can be assured that after his sixth or seventh loss next season, some Gator fan will pipe up: “You can have him, Kentucky!”
Right now, Billy Donovan is the hottest coach in America. That’s why the story of him perhaps going to Kentucky has virtually dwarfed the Final Four, much to his chagrin. Next year there is likely to be another flavor.
As for those numbskulls who would blame Billy for Florida NOT winning the title and chastise him for the so-called distractions he created, let me assure you that nobody would have been happier than the Florida coach if the subject had never been up.
I personally know Billy Donovan to be a man of integrity, as also witnessed of two close friends who deal with him regularly. So if Florida winds up not winning the national title again, don’t pin it on the Kentucky Caper.
Naturally he’s interested in the job. And no doubt he has people who have been talking on his behalf, or why else would Kentucky have held the job open?
I’ll never buy that he hasn’t been totally focused on UCLA, however. And for those who keep saying Donovan should have shot down the rumors and denied any interest in Kentucky, my question is: Why?
Why would the man want to purposely mislead people or lie if he, indeed, wants to leverage himself a better deal? Do you want his nose to grow as long as Nick Saban’s?
One thing Bily Donovan is not is a liar.
There is one “X-Factor” that could make the difference in Donovan leaving.
Little known is that move afoot to upgrade academic standards for University of Florida students and student-athletes which could cripple the athletic department.
I have seen some of those projections and if they are adopted over the next 3-5 years as planned, big-time athletic success in Gainesville is over. The requirement for athletes enrolling in a major is about to soar. We not talking a C average -- it's closer to a B. No major, no graduation.
Such a plan places Gator football and basketball in serious jeopardy. Here’s why: The NCAA is about to invoke rules that if schools don’t graduate a high rate, the school will begin to lose scholarships. How do you graduate if you can't place student-athletes in a major?
Kentucky doesn’t have those kind of academic standards in place, nor does any school in the SEC but Vandy. Do you want to see Florida’s program slip to the level of Vandy?
This is one of those “unmatchable” factors that could stand in the way of the Gators retaining their greatest basketball coach of all time.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Sorry if this column reads like I was distracted, but I have been contacted by Kentucky as a backup candidate if Billy Donovan says no.
2. Why this time of year is sports heaven: The Final Four over the weekend, Major League Baseball starts tonight, the Masters tees of Thursday and playoffs for the NBA and NHL begin soon
3. Frankly, I could do without another rendition of “One Shining Moment” for a while.
4. Why do I keep looking at Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and thinking: “Should this buy be playing in Vaudeville?”
5. Top five college basketball coaching jobs: 1. Kentucky, 2. North Carolina, 3. Kansas, 4. Duke, 5. (tie) Florida and UCLA.
Sophomore receiver/running back Jared Fayson lit up the spring scrimmage Saturday in Gainesville and former running Markus Manson appears to be making the transition to cornerback nicely … Wouldn’t be surprised to see Bobby Bowden copy cat Urban Meyer and, instead of picking one quarterback, playing both Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford next fall.
Nothing but ‘Net
(With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
I have no desire for money; it's the stuff I want.
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
My inner child needs chocolate.
I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left.
And good morning …
... to all you other guys chasing Tiger Woods this week. Wish I could pick one of you to win the Masters – but I can’t.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best,Sunday March 25, 2007
Gators would have 'homecourt advantage in Georgia
Sunday Best, Sunday March 18, 2007 Many sports fans have hated Notre Dame, the New York Yankees and Green Bay Packers over the years. Today they are hating the Florida Gators for much the same reason. Even their harshest of critics would have to admit that the Gators have got it going on in college sports these days. Just take a look at what has happened in football and basketball at Florida since the fall of 2005 after Urban Meyer was hired. The Gators’ football record that year was 10-3. In the latter part of ’05, Billy Donovan’s launched a championship run in the Southeastern Conference and, as an underdog, also romped to the national title with a 33-6 record. By April 2006, Athletic Jeremy Foley’s two squads had rolled up a combined record of 43-9, but were just getting started. Seemingly feeding off the success of each other, Meyer’s football team ripped through the ’06 regular season 11-1, won the SEC over Arkansas and then clobbered an unsuspecting Ohio State Big Ten champion, 41-14, to win the national championship and go 13-1. About three months later, in the same Georgia Dome where Meyer’s Gators won the conference, Donovan’s Gators salted away another SEC by beating Arkansas. Winning football and basketball conference titles against the same school in the same building is something no other college team has ever done, or will likely ever do again. Barriers keep coming down Gainesville and most anything seems possible these days for the guys in orange and blue. Friday night, Donovan’s defending national champions moved one step closer to doing what Duke last did, claiming back-to-back national titles, as they survived a scrappy Butler team in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen to earn another trip to the Elite Eight. Donovan’s Gators are only three games removed from the ultimate prize. Today, the current UF basketball team boasts a 32-5 mark. If you break it down with the two sports, that makes a combined total of 88 wins, 15 losses, two national championships and three SEC titles – with yet another national trophy hanging in the balance. Since Donovan and Meyer are neighbors in the same cul de sac, do you suppose all the genius is in their water? There are many moving parts on Donovan’s squad and a wealth of talent, but The Man on Friday night was Al Horford, who dominated both ends of the court, carrying his Gator mates on his back. Aside from his stellar free-throw shooting that led to 16 points, plus seven rebounds, Horford’s four blocked shots were crucial – especially the two in the final minute – and prevented Butler from a huge upset. The Gators had trailed by as many as 9 points before notching the 65-57 victory and advancing to today’s game against Oregon for the right to return to the Final Four -- in, of all places, Atlanta. Hey, the Georgia Dome is getting to be a home field/court advantage for the Florida Gators. How long can this beautiful life last for Gator fans? Well, this kind of success is rare and fragile, so it can be altered or torpedoed by the slightest tilt of the axis, leading to seismic change. Donovan, for instance, could up and take the Kentucky job. Do I think it would happen? Nope, but when Bill talks openly in his press conference about it as he did Friday, it makes Gator fans nervous. “All I'm going to say … that has nothing to do with me,” Donovan replied to a questioner. “It has everything to do with Kentucky. I'm not in control of any their decision-making process. The only thing I'm focused on right now is our basketball team and trying to coach them and enjoy every moment with them because it's been such a fun group.” It could become a lot more fun if Florida beats Oregon today. Quick Jump Starts 1. Sometimes I wonder if Tiger Woods isn’t in danger of making golf boring.2. Can somebody please explain why Steve Alford bolted Iowa in favor of New Mexico?3. This column has a secret compartment where I hide my jewelry, like Mike Vick’s water bottle. 4. I predict Kentucky – unless it was able to lure Donovan away from Florida, which I doubt will ever happen – will rue the day it dumped Tubby Smith. 5. If you watched the gallant effort of Southern Illinois in a heartbreaking loss to Kansas, did I, you must have admired the play of Salukis point guard Jamaal Tatum, college basketball’s version of Steve Nash. Short Stuff:The Mr. Two Bits of Miami Dolphins football, Denny Sym, aka "Dolfan Denny," died last week at age 72 after cheering on his favorite NFL team for 34 seasons … Two of the freshman drawing the coaches’ eyes in the Gators spring football practice are tight end Aaron Hernandez of Bristol, Conn. and cornerback/athlete Joe Haden of Fort Washington, Md.
And good morning ... ...to you Florida Gulf Coast University students, fans and supporters. Congrats on the success of the Eagles women’s success in the NCAA basketball tournament.Buddy Martin
Without Cinderella, we are left to the Upperdogs Welcome to Basketball Daze. Three days and 48 games worth of NCAA hoops can turn you into a hollowed-eyed Harry Potter creature, with a brain scrambled by box scores and Bracket-ology.
March Madness is a little bit of Hoop Heaven or Hoop Hell, depending on your perspective.
Maybe you hate the officials. Zebra-bashing is permissible in the privacy of your own living room. Some of those block-charge calls always look sketchy. Give me a good no-call any day.
Maybe you’re ticked off at the announcers. This is a Dick Vitale-Free Zone on CBS, but there’s always something to holler at them about. My friend Verne Lundquist annoyed me the other night because he wouldn’t keep us up to speed on fouls. C’mon, Verne!
Maybe you want to throw a pillow at the TV when the directors give us the wrong pictures, like they did when Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got all the face time over Virginia Commonwealth’s Anthony Grant, whose team upset the Blue Devil.
The brackets are addictive. People like my wife, who barely know Georgetown from Boy George, attacks the brackets like Warren Buffett reading the stock tables. Sometimes she’ll say, “I’m going to take UNLV all the way, because my dad graduated from there.” Or, “I like this one because Gary (her son-in-law) would be mad if I didn’t pick UCLA.”
Funny thing is that she usually beats me.
By the way, not surprisingly, the missus picks Florida go all the way. I picked Kansas to beat the Gators in the semis and the Jayhawks to win it all by beating Georgetown.
So far, this has been mostly a tournament of the chalk walkers. From the opening tip Tuesday night in the play-in victory by Niagara over Florida A&M through the first two rounds it has been fairly vanilla, with all the top seeds five seeds holding serve.
Bracket-busters were rare in the first 32 games. And except for the upset of No. 6. Notre Dame by No. 11 Winthrop and the thrilling win by No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth over No. 6 Duke, the first two rounds were basketball’s version of business-as-usual.
Will somebody please ask Cinderella to call central casting? No matter which of the top teams is your flavor, Florida’s quest to repeat remains best story until she shows up.
There is no doubt that the unselfish decision of Billy Donovan’s 2006 to come back another season is a story that should be championed. Although it’s not always easy to get behind the upperdogs,we must always remember in a sports world where the pros have been known the paper the walls of strip-clubs with thousands of dollars, we have an obligation to celebrate core values and salute virtue where we find it.
Speaking of finding it, CBS and the NCAA did its best to bury the story of Florida’s quest with a 10:05 p.m. tipoff in the Gators’ 112-69 victory over Jackson State. Florida fans had the choice of hopping a flight to New Orleans or staying at home and adjusting their body clocks yet another hour, thanks to the Central Time Zone and the earlier-than-usual Daylight Saving Time.
Maybe that was the reason Florida was sleep walking through the first half. Sixth-man Chris Richard kept Florida on top with his hustle plays, offensive boarding and stick-backs.
As a matter of fact, when people talk about Florida’s starting five having achieved “rock star status” on the UF campus, they shouldn’t forget Chris Richard, the Sixth Gator. And if they ever paint a portrait of this Famous Five, then Richard should join Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey for the sitting. He is the Fifth Beatle – maybe not McCartney, Lennon, Harrison or Starr, but perhaps Pete Best or Stuart Sutcliffe.
Richard shepherded his dozing teammates to a halftime lead of six points, 41-35. The Gators then subjected Jackson State to a shock-and-awe second half of 71 points, the most in school history. It was raining threes from Lee Humphrey and Corey Brewer. The Gators owned the glass. They ran the court with abandon. And they sent a little message to those who thought they had a shot at seeing the first No. 16 seed upset of a No. 1.
No doubt Billy Donovan would like to have saved some of those points for Sunday’s game against Purdue, but he’s also very happy to see them on the scoreboard.
The Gators have to win five more times to repeat. People like me picked against them because the odds are against this happening again in sequential years. And no team has ever won back-to-back titles with the same starting five.
Or, for that matter, the starting same six.
Quick Jump Starts
1.For all you bracket wizards who smugly picked Florida, consider that a chicken in Atlanta made its “pecks” and wound up with the same conclusion.
2. Hoo boy, another idol has fallen: Even Rocky was caught at the airport with illegal growth hormones.
3. So go figure this: None other than rival Phil Mickelson comes to the defense of Tiger Woods on his decision to possibly limited the field to 80 in his new AT&T National in Washington D.C.
4. Mickelson can do the math – in the past 10 years since Tiger’s dominance began, prize money on the PGA Tour has more than tripled.
5.The highest paid SEC coach last season wasn’t Urban Meyer or Steve Spurrier or Phil Fulmer or Mark Richt – it was Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville ($2.23 million).
According to his former Police Athletic League coach in New York, Tyrone Green, Joakim Noah starting thumping his check at age 13 to demonstrate “he’s playing with heart”… Tim Tebow will start in Urban Meyer’s two-quarterback system, with freshmen Cameron Newton and John Brantley, or junior college transfer Bryan Waggener backing up.
Nothing but ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends) Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. I'm no Wino. I'm a Wine-yes.
2. Consumer Alert: Chocolate makes your clothes shrink.
3. I had a nice day and I didn't like it.
Best marriage advice. Love, Honor and Negotiate.
And good morning …
…to the friends and family of former Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who died last week at 80. I had many chats with Bowie, whose legacy will always be that of night baseball in the World Series, despite the chilly weather. To make his point, Bowie refused to wear an overcoat.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best, Sunday March 11, 2007
Five to remember in college basketball
In the fragile world of sudden death basketball, it’s tough to predict anybody as the favorite to win the NCAA basketball tournament – even if the reigning defending champion Florida Gators do have all five starters back from last season.
You could throw a net over Florida, UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Memphis with a pretty good chance of fining a winner, but this does appear to be one of those seasons when nobody is the dominant choice.
Fact is, unless Florida wins today’s SEC title game in Atlanta against Arkansas, Billy Donovan’s team may not even be one of the four No. 1 seeds after Selection Sunday ends.
Having said that, the Gators sent a loud message last week:They’re back, they’re angry, they’re focused and whoever plays them had better bring dinner, because it’s going to be a long night.
Unlike in their late-season slump, when they came out flat and lost three of their last four games, these Gators look like the ones we saw last year when they got hot and ripped off six straight wins for the national title.
When they come out of the box strong, they almost always win the game when they win the first 10 minutes.
Against Georgia Friday night and Mississippi Saturday, they were shot out of a cannon. They ran up a 17-0 lead against the Bulldogs before prevailing 74-57. And they rolled up a 13-2 margin against the Rebels on the way to a 80-59 semi-final victory and trip to the finals today against Arkansas. In fact, they shot 75 per cent in the first five minutes of their SEC wins. And they have won them by an average margin of 19 points.
There are promising signs that have Donovan smiling in his sleep. The belly-button defense has returned. The crisp passes are there. The outside shooting has kicked in. The aggressive rebounding is evident. They are playing like they like each other again. And the energy level, thanks mostly to a rejuvenated Joakim Noah, is off the charts.
This is where you want your team this time of the year – peaking for the stretch run.
Nobody could predict what happened last year and nobody can do it this year, because as Donovan has said many times, his Gators might not have been the best team in the country in 2006, but they were the best against six straight opponents.
The fact that all five starters returned for this season when four of them could have been playing in the NBA this year – and maybe more – makes this a feel-good story for all college basketball fans, not just Gator backers.
Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey still have some work to finished, but they have provided us with a memorable year – and maybe two. It is a story for the ages.
Quick Jump Starts
1.Here’s why you’ll never get a college football playoff system that would meet unanimous approval: Even when they pick 65 teams for the NCAA basketball tournament, there are still teams left out that man felt were worthy.
2. Oh, geez, it’s March and that means we’re going to be seeing more of Billy Packer in our living rooms than our spouses
3. Bad news for future Gator basketball opponents during March Madness: Lee Humphrey has his shooting eye back.
4. I agree with my friend Neil and others who say it’s absurd that the NHL schedule is ridiculous when there’s never even been a regular season rematch of the two teams who went 7 games before Tampa Bay beat Calgary in 2004.
5. My second favorite name of the Kentucky Derby hopefuls (after NoBizLikeShoBiz) is Any Given Saturday.
Short Stuff: After three straight losses to Florida, Bobby Bowden finally decided to improved his scouting report on the Gators, by hiring Urban Meyer’s director of football operations, Bob LaCivita, who becomes FSU’s first-ever director of player personnel … The Tampa Bay Lightning have 10 players left from the 2004 Stanley Cup champions … There are 162 foreign-born players in major league baseball (22 per cent), with 119 of them Latin Americans (76 from the Dominican Republic).
Give it a rest please
Yes, Florida’s Chris Richard is indeed a talented sub, which is why he was picked as the SEC’s Best Sixth Man, but TV announcers need to ditched that overused line: “Hey, he’d be starting on any other team in the country!” Maybe so, maybe not. Haven’t they ever heard of John Havlicek?
Where's Meadowlark? A friend of mine took his grandson to see the 2007 version of the Harlem Globetrotters recently and was shocked at the staggering price of $42.50 per ticket, plus being disappointed by the poor quality of the entertainment. I told him that for that much, he should have expected to see Meadowlark Lemon making comeback.
This time I don’t think Steve Spurrier’s quarterback could be called “a product of the system.” Freshman Stephen Garcia of Tampa has been suspended for the spring by the South Carolina coach following a second arrest, this time for “keying” a car belonging to a USC professor. Yo, Stephen, that’s not exactly the grabbing key to the future in Columbia.
Nothing but ‘Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
The Gospel according to St. Titleist
“I'm hitting the woods just great, but having a terrible time getting out of them!” –
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. When all else fails, manipulate the data.
2. You see three branches of government. I see firewood
3. Amateurs Built The Ark. Professionals Built The Titanic.
Best comebacks by caddies: “You've got to be the worst caddy in the world.” Caddie: “I don't think so sir. That would be too much of a coincidence.”
The irony of life is that, by the time you're old enough to know your way around, you're not going anywhere.
And good morning …
... All you Bracketologists. My three sleepers: Georgetown, Arkansas and Texas.
Buddy Martin Front Row/Gator Hoop/ March 4, 2007
Just like old times again at The O-Dome
GAINESVILLE – It’s March and The Lion is roaring again. That 6-foot-11 chest-banging, fist-pumping, rim-rattling, court-diving, crowd-pleasing New York giant they call “Jo” came off the missing persons list Sunday. Joakim Noah is back among the living.
Back on the glass snagging rebounds (10), back on the floor retrieving loose balls, back in the box score with double digit points (17) and, most of all, back like Freddy Kilowatt with the electricity. After a three-game slump and a lackluster showing of just 18 total points, the part cheerleader/part junior basketballer played brilliantly in what was most likely his final game at the O’Connell Center. He energized everybody.
The team that took the floor Sunday looked a lot like last year’s squad, playing aggressive defense, dominating the glass, knocking down the three-pointers,blocking shots and stealing the basketball, etc.
“It was good to see him (Noah) getting back to that energy he has,” said Coach Billy Donovan, who was beaming about the effort his whole team finishing unbeaten (17-0) at home and at the same time coming to the defense of his player. “Five of our last seven games were on the road and there was a lot of abuse of Jo that crossed the line,” said Donovan.
They may have slowed him down, but Jo and The Gator Boys are back playing like the way they use to play:Five Florida players had 10 or more points. Among them was including a trio with three 3-point buckets: Lee Humphrey, Taurean Green and Walter Hodge.
The ever-dependable Al Horford had a scary moment after banging knees with a Wildcat and needed assistance to leave the court, but came back and finished off a 14-point day with three blocks and 10 rebounds.
This rejuvenation was none too soon, with the SEC Tournament starting in Atlanta for the Gators on Friday, followed by the NCAA Tournament where they are defending a national championship.
Two straight losses on the road, caused by shooting slumps and defensive lapses, dropped the Gators out of a possible No. 1 seed, but the SEC regular season champs are still positioned well to make a run. Especially with a re-energized Noah, who was angry about some of the things that had been written about him and had a few words for the media.
“Sometimes I feel like the media is poison,” said Noah. “It’s funny to you guys, but this is my life. So from now on I’m playing for me, my family and the people that matter to me.”
Among that group is the “Rowdy Reptiles,” Noah’s biggest admirers. Once again, just like the old Joakim, he played to the student section, as if counting off points like a metronome, beating his breast and making Tarzan-like incantations.
Along with bringing all that energy, Noah appeared to be blowing off steam and getting on his mad for those in his way on the road to the Final Four. It’s March, and the Lion is roaring again. Beware.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best, Sunday March 4, 2007
Sometimes change is a good thing Sometimes I think free agency wrecked professional sports. Other times I think it has been the greatest thing since garage door openers, TV clickers and e-mail. In simpler times, we knew all the players in every league, their batting averages, scoring averages and touchdowns scored and tackles made. There was an occasional trade, but rosters seldom changed. We could keep up. It was a more personal time for sports fans. Our team was our team. In today’s rent-a-player climate, we lose track of the players and develop split loyalties. If, say, Johnny Damon is your fave, how can a Red Sox fan suddenly pull for a Yankee? The upside is that the Yankees don’t win all the time; there is hope for Arizona Cardinal and Detroit Lions – and maybe even the Bucs. Late last week, the Bucs Nation was abuzz with the word that Jake Plummer had been obtained by Jon Gruden’s club for a fourth-round draft choice. But before Tampa Bay fans could celebrate, The Snake crawled off and retired rather than report to the Bucs. Talk about rejection! Talk radio lit up in both Denver and the Bay Area. Out in Colorado, most Broncos fans were saying “Good riddance!” Bucs fans couldn’t quite understand the move. One caller to the pinching-hitting Nanci Donnellan, aka “The Fabulous Sports Babe” on WDAE, made the point that John Gruden seemed to consider himself a rehabilitator of broken down quarterbacks. “He keeps looking for Rich Gannon and he’s not out there,” said the caller. Then came the news Saturday that the Bucs had signed Jeff Garcia and worked out a deal for the rights to Plummer, who will then be traded to another team. So the Bucs are doing something, even if it turns out to be wrong. Change is a very good thing when you stink. Quick Jump Starts 1.Memo to Jon Gruden: Let’s hope for your sake that Jeff Garcia doesn’t decide to retire, too. 2. If ESPN and CBS don’t start giving us a reasonable count on personal fouls and a shot clock graphic, I’m going back to listening to basketball games on Internet radio (if I can find them). 3. If you want to root for a sport that doesn’t coddle or tolerate rich, insufferable, egomaniacal athletes, go for the Iditarod. 4. Talk about your ultimate sacrifice for a teammate: Ron Springs giving up a kidney for former Dallas Cowboy defensive back Everson Walls. 5.I’m rooting No Biz Like Show Biz as a Kentucky Derby contender, if for no other reasons than the great name and the fact that he reminds us somewhat of Funny Cide.
Short Stuff: Looks like no matter the outcome of Sunday’s final game against Kentucky at the O-Dome, the Florida Gators won’t be a No. 1 seed and will probably wind up playing their opening round in New Orleans … If you feel old, consider how 40-year-old Dikembe Mutombo creaks around after an NBA outing … I dunno, does it bother you taxpayers that the State of Florida’s highest paid employee is FSU coach Bobby Bowden?
This just in A few years ago we ran a story here about an arsonist turning out to be a fireman. How quaint! A person’s hobby, pyromania, also provides her or him with job security. This might be an absurd comparison, but in a way it reminds me of Tiger Woods. A few weeks ago, The International pulled the plug, citing the lack of a title sponsor and poor TV ratings to the inability to attract Tiger. A few weeks later, the PGA Tour announced that the July 4th event will be moved to Washington, D.C., with the Tiger Woods Foundation as the sponsoring agency. Of course, everybody denied there was anything brewing all along. Tiger taketh away, Tiger giveth.
Cheesy Lines --Phil Fullmer got a two-year extension on his contract at Tennessee, but no raise. If he really wanted to live up to the team’s name, he could Volunteer for nothing. --One of the players who stood up to the notion of moving the New Orleans Saints to San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina was Joe Horn, all of which got him a ticket out of town. He was released Friday, but at his own request. Would it be right or wrong to say the Saints blew off Joe Horn? --New ESPN football analyst Bill Parcells says it’s definitely “the last time I’m coming back to TV” and that he’s done with coaching because “it’s too much for a person like me to fight.” Seems as though Parcell’s Cowboys nemesis, Terrell Owens, caused a Tuna Meltdown.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
The Gospel according to St. Titleist “Man blames fate for all other accidents, but feels personally responsible when he makes a hole-in-one.” -- Bishop Sheen.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. My garage is my salvation. 2. Talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer. 3. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often (Sonny’s, Bushnell).
Today’s Joke Higher Power: A Sunday school teacher said to her children, “We have been learning how powerful kings and queens were in Bible times. But, there is a higher power. Can anybody tell me what it is?” One child blurted out, “Aces!”
Today’s Proverb He who smiles in a crisis has found someone to blame.
And good morning … … All you nervous Gator basketball fans. Don’t despair just yet.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best, Sunday Feb. 25, 2007
Stepping up to the plate one more time
This is the year I’m going back to an Old Flame: Baseball. It has been too long between hugs with the Great American Pastime, which I played as a boy and loved so much. We’ve been drifting apart for several decades now and for reasons that still don’t readily come to mind, my passion for the game has dwindled. Like most other sports fans, the interest level ebbs and flows. About every October I become a fan again. Last season, as in recent years, it seems the World Series outcome just wasn’t all that important – even to a guy who was once a Cardinal fan. Perhaps it is the late hour of competition, or even the proliferation of franchises and the overexposure to the game which contributed to my apathy. Seems like when we had only the Game of the Week it was special. Now we get a choice of several almost every night. More is less. It would be convenient to blame the steroid scandal or the high salaries or major league boys acting badly. Truthfully, my lack of interest seems to stem from not living in a real baseball community and being able to follow a contending team. Because there is still nothing like a pennant chase. Back when the Red Sox and Yankees were trading blows and the Mets were at least competitive I lived in New York and enjoyed a game on TV several nights a week.But the best that the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have to offer have not piqued my interest. I reallyt can’t blame anybody else, so maybe it’s just my fault for not reaching out. I’m willing to meet baseball halfway this year, however, and and I’ve begun doing a little homework to get ready for the 2007 season. Maybe I’ll even go as far as to see a weekend series at The Trop. Meanwhile, let’s kick it off with a little trivia, which always seems so indiginent to baseball: There are only four major league baseball teams that don’t use players’ names on the back of their road jerseys and just one that has them on neither. Can you name them? (See answer below) Batter up! Quick Jump Starts 1. Just so you know how it’s going to go next season, Bucs fans, your team is already 0-1 after the coin toss with Cleveland for the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft. 2. Now that Dwayne Wade is injured and out, it’s time for The Big Man, Shaquille O’Neal, to step up and earn That Big Money. 3.Sometimes we wonder why we watch NASCAR racing, and then we get a reminder from the last spectacularly, splendorific, slam-bang Daytona 500. 4.It must be spring, because Manny Ramirez is late reporting for something again. 5.I have problems with a guy like Bill Romanowski, a reformed self-acknowledged steroid user who says he has seen the error of his ways, hawking his new supplements for brain-injured football players.
Short Stuff: With Arkansas AD Frank Broyles stepping down, coach Houston Nutt is expected to be more exposed to fire from Razorback fans, some of whom are taking out ads in newspapers to get Nutt canned … The Florida Gators cut down the nets after Wednesday’s night’s win over South Carolina to celebrate the regular season SEC basketball championship, then went to Baton Rouge and got cut down by the LSU Tigers Saturday in what had to be one of the worst showings of the season for Billy Donovan’s team … The Gators, by the way, will be wearing new tighter fitting uniforms Tuesday night at Tennessee, bearing some facsimile of alligator skin.
Oscar This In honor of tonight’s Academy Awards, these famous Oscars: Robertson, Hammerstein, Wilde, Charleston, Robles and Meyer.
Cheesy Lines --Tennessee’s Adam “Pacman” Jones brought new meaning to the terms gluttony, waste and lust by showering strippers is Las Vegas with $81,000 in cash, causing a shootout that led to three injuries and proving without a doubt that professional athletes are not only grossly overpaid, but quite often stupid and dangerous. The Titans ought to tell Pacman to pack it in. --Huntington, West Va. schoolboy hoopster O.J. Mayo, who scored 47 in last week’s loss to St. Patrick of Elizabeth, N.J., has already committed to Southern Cal, leading some to wonder if crosstown rival UCLA is already working on the cheer, “Hold The Mayo! Hold The Mayo!” --So Donald Trump wants to build a wedding chapel on a New Jersey golf course and convert it to a mausoleum. Most of us already know the feeling of getting buried on a golf course.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
The Gospel according to St. Titleist “If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork as poorly as they do a golf club, they'd starve to death.” – Sam Snead
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign 1. Don't blame yourself. Let me do it. 2. I may not be right, but I can sure sound like it. 3. I left the golf course for this?
Today’s Joke A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day – 30,000 to a man's 15,000. The wife replied, “The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men.” The husband then turned and asked, “What?”
Today’s Proverb Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
Trivia Answer: Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Giants. Yankees also do not display them on their road uniforms.
And good morning … … to all you Bracketologists. This could be the year to pick some of the longshots for your Final Four.
Buddy Martin column/ Feb. 18, 2007
Nothing left in Gators’ tank this time
When they tried to push the accelerator to the floor, there was nothing left in the gas tank. And we’re not talking about the boys at Daytona Beach. After twice overcoming double-digit deficits at halftime against SEC opponents in the past few weeks, the No. 1 Florida basketball Gators found themselves too farback in the pack to catch up to the Vanderbilt Commodores. It was somebody else’s turn to win one for a change. In the scheme of things, getting hammered by the Commodores, 83-70, Saturday in Nashville probably doesn’t mean all that much. It only starts to matter in March. Certainly, though, it would have been nice for Gator fans if this team would have established the school record with an 18th straight victory. But as Billy Donovan has said many times before when asked if these Gators could make history by becoming the first team since Duke to win back-to-back national titles, “we’re not interesting in trying to make history – we’re just trying to win the next game.” You can live on the edge just so long and clearly this Florida team was feeling the body punches from playing tough SEC opponents on the road – even if they had won all the league games to date. When Florida went to the locker room at halftime, trailing only by eight points, 35-27, it hardly seemed daunting. After all, the Gators had trailed this same team in Gainesville by 11 at half and had won easily, 74-64. And they’d been down by 18 to Alabama before pulling it out, 76-67. This time the Gators came up short. They ran into a feisty bunch of Vandy shooters, led by the remarkable performances of Derrick Byars and Shan Foster, who scored 24 points each. Whether Florida holds on the No. 1 ranking next week is questionable, although they had been unanimous choices the past two weeks. Of much greater concern for Donovan is trying to beat South Carolina at home next Wednesday, then LSU and Tennessee on the road and, finally, Kentucky at the O-Dome. That’s the kind of “history” he’s interested in making right now.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Kudos to the college football coaches for putting those 14 plays per game back in the game by going back to the old clock rules.
2. CBS might to well to invest in a saliva-shield on the microphone of ex-Steelers coach Bill Cowher when he gets fired up in his new broadcasting job next fall.
3.So if NASCAR wants to avoid cheating, how about just taking cars right off the assembly line and running them as real “stock cars”?
4. If Tony Stewart played football instead of racing cars, he’d be a perfect Oakland Raider – except that he wins.
5. There is almost nothing you can say about Tim Hardaway’s anti-gay remarks that got him fired last week by the NBA without offending somebody – so I won’t – except to suggest that the word “hate” cannot tolerated when used by any public figure about any group.
Maybe the greatest pitcher ever died at 81 last week with passing of Eddie Feigner, who in his lifetime struck out more than 155,000 batters, including Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey, Maury Wills and Harmon Killebrew in succession –but in softball … … Two of my favorites among the rules changes college football coaches are considering next month are not starting the clock on the kickoff until a player touches the ball and using more 30-second timeouts … One Bowden’s loss is another’s gain: Coveted receiver Markish Jones will, indeed, play his football in for Tommy in Clemson and not at FSU for Bobby as previously thought.
Nothing but Net (With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Buddy’s Mail Bag
Re: Tony Dungy’s post-game Super Bowl remarks:
When Vince Lombardi coached the Packers, his motto was, “We have these priorities: Church, Family, and the Green Bay Packers.” Coach Lombardi rarely discussed religion for the press. However, Lombardi made it to mass every morning he was in Green Bay. As a young associate pastor at Green Bay First Methodist Church, I saw every Sunday the Packers were in town the following: coach Red Cochrane, Bart Starr, Boyd Dowler, Carroll Dale, Willie Davis, Herb Adderly, Henry Jordan, and many other players even though many church members were already out at Lambeau Field tailgating before for the game. I hope that the religious practices of Coach Lombardi and his staff and team is seen as Christian by contemporary “Christians.” There are some who do not think being part of the Catholic or mainline Protestant Churches count as Christian. And there are some who do not realize that many coaches have been Christian all through American sports history. Rev. Jerry Eckert Port Charlotte
JERRY: The remark made by Dungy was to put in context that, while he and Bears coach Lovie Smith were proud of being the first African American coaches at the Super Bowl, they also were proud of both being Christian.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. Talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer.
2. Best marriage advice. Love, Honor and Negotiate.
3. Challenge authority. Just not now.
Lee Trevino once reminded us that “golf is a game invented by the same people who think music comes out of a bagpipe.”
Today’s Proverb Frustration is trying to find your glasses without your glasses.
And good morning …
… All you baseball mavens. Even though the weather doesn’t feel like it, major league spring training is finally here!
Buddy Martin column/ Feb. 12, 2007
Trying to be No. 1 in everything
As the No. 1 ranked Florida Gator basketball team was preparing to take the court in Lexington Saturday night, the school’s baseball team was hoping to generate a little momentum in the season’s opening series against Virginia Military Institute. And former Charlotte High slugger Matt LaPorta was tending to some unfinished business.
But for quirk of fate, LaPorta might have been on his way to Fort Myers this spring as a hopeful to make the big league roster with the Boston Red Sox. Instead, he was getting his ups in the second game against VMI, hoping to tack on more hits to the two he got Friday night in the Gators’ 5-3 loss. He wants to help coach Pat McMahon’s team back to national prominence while upping his stock as a prospect.
UF being No. 1 in the world in everything these days, we should pause to remember that it was LaPorta and his Gator mates who sorta started this whole thing last year when they opened the season at No. 1. Unfortunately, as the slide began to occur, LaPorta was injured, missed 13 games and the Gators didn’t return to the College World Series as expected. Matt wound up missing 13 games and losing the tempo on his swing. He hit only .259 and posted just 14 home runs. The team finished a poor 28-28.
Instead of getting drafted early, LaPorta slipped to the 14th round, albeit with Boston, and when he hired aggressive agent Scot Boras, they could never come to terms. So LaPorta, like the members of Billy Donovan’s basketball team, returned for his senior year.
LaPorta is back with a brand new attitude and a healed body and is sure to break the school’s career home run record (he needs just two more). It would be nice to see him get rewarded for his decision, as has been the case with Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer – even if the baseball team can’t match the lofty accomplishments of Billy Donovan’s Gator Boys.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Boy, now some coaches and/or ex-coaches (see John Smith of Michigan State) want to charge Ron Zook with cheating because he has out-worked other schools and attracted so many outstanding recruits to Illinois – something he has always done at every college where he has worked.
2. Two of my favorite college basketball players from now on are 5-8 Duke point guard Lindsey Harding from Houston, who could play for most men’s teams, and 6-10 guard Abby Waner from Englewood, Co., whose hard-nosed play and dive-for-the-loose-ball hustle would make her a great addition to most men’s teams.
3.Even though I don’t put great emphasis on “rating” a recruiting class, it’s a pretty good indication that Urban Meyer has things going on in Gainesville with the announcement that his 2006 class was ranked No. 1.
4. Maybe it’s a good thing Rex Grossman didn’t lead the Bears to victory over the Colts, because America is already sick and tired of the Gators being number one in everything.
5. Avis, the auto rental company which featured a whole advertising campaign on being second best, has now dropped to No. 3 behind No. 2 Hertz. with– who else? – No. 1 ranked Florida Gator auto rental company.
The loss of ex-Yankee outfielder Hank Bauer and Braves pitcher (Fidgety) Lew Burdette last week close the chapter on two baseball greats whose exploits were followed closely by yours truly as a young boy … Speedy Markish Jones of Spartanburg, S. C. was kept on the phone for 30 minutes with FSU coaches after he had already signed his letter of intent to Clemson, but hadn’t faxed it, and wound up signing with Tommy Bowden's dad instead.
Nothing but Net (with a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Mr. Martin: I have always been entertained with your articles and truthfulness of your beliefs and observations. I thought that you would be the right person to contact about something that I thought was a little bit odd.
Immediately after the conclusion of the Super Bowl, a person interviewed Tony Dungy. He said some things about being happy for himself and Lovie Smith being the first African-American coaches, and being able to win the game, for the players, coaches, and the organization. He concluded about being most happy about it being the first time that Christian coaches were in the game.
My question is, why have I read every article in the papers and ESPN, but have not heard any comment bout the religious thing. When he said it I turned to all of my friends at a party and said, “Wow, now that was a statement I have never heard before, He is really strong in his beliefs.”
Why has the media not said any thing about it?
Thank you for your time, and keep on reporting.
Ron Ortiz, Englewood
Ron: Point taken. Maybe you just resolved that issue for our readers.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. I can resist everything except temptation. 2. A bird in the hand is safer than one overhead.
3. A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of 12 people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.
And it’s not such a good morning …
… for the friends and family of our Susan DeSmidt, whose sudden death over the weekend robbed this newspaper of a dedicated employee. Susan’s job was to oversee customer service, but her service went far beyond that; she looked after all of us in the newsroom as well, along with those in other departments. She was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. We will miss Susan terribly.
Buddy Martin column/ Florida-Tennessee hoops Feb. 5, 2007
Second place is no place for Gators
GAINESVILLE –There’s actually a 2nd Place Street just a few blocks from “The O Dome” and “The Swamp” near the University of Florida campus -- a real, honest-to gosh back alley about a block long just off West University Boulevard.
It’s a Place Called Lonely Street these days, because here in TitleTown nobody wants to live in second place.
With back-to-back national championship trophies in football and basketball stashed in the trophy case over on Gale Lemerand Drive, one might think The Gator Nation tucks itself in bed every night, secure about its domination of college sports.
Not so fast, alligator breath.
There’s always the hat trick.
Billy Donovan’s work isn’t done yet. If fact, that 2006 NCAA basketball championship, as far as he’s concerned, is an old story. That’s why Donovan was coaching hard in the final minutes Saturday in a 94-78 win over Tennessee, up by 17 points, as if trying to close out John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins – pushing his starters hard to finish the job.
It could have been a costly decision.
As it turned out, greyhound Corey Brewer suffered a scary injury and had to be helped off the floor, limping on his left knee. When Brewer went down hard to the floor, critics began to question Donovan’s reason for having him in a game that was safely in the win column.
“My job as coach is to see that we play hard all the way to the end,” said Donovan.
Turns out Brewer wasn’t seriously hurt, but it served as a gentle reminder to the fragility of a national champion trying to become the first team since Duke the repeat. Donovan thinks he has a better team than last year with all five starters returning, but also knows that the road ahead is rugged and the odds of repeating are not high.
If his players keep improving as much as Al Horford has, however, that back-to-back title might be within reach. Horford was dynamic Saturday, posting a career high 22 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing off five assists and swatting away three blocked shots.
“Al Horford has probably improved the most,” said Donovan. “He established himself (today) in the low post. He rebounded. He defended. He did a lot of good things.”
Even Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl had nice things to say about Horford.
“He uses his body well,” said Pearl. “He’s a man. And he’s patient.”
Patience is a virtue as far as Donovan is concerned, because he wants his team to live in the moment, not the past or the future.
“A lot of people want to talk about last year, but last year was last year,” Donovan said after the No. 1 ranked Gators (21-2) rolled up their 14th straight victory. “A lot of the questioning to our guys was the fact that we lost twice to South Carolina and twice to Tennessee, and this was a revenge game. I don’t think anything good comes out of revenge.”
Well, maybe Donovan’s opponents feel differently, because they’ve got plenty of reasons to make the Gators pay. And with the final eight games on the schedule – “it’s the toughest last eight games I can ever remember” – Florida will have to stay focused about what’s ahead, not behind. Yet he fears something more than the opponents.
All the hype is what Donovan calls “poison.”
“Bad stuff – people tell you how great you are, trying to get them to forecast the future,” he said.“It’s poison. It’s not true. Not real.”
What was true was that the Gators rolled up a 26-point lead over the Vols, who were without the SEC’s leading scorer, Chris Lofton. Donovan left his starters in because he worried about a Tennessee comeback, much like when the Gators had a 24-point lead that was cut to 9 by Ole Miss a few weeks ago. He’s taking nothing for granted.
To the delight of the fans, the No. 1 Gators moved closer to the dream of repeating as national champions. And in those final moments, the students just couldn’t let the Vols forget that Urban Meyer’s road to the championship last season included a victory in Knoxville.
“Just like football … Just like football,” they chanted.
OK, maybe a little gloating is permissible around here these days.
Super Bowl Jump Starts
1.Everybody talks about Peyton Manning’s banged up thumb, but did you see the recent USA Today photo of Rex Grossman gripping the football with blood oozing out of his right ring finger?
2.And to think that Tony Dungy’s Tampa Bay coaching staff, over a period of time, contained five future head coaches: Herm Edwards, Rod Marinelli, Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith and Herm Edwards.
3.The popularity of Peyton Manning (“6-foot-4, 240, laser, rocket arm”) stems as much from his famous family and fabulously funny TV commercials as it does football.
4.If I were a gambler, I’d take a look at the rainy forecast in Miami today and play the under (below 48).
5.And I’d take Chicago plus 7 points, because I pick it Indianapolis 24, Chicago 21.
Super Bowl Short Stuff: Indianapolis has only one player from Florida, Reggie Wayne from Miami, but Chicago has six – Gators Rex Grossman, Alex Brown, Todd Johnson and Ian Scott, plus Hurricanes Devin Hester and Darrell McClover … Now that we’re finally seeing two African-American coaches on opposite sides in the Super Bowl, perhaps we should be able to conclude that the color of a person’s skin has nothing to do with being a good coach – or doctor, or teacher, or lawyer.
Bumper sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. Selective listener.
2. Books is good.
3. Sometimes I like to be bad.
If you really want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at a much earlier age.
And good morning …
… to all you football fans as you enjoy the final real game of the season. Have a Super Sunday.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/Van McKenzie Jan. 28, 2007
Remembering my friend Van
Today’s column is what we in the business call “Inside Baseball.” It’s really not about baseball at all, but rather about a person almost none of you have ever met and whose name will mean nothing to almost anybody – except to those of us in the trade.
To a good number of knowledgeable people in the sports journalism, Van McKenzie was a legend, as could be seen by the testimonies in newspapers and on the Internet since his death Friday. Many of you saw his work without realizing it, because his name never appeared anywhere on it. His influence on sports print journalism was gigantic, though, the way Andy Warhol’s was on pop art and Versace’s was on fashion – out of the box and brilliant.
Sports page design was Van’s specialty and almost every section in America today carries some component of his thinking. But to say McKenzie’s influence was only about the design of sports pages would be like remembering Laurence Olivier for his spiffy wardrobe. He loved design, but he loved stories and words – and most of all he loved sports writers. He loved it all.
In baseball lexicon, McKenzie was a five-tool journalist.
In my nearly four decades of newspapering, I would count Van among the top three sports journalists I’ve ever met or known – and one of my very best friends. He could smell a good story, knew how to motivate a writer to write it, how to edit it, how to headline it, how to play it and how to milk it to the end of its cycle. He had the head of quarterback and/or coach, but he could block and tackle like a guy in the trenches. But Van also knew how to tighten down all the nuts and bolts in the section.
Having seen him from almost every conceivable vantage point, from the time he broke in the business as a teen to his ascent as managing editor of The Dream Team at the National Sports Daily and eventually as associate managing editor/sports of the Orlando Sentinel, I can assure you that he was a self-taught editor with the courage of a bank robber and the kindness of a kindergarten teacher.
If McKenzie had been Picasso, every painting would have been like Guernica, the huge 26-foot piece of art, because he was totally a big-picture guy. He wanted every sports section to be bigger and better tomorrow than it was today.
If I were writing his epitaph, it would say: “Van McKenzie, 1945-2007. ‘I’m all in.’” Because he was all in, all the time, on everything he did.
Whether we were playing a friendly hand of low-stakes poker, or wagering a bob at the greyhound race track that we so often frequented back in The Day, Van was all in. He raised on almost every hand. And many was the night that we were tapped out going into the last dog race – in those days being “tapped out” usually meant a $50 loss – and wrote a check go play the finalrace and have enough to tip the parking lot attendant on the way out. Sometimes we were counting on fumes in the gas tank to get us home and fumes in our bank account to clear the check.
To think that it all started with a classified ad I placed in the Ocala Star-Banner in the late summer of 1963 upon my return from a brief stint at the Nashville Tennessean. We needed would-be sports writers to cover high school football games for $5 -- $7.50 if they had to drive out of town. Van, his brother Jay and their friend Jim Waldron showed up for the assignment. Van drew the game in Jasper, almost 100 miles away. We always laughed about the fact that his gas guzzler car took all of that just to get there and back. (Jay later became managing editor of the Ocala Star-Banner; Jim worked with us at Florida Today and later owned a weekly paper before his death.)
One day in Ocala I was laying out the next day’s sports section as Van, looking on as an unpaid observer, suddenly commented: “I can do that!” Several weeks later I hired him part-time and he was laying out the Sunday paper. From the very start he had that remarkable eye, plus a great passion for the business.
Sometimes on a Saturday night, after walking out of the Ocala newspaper office on the heels of a 14-hour day and 80-hour week (no overtime), we would boast, “tomorrow morning, nobody in America will be better than us!”
That was often our mantra at the beginning of a long-term friendship and partnership that would take us over four newspapers in the next two decades. Like others, I have enjoyed reminiscing about our ride together. You can see accounts of Van's friends all over the Internet. I am especially fond of the tributes made by many those former workers who may have only been on the periphery of Van McKenzie’s world.
One blog in particular I enjoyed talked about the night that the now-defunct National Sports Daily published its first edition and the Manhattan office was teeming with big shots. After deadline, McKenzie snuck off to the executive dining room and brought back several bottles of Dom Perignon to be enjoyed by the workers.
Aside from all the spectacular achievements and hundreds of national awards that he won, his greatest accomplishments were that he gave lots of people a chance in the business and made everybody on his staff feel valued.
Today it is our turn to say how much we valued him.
The last timeI saw Van was August, 2006 when about a hundred of us traveled to John Cherwa's home in Orlando to say goodbye, as Van wasn't expected to live but another two months. In a private moment we reminisced about our times together and laughed as we said, "we didn't do too badly for a couple of small town boys." He lived several months past that deadline, past the Christmas holidays, often playing poker with a few friends over a cold beer and on occasion making it out to the dog track.
"He got it all in," said Cherwa, his Sentinel colleague. Just like he always did.
He spawned a new era in sports journalism with his work in St. Petersburg, New York and Atlanta before coming to Orlando to build the Sentinel's section into one of the nation's best.
John Cherwa Orlando Sentinel Staff Writer
January 26, 2007, 9:14 AM EST
Van F. McKenzie, whose contributions to sports journalism for more than four decades made him one of the most important names in the business, died early Friday morning after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 61.
McKenzie, an Ohioan by birth and a Floridian by choice, was associate managing editor for sports at the Orlando Sentinel at the time of his death. During his seven years running the sports department, he led the section to unprecedented success as the Associated Press Sports Editors continually cited it as one of the top sports sections in the country.
"We've lost a towering editor and a dear friend," said Sentinel Editor Charlotte H. Hall. "Van had vision, creativity and a passion for life. He was a fireball of energy and ideas, and behind his sometimes gruff exterior lay a soft and selfless heart. Van's greatest legacy as an editor was the talent he discovered and nurtured. People wanted to work for him because he brought out their best."
McKenzie's reach goes far beyond Orlando, and his impact has clearly shaped the sports journalism business. More than 30 people who worked with him later went on to be sports editors in places such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Newark, St. Louis and San Jose. He also assembled and nurtured some of the greatest stables of writers during the last 30 years. Even magazines benefited as he sent 10 of his writers to Sports Illustrated.
A nomadic sports editor by modern standards, McKenzie made stops at the Ocala Star-Banner, the Sentinel, Cocoa Today (now Florida Today), St. Petersburg Times, New York Daily News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The National -- the first nationwide sports daily in this country -- and back to the Sentinel.
"Van had the best story instinct of any sports editor I've ever known," said Dave Kindred, an author, columnist and past Red Smith Award winner (the highest honor in sports journalism), who worked with McKenzie in Atlanta and at The National.
"Whether it's columns, features, news, graphics, design -- you name it, he knew the good stuff when he saw it," Kindred said. "Better, he knew how to get his people to do it. First, because he was a great judge of talent and character, he hired the right people. Then he gave them all the support and freedom they needed, and in return they gave him their best work and a promise to do it again tomorrow."
A journalist by trade and a gambler at heart, McKenzie lived his life with the subtlety of a horse being saddled for the first time. He loved taking risks and fittingly had a fondness for inside straights and slow-running greyhounds. But in the end, it was all about the action and the journey and the thrill of hitting it big.
A lot of his drive was instilled in him during his youth. The son of a well-driller and miner from Ohio, the family would move from city to city in constant search for a better way of life. Eventually, they settled in Ocala, where the promise of a growing economy would bring stability to a poor family with two sons.
"I remember my dad had this stove that kept us warm," McKenzie would say about his childhood. "Whenever we ran out of money, my dad would take it to the pawn shop so we could buy food. When he would get a job and get some money, he would go to the pawnbroker and buy the stove back. It was a regular thing."
After graduating high school, McKenzie went to CentralFloridaJunior College in Ocala (today it's CentralFloridaCommunity College) and later attended the University of Florida. He took odd jobs, even spending a summer as a roofer.
But it was in 1963 that he, along with his older brother Jay, went to work for the Ocala Star-Banner. He was immediately a star and was named sports editor at 17 years old.
Buddy Martin, currently the managing editor at the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald, gave McKenzie his first break in the business in Ocala. He later worked with McKenzie in Cocoa, St. Petersburg and New York.
"To say that I recognized true genius would be a distortion of fact," Martin said. "I found Van through a classified ad in the [paper], along with his brother Jay and friend Jim Waldron. It was pure luck. Sooner or later Van would break through somewhere."
It was at the Star-Banner that he caught the eye of 18-year-old Sandy Williams, who worked in the composing room. She bet her co-workers that she could get a date with the new sports editor. She not only won the bet but also had a ring three months later. They married in 1968.
From Ocala, he stopped briefly in Orlando before going to Cocoa Today and leaving there for the St. Petersburg Times. He was executive sports editor at both newspapers.
He had already developed a trademark of producing sections with strong, bold visuals and "out-of-the-box" thinking well before most sports editors even knew there was a box. In the mid-'70s, the St. Petersburg Times sports section was voted best in the country by APSE, which came as a shock to the big boys in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
While the writing was first rate, it was his use of illustrations, caricatures and graphics that caught everyone's eye. Some say he even invented the charticle -- a story in chart form, which has become the rage some three decades later.
His use of eye-catching front pages started a revolution in Florida that soon spread to the rest of the country.
After the Times, Martin invited him to New York to try a grand experiment at the New York Daily News, an afternoon tabloid that was built around the sports section. It only lasted a few months.
But during that brief time, his reputation grew and he was invited to Atlanta as assistant managing editor to rebuild the sports section for a newspaper that proclaimed it covered "Dixie like the dew."
It wasn't long before his section was winning almost every award as both a section and in individual writing, having assembled arguably the best staff in the business.
Throughout his career, McKenzie displayed a headstrong, take-no-prisoners approach toward his bosses, a remarkable feat in a business that has increasingly phased out the true Runyonesque personalities.
"When I was in Atlanta, I quit three different times when I didn't get what I wanted," McKenzie would say. "One time, they didn't call me for three days to come back. I was getting kind of worried."
But, he was always asked back because he did the one thing his bosses appreciated: he produced a sports section that was as journalistically strong as it was entertaining.
Wherever he worked, he engendered a strong sense of loyalty from staffs who he worked extremely hard.
"Van never took credit for anything," said Rick Jaffe, managing editor for Fox Sports Net, who worked with McKenzie in Atlanta and at The National. "I can't tell you the number of times I was with him when a superior would come by to praise work the sports section had done, yet despite being the driving force on everything, he would always say one of his employees was responsible."
In 1988, Bill Kovach, editor of the Journal-Constitution, wanted the best, most innovative political convention coverage ever seen in a newspaper when the Democrats came to his town. He turned to McKenzie.
"It was unprecedented," said Jaffe, who came to Atlanta to work on the convention project. "Never before or since have I heard of a sports guy and his 'crew' to literally be in charge of producing political convention coverage. Kovach had that much faith in him that he knew he was the only one in the building that could pull it off."
The Atlanta sports section was on top as was McKenzie, but he was always looking for a challenge. Along came a Mexican billionaire who thought that the United States was ready for its first ever national sports daily newspaper. Frank Deford, the accomplished author and Sports Illustrated writer, was hired as editor and he needed someone to run the staff and produce the publication. The paper was appropriately named "The National."
"He had the job five minutes after I met him," Deford said. McKenzie became the managing editor. "His depth of knowledge, his enthusiasm, the organizational skills I had heard about--not to mention he came with about 100 good ideas."
The newspaper folded 15 months after it started beset with distribution problems.
"We were never criticized for our editorial content only our ability to deliver the paper," Deford said. "Van was nothing but a terrific editor, and I told him then and after we folded that, more than anyone else, he was the man who made that paper the artistic success that it was."
By 1991, McKenzie had given 27 years to journalism and, armed with a contract that still paid him for a few years, decided to take another gamble. He opened a couple of cinema pubs, one at St. AugustineBeach, where he made his home, and the other in Palatka. He brought the entire family into the business as they showed movies in the front while wife Sandy worked in the kitchen and sons, Van, Jr., and Von, were working at the Palatka location.
It was a great diversion and McKenzie thrilled at the entrepreneurial nature of the business, but his heart was still in newspapers. It took longer than most would have guessed but he put out the word in 1999 that he was ready to rejoin daily newspapering.
Luck was on McKenzie's side. The perfect opportunity was just down the road in Orlando, which was looking to bolster it sports coverage and was willing to put forth the commitment it took to make it a world-class sports section. Who better to undertake that project?
"Van was already a legend in the business," said John Haile, the retired Sentinel editor who hired McKenzie. "We had approached him through a third party . . . and when he said he might be interested, there was no way we weren't going to chase after him. Everybody was telling us he would be No. 1 on any newspaper's list for the top sports job. He was just that good.
"I think maybe some of the human resource people at first thought we might be a little crazy when they heard we were hiring someone who had been running a movie theater."
McKenzie made a splash in Orlando before he even started. He sent a memo to the staff outlining his expectations and goals. It was dubbed the "Vanifesto." In it he talked about making the section great and having it compete against papers two and three times its circulation.
It wasn't long before the section started its transformation and sports editors across the country were pointing toward Central Florida for all the innovations that were being introduced. Privately, McKenzie called his success in Orlando his greatest achievement.
Upon learning he had cancer late in the fall of 2003, McKenzie continued to work while undergoing initial radiation and chemotherapy. He followed the treatment with two surgeries and more chemotherapy.
"Van faced his illness with courage and grace," said Sentinel Editor Hall. "He comforted his family and friends and taught us all an invaluable lesson about cherishing those we love."
But he could never separate himself from the sports section. Even when he was no longer able to come into the office, he called in critiques, ideas and instructions all with the goal of making the section better.
"We always knew we were a good sports section," said Lynn Hoppes, the Sentinel's executive sports editor. "But when Van arrived, he showed us how to be a great sports section. He erased the boundary lines and created his own. He wanted every day's sports section to be better than the previous one. He instilled this value into us and his legacy will live on."
Survivors include wife Sandy of LakeMary, sons Van, Jr. of Orlando and Von of St. Augustine; mother Mary of Ocala; brother Jay of Ocala and five grandchildren.
A private family service is being held. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Van F. McKenzie Endowed Scholarship Fund c/o CFCC Foundation, 3001 SW College Road, Ocala, FL34474. This scholarship will be used exclusively to help a promising sports writer/editor. Gifts are tax deductible and will be eligible for state match on a one for one basis. For further information call 352-873-5808.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/Gator Slam
January 21, 2007
The man behind ‘The Gator Slam’
All you Gator-Haters have a right to be aggravated.
In this weird juxtaposition of planets in the universe, the University of Florida has found itself on the role of world dominance among college athletic teams, ranked No. 1 in the two major sports.
Bad enough that the Gators have won back-to-back national championships in basketball and football, but now Billy Donovan’s No. 1 ranked team has a chance to complete the National Championship Slam, or Trifecta.
But there is hope yet for you Gator-Haters.
Enjoying such prosperity is one thing, but holding on to it is quite another.
After making it back to No. 1 last Monday, the Florida basketball team nearly blew a 25-point lead Saturday at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, allowing Mississippi back in the game before finally rolling over the Rebels, 79-70.
The odds of Florida repeating as NCAA hoops champ are not favorable, since winning six games in March is no easy feat, but just being poised for the run has created an aura of excitement unprecedented in this state’s college sports history.
There is a close camaraderie between Urban Meyer and Donovan, as well as the players on their teams. This has galvanized the student body and Gator fans. Meanwhile, both programs continue to soar and reap the benefits in recruiting, as well as help boost alumni contributions. Money fuels the winning.
Donovan is due for a raise, which he turned down at the beginning of the year as a commitment to his players who eschewed fat NBA contracts to come back. Meyer will be paid big bonuses for winning the SEC and national titles, but will also be getting a new contract soon.
The price for outstanding football coaches in the SEC just went up (and not that Alabama’s overpayment of Nick Saban didn’t also create inflation).
Director of Athletics Jeremy Foley told me last week he would waste no time in keeping his coaches well compensated. “We believe in being pro-active,” Foley said.
All of a sudden Foley, who took a lot of heat for the hiring and firing of Ron Zook, is the “genius” among college sports administrators.
So what’s his secret to hiring national championship coaches?
“Sometimes your instincts are right and sometimes they are wrong,” Foley said of his decisions on Meyer and Donovan. “I’ve been at it a long time. You’ve got to get a sense of what will work on campus. In football and men’s basketball, our instincts were right this time.”
When asked the traits that Donovan and Meyer had in common as championship traits, Foley said:
“Their work ethic. These guys do their jobs 24/7. Even when they are on vacation, Blackberrys are going and cell phones are ringing. In this game, it’s all about players and you have to have the athletes. They are relentless in recruiting.
“They are both very well organized. They both put together great staffs.
“And they have great passion for what they do. That translates to the court and to the field. And they are a lot alike in that respect.”
Meanwhile, Foley’s name is being bounced around the sports world as an administrative genius. He laughed when I told him one talk show host suggested he should be running an NFL franchise. “I’m an athletic director,” Foley said. “I don’t know anything professional sports franchise. I like what I’m doing.”
However, he did admit that if his beloved Boston Red Sox called, he might be inclined to return the call.
Quick Jump Start
1. I’m not ashamed to stay I am rooting for the Saints today, even though I think the Bears will win the NFC title game. (I also like the Colts over the Patriots.)
2. What’s the over/under on the number of days Mike Vick will have in Atlanta after his latest escape at the Miami Airport, being nabbed for suspected drug paraphernalia?
3. This is how grim it is for the Raider Nation: Latest to turn down Al Davis is USC quarterback coach Steve Sarkasian.
4. Good for FSU, bolstering Bobby Bowden’s staff with the hiring of offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and bringing back deposed N.C. State Chuck Amato as linebackers coach.
5. Phil Mickelson has melted off 30 pounds, put on 15 pounds of muscle, enrolled in martial arts and worked on his drives – so who do you think he is tracking?
Talk about balance: Billy Donovan’s starting five each averages in the low double figures, with the top scorer (Taurean Green) and the fifth place one (Lee Humphrey) only three points apart … Ex-Gator coach Rod Broadway, most recently head coach at North Carolina Central, is the new man at Grambling … The reason UF quarterback Tim Tebow plays like a linebacker is because he played that position for a year in high school.
Nothing but ‘Net
(With a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Buddy’s Believe It Or Not
(But don’t ask him to prove it)
1. A tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion will make it instantly go mad and sting itself to death. 2. The mask used by Michael Myers in the original “Halloween” was a Captain Kirk’s mask painted white. 3. If you have three quarters, four dimes, and four pennies, you have $1.19. You also have the largest amount of money in coins without being able to make change for a dollar.
Bumper Stickers, Signs or T-Shirts
1. I will conquer my procrastination problem. Just you wait.
2. If you want something done, tell a man he's too old to do it.
3. Change is good. You go first.
Old age is when former classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald, they don't recognize you.
And good morning …
…To all you NBA bad boys-thugs-gangstas. One of these days if the league goes down in flames, maybe then you’ll understand the destruction of the fan base which you helped create.
Buddy Martin column
Passing the torch
A day to celebrate the past and present at 'The Swamp'
GAINESVILLE – On a splendid Saturday when the winter sun was playing hide-and-seek with the clouds, and the voice of U2’s Bono was bellowing “It’s A Beautiful Day” on the loud speaker system, the Florida Gator football team took a bow before 70, 000 adoring fans, who were all decked out in their orange and blue championship booty.
It was the perfect ending to the 100-year commemoration of Florida football and a celebration for what president Dr. Bernie Machen called a double championship,” as the University of Florida became the first school in history to hold the football and basketball titles in the same calendar year.
Urban Meyer’s team rocked the sports world by trouncing the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Ohio State Buckeyes. And just in case you forgot, the scoreboards at Florida Field were lit with the epitaph: “Gators 41, Ohio State 14.”
The pews were stacked full at the First Church of Gator Football as the team took the field to drink in the roar of hallelujahs. The fans rocked to and fro to their favorite hymn, “We Are The Boys From Old Florida” and roared approval at the sight of their coach, chanting “Urban! Urban! Urban” as Urban Myer took the microphone.
“For over 30 days they said the Florida Gators did not belong,” Meyer said, repeating the Rodney Dangerfield sermon he has preached so often lately. “Little did they know we had a group of seniors who were the most motivated group I’ve ever been around.”
One of those 21 seniors was Chris Leak, who after three topsy-turvy seasons, finally found his groove. Leak never realized his dream of a Heisman Trophy, but said he always set his sights on something bigger: A national championship ring and an MVP trophy in the BCS Championship Game.
On Saturday in a special ceremony, Leak was passed the torch by The Prodigal Son, who returned home for the celebration just to pass it. Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback of the 1996 national championship team, Danny Wuerffel, surprised everyone by showing up to present Leak with his BCS MVP Award.
“It's great to be a Florida Gator. It was great 100 years ago,” Wuerffel said. “It was great 10 years ago. And it’s great today.”
So this was more than just a celebration -- it was also the handing off of a legacy.
Wuerffel spoke of Leak becoming one of only two quarterbacks with a national championship ring, but then admonished rising sophomore Tim Tebow, “there’s room for one more, Timmy Tebow!”
The symmetry was not lost on the coach.
“It was neat to see Danny ‘hand off’ the baton to Chris,” Meyer said. “Chris never had an opportunity to be handed off a baton. When he came here, they handed him the football and said, ‘go play.’ A quarterback shouldn’t have to do that.”
Wuerffel’s appearance was kept a secret from Leak and the team. “When I heard about Danny coming last night, I kind of got choked up,” Meyer said.
The 1996 Heisman winner was also there as a Gator fan.
Of the national championship game Monday night, Wuerffel said: “It was the most dominating football game I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a few dominating games. And I’ve been in a few – just ask FSU.” (Referring to the 52-20 victory over the Seminoles for the 1996 championship.)
The second Florida team to win a national title this year and the second to achieve a national championship in 10 years watched highlights of their accomplishments on the big screen at the newly decorated stadium. Orange patches were removed on the façade the south end zone, revealing a “2006” on the right side the words “National Champions 1996.” And at the end of the six Southeastern Conference championship seasons, the numbers “’06” were affixed.
Meyer spoke often of his respect for the 21 seniors who were introduced.
It took something like this for seniors like Ray McDonald and Leak to realize just what they and their teammates had accomplished: an announced crowd of 70,000 adoring fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium showing the Florida Gator football team how much they appreciate the 2006 national champions of college football.
Leak choked up a little when he was handed the mike, later lamenting the fact that this would be his last appearance with his teammates. But he said he probably wouldn’t feel the full impact until “I can come back later and see that ‘2006 National Champions’ on the wall.”
If things continue to go as well as they have for Meyer these next few years, Leak might be seeing a few more of those accolades soon.
It’s an old story, but fans seemed to enjoy Meyer’s retelling of the tale about how he was recruiting in Florida for Notre Dame 10 years ago and stopped off at Florida Field to see what kind of appeal this school had for so many young players. He parked illegally (and later got a ticket), then walked to the middle of the 50-yard line, where he phoned his wife Shelly and said, “This is where we’ve got to get as quickly as possible.”
Meyer took a fast train ride from Notre Dame as receivers coach, then to Bowling Green as head coach and on to Utah. It just his second year at Florida Meyer hit the lottery. Now he is linked forever in Gator lore and, as a coach with a sense of history, isn’t afraid to embrace the past. He had great respect for those before him, especially Steve Spurrier and his players like Wuerffel. Which is maybe why he “kind of lost it a little bit when Danny handed that MVP Trophy to Chris” on Saturday.
“That’s football right there,” Meyer said of the passing of the torch. “That’s Gator football.”
Meyer said he told his quarterback, “Let’s keep it going.”
When somebody asked if he felt he had overcome Spurrier’s shadow, Meyer said no “because he did it for 12 years and we’ve only done it for two.” But he also admitted that “we’ve started a little shadow of our own.”
The seminal moment had come for big Ray McDonald, the oft-injured defensive lineman, out in the desert before the Ohio State game when he spoke to his teammates and choked up, realizing that this was the end.
“I got kind of emotional,” McDonald said, “because this was going to be my last practice with my teammates and my coaches. It really hit me, thinking about all my knee injuries and my elbow. It just really got me and I kind of broke down.”
The sadness was gone Saturday, as McDonald embraced the moment.
“It’s going to be gone tomorrow,” McDonald said Saturday of the championship afterglow, “so I have to enjoy it today.”
Aside from the official speeches, hugs, photo ops, kissing up to sponsors, there was much talk about the promising recruiting class Florida is about to land; and about a new entrance costing between $17 and $25 that is about to be built in front of the athletic department.
So the future is very bright for Florida football.
There was a point this past season when none of this looked possible, much less probable.
The experts cast doubt on Meyer’s team right away, many of them citing the “Murderer’s Row” schedule: Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia in succession.
All season long, critics downgraded the Gators for a lack of so-called “style points” because they seemed to do just enough to pull out a victory.
There was certain grit to this 2006 team, however, and it shone through. The first was when Leak hit Dallas Baker with a 21-yard touchdown pass to beat No. 13 Tennessee, 21-10, in the third game of the season.
Alabama was driving for what might have been the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter when safety Reggie Nelson intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in the 28-13 win over the Tide.
LSU came to “The Swamp” with a No. 9 ranking, but just as the Tigers were threatening to score, Brando Siler recovered a fumble by quarterback JeMarcus Russel near the Gator goal line. That was followed by special teams player Riley Cooper jarring the ball loose from kick returner Early Doucet, with teammate Jermaine McCollum tackling the LSU player in zone for a safety. Tebow connected on his famed "double-clutch jump pass" with a falling down Tate Casey for one of two touchdown passes. Florida was up 14-7 at the half and wound up winning, 23-10, over a Tiger team that finished the season No. 3 in the polls.
When the Gators were knocked off by Auburn, 27-17, they tumbled to the lower tier of the Top Ten.
Against Georgia, Florida scored the winning touchdown on a Bulldog fumble picked up by McDonald and prevailed 21-14. And against Vanderbilt in Nashville, the Gators got ahead 22-6 on Chris Leak’s four-yard touchdown run, set up by DeShawn Wynn’s 22-yard scamper, holding on against the scrappy Commodores, 25-19.
The Gators kept finding ways to win and creeping up higher in the polls. The fortuitous timing of a South Carolina penalty after the Gamecocks appeared to have set up the winning score in Florida’s red zone proved to be a stroke of good fortune. And then Jarvis Moss blocked Brian Succop’s 48-yard field goal attempt to preserve the 17-16 win.
“It looks like the ‘Year of the Gator,’” said former Gator player and coach Spurrier as he walked out following his interview.
The Ol’ Ball coach proved to be a prophet.
It took a 74-yard fourth-quarter drive by Leak to beat FSU. The Gators had blown a 14-0 lead and were tied 14-14 by a desperate bunch of Seminoles. Without either Wynn or Percy Harvin to bolster his running attack, Leak told Meyer during a time out “let’s open it up and pick them apart.” In brilliant fashion, Leak carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey, throwing on eight of the 10 downs – the last one a floater in the end zone to Dallas Baker for the winning score.
By now, the Gators were starting to climb back, but were still not held in high esteem. There was a lot of talk about a rematch in between Ohio State and Michigan in what had been hailed “The Game of the Century.”
Would beating Arkansas give Florida enough BCS points to pass Michigan in the No. 2 spot? After the 38-28 victory over the Razorbacks, the debate began. Meyer spoke up on behalf of his team.”
“Michigan had its chance,” said the Florida coach, a comment which riled up the Wolverines’ Lloyd Carr, who accused Meyer of “campaigning.”
The next day when the final regular season poll came out, the Gators, indeed, had passed Michigan by a little over 100 points.
The argument was settled when USC blasted Michigan in the Rose Bowl, 32-18.
And, of course, with Florida’s romp over the Buckeyes, 41-14.
Meyer said Saturday that he made it a point to let his players know just how lightly they were regarded at every one of the 30 days before the BCS title game. He had a big 14-foot “wall” constructed in the hotel, where numerous less-than-flattering comments and quotes were posted.
“We had a ‘wall’ in our dining room where the dining room and where we meet,” said Meyer. “We basically filled it with top to bottom with all of the nonsense (articles off the Internet) that was being said out there. There was a lot.
“We dug it up, we found it, and we made up a little of it. I made that comment, that if you keep rubbing that Tiger’s fur the wrong way, he’s going to turn around and snap at you.”
The level of intensity for the Florida players was off the chart when they took the field at University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday, Jan. 8.
Much of the wind came out of their sails and their hearts fell in their throats when Ohio State’s Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a 7-0 lead.
Many Florida fans admitted they had flashbacks to the 1995 Fiesta Bowl when Nebraska dismantled the unbeaten Gators, 62-24.
There was one proverb to be gleaned from Ginn’s run, however. While celebrating his touchdown with joyous teammates piling on, Ginn suffered a sprained ankle and never returned to the game.
Perhaps the Gators would do well to enjoy Saturday, remember Ted Ginn’s misfortune, and then be careful not to overdo the celebrating.
FRIENDS FROM THE GATOR NATION
Buddy Martin needs your help in determining his next publication. Your vote here will determine whether he carries forward with an updated version of the current title, "The Boys From Old Florida," adding a final post-script on 2006 and the BCS championship game, or if he writes a whole new book on 2006 about "The Making Of A National Championship." Please send your e-mail to Buddy this week. Post this notice on as many websites as possible and pass it along to anybody you know in "The Gator Nation." We promise you that your vote will weigh heavily in the final decision.
To: Buddy Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would be more interested in: 1. A whole new book 2. An update of "The Boys From Old Florida." 3. Neither.
Name and e-mail (this is a straw vote and not a commitment to buy anything)
Buddy Martin Reports From The Desert
Gators Rule The Nation! 41-14 blow out of Ohio State shocks the football world
Chris Leak makes exit in real style
By BUDDY MARTIN Charlotte Sun Editor
GLENDALE, Ariz. – In the end, the underdog role was a big advantage for the Florida Gators. “It was a great motivation,” said winning coach Urban Meyer. “If you were looking for a great pre-game speech, you didn’t need one. We had one for 30 days.” “He put it under our skin,” said All-American Reggie Nelson. “We got sick of hearing about it.” The media, some of the other coaches and critics often downgraded the Gators for winning games without a decided margin and docked them for a lack of so-called “style points.” Criticized for taking up for his team the week before the final BCS poll, Meyer offered no apologies. “I was just taking up for my team." Perhaps now somebody should be apologizing to Meyer and his team, which completed destroyed Big Ten champion, 41-14. The game ended with quarterback Leak taking a knee to run out the clock and sailing the ball toward the domed ceiling in a celebratory act of sheer ecstasy. Coach Urban Meyer received the crystal football (Sears Trophy) and hoisted it overhead, then passed it off to his senior quarterback, who planted a big kiss on it. “We’re national champions – that’s what you play for ever since you were a kid,” said Leak.
“I have really enjoyed coaching this team,” said Meyer, who won the title in only his second year for Florida. "I told Chris Leak this means that we're stuck with each other for the next 30 years!"
It was quite an exit for Leak, who wasn’t even invited to New York as one of the Heisman Trophy finalists. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter on this night in the Arizona dessert. The trophy Leak held in his hands seemed like all he could have ever wanted out of his four years at the University of Florida. And he definitely belonged.
Championshipsgetting to be aGator habit
GLENDALE, Ariz. – What a way to end a century! The first 100 years of Florida football ended exceedingly well Monday night as the Gatorsupset No. 1 ranked Ohio State, 41-14, to win the national championship of college football. In dramatic fashion, the Florida dominated the nation’s No. 1 team after being a controversial choice to even be invited to the title game. Florida fell behind on the opening kickoff, but rallied for 21 unanswered points in a stunning display of offensive firepower. Eight different Florida offensive players touched the ball in the first quarter alone and their senior quarterback, Chris Leak, playing like he was the Heisman Trophy winner instead of Ohio State’s Troy Smith. These championships are becoming a habit in Gainesville. Coupled with the 2006 NCAA basketball title won by Billy Donovan’s team, the victory over the Buckeyes put the UF alone in the championship category as the only school ever to own those two titles in the same year. Here on the floor of the brand new University of Phoenix Stadium, where just seven days ago tiny Boise State pulled off a gigantic double-overtime upset of Oklahoma, there was still some magic in the carpet. But it looked like Buckeye magic on the opening kickoff as Ted Ginn Jr. streaked 93 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with only 16 ticks gone. Just as this Florida team has done all season, however, it responded in kind with 21 unanswered points, as Leak completed his first nine passes for 99 yards in the first quarter. His 14-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Baker tied the score 7-7 as Florida answered the challenge. Moments later, Percy Harvin rushed four yards for a score and a 14-7 Florida lead. And on the first play of the second period, Ohioan DeShawn Wynn got a chance to cross the goal line against his home staters on a two-yard score and a 21-7 lead. They even got a pair of 40-yard-plus field goals out of beleaguered kicker Chris Hetland on their way to a 34-14 halftime lead. Urban Meyer clearly had a game plan that stunned Jim Tressel. In only his second year as Gator football coach, Meyer brought home Florida’s second Sears Trophy. He laced together a group of seniors recruited by Ron Zook and interspersed some of his prized recruits who forged out the school’s best record in history (13-1). Led by Heisman Trophy winner Smith, Ohio State came into the game unbeaten Big Ten winners and a 7 ½-point favorite over the Southeastern Conference champions. Florida had narrowly edged out Michigan in the final BCS Standings by a scant 38 points, but the Wolverines ultimately lost to Southern Cal, 28-14, in the 2007 Rose Bowl. Some people felt Michigan, not Florida, should be going to the championship game and Wolverine coach Lloyd Carr criticized Meyer for “campaigning.” Well, if so, the “campaign is over” and there are no more questions: The Florida Gators not only belonged in the BCS Championship – they belong at the top of the heap as the best team in America.
Brenden and Buddy at the Gator Gathering in Old Scottsdale
Buddy Blog from the BCS Championship Game
A man has a right to change his mind, too. I like the Gators tonight.
GLENDALE, Arizona --The reality struck me at 4:15 a.m. Monday: Florida not only CAN win tonight against Ohio State, but will. This comes after previously picking Ohio State four times over the last 30 days, guarding against an emotional choice and trying discern the outcome with my football sense. I’ve made three picks in print, four on different radio stations – all Ohio State. My last score I gave was Sunday, 31-28. After this morning’s epiphany, however, I’m changing my mind. Something startled me, almost like a wakeup call in the wee hours. I stumbled through a dark room, trying not to awaken son Brenden, looking for the source of the irritation. It turned out to be my beeping cell phone, which was signaling a dying battery. I have taken that as a sign after the moment of clarity that followed. There is a way to match the Buckeyes’ muscle and muster a Gator running game, after all. I have said Ohio State’s consistency this season would prove out. Probably the No. 1 reason I stayed off of Florida was its lack of a power running game between the tackles. The No. 2 reason was the terribly inconsistent (4x13) kicking of field goal kicker Chris Hetland. One piece of information that resonated with me came from a source close to the Urban Meyer family, who learned the Gator coach is actually licking his chops after watching the Ohio State game film. Meyer’s offense is all about matchups and he loves what he sees with his receivers vs. the Buckeye defensive backs, as well as his defensive backs vs. their receivers. Another source filled me in on part of the game plan which I am not at liberty to reveal, but it has to do with on obvious weapon in the running attack, switches in personnel and some trickery. If it goes that way, it will more than offset the running defiency. There will be a new “tailback” after tonight. There are a number of other reasons that I now favor Florida, not the least of which is The Forgotten Man, Chris Leak, who is out to prove he was worthy of more accolades than he received. He didn’t get a whiff of the Heisman which went to Troy Smith, although Leak was considered a worthy candidate two years ago. Leak has a lot to prove tonight in his final game. For the record, I place Leak third on my Heisman vote. Hetland, who at times this year was nearly the goat, got bit of redemption with the field goal against Arkansas. I have a gut feeling he will get a chance for total redemption tonight and will earn it. There are other reasons, but I’m not dealing with football sense here today. I’m dealing with my gut instinct, which over the years has been fairly accurate when it comes to handicapping Florida Gator football games. That’s why today, when I make my final radio prediction on KKFN Denver, the Irv & Joe Show, I will be throwing them a curve. Both Irv and Joe are expecting me to pick Ohio State, 31-28. Instead, I will reverse that outcome, with Florida winning 39-31. The Gators’ offense is at least as good as Michigan, which scored that many against OSU. I believe in man’s right to change his mind, too.
Buddy Martin Front Row/Jan. 8, 2006
Peter Piper picks a peck of pickled predictions
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Hoo boy, I’m in trouble again, stuck on the fence, unable to pull the trigger on a winner for tonight’s BCS Championship Game.
Maybe I’ve pulled the trigger too many times already. Put another way, I’ve picked this title game between Florida and Ohio State three different ways over the last four weeks. And before today is over, I will have picked it again, maybe with the opposite team winning.
I picked it on print for the Orlando Sentinel and the Florida Times-Union. I picked it on the radio in Denver and Laramie, Wyoming.
I’ve picked it so many times I’m beginning to feel like Peter Piper.
Football picking being the Tom Foolery that it is anyway, who really cares? This ain’t Wall Street and I’m not James Cramer, the host of Mad Money.
I shall trudge forward, however, with a pick. Only the protagonists, antagonists and philanthropists really care anyway.
If I pick Ohio State, my Gator fan friends are going to accuse me of treason.
If I pick Florida, it will further rankle readers like Cecil Meeker of Port Charlotte, who has apparently already decided that I am the Buckeyes' Evil Empire.
On Sunday, I wrote that Florida could compete evenly with Ohio State if the Troy Smith-Ted Ginn tandem and the running of Antonio Pittman could at least be slowed down. That’s news?
“I'm sure the Gator faithful are yet tipping another frothy one after reading your weighted article,” Meeker wrote.
Hey, he must have seen that same T-Shirt I saw at Sky Harbor Airport: “Gainesville is a drinkin’ town with a football problem!”
Perhaps I should have listened to the voices around me last time. My son Brenden accused me of ignoring his advice. Last year, prior to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, he insisted the Gators were going to win the title, which they did. Now he sees a football championship in store, too.
Our own sports editor, John Fineran, decided the same thing, as did my friend Franz Beard of Gatorcountry.com. I abstained.
I remind them all of that proverb: “People can forgive you for being wrong, but they will never forgive you for being right.”
All three have chosen Florida tonight. Brenden has gone one better by predicting the Gator basketball team will win again this year, giving Florida back-to-back-to-back championships.
Before the season began I predicted Florida would go 10-2, with losses to Auburn and Florida State and that the Gators would lose to Auburn in the SEC Championship. So the Gators are a little ahead of my forecast.
Even though this game has been analyzed, tantalized and fantasized to death, let me make one more prediction, even if it is a bit of a waffle.
If Florida explodes out of the box with some of the new formations and trick plays I’ve heard rumors about, the Gators will get ahead early and hold on to win.
However, I see Ohio State prevailing, 31-28. That’s my fourth different prediction. All have been Ohio State. Hopefully I will be forgiven by Mr. Meeker if I am right. Now the Buckeye fans can go tip a frothy one.
Buddy Martin Column/Jan. 7,k 2006 Ohio State's invicibilty now held in question
It’s The Return To The Desert. The Ohio State Buckeyes want to raise Arizona. The Florida Gators want to bury the memories of it. Jim Tressel believes in superstition, which is why he chose the role of visiting team in Arizona for the BCS Championship – so that his Ohio State Buckeyes can stay in the hotel where they last won the Fiesta Bowl and the national title. Veteran Florida fans, still a little uneasy about their return to the Fiesta Bowl 11 years later, are hoping for a fresh start in the desert. You can’t blame them, given what happened to Steve Spurrier’s unbeaten 1995 team: It was dismantled by Nebraska, 62-24, in Tempe. No superstitions are factored in for the Gator Nation about 1995. Besides, there was a national championship won by Florida the next year in the Sugar Bowl which helped ease the pain. And this title game is two Gator coaches later. Urban Meyer’s 2006 team has come together nicely, interfacing like a jigsaw puzzle as sort of a work in progress – one that has progressed nicely, thank you. Perhaps these Gators have their best football yet ahead of them. Ohio State is a portrait of consistency, with an impressive resume of work and the swagger of a 19-game win streak. The Buckeyes, though, have been in dry dock for over 50 days. Some people, however, are also beginning to doubt the invincibility of Tressel’s team. Since that win over Michigan for the Big 10 title, the landscape of college football has changed. The Wolverines, who scored 39 points on Ohio State, never showed up in the second half of the Rose Bowl and were manhandled by Southern Cal. Incidentally, one of Michigan quality wins was over Notre Dame, which was exposed by LSU in the Sugar Bowl. So no more woofin’ by the Wolverines, please. This is the first post-season meeting between the champions of the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference, so it may help settle the 100-year-argument about which league is superior (although I doubt it). Less than 48 hours away from kickoff, we are still being inundated with the dozens of so-called expert opinions about how Florida measures up, and vice-versa. Ohio State has the Heisman trophy, the undefeated record, the No. 1 ranking and a capitalized “The” in front of the school’s name. In this year’s bowl-game timeline, the underdog theme has been the rallying cry, thanks to Boise State. As the 7 ½-point dog to The Ohio State, the Gators are in the perfect sniper position, given that they’ve pretty much been viewed by most of the national media like a mongrel at the Westminister Kennel Club dog show. In recent weeks, given the Rodney Dangerfield treatment of his team by the national media, Meyer has decided to play to it. He is circling the wagons and telling his Gators that nobody is giving them proper respect; he showed them the Fiesta Bowl publication splattered with Buckeye players all over it – and only two pages on Florida. All season, critics kept downgrading the Gators for lack of so-called “Style Points.” Right up to the end, most of the ESPN commentators seemed to espouse and “ABF” philosophy, “Anybody But Florida.” And when their coach came to his team’s defense, he was excoriated for it. Before the final BCS voting, when Meyer was asked about his chances of making the title game and whether his team deserved it, he answered that the Gators should be chosen over Michigan because “they’ve had their shot.” Suddenly he was the Benedict Arnold of college football because he actually spoke up in behalf of his team. Michigan’s Lloyd Carr criticized both Meyer his president, Bernie Machen, for “campaigning.” Some Michigan fans probably wonder if Carr had spoken up about his team whether their Wolverines might have been picked to play Ohio State in a rematch. Given what Southern Cal did to them in the Rose Bowl, however, that argument pretty much ended right there. All this may be an emotional advantage for the Gators, and emotion is a huge part of college football. But it’s not enough to trump talent, or exceptional coaching. And on that count, Ohio State has both. The important thing is that Florida clearly deserved a chance to be in the championship game and got it. Eventually, even most members of the “ESPN/ABC cartel” came around on that, with Kirk Herbstreit apparently abstaining. Indeed, the Gators may have to step up their game and use all methods at their disposal to beat the Buckeyes. Whether Florida was the best choice is no longer in question. Whether Meyer’s program is on the same level as that of his fellow Ohioan must be proven on the field. I expect Florida to compete evenly with Ohio State. The Gators have the speed on defense. And their offense is at least as good as Michigan’s. Their front seven has mobility, lateral quickness, athleticism and height. Their four down linemen are like power forwards in the NBA, led by Ray McDonald and Derrick Harvey. Their linebackers can cover and tackle with authority, led by Brandon Siler and Earl Everett. And the secondary is the “X” Factor, because when Ohio state goes to four- and five-wide receiver sets, coach Chuck Heater has five ballhawking defenders who fly to the ball and hit hard, led by All-American safety Reggie Nelson and corner Ryan Smith, who is one away from the season record in interceptions with eight. Another key point: Florida’s three freshman offensive stars are no longer freshmen. Percy Harvin, the flyer from Virginia, and Tim Tebow, the quarterback with the linebacker mentality, can be counted on for major contributions. So can punt returner Brandon James, who may show up on offense with the football and has come close to breaking away for touchdowns several times. If the Gator defense can keep a reasonable check on Troy Smith and his speedy receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and hold tailback Antonio Pittman to under 100 yards rushing, Florida will not only compete, but win. So it will be left to the veteran offensive players like quarterback Chris Leak, plus receivers Dallas Baker and Bubba Caldwell, and the offensive line, to perform efficiently and not turn the ball over. If that happens, and the game is close in fourth quarter, Dan Mullen’s offense has proven all year it can piece together winning touchdown drives when it counts. The last pieces are the special teams, which have been strength for Florida, and the kicking game, which has not. Field goal accuracy has got to be better by Chris Hetland, who is just starting to come out of his 4-for-19 slump. Punter Eric Wilbur has the foot, but must not lose his rhythm or have one blocked like he did in the meltdown at Auburn. Count on trick plays by Florida, especially if there a fourth down gamble, which there almost always is when Meyer is coaching in big games. The very idea that the Florida Gators would be playing for a national championship in Meyer’s second season is remarkable. The fact that the University of Florida could become the only school ever to win the national title in football and basketball in the same year is downright incredible. ***
Good morning to Bob Whitfield, Shirley Ritch, Ed Kensler, Dutton Long, Fred Montsdeoca, Red Mitchum, Charlie LaPradd, Ben Ayres and Charley Pell – and all those other devoted Gator fans we have lost in the last couple of years. Your friends will be thinking of you Monday night.
We're back and ready for The Desert, or is it 'The Dessert'?
Buddy's regular column resumes this weekend as he takes a look at the Florida Gators' chances of winning the national title against Ohio State. Starting Sunday he will be filing regular reports from Arizona in The Countdown To The Championship. You can e-mail your questions, suggestions or thoughts to buddymartin.org..
This just in about 'The Boys From Old Florida: Inside Gator Nation.'
It was learned late Thursday that some 250 copies are, indeed, available at some Barnes & Nobles in Florida. Don't order online (you may not get them). Call your local B&N and they can order the book. Meanwhile, a limited number of softcover editions are available to be autographed and mailed to you (see instructions below). You can also order them on the Sports Publishing Web site at sportspublishinglll.com.
On Sunday, Jan. 7, following the Pep Rally in Scottsdale, Ariz., Buddy will join the folks at Gatorcountry.com at the after-party and will be signing copies of his book at 'The Swamp.' See gatorcountry.com for details.
Best-Seller SPLLC Book For week of Oct. 29, 2006: 1. Katrina: The Ruin and Recovery of New Orleans, 2. Floyd Little's Tales From the Bronco Sidelines, 3. The Boys From Old Florida
New softcover edition goes on sale for $16.95 Special edition can only be ordered online for $16.95
With only a few copies of "The Boys From Old Florida" hardback remaining, a new softcover edition of the best-seller goes on sale this week for the holidays.
Sports Publishing LLC announced that publication of a second edition would be available only to our special web site customers on its site (sportspublishing llc.com), as well as buddymartin.org and readers of the Charlotte Sun and Gainesville Sun. Copies in Charlotte County can be purchased at any of the Sun offices.
To obtain your personalized, autographed copy of the new softcover of this popular book by mail at the reduced price of $16.95, enclose a check for $20 (price includes shipping), made out to Buddy Martin to:
Gator Book 26337 Feathersound Dr. Punta Gorda, FL 33055
Allow 10 days for shipping.
If you would like to purchase copies in Charlotte County, they can be bought at the Harborview Road office, Punta Gorda Herald office and the Charlotte Sun Kiosk at the mall. Call 941-206-1000 for more information.
The book can also be ordered on line at Sports Publishing LLC at sportspublishingllc.com (click on ("football").
A few copies of the hardback remain in certain book stores. The only places with remaining book inventory are most Barnes and Nobles, Books A Millions and Greiner's of Ocala.
BUDDY WILL MAKE A SPECIAL APPEARANCE COURTESY OF GATORCOUNTRY.COM SUNDAY NIGHT, JAN. 7, 2007 PHOENIX TIME TBA
A great Christmas gift: Get your autographed copy of "The Boys From Old Florida" softcover. Watch for Buddy's booksignings near you soon. One of them will be on Sunday night, Jan. 7, in Scottsdale, Arizona during the Gator Gatyhering. The softcover will make its public debut there. If you would like one of the new softcovers, send a check for $20 (which includes shipping) to Buddy Martin, 26337 Featheround Dr., Punta Gorda, FL 33955.
Bowling for dollars begins
1. Best of all the bowls should be the one played in Glendale, Ariz. between the Florida Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes (favored by 7 1/2 points) because of the title at stake, but right after that, the Rose Bowl matchup of Michigan and Southern Cal (1-point favorite) should be quality viewing.
2. Before you start complaining about all those college bowl games being too excessive, consider that those 32 post-season dates gross more than $250 million.
3. Florida’s bean counters claim the UF will net just $20,000 after expenses in the BCS Championship, but will eventually receive a $1.9 million payout from the SEC.
4. Florida and Ohio State each received an allotment of 16,000 tickets for the BCS Championship Game.
5. The UF set aside 2,250 students, players and band members, and 1,500 for the official traveling party, coaches, staff, sponsors, university guests, University Athletic Board of Directors and the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
6. Although Gator fans snapped 12,250 tickets at $175 plus a $5 handling charge, the school turned away another 21,500 requests.
7. It’s all about how much money you donate, not how loyal you’ve been. I know one family with two members who have been season ticket holders for over 40 years, but got shut out. Another rich booster who made a substantial donation to Florida received 16 tickets, much to his own surprise.
8. Somebody please tell me what Urban Meyer said that caused New York Daily News writer Bob Raissman to go off the Gator coach, calling him the “Dweeb of the Week” and contending Meyer was “trashing” Michigan. Is that what you heard?
9. In case you wondered, no – no one school has ever won the national championship in football and basketball in the same year (which Florida could do by beating the Buckeyes).
10. Football maniacs, on your mark, get set … The first of those 32 bowl games will be played Tuesday night at 8 in San Diego’s Poinsettia Bowl between TCU and Northern Illinois. Can you watch them all? Write me if you do. (email@example.com)
Quick Jump Starts
1. Something’s wrong when Florida and University of Central Florida cancel its 2007 football date because one of them (UCF) wants to schedule a “money game” instead of establishing a rivalry between state schools.
2. OK, where are all you Vince Young critics who said Houston was justified in passing on its hometown guy and allowing the ex-Texas QB to go Tennessee?
3. The lack of talent finally caught up to Fisher DeBerry, who retired last week after 23 years at the Air Force Academy, but for a long, long time no college coach got more out of his players
4.These rumors about Bret Favre coming to the Bucs … I put them in the category with Elvis sightings.
5.My friend Jerry Greene of the Orlando Sentinel, noting the hot water Atlanta coach Jim Mora got into for talking about the Washington job and remembering that his father got in trouble for branding Mike Vick as a “coach killer” on Fox, suggests that maybe the Moras stay off the radio.
After all the talk about the national search for a guy with a big-time rep, Miami settled on defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, which turns out to be a stellar move because of his direct pipeline into the South Florida high school talent … Some 13 current Gator players graduated over the weekend, including quarterback Chris Leak, who was named Florida’s Male Leader of the Year and addressed his class … Ohio State has nine fifth-year seniors who start, including quarterback Troy Smith.
This Just In: ‘Spurriers are cheaters’
Now we know why Steve Spurrier has been so successful all these years: It’s because he and his wife have been bending the rules. Yep, Jerri Spurrier owned up to the NCAA violation the other day. Seems she’s been sending out personal notes to all the high school players who signed with her husband’s team (Duke, Florida, South Carolina). “She's done it every year in the past. This year it’s a violation, I guess,” Steve said. We can all rest better, knowing that the NCAA is on the case.
Spurrier, by the way, has already pulled three of the top 40 Florida high school recruits out of the state and could get as many as nine of the top 100. He was among those giving Urban Meyer a congratulatory call. “He’s a Gator and a friend,” Meyer said.
Nothing but ‘Net
(with a little help from Buddy’s cyberfriends)
Buddy’s Believe It or Not
(But don’t ask him to prove it)
Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space for fear they will damage their space suits.
Celery has negative calories! It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with. It's the same with apples.
The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher
Church Bulletin Bloopers
--Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get. --The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals. --The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment, and gracious hostility.
Bumper stickers, T-shirts or signs
1. A little self irony can go a long way.
2. Handle with care. I wrinkle.
3. I'm a recovering something or other.
The things that come to those who wait will be the things left by those who got there first.
And good morning …
… all you disgruntled Bears fans. Leave Rex Grossman alone. Have you forgotten Jim McMahon?
And since I will be on medical leave next weekend, I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday. My column will return on Sunday, Jan. 31. 2007.
BUDDY MARTIN'S FINAL SHOW
ON ESPN RADIO, AM900 OCALA,
DEC. 15, 2006 Buddy Martin Statement Goodbye and thanks to everyone for supporting Florida Sports Talk
When I first conceived the idea of sports talk radio for Ocala/Gainesville in 1996 and then saw it come true in late November that fall, I realized the fruition of a dream for my home town of Ocala and its sister city Gainesville. I loved the first two years, hosting Buddy Martin in the Morning and then these last three-plus years as a member of Brady Ackerman team. I want to add that all of North Central Florida is fortunate to have Brady Ackerman’s voice on the radio every week, because he is truly one of the up and coming sports personalities in Florida radio and TV. Sadly, with this show today, I am officially resigning my position with WMOP and WGGG for reasons I won’t go into right now. Later, I will have a more complete statement on here on my website at buddymartin.org. So in this special season, just a few weeks past the 10th birthday of Florida Sport Talk, I’d like to thank all of you and join my longtime sponsor Bill Lovell Nationwide Insurance in wishing you and your family and happy and safe holiday. Goodbye, good luck and God bless. (E-mail your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Buddy, As one of your original listeners from 1996, I'm sorry you're resigning your position. Really looked forward to your segments. Hope you'll find a way to get back on the air in north central Fla.
Larry Martin , Ocala --------------
Listening to your sign-off on Brady's show last week, I got the impression you weren't just winding up 2006, but that you do not anticipate continuing your segments into 2007.
If that is the case, I will miss your segments. I like your honest, fair, positive approach to topics & your genuine love of sports and the people you've met during your career. It's the way sports ought to be, an accent of fun in life for the fans. You've definitely rubbed off on Brady & Adam and I know those guys appreciate you,too.
I've got your book, enjoy it, and will check your site from time to time. Thanks for brightening my mornings. If you have any other plans in this market let me know!
God bless & keep you & your family.
I was one of the many fans who enjoyed those first two years of Sportstalk Radio in Ocala/Gainesville...I remember taping your show, as well as the afternoon show when work got in the way of my listening pleasure...I was a loyal listener and occasional caller to the station and even got my Mother hooked on "Buddy Martin in the Morning"...The coverage leading up to and following the Gators first National Championship in football helped those of us back in the local area feel a part of the festivities...The entire staff seemed like family, especially since your son was working with you at that time...I think WMOP/WGGG/Brady Ackerman were fortunate to have you appearing on special segments during the morning show in the more recent past...We will look forward to reading your columns and books and "hearing" from you in that way in the future...Merry Christmas and best wishes to you and yours in the coming year...Also, prayers for any medical concerns that you may be experiencing...
Buddy Martin column for Sunday
‘The Gator Nation’ has a new Godfather
Maybe now he’ll be good enough to have his own nickname. How about the “New Ball Coach?” Maybe they won’t make sarcastic comments about his enigmatic spread offense anymore or poke fun about his rah-rah, hands-on style of coaching. Urban Meyer is not trying to become Knute Rockne Jr. There is no truth to the rumor that Florida’s football coach wants to paint the O-Dome gold, turn mascot Albert into a leprechaun or adopt green jerseys as the Gators’ good-luck charm. It’s about time to say this: Urban Meyer has officially arrived as the Godfather of “The Gator Nation.”And Jeremy Foley deserves a great deal of praise for going after, and signing, Utah’s coach of two years ago – even if Foley did get nudged by his boss, President Bernie Machen. This just in: The guy can coach. No matter what he did for the first 20-plus games, Meyer just wasn’t going to become The Man at Florida. Maybe because some Gator fans thought The Man was coaching at South Carolina. And besides, Meyer didn’t have a Heisman Trophy in his case. Maybe because they thought his invasive style of coaching players’ personal lives was too high-schoolish. Maybe they just thought his Champions Club was more like the Mickey Mouse Club. Maybe this, maybe that – yada, yada, yada. Urban Meyer is not only good enough – he’s better than good enough. And I suggest Foley bump his contract in years and dollars to ensure his longevity. Whether he wins the national title or not, Meyer and his staff deserve to be saluted for the magnificent work they did in the 2006 campaign. How’s this for a resume? 21 wins, 4 losses, a Southeastern title and a trip to the national championship game. It’s no fun to be in the coach searching business these days. Ask the folks at Alabama, who got all the way down to their fourth or fifth choice and then were stood up at the altar. The deal was apparently done with Rich Rodriguez to become Alabama’s eighth coach since Bear Bryant, but West Virginia wouldn’t let him go. Miami finally settled on an assistant coach, Randy Shannon, after filtering through a stack of resumes large enough to have papered South Beach. Very quietly, Shannon became the first minority head coach of a Florida school that was not predominantly black. Coincidently, Shannon was also a true Miami guy who grew up there and played both high school and college there. Up in Tallahassee, they’re still looking for an offensive genius to apply as Bobby Bowden’s offensive coordinator. They whisper derisively the name of the bowl game in which the Seminoles are going to be playing – it’s the Emerald – and diehard fans are trying to keep their discontented brethren from throwing dirt on Saint Bobby. Frankly, ‘Nole fans had better not be too quick to dump Bowden, their greatest coach ever, because there appears to be a dearth of good coaching candidates for the college ranks these days. Ask Foley what it was like in 2001 when he had to settle on a guy like Ron Zook, whose worst sin was that he followed a legend but would never be accepted after Bob Stoops and Mike Shanahan turned down the job. Meyer was the hottest guy on the market in December, 2004 and has become everything Gator fans had hoped (except not Steve Spurrier). No one could foresee Meyer enjoying such rapid success. In his first year, he had a number of detractors and fan support was splintered. I remember writing a column after his third game that Meyer was the real deal and that I was, metaphorically speaking, “all in on Urban Meyer.” It’s not that I was psychic or had superior insight to my colleagues; it’s just that I thought his total commitment to the personal, athletic and academic life of his players was refreshing. And if the UF couldn’t bring back Spurrier, my first choice, then Meyer was the best possible hire. “Don’t go out too far on a limb,” a media friend warned me. “He’s not everything you think he is.” OK, he’s not a Saint, or Pope Urban. He’s got flaws. Maybe Meyer shouldn’t have deceived the media about injured players as he did in 2005. Maybe he shouldn’t have publicly criticized his players, or excoriated his tailbacks. Maybe he shouldn’t have ripped the BCS system. Yet when Spurrier did some of the same things, he was applauded. Nobody publicly flogged his players and assistant coaches like The Ol’ Ball coach, or poked more fun at his opponents, or spoke out against what he perceived as injustices. “Yeah, but when Spurrier did it, he at least took his share of the blame and didn’t scapegoat his players,” said another media friend. Frankly, I think Meyer had every right to rip the BCS and call out some of the national media. He was on the verge of getting jobbed by some of the cockamamie pollsters who were being brainwashed by the Bristol Cartel. The ESPN pundits kept docking Florida for the lack of something they called “Style Points,” whatever that is. Meyer spoke out because the SEC was being disrespected and the Florida Gators were being excluded as a potential opponent for Ohio State by some of the network “experts.” I’d go as far as to say it appeared that ESPN was openly campaigning for teams other than Florida. You want proof? Several weeks ago, ESPN’s web site posted a question asking for fans to vote for the team which should be chosen to play the Buckeyes, “Southern Cal or Michigan?” No Florida. It was Gary Danielson, CBS analyst and partner of Verne Lundquist, who saw the poll and reportedly informed the University of Florida sports information department, which subsequently called ESPN. The Gators were then added. Florida edged out Michigan for the right to play for a national championship. If Meyer had not spoken out, I question whether the Gators would have won in the polls. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr called it “campaigning.” Well, maybe. Isn’t that what coaches are supposed to do for their teams? Isn’t speaking out against what you perceive to be an injustice the American way? Since when is the University of Florida coach a goober for doing that? And isn’t that exactly what the Boys from Bristol were doing? Clearly, Urban Meyer is being forced to earn every morsel of respect, just as his offense had to earn every yard on those long drives against Tennessee and Florida State on the road to make a second half comeback, win and go 12-1. And earn that comeback in the second half against Arkansas to clinch the SEC. Of course, Florida has zero chance to beat Ohio State and might as well not even show up in Glendale, Ariz. I know that for sure because the Boys in Bristol told me so.
Buddy Martin Column for Monday, Dec 4, 2006
Urban thought this day might not come
Frankly, Urban Meyer had those days when he thought playing for a national championship was purely a pipe dream for his Florida Gators this year.
Between the crippling injuries in pre-season and the national media’s disregard for his team’s “style” of winning during the campaign, Meyer just couldn’t find the silver lining anywhere.
Basically, Meyer was caught between “Style Point Hell” and the crosshairs of ESPN’s punching pundits.
After Florida played in an early day game, Meyer would go home and watch football on TV, but then he’d become subjected to the dissing of the Bristol Boys. Sometimes when the ESPN Cartel commentators talked about what teams should play Ohio State for the national title, the Gators never got a whiff.
“I love college football and it’s just part of the business,” Meyer said Sunday night on his teleconference. “But it’s amazing, the over-analyzing, how a team wins. I’ve never really studied that before.
“So yeah, I thought there would be an issue with the respect Florida would get.”
Sunday the Gators got that respect. Through an amazing turn of events, the stars became aligned properly, the computers and the humans reached the same conclusion, and after a roller-coaster of an SEC Championship game that produced a 38-28 victory over Arkansas, the Gators moved up in the neighborhood to No. 2.
For the second time in a decade, Florida used some backdoor help to get the invitation to The Dance. They were a longer shot than Cinderella.
The buzz started somewhere in the first half of the UCLA-Southern Cal game Saturday night. Writers covering the SEC Championship game in Atlanta congregated in front of TVs in the rear of the press box.
Could this be happening? Were the football gods going to line up in favor of the Florida Gators again?
Word got out the Georgia Dome that there were TV sets in the men’s bathrooms and hundreds of spectators gathered there in the final minutes to see if this flickering flame of hope would keep burning.
Frankly, there was a pervading feeling that USC would rally to overcome the Bruins’ 13-9 lead.
Down on the field, the Florida Gators had all they could handle for the moment – never mind Ohio State – and needed to gather themselves to overcome the wrong end of a 21-17 score against Arkansas. Meyer pretty much knew what was going on out in California, but wanted his team to stay focused on Atlanta.
There on the video wall was the evidence in big, bright white lights, a final score: UCLA 13, USC 9. As the final play ticked off in the Georgia Dome and the swarm of Gators gathered on the field, the blessings of the moment grew bountifully. An SEC championship – and maybe a whole lot more.
Maybe the Gators should have been forewarned about what they wished for and will be punished for it by talented Ohio State in Glendale, Ariz. But for now, they’ve got the respect. And that, after all, that’s why they play the games in the first place. Not “Style Points.”
Some people thought this was pre-destined. One was Steve Spurrier, who as he
walked out of his press conference following a loss to Florida, turned to me and said:
"Buddy, this might be the Year of the Gator."
Buddy Martin's Reports From Atlanta
Column, Dec. 2, 2006
Gators win SEC, and things happen
By BUDDY MARTIN
Charlotte Sun Editor
ATLANTA – In a bit of a football miracle, the Florida Gators won the Southeastern Conference championship Saturday, beating Arkansas, 38-28, and found out after the game that they might be playing for a national championship, too.
By virtue of UCLA’s upset of No. 2 USC, 13-9, the No. 4 Gators will need help from the BCS computers, USA Today Coaches Poll and Harris Poll to get the points needed to overtake Michigan, move up to the second position and get a crack at No. 1 Ohio State in Glendale, Jan. 8.
In the last BCS Poll, No. 3 Michigan held a slight .319 point differential over Florida.
Florida coach Urban Meyer, who coached the Gators to a 12-1 record and their seventh SEC title since 1991, expressed confidence that his team would get a fair chance.
“I have great confidence the University of Florida is going to get the chance to play for a national title,” Meyer said.
Freshman Percy Harvin, whose 67-yard touchdown put Florida ahead to stay, was unanimously voted the game’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Buddy Martin column/SEC Championship
Memo to ESPN: You like style points? How about these style points, Herbie?
ATLANTA – So let the debate begin now.
Florida or Michigan? A Big Ten rematch or the 12-1 SEC champion against Ohio State?
Later today, a bunch of coaches, a mixed bag of football types and a bank of computers will determine whether the Florida Gators are going to get a chance to play for the national championship Jan. 8 against the Buckeyes. Who’d have ever thought it?
With USC beaten 13-9 in an upset by UCLA, the backdoor opened again, almost like it did 10 years ago for Florida in its national championship season.
The Gators took care of business by beating Arkansas, 38-28, for the SEC championship Saturday night after blowing a 17-0 lead and then rallying to overcome some stupid mistakes and a 21-17 Razorback lead. It was a brilliant 67-yard touchdown sprint by true freshman Percy Harvin that gave the Gators back the lead, 31-21, and, ultimately provided the victory margin.
Harvin was named the game’s Most Valuable Player in a unanimous vote. He rushed for 105 yards, including the long romp for a touchdown, and caught a touchdown passes.
The Gators’ opportunistic defense and special teams were also pretty valuable, as they recovered an Arkansas touchdown in the end zone for a score; held star Razorback running back Darren McFadden to 73 yards rushing; and captured three interceptions.
We shall see if that impressed the voters and the computers.
Now that the improbable has happened, there is nobody left standing to beat Michigan, who was ahead of the Gators in the last poll by the slimmest of margins: 319 in the BCS Standings, which reflected 86 points differential in the Harris Poll, 40 points in the USA Today Coaches Poll and .04 in the Computer Poll.
What will happen?
“Florida is going to play for the national championship,” predicted CBS Sports analyst Gary Danielson of Naples. That is, of course, pure speculation.
Urban Meyer agrees with Danielson and just can’t fathom the idea that his 12-1 Gators wouldn’t get the chance to play Ohio State. And, frankly, he’s a little tired of all the “style points” talk.
“I’m not too concerned about ‘style points,’” Meyer said. “I’m concerned about 21 seniors playing their hearts out and finding a way to win 12 games with the No. 1 most difficult schedule in the country.
Meyer said he would “need help” in explaining it to his seniors if the Gators didn’t win out over Michigan for a shot at the title.
It has clearly been a tough year at the polls for the Gators, who have become a bit of a Rodney Dangerfield in the title chase and, at times, were virtually written off by commentators at ESPN. Meyer took a little shot at the network that I have recently nicknamed “The ESPN Cartel in Bristol, Conn.”
“ESPN is a powerful, powerful organization and I hope they list all the statistics. I think this is: Put it all out on the table. Here’s what it is.” In Steve Martin lingo, this was a wild and crazy game, with more momentum shifts than an Enron stock portfolio.
In a wild night on the floor of the Georgia Dome, the Gators used skullduggery, guile and guts to roll up 396 of yards of offense, perhaps silencing the critics who said Meyer’s offense was too stuffy. As he said, he took every shot.
The Gators’ defense also held when it had to and their special teams came through with a touchdown and some old-fashion razzle-dazzle.
You want style points?
How about watching a 17-0 lead melt away and, at a time when everything was falling apart around him, Meyer deciding to gamble on fourth and 10 with the handoff by punter Eric Wilbur to Jemalle Cornelius for the first down? Until then, it had begun to feel like like Florida’s dream for a title shot was going to melt away on the artificial turf of the Georgia Dome.
Two horrible passes by Chris Leak – one a shovel pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Razorback defensive end Antwain Robinson – started momentum heading down a road to ruin instead of Glendale, Ariz. It looked like a repeat of the second-half fizzle at Auburn earlier in the season.
And then, after burning all their timeouts in the same drive – including their last one, which only resulted in a choice to punt – the Gators were gifted with a fumble in the end zone by Razorback return man Reggie Fish, which was recovered by Florida’s Wondy Pierre-Louis and a 24-12 lead.
Want more “style points?” How about a Tim Tebow-to-Andre Caldwell-to-Tate Casey double pass for a touchdown to cap off an 80-yard drive and tie a ribbon on the 38-28 victory for the school’s seventh SEC championship?
It’s not the “style points” Florida need. It’s not about Armani fashion, it’s about Lombardi blocking and tackling.
Florida needs votes. It will be interesting see if the humans voting have any style now. And whether the cartel from Bristol can be broken.
Florida Gators sidebar
Meyer: ‘We deserve a shot’ to compete vs. Ohio State
By BUDDY MARTIN
Charlotte Sun Editor
ATANTA – Urban Meyer doesn’t get a vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll because he elected not to accept one, but it could be by that slim margin that the Florida Gators’ fate for a date with Ohio State hangs in balance.
Meyer took the stump after beating Arkansas to make his case for the Florida Gators getting a chance to play Ohio State. Do the Gators deserve it?
“We certainly do,” Meyer responded. “Florida belongs. The other team (Michigan) had a shot. We went 12 and 1 and I think the country wants to see the Southeastern Conference champion against a Big Ten champion. I think that’s what this is all about.”
It was a pretty happy bunch of Florida Gators who danced in the rain of confetti on the floor of the Georgia Dome, celebrating their newly won Southeastern
Conference championship Saturday night. But it got a lot happier as the news of Southern Cal’s loss spread throughout the players and coaches.
The Gators didn’t really know that they had new life until they had finished off their 38-28 victory over Arkansas.
“It was firing through he locker room pretty good,” said Meyer. “I heard it and I was kind of like ‘let’s worry about what we have to worry about.’ Obviously I looked up and saw it on the video wall in the third quarter.”
Even after the game, many of them said they wanted to enjoy the SEC title.
“I’m not going to talk about anything tonight but winning the SEC,” said Athletics Director Jeremy Foley.
The game involved numerous momentum shifts, which Meyer said made it “one of the greatest college football games ever.”
Off to a 17-0 first half start, Florida watched the Razorbacks score 21 unanswered points and fell behind in the third period 21-17. Quarterback Chris Leak threw two costly interceptions and, in general, Arkansas took command.
Leak managed to keep his focus, however, “with the help of my teammates.”
“Give Arkansas credit,” said Leak. “They have a great defense. That’s the way it is for a quarterback in a game like that with so many momentum shifts. You just have to have a short memory.”
Meyer, who has been criticized by the national media for his team lacking “style points,” pulled out every stop – including a fake punt on fourth and 10 at his own 15-yard line. Jemalle Cornelius took a handoff from Eric Wilbur and ran for a first down. But Florida wound up punting and recovering an Arkansas fumble for a touchdown.
Meyer joked that they had “called that play” also. He had no intentions of leaving anything on the table, however, because “if we’re going to be successful, we’ve got to take every shot we’ve got.” Of the fake punt, Meyer said his teamed “has practiced that play a couple of thousand times the last two years.”
Once freshman Percy Harvin scurried 67 yards for a touchdown, the Razorbacks could never overcome it.
buddy martin column dec. 1, 2006
Tide romances 'The Evil Genius'
Steve Spurrier, Steve Spurrier, Steve Spurrier.
OK, that’s for all you people who complain that I write too much about – drum roll, please – Steeevvee Sppuurrrrier!
I plead guilty.
Sorry, but I can’t help myself. And neither can the other 787 sports writers who have his name in their column today (all right, I made up the number).
He’s what we in the trade call “good copy.” He can make news without even trying.And he’s back in the headlines again. Alabama has formally asked permission from South Carolina to speak to the man whose name was once considered contraband when uttered from the lips of an Alabaman.
Apparently all is forgiven with the so-called “Evil Genius,” aka “Steve Superior.”
But, then, football, like politics, makes for strange bedfellows.
Some schools would hire Osama bid Laden if they thought he could win them a championship.
The Southeastern Conference has been abuzz all week with rumination about a possible deal between Alabama and Spurrier.
Alabama is throwing everything from an equal billing at the Bear Bryant Museum, to all the Confederacy booty buried in Mason jars, to a lifetime supply of Dreamland Barbecue in attempt to lure Spurrier to Tuscaloosa.
The Ol’ Ball coach has carefully controlled his words, issuing only two statements of note.
The latest one is clever, if not downright amusing. He told the Columbia State
he was tired of hearing the rumors about “Miami, Alabama and Tennessee” and began talking about the coaching vacancy at his old high school, Science Hill. in Johnson City, Tenn. In fact, he said, if things started going badly for him, he might consider that “a last alternative job.”
And then he spun the story into a plus for his Gamecocks and with a little recruiting ruse, saying:
“It’s always flattering if somebody thinks that you’re a good enough coach to go to one of those kinds of programs. That’s how we’ve been using it with our recruits,” Spurrier said. “It’s a compliment that maybe they think I’m a good enough coach to go to those places. So we’re trying to turn it into a positive.”
It has always been my contention that Spurrier wanted to stay in Columbia. On two occasions when I visited him there, taking a tour of his new house, athletic facilities, coaching offices, etc., there was nothing but contentment and excitement in his voice.
Alabama is apparently throwing together a lavish offer and asking him to consider it.This is an attempt to satisfy the restless alumni of a beleaguered program which has seen seven coaches come and go in a revolving door since Bear Bryant retired more than 20 years ago.
There will be those who will call Spurrier money-hungry, or accuse him of leveraging a better deal for himself, but they should remember that he didn’t go after the job. And at $1.25 million a year, he is “underpaid” in the SEC – odd as it may sound.
You may recall also that the $1.5 million offered by South Carolina became $1.25 when Spurrier asked if he could use the other 250 grand to pay his assistant coaches more.
I say good for the Ol’ Ball Coach.
Truthfully, Spurrier is a little tired of being the center of attention, hard as it might be for his critics to believe. He’d much rather be in Atlanta this week, playing for his seventh conference title.
He’s not going to Tuscaloosa, even if they change the name of “The Bear Bryant Museum” to “The Steve Spurrier Museum” and pay him twice as much in gold bars.
So, for the guy in Atlanta from Englewood.
For my Alabama-educated physician.
For every FSU fan who ever started to read this column and then stopped at the first few letters of “Ste……”
For Miami fans still seething that S.O.S. stole their thunder by announcing he had signed to coach the Washington Redskins on the same day of the Hurricanes’ 2001 national championship.
And, for the Gator fans who still consider him a traitor for leaving Florida, going to Washington and then coming back to the SEC with South Carolina.
Steve Spurrier, Steve Spurrier, Steve Spurrier! Get used to it!
By BUDDY MARTIN/Nov. 22, 2006
The land mines of Doak Campbell: History in favor of Bobby Bowden
Tallahassee has been Capital Punishment for the Gators.
Just as Urban Meyer was on a learning curve for SEC road games in 2005, he is going to experience his first game in Tallahassee on Saturday. What he has to hold on to is the blueprint Ron Zook left behind from 2004 when Bobby Bowden Field was dedicated and the Gators’ lame duck coach went out on the shoulders of his team after 20-13 win over 10th-ranked FSU.
History cannot be ignored, however. And history favors Bobby Bowden, who was 8-5-1 vs. Steve Spurrier. His record against seven UF coaches: 17-14-1.
Not bad, considering that in1977, Bowden’s second season there, FSU had previously dropped nine straight games to the school’s arch rival.
Consider how Bowden has turned the corner since, especially at home: The greatest coach in Gator football history could never win at Doak Campbell.
And I wouldn’t be too quick to discount the ‘Noles chances Saturday, even though they are in disarray, struggling to finish over .500.
When I looked at Florida’s schedule before the season began, this was one of the weeks I felt the Gators were at risk. I still feel that way.
In fact, my pre-season prognosis was 10-2 for Florida with losses at Auburn and Tallahassee, with a shot to play in the SEC title game. Of course, how could I know there was going to be a Seminole meltdown?
I’m not sure it has changed all that much for Florida and Saturday. And although I expect Urban Meyer’s team to win and cap off an 11-1 season, this a game fraught with land mines for him.
It’s what my high school coach called the “believing your press clippings” or having your “head in the clouds” that could impact the play of Florida, which is the subject of much discussion by fans these days in the meddling of a national championship scenario.
Although this series has lost some of hits national luster, the rivalry cuts through families and friends and relationships of former high school teammates. There is never a less-than-meaningful game. And the underdog always has a chance, even if FSU is 6-5 and a 9 1/2-point ‘dog to the Gators, who are 10-1.
Gator fans need only think back to 1971 when FSU was 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country and Florida was 0-5 under Doug Dickey. UF won that day, 17-15, at Florida Field. So home field is huge.
Even when Steve Spurrier’s 1994 team went ahead 31-3, FSU fought back for a 31-31 tie in the now-famous “Choke at Doak.” And had Bobby Bowden elected to go for two points, I think the ‘Noles would have pulled off the victory. As it was, he kicked it and wound up in a Sugar Bowl rematch which he won handily.
Although I don’t believe in jinxes, there is reason for Gator fans to be concerned about Saturday’s game at Doak Campbell Stadium. In games like this, momentum changing plays like turnovers, bad calls or big offensive strikes can spell doom.
No. 51 in the series promises to be nothing less than fiercely competitive, although with the problems both offenses are having, perhaps low scoring. My prediction for Saturday: Florida 21, FSU 10.
I’ve seen every one of the 51 Florida-Florida State games, either on TV or in person. I have attended 30 of them. I sat in the stands as a college student and watched Bobby Renn nearly return the opening kickoff of the inaugural game. I was covering the 1964 game in Tallahassee when Steve Tensi threw the football over the moon and into the hands of Fred Biletnikoff as the Seminoles beat the Gators the first time ever, 16-7. Later in 1966, I saw the controversial Lane Fenner play and thought, without the benefit of instant replay, it was probably a catch. Today it would be a great replay challenge.
Stuff like that happens in this series.
Until Bobby Bowden came along, the Gators owned the ‘Noles. Bowden turned that around, especially during Florida’s most prosperous era. But this has been one of the quietest weeks in the 48-year history of the rivalry.
Try as they can, nobody so far this year has been able to stir up any trouble among the arch rivals – at least not in the same vernacular as Steve Spurrier’s “Free Shoes University” or Ray Graves’ “Never, FSU, Never” themes.
CBS Sportline blogger Dennis Dodd tried his best this week, calling out Meyer for his comments about not wanting to see an Ohio State-Michigan rematch (The Florida coach said that the college presidents should to get together and fix the broken system if there is a rematch.) Dodd saw disrespect in that.
“What he said is beyond bulletin-board material. It's more of a travesty against the very thing he's grousing about,” wrote Dodd. “A playoff? Try beating Florida State first, something your program has done once in the past 20 years in Tallahassee. Get through that and good luck against the hottest team in the SEC, Arkansas.
“Talk about looking ahead. At least wait until the end of the season to state your case, Urban. Doing it now is a direct insult to the next two opponents, which just happen to be an archrival and the nation's 5th-ranked team,” Dodd wrote on cbssportsline.com.
It is true that Florida has won just once in Tally since 1985, but Dodd failed to point out that the series is 10-10-1 there in the last 41 years and Florida won six out of seven at Doak during a stretch.
Both sides have had their glory.
No game was ever sweeter for Gator fans than the 52-20 National Championship Nokia Sugar Bowl win, coming on the heels of FSU’s huge “Poll Bowl” victory earlier that year, 24-21, when the Gators were No. 1 and the ‘Noles No. 2 – leading to the rematch.
Bowden had his moments – like the time he spoiled Spurrier’s homecoming in 1990. After winning a mythical SEC title which couldn’t be retained because of an NCAA violation, the Gators celebrated a little too quickly and got bushwhacked in Tallahassee, 45-30. It was the first of eight wins Bowden would have over Spurrier.
There have been nasty moments like the pre-game fight that broke out in Tallahassee 1998; the 2001 Darnell Dockett incident in which Spurrier claimed the FSU defender twisted the knee of running back Earnest Graham; and, of course, the “Echo of the Whistle” incident which led to Spurrier’s charge of late hitting by the ‘Noles in 1996.
I always knew we’d miss Spurrier and Bowden when they were gone. One is already departed and the other may be headed out the door soon. Saturday’s game might help expedite the latter.
Nov. 20, 2006 By BUDDY MARTIN
Hey Kirkie boy, pick your poison!
They keep moving the goal posts.
Three weeks ago it was Louisville, because the Cardinals were the second best team in the universe and deserved a chance to play the Ohio State-Michigan winner.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said so.
Except Louisville ran into Rutgers, which was emerging as a powerhouse as the Scarlet Knights knocked out the Cardinals and knocked Herbstreit off the bandwagon. By halftime of the Louisville-Rutgers game, Kirkie Boy was doing back flips in Piscataway and already knew the Rutgers secret handshake.
Oops, OK, then Rutgers deserved a chance to play for the national title.
Except along came Cincinnati Saturday night. The 30-11 Bearcats upset had Herbstreit’s face matching the color of the Rutgers jerseys.
But wait, there’s yet another scenario by Kirkie Boy!
He didn’t ever think he’d be in favor of a rematch, he said, but after the Ohio State-Michigan game that the Game of the Century II (that would make two of them in 51 days) would be just fine with him now.
Meanwhile, other ESPN dudes seemed to be campaigning for USC – Mark May has been waiving the Trojan pom-poms for a while now – and almost nobody mentioned Notre Dame, Arkansas or Florida.
Florida, in fact, won 62-0 and dropped to No. 4 in one human poll.
Blame AD Jeremy Foley for scheduling I-AA Western Carolina if you will, but at the same time, whatever happened to the unspoken tenet that teams who lose late in the season drop several notches in the poll?
Losing to OhioState didn’t impact Michigan one whit. Yet when Florida lost to the No. 10 ranked team on a controversial turnover call against Auburn, it cost the Gators dearly.
No sense in going into the various other equations – “if Arkansas beats LSU and Florida beats Arkansas …” or “if Notre Dame beats USC and the Gators win out…” --- yada, yada, yada.
Let’s play the games and let the outcome resolve the issue instead of getting swayed by the “flavor of the week” theme coming out of the ESPN Cartel in Bristol.
Maybe if Michigan beats Ohio State in Game of the Century II they could go for the best two-out-of three!
Yes, life is good in 'The Swamp' these days, but Meyer says it could get better (see BuddyBlogs)
Buddy Martin Sunday Col Nov. 29, 2006
Gator life is good, but could be better GAINESVILLE – To paraphrase what they say in that familiar chant, this was a great week to be a Florida Gator, although maybe not so much a Florida State Seminole or Miami Hurricane. Life in “The Swamp” hasn’t been this grand since the Ol’ Ball Coach was around, hanging 50 on opponents, winning championships, and cracking wisely to the media.
On Saturday, Urban Meyer reached a milestone by posting his 10th win of the season – a number not seen in seen in these parts since the turn of the century. The 62-0 victory over the lowly Western Carolina Catamounts gave Meyer a 19-4 record, matching that of Steve Spurrier’s first two years at Florida.
With a win over FSU, Meyer can surpass Spurrier’s mark and if he wins in Atlanta, he will have equaled Spurrier’s total SEC titles those first two years: one, officiallWhat does that say?
“It says we are going in the right direction,” said Athletics Director Jeremy Foley, who hired Meyer. Hopes are alive for a shot at the national championship if Florida can win out and get a little back-door help from the opponents of Southern Cal and Notre Dame.
Meanwhile, to fill in the down time between the SEC championship and the bowl game, Gator fans can entertain themselves by following the plight of Billy Donovan’s defending national champion basketball team. Not a bad way to spend an “off-season.”
So, yes, life IS good for the Gators these days.
Now they just need to be a little lucky with the computers and human pollsters, who most likely aren’t going to be impressed with the shellacking of the Division I-AA Catamounts on Saturday. In fact, it might cause a Florida to dip a little. They are going to be criticized for playing a weak opponent, even though their schedule ranks fourth toughest in the country according to the NCAA. Perhaps they can hold serve at no worse than No. 3 or maybe slide to No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and/or the Associated Poll, but it would take more than that for the Gators to vault past Southern Cal in the BCS ranking without a Trojan loss.
As the nation’s eyes focused on what some are calling “The Game of the Century” in Columbus Saturday, it won’t be overlooked that the Gators played a patsy on the same weekend. This was a opponent chosen for revenue – Western Carolinaonly gets $425,000 of the gate – when the 12th game was added.
Funny thing is that the pundits on the sports networks were all saying a few months ago that the Gators wouldn’t be competing for the national title because “their schedule is just too tough.”\
No matter, one must commend Meyer for bringing Florida football back to a position of prestige again. Yet why isn’t Meyer turning back flips?
“There’s some work to be done yet,” he said. “You walk around this great stadium and there are some numbers void on that wall where we come out. You look up where it says ‘SEC Champions’ and the last one was ’00.’ That’s not right … we’ve got to get one that says 2006 somewhere.”
Although none of the 21 seniors saying goodbye owned a championship Saturday as the played their last game in “The Swamp,” they could rest easy knowing that they had helped restore the glory to the program.
It might not count in style points or even in the BCS standings, but, indeed, once again it could be bragged that it was great to be a Florida Gator.
Bo ‘greatest coach ever’ says Meyer
Urban Meyer is from the Ohio State family tree, but considers himself a disciple of the late Bo Schembechler, who coached under the late Woody Hayes. Like Bo, Meyer was an Ohio State assistant, as were two of Urban’s former bosses, Lou Holtz and Earle Bruce.
The Florida coach said he was deeply saddened at the news of Schembechler’s death Friday and was surprised to learn that most of his Gator players hadn’t heard of him. Meyer is especially fond of the way Schembechler got involved in the lives of his players, a trait the Florida coach has adopted.
“What’s his place in history?” Meyer asked rhetorically. “I think he’s the greatest football coach in history.”
Buddy Martin Column Sunday Best Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006
Slicing Through The Tension Bowl
GAINESVILLE – The tension was so great for Steve Spurrier that he couldn’t stay in one place for more than a few seconds.
So South Carolina’s coach paced the East sidelines between the 40-yards lines like an expectant father, twirling his visor in the air, picking up a piece of trash paper and tossing it aside, wiping his brow and even admonishing the CBS cameraman not to expect any animated reaction on his part.
Time was out and the minutes seemed months. Everything came to a standstill at Florida Field, but the collective hearts were still beating a million times a minute.
Across the way, Urban Meyer was almost gagged by the suspense.
Having already used one time out to try and freeze the kicker, Meyer eschewed the use of another because “I couldn’t stand it.” In the single most dramatic moment of his coaching career, Meyer was relying on a long shot – a blocked kick – to bail his team out and maybe his season.
So he wanted to get on with it.
Aside from the hopes of a BCS title game riding on it, there was the matter of losing two years in a row to the guy who used to have his job. As much as he admires Spurrier, Urban Meyer hates losing to him more.
“It meant a lot more to me than I will probably admit to,” Meyer said of his desire of beating Spurrier.
So this was it. One single play would determine if Spurrier was going to come back home and spoil the party.
And one single moment would determine if the Gators big dream as a national championship contender was going forward or would come to a crashing halt.
As South Carolina’s field goal kicker measured his steps, awaiting the snap with eight seconds to play, the Gamecocks needing a 48-yarder to win, The Ol’ Ball Coach assumed his normal sideline pose, one foot over the other, crossing his arms – then uncrossing them – and steeling himself against any body language that might look negative after the outcome.
“I told the cameraman not to bother shooting me,” Spurrier would say later, “because my reaction was going to be the same either way.”
As Florida’s Jarvis Moss batted Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field goal attempt away, the ball fell to the ground, the clock struck zero and the crowd exploded, Spurrier went slightly limp, then calmly strode to the middle of the field in a walk of resignation.
Florida 17, South Carolina 16.
The Gators kept frittering away chances on bobbles and missed field goals and crucial penalties. The Gamecocks kept coming.
“They kept making enough bad plays that it looked like something good was going to happen to use,” said Spurrier, who now drops to 5-5 for the season as Florida moves up to 9-1, with a No. 4 BCS rating.
Lost in all the drama, perhaps, was the fact that Florida was favored by two touchdowns and in winning by only a single point, may drop slightly in the BCS – although they will move up in the polls after Auburn’s loss to Georgia.
Even Meyer is ready to take off the BCS wraps now.
“It’s time to start talking about that to our players,” Meyer said of the BCS race.
Meanwhile, Spurrier’s trip to “The Swamp” wasn’t all for naught, because he was proud of the way his team played and said quarterback Blake Mitchell redeemed himself from purgatory by playing “his best game ever.”
As he walked off the field, Spurrier gave a little thumbs up signal to his fans. Even though he doesn’t believe in moral victories, he said many of players his players “played like winners.”
“Unfortunately,” he said, “we were losers, because football is a team game.”
And as he left the interview room, Spurrier said to a friend: “I think it might be the Year of the Gator.”
For Meyer it was a notch in his gun barrel. He admitted he was about as nervous as he’s ever been as a coach. Somebody wondered if it was his most tense ever.
Meyer said with a smile of admission: “I’d say it was numero uno.”
Maybe this game won’t impress the pollsters, but for sheer drama and excitement this was one of the best games of the decade at Florida Field – no matter the outcome.
How now, Kirkie boy?
Can it and let's play the games!
An analysis/commentary by Buddy Martin
Now that we have the issue resolved that Louisville is not the second coming of Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners, Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide or even Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators, maybe we can accept the fact that neither is the Big East on par with the Big Ten, Pac Ten or Southeastern Conference.
I don’t care what any polls show – the BCS is not supposed to be about the team in with the best record in a conference. It’s about the best team, period, which means the one that plays and beats the best competition.
If I played my neighbor 20 times in golf and beat him all 20, would that make me on par with Tiger Woods?
It's who you play, not whether you are unbeaten
Shame on ll of you people – especially the cartel from ESPN which was ready to award the BCS championship berth to Louisville before Thursday night’s loss to Rutgers – please move to the back of the line and dummy up.
And that includes you, Kirk Herbstreit, for your absurd love affair with Louisville and the extolling of Coach Bob Petrino as the heir apparent to the “genius” tag of Bill Walsh or Mike Shanahan.
Notice how quickly Kirkie boy jumped off that Cardinals bandwagon in the second half after riding it into the ground in the first half when Rutgers was trailing 25-6?
More and more I am annoyed by Herbstreit’s Sweetheart of the Week system for anointing the team of his choice as the championship-worthy school. He should know better.
Right now in Bristol, they’re all scrambling for a one-loss team that can be trumpeted as the designated opponent for the Ohio State-Michigan winner.
Expect a lot of noise about Rutgers, a team virtually overlooked until Thursday night. By the fourth quarter, Herbstreit was ready to call Rutgers the greatest story in college football history.
No disrespect to Greg Schiano and Rutgers, who played brilliantly in one of the season’s finest hours, but why were the Scarlet Knights ranked so low in the polls? Because they were playing in THE BIG EAST, for crying out loud.
Gallant as they may have been there is no mathematical way now that the Scarlet Knights can vault high enough quickly enough to get to Arizona on Jan. 8, 2007.
Yet those who said Louisville must be “given a chance” to play for the title must now examine their double standard and answer the question: If you think the Big East is all that good, why shouldn’t Rutgers get the same chance. Ostensibly, you are saying the Big East champion is stronger than the SEC’s.
Meanwhile, the Eastern bloc of the media is going to be crying “foul” because it, too, has suddenly discovered there is another team in the region besides Penn State and Boston College. Look for the words “conspiracy” and “snubbed” to pop up in the tabloid headlines.
While the Boys From Bristol spin the bottle and try to determine if their next bandwagon leap should be on Southern Cal (Mark May), Cal (Lou Holtz) or Texas (several others), they might do well to remember that there’s a little game in Atlanta to be played on Dec. 2 which will possibly feature two one-loss teams that would rank right up there near the top of the class: Florida and Auburn/or Arkansas.
Why all of a sudden has the SEC dropped off the face of the earth in poll cred? Let’s just shut up and play the games – play them down like big boys – and see who is standing at the end.
I still have a modicum of faith in the BCS system and if it holds true, the two best teams will be playing in Arizona next January.
They will, won’t they?
BUDDYBLOGS On the spot musing from Buddy Martin.
Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006
Spurrier: 'I hear it's going to be a sellout'
Lawrence Wright was wrong when he coined the phrase 10 years ago that “you’re either a Gator, or you’re Gator bait.”
Begging the pardon of Mr. Wright, the former defensive back great who played for Spurrier’s national championship team, you can be both the Gator and the bait.
Steve Spurrier is a little bit of both this week.
The man who named “The Swamp” is coming back as the enemy on Saturday to occupy a brand new spot at Florida Field: The visitors’ sideline.
Certainly he’ll always be a Gator at heart, but this time the man once called “Darth Vader with a Visor,” “Steve Superior” and “Evil Genius,” as well as some other not-so-nice names by Florida opponents, will be coaching from the east sidelines.
You can’t help but wonder what it will be like for his South Carolina players to looked to the south and see the name of their coach painted on the stadium façade.
When I spoke to Spurrier early this week, he knew exactly the last time – and maybe only time – he’s ever worked from that eastern vantage point.
“It was the last scrimmage before the spring game in 2001,” Spurrier said from his office in Columbia, S.C. “We didn’t usually keep score, but this time I told Jon Hoke to take the defense on the home side and we’d go over on the visitors’ side.
“We always had a rule that the losers had to run. Well, we got beat that day and the offense had to run.”
It’s not like he hasn’t been in “The Swamp” lately, since Spurrier has already visited his old haunt twice this season – once during ceremonies for the opening game honoring his 1996 national champions and again when he came back to be inducted into the Ring of Honor prior to the Alabama game.
If Spurrier is feeling pressure about coming back, he didn’t sound like it.
“Norm tells me we’re going to have a sellout,” Spurrier joked, referring to his good friend Norm Carlson, retired Florida publicist – knowing full well that it’s always a sellout at “The Swamp.”
How he’s received by the pro-Gator crowd at Ben Hill Griffin remains to be seen, but it will likely be a mixture of light boos, a few cheers and maybe a few “Gator Bait! Gator Bait!” cries.
He may be the enemy, but I could never see Spurrier as Gator Bait. And he probably should have never left his alma mater as coach, although Urban Meyer may be on his way to championships himself.
Being a student of football and coaching, however, Spurrier knew that the day would come when “people get tired of you” or that he’d get bored by the tedium of speaking before Gator clubs, signing autographs and kiss-butt recruiting.
So he took the money and went to Washington (no, he didn’t run for Congress).
I wish he’d had finished as a Gator.
But he didn’t.
And he is back as South Carolina’s coach.
The Gamecocks are better for it. College football is better for it.
Though there are many conflicted Gator hearts this week, but really everyone should be happy.
Spurrier got what he wanted. Florida got what it wanted. South Carolina got what it wanted. And now it’s time to see if the Gator fans or Gamecock fans are going to get what they want on Saturday.
Monday, Nov. 6, 2006
THIS is Florida football
The glass isn't half empty or half full for the Florida Gators -- it's three-fourths full and could be running over in a few weeks.
The plusses are obvious: 8-1 with a ticket punched to Atlanta, a fourth place standing in the BCS, a shot a the national championship game and a favorable schedule.
The minuses? A sputtering offense, the loss of the best defensive lineman (Marcus Thomas) and the Ol' Ball Coach coming back to The House That Stevie Built this Saturday.
But remember this: The 2006 Florida team has a better crack at the national title than did Steve Spurrier's squad after the 1996 loss to Florida State.
Everything is in play for the '06 Gators.
So how does it feel Urban Meyer?
"I hate to say this. It doesn't sound real professional, but it was almost a relief because we wanted that so bad," Meyer said. "You come to Florida to do that. You don't come to Florida for the palm trees. You come to Florida to get a great education and go play in Atlanta. It was like a monkey off our back, a relief, whatever you want to call it. That's the first thing that came to mind."
That was no monkey: That was the 500-pound gorilla that is Florida football.
Welcome to Gatorcountry, Urban.
FLORIDA-VANDY: What's after 'Murderer's Row'?
Gators got a mulligan and a shot at The Trophy
Perhaps never before have so many appreciated so much so little.
Here are the Mighty Gators of Florida, granted a mulligan after a disastrous loss to Auburn on a questionable fumble, right back in the trophy chase.
Yet everybody wants to talk about the poor offensive performance of the Gators in the second half against Georgia and the fact that they seem to have disappeared in the final two quarters on the last two Saturdays.
To say the play-calling of Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen has come into question lately is like saying the Republicans and Democrats have different viewpoints on Iraq and taxes.
The good news, however is that the Gators are in the chase.
The chase for the SEC title.
And maybe even the Sears Trophy for the BCS national championship.
Fact is, everything is laid out before them. The future is bright again, ever since they negotiated their way through “Murderer’s Row” with a 3-1 mark.
Remember when Kirk Herbstreit and others were saying that Urban Meyer’s team had “no chance” to win a national title because of the four-game stretch against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia?
How are they looking now, Kirkie boy?
The bonus was Southern Cal's loss. One undefeated team went down Thursday night in the Louisville-West Virginia matchup. Another one goes down after the Ohio State-Michigan game comes off on Nov. 18. And that doesn't even take into account that the Louisville-West Virginia winner could then lose to unbeaten Rutgers on Nov. 9. Or that Rutgers might win them all.
That means while one of the Big East teams – the Mountaineers, Scarlet Knights or the Cardinals – might go undefeated, it is also possible they could knock each other off. But even if one of them goes unbeaten, will the humans and the computers show enough love to the Big East, or take a one-loss team over them to play the Ohio State-Michigan winner?
The one-loss teams are diminishing rapidly, but still alive are Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Texas, Cal – and, of course, the losers of the Big Ten and Big East showdowns.
Conventional wisdom holds that Florida would be the choice if the Gators go unbeaten and are given a rematch with Auburn in the SEC title game. That assumes that Auburn will win out and Arkansas won’t. But there is even a scenario by when Tennessee could fail to win the SEC East or go to Atlanta, but still have a shot at it all – slim, perhaps, but mathematically possible.
The bad news for Gator fans is the slipping away of opponent’s poll cred: Every time South Carolina or FSU lose, it lowers the Gators power index rating.
I agree, however, with Meyer’s post-game assessment after the Georgia game: “Right now I’m trying to figure out how to make a first down against Vanderbilt.”
So, yes, there is the matter of pesky Vanderbilt and the slumbering Gator offense, which must show improvement Saturday in Nashville.
It’s possible the Commodores are underrated as a 16-1/2 point underdog – they did beat Georgia between the hedges – but if the Gator defense doesn’t wear them down by the fourth quarter I’d be surprised.
At the moment, the best thing Urban has going for him is a terrific defense that’s seven-deep in outstanding linemen. The way the play-calling has gone lately, he’s probably going to need it.
# # #
Just returned from an evening with the Gainesville Quarterback Club, which is still going strong after all these years and packs several hundred in every week to hear speakers chat about football -- especially the Gators. It was my pleasure to be invited to speak by Program Chairman Jeff Rizzo and long-time club member Reed Brown. Also in attendance were two former coaches, Dave Fuller and Jim McCachren, along with my brother-in-law and friends Bob Sherwood, Bobby Clayton, Perry McGriff, Billy Pepper, etc. This is always one of my favorites groups because of their gusto, passion for football and greaty hospitality. My wingman (and book cashier) was UF Hall of Famer Augie Greiner, who this week will be visiting with his friend Billy Donovan and, hopefully, will pass along some of that choice info to BuddyBlogs.
Spread a little too thin
JACKSONVILLE -- Don't believe I have ever been in a press conference of a Florida coach who had so much to celebrate, but was so busy answering questions about problems that he seemed to have forgotten his Florida Gators were 7-1.
Indeed, Urban Meyer had reason to be concerned about his offense -- or lack of -- in the second half against Georgia. At one point he acknowledged his downward spiral and comment that his wife Shelley was "going to kill me."
Urban has a reason to be concerned because he saw what we all saw with that pathetic offensive effort in the 21-14 win over Georgia. He groaned about his team's mistakes -- especially the penalties -- and acknowledged the poor play-calling.
I agree with the latter. Not only does their seem to be no clear objective with what the Gators are trying to do or where they are going with this so-called "spread" offense, but it seems to be regressive. Meyer and offensive coordinator talk about getting the ball in the hands of play-makers, but when the ball goes up they forget.
They seem to suffer from amesia, forgetting that they were going to give a Tim Tebow more touches. They totally abandoned the tailback in the running game and it wasn't until DeShawn Wynn came up and begged his coach in the third quarter that his got back in the ball-carrying rotation. They start out with a well-scripted opening series and take it in for a score, then go to a grab-bag format.
In short, the "spread" is spread too thin and the concept for it has been lost in transition. Unless Meyer fixes this before Florida goes to Nashville to play Vanderbilt, there could be an embarrassing outcome.
Dawg fan: 'We're just here for a good time'
Ran into a couple of docile Dawgs at Barbara Jean's Restaurant in Ponte Vedra Friday night, sitting at the bar and talking about their weekend activities. "We're just here to have a good time and party," said the guy in red at the bar. "And if we happen to see a good football game, well, then, that's a plus." Goodness, is this what the once fierce rivarly has come to for Georgia fans? Guess when you've lost 14 out of 16 and 7 of the last 8, there ain't much barkin' to be done by the Dawgs. I still say it will be, literally, a Dawgfight for Florida. Old-time Gator fans have long memories and know exactly what I mean. Meanwhile, the once-proud Georgians speak softly and carry a small bone.
The Ol’ Cocktail Party Ain’t What She Used To Be: According to a Florida Times-Union poll, only 43 percent of Gator fans consider Georgia its chief rival, while 48 percent say it’s Florida State. But 63 percent of the Bulldogs fans say theirs’ is the Gators… Met wht might be the oldest living Gator fan Thursday night when I was introduced to Louie Badger, 96, who saw his first Florida game in Savannah in 1930 and consider Emmitt Smith his all-time favorite player ... Going into Saturday’s game, Urban Meyer’s overall record in six seasons at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida after an open date was 54-12 (.818).
Something is just wacky about the point spread
No Florida-Georgia game in recent memory has been as lopsided in the point-spread as the one on Saturday. I don’t have the records in front of me, but for either team to be favored by 14 points is outrageous.
Don’t get the wrong: Florida has the capability of winning by two touchdowns, but that is not what history has shown us.
These are just the kind of Florida-Georgia games that have flip-flopped into an upset on other occasions.
We don’t know just yet what kind of mentality will emerge from the post-Auburn loss, but some of the injured Florida players will be healed (Percy Harvin) and given what offensive woes Mark Richt has had lately, I’d expect it tough going for the Bulldogs against the stout Gator defense.
This is no news bulletin, because Urban Meyer has already admitted that Tim Tebow didn’t get enough reps against Auburn and that he plans to “make a concentrated effort to get him in more.” However, that's exactly what Dan Mullen and Meyer have got to do -- go to their talented freshman quarterback more. (We might add, especially when Florida is in the red zone.)
This isn’t meant as a criticism of Chris Leak, but when it comes down to the power game and needing tough yardage, we all know that Tebow is the true tailback on the Florida squad. Give him the ball!
I look for Tebow to get more touches, to throw a half dozen passes and maybe even be a pass receiver when both he and Tebow line up in the same backfield.
This prediction comes with certain trepidation, because I’ve seen over 50 Florida-Georgia games and my memory isn’t that bad yet. So beware the ides of Halloween.
Florida 31, Georgia 20 – unless the Gators turn the ball over more than once.
It's the 'World's Largest ... Outdoor Tea Party?'
OK, I get the idea about the de-emphasis on alcohol and agree with that, but I'm not ready to give up entirely on the colorful nickname for the Florida-Georgia game. Got any ideas?
Certainly not "The World's Largest Outdoor Tea Party."
Or, "The World's Largest Outdoor Bottled Water Party."
Or, "The Cracker Bowl?"
C'mon, gimme some ideas. Send them to buddyshow@ aol.com.
# # #
What's wrong with this picture?
Perhaps the Gators shouldn't be as high as sixth in the BCS poll, but neither should they be No. 9 as they are in the AP poll. Coaches have them eighth. I'd argued they deserve to be ahead of Tennessee, a team they beat. And those knuckleheads who keep trying to say the Vols are a better team than the Gators even though Florida beat them -- what kind of idiotic logic is that?
# # #
Three games will define this Gator team and Urban Meyer's image as coach: Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Win those and they're dancin' in Atlanta. And except for national rankings and bragging rights, the Gators would be better off winning those and losing to -- egad, am I saying this? -- Florida State. Hush my mouth.
Where is Buddy next?
Buddy's plans to sign books for the Gotham Gator Club in New York City on Nov. 4 were put on hold and will likely be rescheduled for Dec. 9.
Coming in January: Buddy will speak to the Pinellas County Gator Club in Clearwater. And he has a tentative date to speak to the Jacksonville Beach Gator Club in the near future.
Would you like Buddy Martin to speak to your Gator Club, group or quarterback club? Send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Sunday Best Meanderings
Quick Jump Starts
1. One day in heaven, there will be no steroids, no fighting in hockey and football and Florida State will have a running game.
2. Had the Mets beaten the Cardinals in Game 7, I could have made the case for Endy Chavez’s catch and subsequent double-play throw being among the greatest clutch plays in Major League Baseball post-season history.
3. A pretty good tip that it was a hoax: If you planned to drop dirty bombs on seven NFL stadiums, would you put in on some Web site?
4. Kudos to the SEC for admonishing Auburn for the use of artificially induced scoreboard sound as a weapon against Florida.
5. Since watching the replay again, I’ve concluded that the Chris Leak fumble call vs. Auburn could have easily been overturned, and maybe should have, but can understand why it wasn’t. Short Stuff: Urban Meyer is aware that his super-freshman Percy Harvin only touched the ball once in the second half vs. Auburn and "we're going to evaluate that to see if he can touch it more” … Going into the weekend games, the Gators were the most penalized football team in America … Atlanta quarterback Mike Vick says he dreams about playing for the Colts with such talented receivers, “for just one week!” Buddy’s Top Five :The ever-changing Sunday Best College Football Top Five Pre-Season Poll:
Urban chose two good examples
I like the two examples Urban Meyer used this week to restart the engines of his players after what he called a "devastating loss" to Auburn. He pointed out that the 1996 Florida Gator national champion football team and the 2005-06 national champion Gator basketball teams had to bounce back from upsetting losses to claim their prize. His message is not lost: Beat Georgia and you are right back in the national limelight, in the driver's seat of the SEC and probably on your way to Atlanta for another possible crack at Auburn. Watch how Meyer motivates this team. I think this is one of the best things that he does as a coach.
Thankfully, somebody has comes to their senses. This is what I was talking about last week when I railed on about the scoreboard at Jordan-Hare being so intrustive. But I don't think the penalty was harsh enough.—Buddy
SEC warns Auburn for noise violations
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - The Southeastern Conference has sent a written warning to Auburn for violating a league rule by blaring music between plays during last Saturday's game against Florida .
The music violated the SEC's restriction on "institutionally-controlled computerized sound systems," associate league commissioner Charles Bloom said. Auburn spokesman Kirk Sampson confirmed on Wednesday that the university received the letter but had no immediate comment.
Bloom declined to say who reported the violation. Auburn has played the first few notes of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" or Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" throughout the season, mostly when the defense was facing crucial third- or fourth-down plays. The music was played more frequently in the 27-17 win over No. 9 Florida. Auburn could face a $5,000 fine if it violates the rule again. The SEC rule states: "The use of institutionally-controlled computerized sound systems, including music, and institutionally-controlled artificial noisemakers shall be restricted to pre-game, halftime, post-game, after a score and team or media timeouts."
Left: Buddy with 'King Gator' Sid Rice at a recent book signing held at Sid's 'Gators On The Pass' restaurant on Treasure Island.
GOOD NEWS: 'Boys From Old Florida' Becomes Best-Seller
"The Boys From Old Florida: Inside Gator Nation" has moved up to No. 3 on the national best-seller list of Sports Publishing LLC.
Florida Gator fans have many questions, even if their team is 8-1.
What’s the spread offense? Why isn’t it working better? Where did it come from?
About the only thing Urban Meyer says of his offense is that it’s “personnel driven.
Lately, especially in the second half, the personnel haven’t been driving it very well. Saturday was no exception.
Florida escaped with a 25-19 victory Saturday, even though the Gators blocked two punts and made one interception, because Vanderbilt was allowed to hang around.
Gator fans are frustrated lately by the number of turnovers committed lately by quarterback Chris Leak, whose fumble against Auburn proved costly. Leak’s three interceptions Saturday gave Vanderbilt a chance to come back and win after the Gators had them pinned, 25-6.
This won’t do too much to impress the pollsters or the computers in the Gators’ quest to hang on to the No. 4 spot in the BCS rankings.
Meanwhile, this “new” spread offense seems to be regressing more each week.
An old football coach once told me that there’s nothing new in the game, “it just keeps recycling every 50 years.” With that in mind, I began to investigate the genesis of the spread offense which is run by, among others, Florida.
Ex-Tennessee and Florida coach Doug Dickey once told me that before getting the job in Knoxville how he had to convince a venerable-but-powerful Vols booster that his team could operate out of the T-formation instead of the single wing.
In 1956, with Johnny Majors as the tailback, Tennessee had used the single wing attack to go undefeated – the last school to employ that kind of offense.“I just showed him the single wing,” said Dickey, “and told him we were going to put that tailback under center.”
The Gators have gone from the T formation under Bob Woodruff and Ray Graves in the 1950s and ‘60s, to the wishbone under Doug Dickey in the ‘70s, back to the T under Charley Pell and Galen Hall in the ‘80s. The offense began to open up under Pell and Mike Shanahan, then evolved into the free-for-all Fun ‘N’ Gun in the 1990’s under Steve Spurrier, who ran everything from the Emory & Henry to the no-back offense to the shotgun.
It wasn’t until Spurrier took the quarterback out from under center – the reverse of what Dickey did at Tennessee – that the Gators beat Alabama for the 1996 SEC title and then pummeled Florida State, 52-20, for the national championship.
Ron Zook ran a varied formation, perhaps a cousin to the spread.
The difference is that Meyer’s offense uses lots of misdirection and features wide receivers as slashers and runners. In that respect it is more similar to the single wing.
No fewer than 12 different Gators have carried the ball in 2006 and on several occasion the leading rusher has been backup quarterback Tim Tebow. Up until Saturday, the offense has averaged only 22.7 points per game and 384.5 yards, running the ball 58 per cent of the time.
The jury is still out on Meyer’s spread – and right now it would be “guilty as charged” – but most consider it a bastardization of what he ran at Utah.
So what is this “new offense” being run by so many college teams? Well, it a version of it was first run at TCU in 1950 by a guy named Meyer – Dutch, not Urban. And it looks very much akin to Urban’s version. (see diagram of TCU spread)
The odd part is that the spread also looks eerily similar to the Tennessee single wing.
Like the old coach said: Nothing in football is new. But at the very least, Meyer had better get a “new look” to his spread in the final few weeks of the season.
Quick Jump Start
1. I start to worry about 79-year-old Joe Paterno on the football field when he has to leave the game to receive medical attendance for a leg injury accidentally inflicted by one of his own players.
2. I see Ohio State as the best bet to be BCS national champion right now.
3. The best defensive lineman on the Florida team, Marcus Thomas, was kicked off Saturday for “failure to meet his responsibility,” something to do with not serving his penance for failure to pass a drug test last summer.
4. Now it’s beginning to sound like Bobby Bowden is perceived as the guy who stayed too long at the dance and doesn’t realize nobody wants to dance with him.
5. If nothing else, the next Ryder Cup will make for good reality TV between U.S. Captain Paul Azinger and European Captain Nick Faldo, who were teammates on the now-defunct ABC golf telecasts (and very, very funny).
Hard to believe that Bob Stoops coached his 100th game for Oklahoma Saturday, seeking his 82nd career victory in a game against Texas A&M … In the chase for the SEC West, Auburn has the easiest remaining schedule (Georgia, Alabama) and LSU had the toughest (Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas) – but the Razorbacks aren’t home free yet (Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU).
Bumper stickers, T-shirts or signs
1. When I die the dog gets everything.
2. Money doesn't grow on trees. It grows on Dads.
3. What happens in the garage stays in the garage.
If you lined up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them, five or six at a time, on a hill, in the fog.
And good morning to …
… all you Gator/Spurrier fans. You’re doing to have to choose sides next Saturday as You Know Who returns to House That Spurrier Built.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best Oct. 29, 2006
Boo! A Halloween kind of game
JACKSONVILLE – Halloween came early Saturday on the eve of Daylight Savings time which set the clocks back one hour.
The Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs came disguised as a football team in a game that may have set offensive football back for a full generation. And they were both plenty ugly.
How do you like these combined stats? Sixteen penalties, six fumbles, three interceptions and eight dropped passes.
This may not be the “World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” anymore, but those kinds of numbers will drive coaches to drink.
It’s not easy to give back a 21-0 lead, however the heavily favored Gators nearly managed to do that before holding on for a 21-14 victory that put them in the driver’s seat for SEC East supremacy.
But for a face-mask penalty on Georgia’s Quentin Moses on Florida ball-carrier Andre “Bubba” Caldwell, they might still be playing. Caldwell had come up short of the first down with just over two minutes to play in an All-Tel Stadium full of 84,572 fans, but the inadvertent brushing of his face mask resulted in a five-yard penalty that allowed the Gators to kill the clock.
Even then, it took tailback DeShawn Wynn begging for some carries after not touching the ball in the first half and then sealing the deal by making crucial clock-eating yardage. He told his coach he wanted the ball. “(No.) 21 wants the ball,” Meyer said over the phones to his offensive staff.
Wynn wanted the ball and got it five times in the final four minutes, churning away for 36 yards.
For reasons nobody can seem to figure out, the Gator offense took a siesta in the second half. The winning margin was provided by the UF defense when defensive end Ray McDonald picked up a fumble by Kregg Lumpkin and scored. Then it was turn out the lights time for Urban’s boys, who watched Georgia fight back before frittering away a chance to tie when quarterback Matt Stafford was intercepted by Gator cornerback Reggie Lewis.
“Thank God for a great defense,” said a disappointed Urban Meyer, who acknowledged that the play calling and execution has been worsening since the win over LSU on Oct. 7. “In six years I’ve never had problems with an offense like this. There’s a lot of work to be done and we’ve got to get to work on it right away.”
You know it had to be pretty grim when a coach of a Top Ten ranked team who just posted his seventh win over the season that put him back in the SEC race and maybe the national championship run has to stand there an almost apologize.
If they’re looking for the name of the Meyer offense these days, maybe “Helter Skelter” might fit, because there appears to be no design, no rhythm and no flow to the way the Gators attack in the second half. I’m beginning to wonder if Meyer and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen aren’t just pulling plays out of a hat.
On Saturday, Florida came up of the chute with an 11-play opening drive for a touchdown scored by Caldwell on an eight-yard reverse and looked to be on the way to a rout early in the second as quarterback Chris Leak hit Andre over the middle for a 40-yard score. Hey, this looked easier than finding peaches and pecans for sale on a Georgia roadside. Instead, the rest of it nearly Meyer sick to his stomach. Of Florida’s 319 yards of offense, only 113 came in the final two quarters.
Suddenly, at the end of his interview, Meyer remembered he had WON the game.
“We are officially playing for an SEC East championship,” he gleamed, meaning wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina would take the Gators back to Atlanta for the first time in quite a spell.
Ugly wins are acceptable this time of the year.
Quick Jump Starts
1. For a 5-foot-7 walk-on at the University of Florida from Sanford, Fla., David Eckstein has done fairly well: MVP of the recent World Series and owner of two World Series rings (Angels 2002 and Cardinals in 2006).
2. Re: Charlie Weis’s comment about being jumped by Florida and one other team in the coaches’ poll last week, referring to the Gators in their bye week as “home eating cheese burgers” the Saturday before -- it was tacos, Charlie.
3. OK, where’s that smarty pants writer now who predicted a Tigers “Sweep In Three” as sort of a mathematical conundrum?
4. You’re hearing more talk these days about the Florida-Georgia game going back to a home-and-home, or alternating neutral sites (Jacksonville-Atlanta), which causes me to wonder if they just want to keep meddling with this great rivalry until they ruin it.
5. Of course, if you’ve lost eight of the last nine and 15 of the last 17 as Georgia has, you’d be trying to change countries if you could.
Bumper Sticker, T-Shirt or Sign
1. I make up my own mind. Right, Dear?
2. National Spelling Bee runnerer-up
3. Available tonight. Limited Time Offer.
There's more to life than good wine … but not much.
And good morning to …
… all you fans of football teams with one loss. With Southern Cal getting beat, your team might be back in the hunt for the BCS championship.
A MESSAGE FROM IRAQ
Mr. Martin, I recently received a copy of your book, “The Boys From Old Florida, Inside the Gator Nation." As a Gator Alumnus and a huge Gator fan I am honored to have a signed copy of your book. I have met numerous Gator fans during my time in Iraq and they consistently stay up late to watch the games and support the players. The Gator Nation is alive and well in Iraq. Thanks again for your support.
CHAD R. NICHOLS, Capt, USAF
GRD Reconstruction Logistics
International Zone, Baghdad, Iraq
FIND 'THE BOYS' ON AROUND THE HORN. Be the first to spot the cover of the book, 'Boys From Old Florida' on the set of ESPN's Around The Horn and win a copy of it, along with the out-of-print book 'Down Where The Old Gators Play II' written by Buddy Martin. Tell us the location of the book on the set of Woody Paige, where it is in relationship to Woody's head and what else it is next to. Send your answer Buddyshow@aol and you can be a winner
'It is an easy read and chock full of historical references and facts I had never heard before despite being a voracious reader on the subject of Florida football for almost 50 years.' Ronnie Ocean,1430 AM-WLKF Radio Lakeland , on 'The Boys From Old Florida'
BUDDY BLOGS: Send your blogback to Buddy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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ON THE ROAD, AND BACK IN THE PRESS BOX
the open date this weekend
It’s time now for Gator fans to take a breath, relax, go to a movie or read a good book (I’ve got one in mind!) during the open date weekend. Watch some other games, maybe:
This weekend you’ve got South Carolina-Vandy, Florida State-Boston College and Georgia Tech-Clemson.
Once the smoke clears from last weekend and all the damages are assessed, you’ll realize that the Florida Gators came out of Auburn beaten, but unbowed.
There was no way Auburn was going to lose back-to-back SEC games at home, so the moment Arkansas upset the Tigers, the fate of Urban Meyer’s team was sealed.
If the Gators had to lose an SEC game, it was best to be defeated by the highest ranking team from the SEC West.
Perhaps there will be a rematch between Florida and Auburn in Atlanta, but first Arkansas has to be dealt with. The Razorbacks are unbeaten in the SEC West with five league games to go, including Ole Miss this weekend, South Carolina on Nov. 4, Tennessee on Nov. 11 and LSU on Nov. 24. So there is still a chance that Arkansas could be overtaken.
On a neutral field, Florida is 8-9 points better than Auburn – especially without that obnoxious scoreboard audio we heard at Jordan-Hare.
The Gators are pretty much right on schedule, with a chance to win the SEC and still not out of the national championship race – although I’m not one who ever predicted that would be in store for them this season. I had picked them 10-2 with a possble trip to Atlanta to play Auburn.
Meanwhile, we listen to sportstalk radio and help Urban Meyer out on how to resolve his quarterback situation. Me? I think Chris Leak should remain the starter, but Tim Tebow needs more snaps. How about you?
Buddy, two questionable calls by the officials, weird play calling in critical situations by the coaches, and poor execution by certain players managed to turn a probable win into a humiliating loss.
I still think Chris Leak has become "Gun Shy " and therefore breaks down when pressure is applied to him personally. Have the offensive coaches become blind and dumb?
Why isn't the University of Florida actively recruiting our own John Brantley ? I bet if they would, John would forget Texas and head for Florida !!
KEITH KNORR, Ocala
WE WUZ ROBBED !!!!! IT was a forward pass! Also, how about the new powerhouse in the SEC---Vandy. I couldn't
believe that one either. Also your book is great! The 50's & 6o's eras bring back lots of memories.
VIC JEFFREYS, New Albany, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio
POSTCARDS FROM THE SEC
After The Game
Afterthoughts: Turn Down The Stupid Scoreboard Audio!
The use of Auburn’s blaring audio from its scoreboard Saturday night was one of the most blatant acts of poor sportsmanship that I’ve seen since I started covering the SEC 40 years ago.
Auburn has some ardent fans and they are certainly vocal enough, but the noise from the scoreboard was a zillion decibels above that. Ask any Florida writer who was in the press box Saturday night.
It’s one thing to have loud fans – certainly there are no louder ones than those in “The Swamp” – but another to exploit artificially induced sound that intrudes on the players, coaches and fans. Aside from that, it was also annoying – and I can’t imagine that every Auburn fan liked it, either.
You want to blow the stadium apart, okay, but save it for pre-game, half-time or post-game. And while it’s true that the amped up audio wasn’t used during Florida’s signal calling– imagine a Metallica concert times 10 – the motivation was obvious as a distraction for the visitors.
There was no need to play the deafening sounds between every single offensive play by the Gators when they were backed up in that West end zone. Generally speaking, the audio was cut seconds before Chris Leak was preparing for the snap count. But several times the referee held the ball until the sound was off. And since Florida usually goes on the “silent count” that really wouldn’t have been a factor. Clearly, though, it was deployed as a weapon.
Before you say it, no, this is not sour grapes. I actually picked Auburn to win the game and think the Tigers deserved the victory. Even if Florida had won, I was going to write this, because it was a flagrant misuse of electronics to create artificial noise.
Hopefully, the SEC Commissioner will address this and other abuses of artificially induced sound during play.
And they complained about Mississippi State’s cowbells!
* * *
Yes, the curse lives at Jordan-Hare. As I suspected, the lack of having played in this atmosphere before contributed to the Gators' loss compusure in the 27-17 loss to Auburn.
Chris Leak didn't lose the game by himself, but after losing three turnovers in the last nine minutes, he will forever be rememered asa the goat of this game.
Painful though the loss may be, if the Gatos were going to lose one in this "Murderer's Row," this was the best one. For one thing, they are still very much alive and on target to win the SEC East and could wind up playing Auburn again (if Arkansas loses). For another, losing to a higher ranked team will keep them from dropping too far in the polls.
The BCS ratings come out Sunday afternoon. So much for the idea that Florida might be ahead of USC and in second place.
Jordan-Hare remains a House of Horror -- at least for Chris Leak.
After The Kickoff
Saturday night, Oct. 14
I must confess to being impressed with the way the Gators played in the first half as they went to intermission with a 17-11 halftime. The offense was brilliant. Chris Leak's jump-ball touchdown pass to Dallas Baker for Florida's first TD was perfectly executed.
And what can you say about Tim Tebow, who scored from 16 yards out on his only touch in the first half. If you counted points-per-play, Tebow would have to be among the nation's best.
Likewise, the defense was stellar, especially in the red zone, keeping Auburn from scoring a touchdown. It was a virtual sack machine, throwing Auburn quarteerback Brandon Cox for a loss five times.
I like the way Florida is playing with confidence and precision, but also know that weird stuff can happen here, so I'm reserving judgment until the second half.
I will say it's the best first-half performance all season by Dan Mullen's offense.
Before The Kickoff
In The Auburn Press Box
Saturday afternoon, Oct. 14
It's been five years (2001) since I've been to Jordan-Hare. A friend called me today to read me a clippiug about my travel adventures to this stadium 40 years ago. I had taken a single engine flight out of Gainesville, headed for Auburn on a Saturday, but once we got airborne, the pilot noticed something about the instrument panel was haywire, so he turned around and flew back to the airport. Whereupon I was put on a flight to Tallahassee, then transferred on a flight to Montgomery, where I was picked up by my friend Ed Monarchik, who drove me to Auburn in time for the kickoff. Florida lost and, in fact, didn't win here until 17 years later.
Only a couple of people were in the press box a Jordan-Hare when I arrived around 4 p.m. eastern time. About two minutes before 5 p.m., a couple of managers from Florida walked out on the field and promptly got booed by the early arriving Auburn fans.
My friend Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lamenting the loss of the Georgia Bulldogs to Vanderbilt, kiddingly announced that "the whole Georgia staff is going to be fired."
Todd Blackledge, color analyst for ESPN, says he thought Auburn had the advantage because ofthe pride factor after last week's loss to Arkansas.
Scot Brantley of the Gator Radio Network, who has been watching films of Auburn, commented: "They're really small on defense."
On the way to Jordan-Hare, I saw a sign on a marquee that read, ?Run, Kenny, Run,? in reference to Auburn's talented running back Kenny Irons.
"If we can hold Irons to under 100 yards, we'll win," said Brantley, noting that no running back this season has gained that much against Florida.
I'm not ready to pull the trigger on the Gators, so I guess here, one hour before the kickoff, I'll stick with my prediction of Auburn winning. Both my son Brenden and my wife Joni, whose birthday is tomorrow, say I am wrong. Entirely possible.
Buddy Martin column Monday Oct. 16, 2006
Smith ‘called his shot’ vs. UF
AUBURN, Ala. --Tre Smith had been telling his Auburn teammates all week that he was going to block a punt and take it in for a touchdown against Florida. He got it half right – the most important half.
The former Venice High star and 5A “Mr. Football” of Florida made a spectacular play that turned the game around for the Tigers Saturday night in Auburn, Ala. when he scooped up the fumble of punter Eric Wilbur and sped 15 yards for the touchdown that put team ahead to stay, 18-17.
This happened four minutes into the second half and the shock waves seemed to reverberate the rest of the night at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the Tigers went on to beat previously undefeated Florida, 27-17.
Smith punctuated the moment with a forward flip as he dove into the end zone, something that was his trademark as a star running back for the Indians – but a maneuver that could have drawn a penalty for celebration.
“My special teams coach told me, ‘if you had gotten a penalty, then you didn’t even need to bother coming back over here on the sideline,” Smith said Sunday after practice. “But you didn’t – so, good flip!”
Smith said he and his coaches spotted several flaws in Florida’s punt team – “it was pretty ragged” – and that led to his notion that he could back up his prediction. Lining over the middle, Smith fixed his eyes on the ball as it was snapped accurately by Floirda’s James Smith.
Wilbur dropped the ball the first time and picked it up. When the Florida punter attempted to kick it left-footed, it was blocked by Auburn’s Jerraud Powers. Smith scooped up the loose ball and made his run to glory, flying through the air like Superman for the final yards.
“I kept my eyes on the ball and never took them off it,” said jubilant Smith, who told his parents after the game that he was “pumped.”
“Pumped” for two good reasons, perhaps.
1)Coach Tommy Tuberville had chewed the Auburn team out at halftime, telling the players to “grow up” and accusing them of being “afraid of Florida.” Smith says his coach told them he “didn’t care about execution – just go out there and hit somebody in the mouth.”
And 2)It was sweet redemption for him after being snubbed by the Gators. Except for a quirk, one of the heroes of Auburn’s victory over the Florida Gators might have been playing for the other side.
“Tre really liked Coach (Steve) Spurrier,” said Phil Mitchum of Venice, who along with Tre’s mother Patty had just driven back from Auburn on Sunday. “And Tre liked coach
Spurrier. But when coach (Ron) Zook came in, things changed.”
At Auburn, Smith didn’t get the starting job at tailback that he had coveted, but he did have one game to remember: The day he ran for 100 yards in a victory over Alabama.
After an injury to his shoulder, Smith was give a medical red-shirt and didn’t play again until his third season. As a reserve and special teams player, Smith saw limited action, but learned how to contribute.
“Sometimes,” he said, “you just have to do what you can do.”
The bliss of Saturday night’s win, however which returned the Tigers to a prominent No. 4 BCS rating also gave him a sense of accomplishment. “It felt great,” said Smith.
Never known as a scholar before, Smith decided to settle down and study after two years at Auburn. He has graduated with a degree in computer sciences and carries a 3.5 grade average as he goes for his masters.
One reason for his success in the classroom has been Elaine Ellis, his girlfriend and a former Venice High student who attended the University of Florida for one year before transferring to Auburn.
“He’s got a great girlfriend. Elaine has been a great influence on Tre,” said Mitchum, a comment which Tre agrees wholeheartedly with.
“She’s the reason my grade point average has gone up,” Tre said.
Tre Smith’s grade point average isn’t the only thing that has gone up at Auburn. His stock with Tiger fans is soaring these days, too.
Buddy Martin SundayBest Oct. 15, 2006
The curse lives
AUBURN, Ala. – Certain traditions in the Southeastern Conference are not just traditions – they’re almost a curse. Take the case of Florida quarterbacks playing Jordan-Hare Stadium, for instance.
Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier had his pocket picked here. All-American John Reaves threw a record nine interceptions here.
Now they can erect a headstone for Chris Leak.
The curse lives.
Leak learned a bitter history lesson Saturday night about why this stadium – once known as just “Cliff Hare Stadium” – has been a graveyard for some outstanding Gator quarterbacks.
Like two All-Americans before him, Leak tasted that bitterness Saturday night in a 27-17 loss to Auburn. He was personally responsible for three turnovers in the last nine minutes of play: Two fumbles and an interception.
Thus ended the unbeaten streak of the No. 2 and No. 3 Gators, who fell to 6-1. At the same time, it restored some luster to Auburn, who fell from that same perch last week after getting blasted by Arkansas, 27-10, and will put the Tigers higher in the Top Ten (They were No. 10 and No. 11 in the two polls.)
“Where’s my toilet paper?” said an overjoyed Tommy Tuberville, aluding the tradition of “Rolling at Toomer’s Corner” after a big Auburn win. “I’m going to Toomer’s Corner.”
As Florida trailed 18-17 and appeared to be driving for what could have been the go-ahead or even winning score, Leak pulled down his pass at the exact time Auburn’s Tray Blackmon was batting the ball out of his hands and the Tigers got the ball. It was a third down and even had the pass been incomplete, the Gators had a crack at a chip-shot field goal to take the lead. Auburn recovered.
Florida had been moving the ball effectively. “We were on schedule,” Urban Meyer said of his team’s late drive. “We were putting the ball in our play-makers’ hands, making yards in large chunks – Bubba Caldwell made some nice runs… but we make a mistake and gave it away.”
A few minutes later, Leak had the ball in his hands again, after a missed field goal by the Tigers, but he immediately frittered away the chance by throwing an interception. Auburn’s John Vaughn kicked a field goal to put his team ahead, 21-17.
With no timeouts and under a minute left, the Gators were in a desperate situation, so on fourth down they tried a lateral play that went awry as Leak completed a pass to Dallas Baker, who lateraled it to Jarred Fayson, who pitched it back to Leak, who fumbled the ball away to Auburn’s Patrick Lee, who took it in for score.
In the ultimate indignation, the last time Leak touched the ball it was turned into six points for the opponent. Statistically it wasn’t a terrible night, though it wasn’t fabulous – he completed 9 of 17 passes for one touchdown and 108 yards. But the fact remains that he lost his composure at just the time his teammates needed him. And this will not wear well on “The GAtor Nation” in the coming weeks (Florida has an open date Saturday).
Leak had help in the self-destruction of the Gators.. “Our special teams didn’t play well,” said Meyer
In a game which they appeared to have in hand with as much as a 17-8 lead at one time, the Gators fell behind 3-0 to start the game and then 18-17 on a bobbled snap and the block of Eric Wilbur’s punt attempt, which was turned into Auburn’s only touchdown when Tre Smith of Venice in ran the loose ball in for a score in what proved to be the go-ahead touchdown. It was sweet redemption for Smith, who was passed over by Florida recruiters.
It came down to an officials’ ruling on Leak’s fumble as Florida was moving on an 84-yard drive in the fourth quarter with just over nine minutes left to play on third down at Auburn’s 6-yard line
Leak and Meyer thought his arm had gone forward and Florida challenged, but the officials ruled in Auburn’s favor.
“This is a team game,” said a disappointed Meyer. “It doesn’t fall on one player.”
The game did nothing to curtail the so-called growing “legend” of Tim Tebow, as some national media are calling it.
Auburn went into the game with a “Tebow Package,” which Tuberville had designed just to keep the battering-ram antics of Florida’s freshman quarterback from running roughshod over the Tiger defense in short-yardage, or goal-line offense situations.
So what does Tebow do? He has made his living running to his left in the red-zone offense. Late in the second quarter, he took over for Chris Leak at the Auburn 16, took the snap, took one step to the left and ran right for a touchdown.
The good news for Gator fans is that Tim Tebow is going to be around doing this for at least two more years and maybe three.
That’s the bad news for SEC teams.
After Leak’s three turnovers in the fourth quarter, it also puts into play a quarterback controversy – like it or not.
Quick Jump Starts
1. In case you thought all that stuff about Tim Tebow was hype, the young freshman proved you wrong on his first play against Auburn with his16-yard touchdown run.
2. All of a sudden, the “SEC” stands for “Superbly Even Competition.”
3. In Detroit, Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers is becoming more popular than Mr. Rogers, Ginger Rogers, Roy Rogers and Rogers & Hammerstein.
4. Oklahoma running Adrian Peterson breaking his collarbone Saturday pretty much leaves the Heisman Trophy for Ohio State’s Troy Smith to lose.
5. Count me among those with likely to have egg on his face for picking Auburn as this year’s national champion.
Good move by CBS, trading Lanny Wadkins for Nick Faldo in the 18th tower with Jim Nantz, which means that the former Masters champion will be allowed to wear his green jacket on the grounds, but not in the booth … I love the guy, but Arnold Palmer hitting two balls in the water at a Champions Event in Spring, Texas and quitting competitive golf last week is exactly how we didn’t want to see it end for the 77-year-old golf icon.
Bumper Sticker, T-shirt or Sign
(From ESPN Game Day, at Auburn)
There’s a Leak in the system—Tebow
Tebow’s Corner (instead of Toomer’s).
Tuberville is Shula’s Daddy.
Who put the Jordan
For those who wonder where the “Jordan” came from on what was once dubbed “Cliff Hare Stadium,” it’s the name of Ralph “Shug” Jordan, the former coach whose Auburn teams won a national championship in 1957. Shug (last name pronounced “Jerden”) was the only man in history to win an SEC title on both football and basketball. His nicknamed came from his love of sugar cane.
And Good morning …
… All you Georgia Bulldog fans. This SEC parity stuff stinks, doesn’t it?
The unfriendly confines
of Jordan-Hare Stadium
AUBURN, Ala. -- Pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together, which is why the Florida football team finds itself ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the USA Today/Gallup Poll this week going into Saturday night’s game against Auburn.
Clearly these 2006 Gators can become something special, but to get there they must beat the team that was No. 2 the week before they were, and do it in a place that has never been Gator-friendly.
The Gators are perhaps on their way to a banner season, but one misfire on Saturday night in Auburn, a virtual graveyard of Florida teams past, and the building blocks start falling.
The last time Florida won in Jordan-Hare Stadium was 1999, although the Gators haven’t played there since 2001 before the SEC West rotation changed. The Tigers lead the series 40-38-2 and have dominated at home, 24-8-1. In fact, it wasn’t until Doug Dickey’s 1973 team beat Shug Jordan’s outfit, 12-8, that the Gators had ever won there.
In the last nine outings, however, Florida is 8-1.
Florida is 6-0 for the first time since 1996 and Auburn is 5-1 after an upset loss to Arkansas, 27-10. The gambling line is dead even, since handicappers aren’t all that attuned to history. The House of Auburn used to be a House of Horror.
Old-time Gator fans remember the Halloween meltdown of Steve Spurrier, the player, along with the nightmarish nine-interception day of quarterback John Reaves in 1969. What will be in store this time?
* * *
There’s a new aura about Florida football.
It’s not just the way the players play, but, in fact, that is the byproduct of why the Gators are 6-0.
Remember when Urban Meyer responded to the question about his respect for Florida football during the Spurrier regime?
“I loved the way they walked, they way they talked, the way they took the field, the way they came off the field,” Meyer said in his very first press conference of Spurrier’s teams at Florida.
Since that day we’ve heard a lot about the pride Meyer is attempting to instill daily in his players; what it means to be a Gator; how to earn the trappings that come with being a champion; why it’s critical to “live right” and be accountable for one’s actions.
Maybe it wasn’t just coaching rhetoric after all. It seems to have developed into a brand. One must admire the astute coaching job by Meyer and his staff and the way he has lock-stepped his young players in unison, keeping them focused on the next play and not the next game.
Meyer’s team is showing the “it” factor.
We see “it” in the poise of a team that has come from behind in every SEC game to win.
We see “it” in the unselfish way quarterback Chris Leak quietly goes about his job, even when the accolades so often fall at the feet of his backup, Tim Tebow.
We see “it” in the way wide receiver Dallas Baker waits patiently for his turn to catch balls and, once the ball has been caught, he fights, scratches and claws for every inch as if it were his territorial imperative.
We see “it” in the way that receivers Jemalle Cornelius and Andre Caldwell are money every time downfield on their patterns; the steady, determined blocks of fullback Billy Latsko; how linebacker Brandon Siler sits and waits for the right time to pounce on the ball at his 1-yard line when LSU is threatening to blow the game open; how center Steve Rissler keeps his wagons circled in the offensive line.
We see “it” when punter Eric Wilbur fires off a one-step, 52-yard kick with LSU Tigers breathing down on him and his heel nearly touching the end zone backline.
The younger players have seen “it” in these older teammates and are modeling them.
Well all see “it” in the remarkable energy and emergence of Tebow and his puppy-dog like joy that the fans love so much; of a newcomer like Louis Murphy jumping out of the anonymity of the depth chart to catch his first career pass for a touchdown.
We see “it” in the suddenly spectacular play of the secondary, with countless interceptions by college-graduated Ryan Smith and the All-American-like play of safety Reggie Nelson, whom Meyer has dubbed “The Eraser.”
It’s a coaching cliché, but the truth is that these Gators are putting team over self with a common goal in mind that has now become reachable.
Not all cylinders are firing all the time, but on a good team, that can be overcome by what is known as “picking up” the other guy. That, too, has been a staple of this team.
These are just some of the ways that this new aura has manifested itself in six games.
How long it will last is anybody’s guess.
The fact that this Meyer-coached team has attained its own style and panache is to be commended. What they do with it will determine whether they will become champions or just another one-hit wonder.
There is also the factor of a once very good Auburn team looking for revenge – and what team better to get it from that the one that took the Tigers’ perch?
Buddy Martin SundayBest Oct. 8, 2006
It’s Tebow, Tebow, Tebow
GAINESVILLE – Tim Tebow took a page from the old school football playbook and used a little Billy Donovan basketball technique to alley-oop a touchdown pass toward his back-pedaling, falling-down tight end Saturday and break the game wide open.
That put the Gators on top by 14-7 at halftime, but they got a safety on the second half kickoff and another Tebow touchdown pass in the third period, going on to beat the Tigers 23-10 and achieve the 6-0 mark first the first time since 1996.
Tebow had a hand in all three touchdowns.
Technically, it was a “jump pass” Tebow shot-putted to Tate Casey for 1 yard. Actually, it was a “double-clutch, jump-jump” pass. The first time he couldn’t find Casey. On the second try he was able flip the ball over the heads of the defenders as Casey fell backwards and cradled the ball.
“I knew Tate was doing a great job of fighting his was through there,” Tebow said. But his coach saw it a different way.
“We run it in practice,” said Coach Urban Meyer, “but our tight end isn’t supposed to stumble around, fall down on the ground, do six pushups and then catch it.”
One guy likened it to an Al Horford-to-Joakim Noah alley oop, and still another a Harry Gilmer-style left-handed flip from Alabama’s highlight film in the late 1940s.
Meyer isn’t sure where he first saw the jump pass – “it probably came from somewhere in 1913 or something” – but it wasn’t the first time he used it. At Utah in the Mountain West Championship game against Air Force, Meyer dragged it out to win in triple overtime.
It's crazy stuff, however, the undefeated Gator coach will take it, because this is the way Urban Meyer’s team is winning this year: with a surprise attack offense, big-play defense and special teams that produced three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. And it doesn’t seem to matter whose turn it is in the limelight.
Meet Louis Murphy, for instance. Never heard of him? Gator fans hadn’t either, because the 6-2 197-pound sophomore from St. Petersburg/Lakewood isn’t even listed on the three-depth chart out of nine receivers. But Tebow found him with no problem as he rifled a 35-yard touchdown pass to the newcomer for his first career reception.
Murphy, too, had stumbled and fallen in the end zone, but didn’t even realize he had scored until he was running off the field and thought he saw “the field goal unit coming on.” It was the extra-point unit, instead, and when Murphy finally got back to the bench he was told by teammate Jemalle Cornelius of the news.
Tebow once again ignited the crowd with his Energizer Bunny enthusiasm and zest. A fan favorite since he first set foot on Florida Field, Tebow finally had his signature game with a pair of touchdown passes and one rushing in 11 touches. Tebow may have been the hero, but it won’t change a thing.
“Tim has his 10-play package and he can focus on that,” said offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. “But Chris Leak is our starting quarterback.”
For the fifth time this season and fourth straight week, the Gators had to come from behind to win. The turning point in the game came when LSU drove to the Florida 1, eating up eight minutes, and was about to take the lead when quarterback JaMarcus Russell dropped the snap, which was recovered by linebacker Brandon Siler.
Urban Meyer is living dangerously, but also living large. As he walked in the tunnel after the game, he clapped his hands over his head, applauded the fans, high-fived one of them wearing a padded, oversized Gator glove and slapped hands with a youngster.
It is good to be undefeated and King of “The Swamp.”
* * *
The emotional roller coaster of big-play football can be nerve wracking with so many huge momentum-changing moments. Saturday’s game reversed fortunes like a Las Vegas craps table.
With 6:34 to play in the first half, LSU appeared to own “The Swamp,” moving the ball downfield on a marathon 17-play, 8-minute drive on what appeared a certain touchdown drive.
In fact, Russell passed to running back Jacob Hester for a 21-yard score, but it was brought back to the Florida 9 on a holding penalty by Herman Johnson. Then Hester rushed for what appeared to be another score, but replay showed that his elbow was down at the 1. What happened next began a series of huge events that led to the Tiger’s demise.
1)LSU center Brett Helms never got the snap to Russell, the ball was fumbled and Florida’s Brandon Siler fell on it.
2)After nearly getting caught for a safety twice, Florida punted. Eric Wilbur couldn’t have picked a more fortuitous time to come up with a career kick. Standing with his foot just inches from the end zone backline, Wilbur one-stepped a 52-yarder all the way to the LSU 46, where, for some reason, LSU’s Chevis Jackson took a fair catch.
3)Corner Ryan Smith’s interception of Russell’s pass came two plays later and Florida set out on what would prove to be the game-deciding drive.
Tebow’s jump pass in the final 22 seconds of the first half did the major damage. The first play of the second half did the rest.
Lou Holtz always told Meyer that the end of the first half and beginning of the second were crucial to the outcome of a game. This certainly was the case.
4)Third-stringer wide receiver Riley Cooper “ran as fast as I could” down on the kickoff and, seeing that Early Doucet was bobbling the ball, loaded up for a big hit. Upon contact, the ball bounced backwards into the end zone and LSU recovered, but Tremaine McCollum finished the job for the safety.
Coupled with the touchdown reception by Murphy on his first career catch, this made for four newcomers in the Gator limelight: Cooper, Murphy, Tebow and Smith.
The New Kids on the Block are driving the bus. They’ve all been indoctrinated into the Urban Meyer big-play regime. And now Gator fans have come to expect it.
I asked Meyer in the post-game press conference if he liked the “big play” life of a coach. “See these gray hairs right here?” he said in jest. “Actually, I like shaking hands with the band director (after the game). That four hours in between? I’m not so sure I like living like that all the time.”
He has a point.
* * *
GATOR BITES: Ryan Smith had two more interceptions, making four in two weeks. Smith, who came to Florida this season on a quirk of the NCAA rules that allows a graduated player to transfer without sitting out a season, might have had an NCAA record six interceptions in the last two games had he been able to hold on to two others Saturday …Meyer isn’t going to make a change at quarterback, but noting Chris Leak’s unimpressive stats (17 for 26, 155 yards, no TDs, on interception) he said, “Chris has got to do better than that” … Leak may be the starter, but the magic comes from Tebow, who excites everybody when he’s on the field … It’s a mystery as to what’s happened to the accuracy of field goal kicker Chris Hetland, who last year went 13 for 16, but on Saturday missed his fourth attempt of the season, leaving the Gators without three-pointer in 2006 .
Quick Jump Starts
1. OK, now maybe it’s time for Gator fas to admit that Urban Meyer is the real deal.
2. Kenny Rogers picked the perfect time to beat the Yankees for the first time in his life and in the game of his life on Friday night as he put Detroit up 2-1 in best-of-five AL playoffs
3. Some FSU fans feel they’ve got one too many Bowdens in Tallahassee and if Bobby won’t get rid of son Jeff, then maybe they both should go.
4. As Miami’s Larry Coker is finding out, fame is fleeting: He went 24-1 and won a national championship in his first two seasons, but has lost eight times since the start of the 2004 season.
5. I’m not sure that so many athletes brandishing “registered” guns is better than if they were unregistered, because their bullets don’t know the difference.
If nothing else, Florida’s Meyer avenged SEC road losses at Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge last year – and has one more score to settle with Steve Spurrier and South Carolina on Nov. 11… The crowd of 90,714 at “The Swamp” for Florida-LSU was the second largest in Gator football history. Buddy’s E-mail Box
Buddy: I enjoy your columns. You have a knack for throwing oil on the sometimes stormy seas and restoring perspective to emotional (Gator) fans.
Jim Kilian, Olathe, KS
Jim: Thanks. Good thing the price of oil has gone down, because it may be a wild season.
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Buddy Martin column/LSU-Florida Oct. 6, 2006
The news in Gainesville
Just got a lot better
If the karma cards mean anything, the Florida Gators just drew to an inside straight with the potential of a straight flush. With the news out of Gainesville that suspended defensive tackle Marcus Thomas has been cleared to play against LSU, Urban Meyer’s team just got a huge boost in morale and a key component in bringing heat on Tiger quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Thomas was suspended for failing a drug test twice (marijuana) but appealed and apparently won. In three games this season, Thomas has seven tackles and three sacks in Florida’s No. 13 ranked defense nationally. The Gators have had difficulty in pressuring quarterbacks lately and the return of Thomas, a bull-rushing 300-pound senior who can penetrate double teams and often overmatches his man, may have been fortuitous. The 5-0 Gators go into Saturday’s game at “The Swamp” as a slight one-point favorite after being 2-point underdogs. Likewise, it looks like freshman flyer Percy Harvin is going to play. Harvin has missed the last two weeks with a high ankle sprain but was deemed fit at “90-95 per cent” by his coach Thursday. This good news was countered somewhat by the disappointment revelation that starting tailback DeShawn Wynn may not be sufficiently recovered from the knee sprain he suffered against Alabama and will play only sparingly, if at all. Meyer downplayed somewhat the return of Thomas, noting that his absence in practice might have hurt his conditioning, although Marcus had light workouts in mid-week.
“Obviously having him in there is going to help but we also played pretty good without him so I think it's important," said Meyer. “Is it the catch-all? Absolutely not. We proved that the last couple of weeks.”
But Meyer added: “I think he's a very good football player and he's a good chemistry guy on the team. He's invested a lot in this program." Meanwhile, plain and simple: If the 5-0 Florida Gators fall behind early as they have the last three weeks, they’re toast against a bigger, faster, stronger LSU team. The Spread needs to spread out some of its scoring. For whatever reason, Urban Meyer’s team has sleep-walked through the first half against Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. But these Gators can no longer rely on turnovers by their opponents, long drives in the final minutes or big offensive play to bail them out against these next three ranked opponents. In the victory over the Vols, it took a skillful 65-yard march late in the fourth quarter to take the measure of Tennessee, 21-20. Kentucky got off to a 3-0 lead and until a late first-half score and a wakeup call, the Gator offense was struggling. Eventually, Florida pulled it out, 26-7, with the help of an alert defense. Alabama’s John Parker Wilson picked the Gator secondary apart for over three quarters and the Crimson Tide appeared on their way to taking the lead. Leading by only 14-13, Florida came alive in the last nine minutes, and thanks to a pair of interceptions managed to prevail, 28-13, in a game that was much closer than the score indicated. It won't be so easy these next three games against LSU, Auburn and Georgia. Aside from Tennessee’s Erik Ainge, the Gator defense hasn’t faced a quarterback in the same league with LSU’s Russell, who has passed for 10 touchdowns with only one interception this year. Offensively, look for some new looks by the Gators. I expect to see more of Tim Tebow, and not just at quarterback. It’s just a hunch, but with Tebow as the team’s second leading rusher – he’s got 193 yards on 6 yards per carry – why wouldn’t offensive coordinator Dan Mullen play him at tailback, or line him up as a slot receiver and throw to him? Two main staples of Urban Meyer’s offense are getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers and trick plays. He’s done a pretty good job of distributing the ball so far, although the trick plays have been used sparingly. LSU week would be a good time to dust off that skullduggery. The offense needs to get cranked up early with bigger plays. For my money, not enough deep passes are being thrown to stretch the opposing defense. Chris Leak is having an excellent year, second in the nation with his 14 touchdown passes, and needs only 1,365 to pass Danny Wuerffel as the all-time Gator passer. I think he could have a higher average per completion than 14.7 yards if he’d try throwing longer more often. Now, on to the second leg of the so-called “Murderer’s Row,” would be the time to pull out all these stops.
"'The Boys From Old Florida' is the definitive book of the modern era of football at the University of Florida.
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NAME URBAN MEYER'S OFFENSE.
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Buddy Martin Sunday Best Sept. 30, 2006
The race has only just begun
GAINESVILLE – Urban Meyer’s right. This season is a marathon, not a sprint. By those standards, his Florida football team is 41 percent of the way through the race after Saturday’s 28-13 victory over Alabama for win No. 5.
Don’t break out the champagne yet, Gator fans. In fact, didn’t even put it on ice. LSU is coming to town on Saturday and, as Meyer knows all too well, the road ahead is filled with pot holes.
His sermons on toughness this past year have been paying off, but must yet come to bear fruit if Florida wants to keep its championship hopes alive. And it was the Florida defense which delivered the goods Saturday.
“The question of the year,” said Meyer, “is what you have learned from the SEC. And what I’ve learned is that you’d better have a great defense in this league.”
Nobody is doing to label the defense of co-coordinators Greg Mattison and Charley Strong “great,” but neither will anybody debate that the players are capable of making great plays. That was certainly the case Saturday when the Gator defense bailed out a struggling offense.
With virtually a dead-even game going well into the fourth quarter and Alabama driving – again – it felt like the Crimson Tide was on the move toward overcoming a 14-13 deficit with the ball at its own 27. Somebody had to make a play if Florida was going to secure the win, because the Tide was rushing out again.
That’s when Reggie Nelson came to the rescue in the first of consecutive gems.
A tipped John Parker Wilson pass was hauled in by Florida cornerback Ryan Smith, but he fumbled it away. Nelson was there to recover, but it took the validation of instant replay, which the Gators got. From there, Leak found Dallas Baker for a 21-yard touchdown.
On the very next series, Nelson hauled in another errant Wilson pass and hauled 70 yards with it for the clinching touchdown.
Urban uncharacteristically dropped hints of accolades for the junior free safety from Melbourne via Coffeeville (Kan.) Junior college. “It’s hard for me to believe any safeties in the country are playing better than No. 1 for the Gators,” he said of Nelson.
What the Gator coach did not say is that his team just entered what is believed to be the most grueling four-game stretch in recent Florida football history: Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia. This could become “Heartbreak Hill,” or it may turn out to be
Victory Lane.” These next three come from a classy Top Ten neighborhood. LSU is as high as ninth in one poll, Auburn is second in one and third in the other; Georgia is ninth and 10th.
Alabama was unranked, but played like a Top Ten team.
The Alabamas never die easy, even with revenge on the Gators’ mind. Some people called it “Throwback/Payback” Saturday because of the 31-3 loss by Florida in Tuscaloosa last year and the fact that the Gators were dressed retro with the 1966 white helmets and 1967 blue jerseys with the shoulder strips. Let’s just say it capped off 10.88 of the 26.2 miles for a marathon.
Quick Jump Starts
1. I don’t know how good he’d be as a starter, but unquestionably Tim Tebow brings a burst of energy every time he sets foot on the field for the Gators which his teammates, coaches and the fans can feel.
2. Ron Zook finally got a win at Illinois; maybe it was “correctable” after all. 3. Perhaps the only thing that will stop Tiger Woods is for the golf season to end.
4. Hey, wasn’t that South Carolina’s version of “The Spread” offense we saw Steve Spurrier running Thursday night with Syvelle Newton at quarterback?
5. This from ESPN, which has a stat for everything: “It was his first post-wrist surgery jack.”
The Gators went retro Saturday as part of the 100th Year Anniversary of UF football, wearing the 1966 model helmets and the 1967 jerseys, but some people wondered in the first half if they brought their 1950s offense, too … You could tell Urban Meyer was pleased in his press conference when he realized the how far Chris Leak had run on the designed quarterback draw play – “forty five yards, wow!”
Look who’s back
at “The Swamp”
The Ol’ Ball Coach is getting to be a regular visitor to his old haunt. As one of four Gators inducted into Florida’s “Ring of Honor,” Steve Spurrier took the mike for the second time this season on Saturday and thanked several people—including his former coach Ray Graves, “for bringing this hillbilly to the University of Florida.” Spurrier, who was chosen along with Jack Youngblood, Emmitt Smith and Danny Wuerffel, got the loudest roar of the four. Their names were posted on the façade of the North end zone. Spurrier’s good friend Norm Carlson, noting that the next time he returns to Florida Field is Nov. 11 with his South Carolina team, said: “I’m pretty sure that’s the last time he’ll be welcomed back as a friendly visitor.”
Buddy Martin column Sept. 27, 2006
The Gator pieces: How will they fit?
The Florida Gators didn’t move up in the polls this week, but they moved up in the neighborhood of promising teams.
A wise man once said, “college football teams don’t just change by the year, they change by the week.”
Today, the Gators appear to be emerging with a great deal of promise. It’s too early to peak around the corner, but let’s just say the future looks bright and if they keep stoking the fire, nothing is out of reach.
Saturday night in the press box, a media friend made the point of saying there were “some interesting pieces” to this Gator team, but that the picture wasn’t yet clear. And I agree with that.
Truthfully, as Urban Meyer knows all too well, there are also some missing pieces which would be exposed by a really good team. With Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia coming next, these deficiencies are sure to be exploited.
1. Pass coverage. As long as the front four and an occasional blitz by linebackers or defensive backs can keep heat on the opposing quarterback, it won’t be as big a problem. But when the Gators run up against a good offensive line – which it did against Kentucky before the Wildcats tired in the second half – that lack of pressure puts the defensive backs at risk. Urban Meyer admitted that Kentucky was using an attack that defensive coaches hadn’t seen.
2. Kicking game. Chris Hetland has been extremely reliable, but suddenly if it’s not a bad snap, then it’s a hooked kick or a blocked kick. The old cliché is true here: Those things come back to haunt a team.
3. Turnovers. All of a sudden running backs are putting the ball on the ground, as did DeShawn Wynn and Keystahn Moore Saturday night. Wynn’s was retrieved by an alert Billy Latsko; Moore’s by a Wildcat defender. These things are like a virus – catching. Like a team that starts missing free throws.
There is also the issue about booing by some Gator fans, which has lit up the message boards this week.
I believe in the Democratic right of freedom of expression, whether it’s meant toward the officials, the other team, your coach or your player.
I would not pretend to know exactly why Gator fans chose to boo when Meyer yanked Tim Tebow in favor of Chris Leak, but I’m guessing it’s because Tebow had been ripping off long runs and so brilliantly gotten the team in position to score. Leak came in to pick the low-hanging fruit, except that twice he whiffed the fruit.
I’d agree with that consensus – let Tebow finish the job!
What astounded me was that Meyer didn’t seem to be aware of the fact that the fans were booing either him or his decision.
I did not think they were booing Leak.
Right now, Tim Tebow looks like one of the most exiting players I’ve seen at Florida since the days of Richard Trapp, Carlos Alvarez, Wes Chandler, Steve Spurrier or Danny Wuerffel.
This is one of those “pieces” I was talking about.
I can’t wait to see the picture.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best Sept. 24, 2005
Even good teams struggle
GAINESVILLE – Those network people who like to come up with catchy titles for football weekends like “Separation Saturday” also need to look backwards at some of the results. This weekend produced “Struggling Saturday.”
Even the best teams are dodging bullets in order to maintain elite status.
No. 1 Ohio State trailed PennState at halftime, 3-0, before finally pulling away to win 28-6. No. 9 Georgia, nearly a four-touchdown favorite, nearly got clipped Between The Hedges by Colorado before winning, 14-13. That set the tone for a tough night in “The Swamp” where No. 5 Florida was favored by nearly four touchdowns.
The Gators ran into troublesome Kentucky, falling behind 7-6 in the second quarter before a last-ditch touchdown run by tailback DeShawn Wynn ran it in for a touchdown and a 12-7 halftime margin.
Finally in the second half, Florida’s defense awakened and the Gator snapped out of it to beat Kentucky, 26-7. Six sacks on defense – two by tackle Ray McDonald – keyed the comeback. And a heads-up fumble recovery paved the way.
It was, in fact, a heads up play by a fullback/H-back who rarely gets plaudits that gave the Gators the wakeup call they needed in third period against Kentucky.
Wynn, who only last week was finally decreed as “the Gators tailback” by a often-critical coach Urban Meyer, looked to be on his way for a long run when he fumbled away the ball forward at the opponents 45-yard line in the midst of three Wildcats. Just when it appeared no Gator saw the ball, a No. 42 blue jersey came flying through the Kentucky defenders to recover the ball. Billy Latsko to the rescue.
From there, Chris Leak led his offensive mates on the scoring drive, with Keystahn Moore scoring from 4 yards out as Florida took control of the game with a 19-7 lead.
Wynn redeemed himself by having his first–ever back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.
“I thought DeShawn ran hard,” Meyer said later, “and for him to have those back-to-back 100-yard games as a senior was a good thing for him.”
Before the end of the night, it was freshman quarterback Tim Tebow who brought the crowd of 90,292 to its feet. He kept getting the Gators down to the red zone and kept getting yanked in favor of Chris Leak.
The response of the fans three times was light boos. Clearly Tebow is become one of the favorites in “The Swamp.” He’s popular with his coach, too, but when Tebow was pulled three times, the fans didn’t care for the decision.
Meyer crossed it off as a strategy, mentioning that there were certain plays that Tebow ran better and certain plays Leak executed best. “Chris Leak played his butt off,” said Meyer. “He’s a senior and he deserves to be out there.”
However, Meyer is a fan of Tebow’s, too, and admitted that seeing the big freshman stiff-arming defenders and fighting for yardage “fires me up, just like it does everybody else.”
The Gator coach seemed oblivious to the fans’ reasoning and was somewhat disappointed. “I didn’t know what they were booing about,” he said. “I thought maybe it was a missed call or something.”
It’s pretty clear that while Meyer was coaching X’s and O’s and not playing favorites – something that the kid from Jacksonville Nease has become with almost everybody. Tebow had another strong game, rushing for 73 yards, second only to Wynn’s 104.
On “Struggling Saturday,” coaches can catch heat a lot of different ways for a lot of different reasons.
Buddy Martin Column Sept. 17, 2006
Gators take s big step
toward SEC road cred
KNOXVILLE – Urban Meyer had called everybody but Triple A about his road woes, knowing full well that until his Florida football team learns the secret about how to win football games in enemy territory, championships were but a pipe dream.
In the off-season, the Gator coach may have re-evaluated everything from the kind of butter served to his team, to any possible super-power specials that staying in a Holiday Inn Express might have to offer.
Meyer even auditioned his road repertoire in a home game by running his offense on “silent count” to prepare for crowd noises at raucous Neyland stadium.
And he brought in a former Notre Dame boss, Lou Holtz, as a road consultant.
The message to his team was clear: If you want any kind of conference street cred, you’ve got to toughen up and win those close games away from “The Swamp.”
In the SEC, if you can’t win the away games, you will soon be on the road to ruin in the quest for supremacy.
In visits to Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa and even Columbia last year, Meyer came up a loser three times in his first year. Give the triple summersault on their schedule beginning soon, with back-to-back-to-back-t-back engagements with the likes of Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Auburn, the Gators could ill afford to stumble and fall on Rocky Top.
So it was with considerable interest, expectation for improvement and slight trepidation that he watched his team take the field before the largest crowd in the SEC this season in an arena where toughness and composure are the mandatory staples of visiting teams if they want to achieve victory.
Neyland Stadium is not a place where the Gators have lacked success over the years, having split the last eight games since 1990.
As the 2-0 Gators teed it up as a 3-point favorite against the Vols Saturday night, expectations for improvement were substantial. But self-inflicted wounds like penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes kept the Gators in trouble as Tennessee scored 17 unanswered points before a crowd in excess of 106,818.
Furthermore, Meyer and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen had built much of the game plan around freshman wideout Percy Harvin playing tailback, except that Harvin went out in the second quarter with ankle sprain and never returned.
Still, even after all that, the road win was there for the taking. Sixty five yards of green grass was all that stood in the way of a go-ahead touchdown and maybe new beginnings. This was exactly the kind of task Meyer had been preaching about. The game was on the table when Florida, behind 20-14, got the ball back at its own 35 after Keystahn Moore wisely let the kickoff bounce out of bounce out of bounds with just over 10 minutes to play.
But had this Florida team grown up enough to finish the job?
Certainly the Gators had been challenged by their coaches. Tailback DeShawn Wynn had been in Meyer’s doghouse so much in the last year that pretty soon he was going to be required to have rabies shots.
We may look back at this moment it as the turning point for Florida in 2006. The drive was one to remember: Only two passes were thrown, blocking was crisp and when needed, backup quarterback Tim Tebow was there to crunch out a first down.
The forgotten Wynn, who took the carries Harvin was to get, reeled 26 of his 104 yards rushing to set up the winning score. He also won back his job, as Meyer finally said the magic words: “He’s our starting tailback. He’s earned it.”
The irony of it is that Meyer and Mullen had already conspired to play Harvin at the tailback position for much of the night because they hadn’t been getting the production they wanted out of that position.
If the Gators go on to challenge for the SEC title, it will be in no small part because of that well-designed, well-executive 12-play, 65-yard drive that came in the middle of the fourth quarter. And to think that 10 of them were running or scrambling plays and only two were passes.
“To get out of a game like that we needed a play,” Meyer said.
And the Gators found it when Chris Leak hit Dallas Baker on a beautiful 21-yard crossing route for the touchdown and Chris Hetland kicked Florida into the lead, 21-20, with 6:30 to play. A defense that had held Tennessee to minus-11 yards rushing came to the rescue again as defensive back Reggie Nelson intercepted Erik Ainge’s fourth down pass. Game, set, match.
“That right there is the product of a senior quarterback and a couple of senior wide receivers,” said Meyer, “and a tailback running for 100 yards. We mixed it up nice.”
I also noticed a different Meyer, who last year at times appeared he, himself, was almost a little intimidated by the surroundings of other SEC venues. Now he has learned to embrace it.
“The SEC is amazing,” he said. “And that’s coming from someone who’s coached in a lot of different parts of the country.” He said the environment was “great for college football.” Not to be overlooked was the Florida defense, especially the front four. Aside from the secondary getting burned several times deep by Tennessee’s Erik Ainge, the front four were spectacular – especially tackle Marcus Thomas. How else could Florida have held the Vols to an embarrassing minus-11 yards rushing.
This was a big hurdle for Meyer’s Gators, who now have three straight home games. It cast a little different light on games to be played at Auburn and in Tallahassee.
I asked Meyer if he felt his team had finally conquered the road demons.
“Nah,” he said. “We’ve got to go on the road next to Auburn. Right now I’m more worried about having a safe trip home, getting back to practice, going to class and living right.”
For a least a night these Gators were living right – and living large.
Off to Knoxville, where
it’s about the butter
GAINESVILLE -- Last year when Urban Meyer got dusted three times by SEC teams in Baton Rouge, La., Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Columbia, S.C., he vowed to take a look at everything his Gators did while out of town, right down to the butter.
Well, it’s time to check out the hotel fridges in the Knoxville, Tenn., Urban, and determine which side of the bread is going to be buttered, because next Saturday is the first real test of the new road regime, any way you slice it.
To be competitive, the young Gators are going to have to learn to win in hostile territory. And there are fewer hostile places than the place with the checkered end zones, where the Gators-Vols game of 2004 drew 109,061 fans. (Since ongoing renovations, however, the capacity has been reduced to just over 102,000.)
The most impressive aspect of the Gators’ 42-0 win over UCF Saturday was that they accomplished it while they were auditioning for Tennessee – and I don’t mean the Grand Ol’ Opry.
“I don’t know if you noticed, but we were on silent (count) tonight,” Meyer revealed after his second win of the season. “And we didn’t do it because the crowd noise here, we did it to prepare for up there next week.”
In addition, Florida resorted to a lot of no-huddle offense and it worked to near perfection, as they rolled up a whopping 637 yards in offense. The Gators’ freshman quarterback, Tim Tebow, was his team’s leading rusher with 62 yards and together with his 81 yards passing, had just 34 yards less total offense than the entire Golden Knights offense.
All of this bodes well as SEC play begins for the Gators.
It’s great to see that Tennessee-Florida matters again. It once determined the SEC championship and occasionally had national title implications. This time, it looks to be the first hurdle in the path of a potentially stellar Meyer team.
The Vols finally grounded Air Force Saturday after a struggling, eking out a 31-30 victory, although they jumped up significantly in both polls last week after an impressive win over California.
We can’t tell much about these Gators’ first two outings, both relatively easy wins — 34-7 over Southern Mississippi and, Saturday, 42-0 over Central Florida. But there have been some impressive flashes.
The Florida spread offense is starting to take shape, posting 308 yards of offense Saturday in the first half. Quarterback Chris Leak has improved, as evidenced by his career high passing yardage (352 yards, four touchdowns) against the Golden Knights. And he has a talented corps of wide receivers, including newcomer Percy Harvin, who could be the most exciting player on the field Saturday night. Look closely, because Harvin is so fast that he sometimes is a blur.
One welcome sight was the return of wide receiver Andre Caldwell to his pre-injury form, as he hauled in two touchdown passes from Leak. He, along with Harvin, Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius, make up one of the nation’s finest receiving corps.
“We’re starting to knock the rust off Bubba Caldwell,” Meyer said of his prized receiver, “but he’s not the Bubba Caldwell yet that we knew.”
We are also beginning to see some combustible features of the Urban Meyer spread. Meyer likens it to a game of checkers he says he likes the checkers he’s playing with – “the bright, shiny ones.”
He seems to feel the prettier the checkers, the better they play – and the better his spread offense.
“It’s entirely personnel drive and not scheme-driven,” Meyer said. “We got more firepower. And we’ve just got to keep them healthy.”
The depth of offense talent at the skill positions on this Florida team is almost an embarrassment of riches, but the inexperienced offensive line and the lack of a breakout running back are reasons to worry for offensive coordinator Dan Mullen.
Defensively, Florida’s front seven is staunch, anchored by Marcus Thomas, Ray McDonald and Jarvis Moss in the line and Brandon Siler and Earl Everett at linebacker. Defensive lineman Steven Harris also returned to action Saturday. The secondary may be under fire against the Vols, however, if quarterback Erik Ainge is on his game.
The good news for the Gators is that, barring any practice mishaps this week, they will go to Tennessee completely healthy. Depending, of course, on the butter.
Buddy Martin Column Sept. 3, 2006
Spurrier and Tebow cross paths
GAINESVILLE – Urban Meyer is 1-0 in his second season at Florida, but he’d better look around at his improved SEC competition.
While Florida was dusting off Southern Mississippi in its 2006 debut and starting its 100th year of football, Tennessee was making a loud statement in Knoxville by crushing the ninth-ranked California Bears 35-18. In less than two weeks, the Gators will begin their SEC quest there.
Florida won 34-7. There were flashes of brilliance by the Gators on offense and defense – some of it from young freshmen players.
Most notably, the much ballyhooed Tim Tebow made his debut at the start of the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown on his second touch as a Gator, stiff arming an opponent and virtually crawling for the yard and the six points.
The beginning of the Tebow era began at about 8:34 p.m. as he took the field and scored his first touchdown with 14:12 to play in the game. Call it a coincidence, but he scored in the same end zone where Steve Spurrier kicked the winning field goal against Auburn 40 years ago which won him the Heisman Trophy.
The strapping 6-3, 229-pound quarterback from Nease High School was greeted at mid-field by none other than starter Chris Leak, who made a leaping bear hug in a show of jubilation.
Tebow did all that despite calling the wrong formation. “He’s going to be a great player here,” said Meyer, noting that he’d play the freshman more against Central Florida next week.
Leak deserve a few hugs of his own, as did true wide receiver Percy Harvin of Virginia Beach, Va., who became the first true freshman wide receiver ever to start for the Gators. Harvin not only caught three balls for 33 yards, but was also the leading rusher with 58 yards.
Spreading the ball around to seven receivers, Leak threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns, the longest of them to senior Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius for 29 yards each.
Meyer was not all that pleased with the effort, “because we have high expectations and I’m disappointed we started out like that. Last year we lost some games like that, but at least we dug ourselves out of the hole.”
Not about the cheers for Spurrier
GAINESVILLE -- It wasn't exactly like Douglas McArthur's return, but on Saturday, Steve Spurrier came back to the place he once named "The Swamp" to enjoy thuderous applause from 90,043 people giving him a heroic welcome.
For weeks there has been speculation over whether the South Carolina coach would be booed or cheered by his former constituents, considering he left Florida so suddenly in January 2002 to become coach of the Washington Redskins. Let there be no more doubt how they feel about him.
If there was a single boo, it wasn’t detectable. The Ol’ Ball Coach once again set foot on the turf where he played brilliantly enough in the mid-1960s to win a Heisman Trophy and coached brilliantly enough in the mid-1990s to win six Southeastern Conference titles and a national championship.
After the introduction of 84 players from that 1996 team, Spurrier was received with a loud, 20-second ovation. Wearing a light blue shirt and standing at the 15-yard line of the south end of the field, he looked almost embarrassed at the attention, as he kept holding up one hand, then the other, then giving the crowd the thumbs up.
Among those who joined their coach in the pre-game ceremony on Florida Field were Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel, wide receivers Ike Hilliard and Jacquez Green, defensive backs Lawrence Wright and Fred Weary, offensive linemen Jeff Mitchell and Donnie Young, and linebacker Mike Peterson.
Spurrier had said many times before that, “getting a big ovation is not the highlight of coming back.” He said he only wanted to show support for his team.
“Championships are forever. Titles are forever,” Spurrier said. “All the conference championships were also memories of a lifetime, but this was the big one here. We have a chance to relive it and celebrate it 10 years later. We actually have a chance to celebrate every day for the rest of our lives.”
Among those Spurrier visited with briefly before leaving the game in the first half to return home were his ex-teammates, including Allen Trammell of Orlando. “He got his thunder. I think Steve enjoyed his day,” said Trammel. “He loves the Gators, but he’s South Carolina now.”
When he comes back as coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 11 for his first visit to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to work on the east sideline, no doubt the response will be somewhat different.
Quick Jump Starts
1. Bill (You Gotta Love The Tuna) Parcells has invented his own style of post-game press conferencing, as noticed after his Cowboys lost their last game and he responded thusly to the media about making a certain decision: “Because I wanted to."
2. Welcome home, Ol’ Ball Coach.
3. Someday when Spurrier retires and returns to “The Swamp,” there will surely be a statue of him there commemorating“The House That Spurrier Built.”
4. One Tampa radio station was repeating a bogus report out of Detroit that Florida’s Urban Meyer would be interested in coaching at Michigan if Lloyd Carr gets fired, which I find almost laughable.
5. Monday night will be the last time FSU and Miami open their seasons against each other, both teams preferring to play the game later in the season – and that’s too bad, because it’s always great way to jumpstart the season.
Ray Graves, The Old Ball Coach of the Ol’ Ball Coach, was at Steve Spurrier’s return to The Swamp Saturday, and will undergo surgery next week to get equipped with a pacemaker … ESPN Game Day’s Chris Fowler reported Saturday that Urban Meyer had his freshmen players over to his house, let them eat and lie around the pool and then proceeded “to tell them everything they had ever done wrong in their lives.”
Nothing But ‘Net
(With help of Buddy’s Cyberfriends)
Bumper Sticker, Sign or T-shirt
1. You should slip into something comfortable, like your car, and leave.
2. 60 is the new 30. Dead is the new 80.
3. Things you say are called “opinions.” Things I say are called “facts.”
Today’s Corny Joke
If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t either.
And Good Morning …
… Phil Fulmer. Maybe you can go ahead and unpack that U-Haul now.
Those of you who read the sports pages and may have seen "The Odd Couple" might consider the use of the word "professional" next to the term "sports writer" an oxy-moron. You may even assume that those involved in writing and editing of sports pages don’t give much thought before producing the next day’s version of it..
Just to prove you wrong, a group of 150 sports journalists gathered last week at the newspaper think tank in St. Petersburg, known as the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, to cogitate about some of the issues we face. Heck, most of them even paid for the privilege of being there.
Now before you go off on the Oscar Madison stereotype of sports writers, let me assure you of the following:
1.Nobody wore plaid.
2. Not a single poker game was played, nor were there any trips to the track.
3. The only adult beverages consumed were after hours.
In a show of hands, more than 80 percent of them acknowledged being under 30 years of age. For most of them, today’s sports pages is electronic – either on the TV or computer screen. These were the new faces of sports journalism – curious, bright, energetic, informed, focused and very much aware of how the convergence of media is changing our world.
In a three-day session of the “Sports Journalism Summit,” they heard a distinguished group of sports writers, editors, authors, producers, professors and even network coaches offer up their innermost secrets of the trade.
During a Town Hall Meeting with a dozen members of the faculty, they heard discussions the old, classic sports writing and whether it is palpable today; if too much investigative stuff robs the average reader of the joy; and whether quality sports writing can help save flagging newspapers and American Journalism as we know it.
Writers like Christine Brennan of USA Today told them to “think like the person in the supermarket” when going after stories. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post told them to train their brains like athletes train their bodies. Dave Kindred of Golf Digest and The Sporting News exhorted them to write simple, direct sentences. Woody Paige of ESPN suggested they keep re-inventing themselves. Alex Wolff of Sports Illustrated encouraged them to use historical backdrops for their story ideas. Screenplay writer and former columnist John Schulian brought them writing examples of the old-school writers like John Lardner, Jimmy Cannon and W.C. Heinz. Associated Press columnist Jim Litke told them not to go for the most obvious.
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN and Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star told them they had an obligation to write about race issues and not worry about the repercussions.
Editors like Tom Jolly of the New York Times and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News asked told them to keep the establishment and the players honest by pursuing investigative pieces. Sandy Rosenbush, formerly of Sports Illustrated, and John Rawlings of The Sporting News said they should prepare and research subject, but then not be afraid to take chances.
The most impressive part of the Summit was that every one of the 25 faculty members gave of their time and, in some cases, paid their own expenses just to take part in this ground-breaking seminar.
That’s where both Oscar and Felix would have drawn the line.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best/ April 9, 2006
Mingling on the lawn at Augusta National
FROM UNDER THE BIG OAK TREE AT AUGUSTA NATIONAL – Where the captains of industry intermingle with the power brokers of golf on the rolling clubhouse lawn, equipped with about 50 umbrella-ed tables for your dining pleasure. Sometimes even a few of the great unwashed get to partake of the eggs, bacon, ham and red-eye grave on their grits for breakfast at $18 a pop.
FACES IN THE CROWD: On the lawn in the Great Gatsby setting that is the Masters … NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, happy about “being back in football” and talking about the switch of Katie Couric to the CBS evening news anchor and how the “sweetness and light” between the two networks will soon subside … Tiger Woods darting through the crowd from the driving range, headed toward the tee box and not stopping or making eye contact anybody – a security guard in front and in back of him … The Ol’ Ball coach himself, taking a day off from South Carolina spring practice to enjoy the Masters with son Steve Spurrier Jr. and aide Jamie Speronis, hob-nobbing with Augusta National member Peter Coors and gloating about the fact that his two favorite basketball teams did so well – Florida winning the NCAA and the Gamecocks taking the NIT … Jim Nantz of CBS, who anchors the golf telecast, circled by a ring of admirers … Another member of the CBS crew who shall go nameless, confirming that producer Lance Barrow had to warn analyst Lanny Watkins to “shut the bleep up” in his headset several times Thursday when he talked over some of the golf shots … Author-writer Dan (Hisownself) Jenkins, now past the 50 mark for Masters covered, being approached by Rich Beem to say how much he enjoyed the book “Slim and None” -- Jenkins confirming that another novel is in the making.
NUMBERS, GO FIGURE: If they lengthened Augusta National to “Tiger-proof” it, somebody goofed, because Tiger Woods is no longer the only deep threat off the tee-boxes. PGA Tour stats showed that up through Thursday last week, Tiger’s longest drive of the season was 363 yards. There have been 360 drives longer than that in 2006. And 16 drives by tour players have now gone over 400 yards … What does this say? The leaders in driving accuracy for the first two rounds were Bart Bryant and Ian Woosnam, both of whom missed the cut … It’s old-timers week with 46-year-old Fred Couples and 54-year-old Ben Crenshaw being joined by 40-somethings Jose Maria Olazabal and Larry Mize for the final 36 … After shooting an embarrassing 89 on Thursday, 67-year-old Charlie Coody brought it back to a 74 in his final competitive Masters round Friday. Coody finished next-to-last, one shot better than Augusta native Charles Howell III, 26, who once shot a 79 on this course at age 11… Talk about an impressive stat: 22 straight cuts at the Masters for Freddie Couples. “A couple of people around here still root for the guys,” said the 1992 champion, still among the gallery favorites.
Buddy Martin Column Masters Saturday, April 8, 2006
A good walk unspoiled at Augusta
AUGUSTA. Ga. – For a guy who wants to take a good walk unspoiled on a beautiful spring day, there are much worse places to do it than the greenbelt along Washington and Berckmans Roads where they play a little golf event every April.
Bring your walking shoes, however, because they’ve made it longer and tougher to traverse the hills and hollows of Augusta National, though the scenery has never been more beautiful. And the greens have never been tougher to reach and hold with the course lengthened to 7,445 yards.
On a four-mile jaunt, you can get mesmerized by the spectacular beauty of the trees, flowers and chirping of birds. Along the shimmering green trails of what was once a nursery, you drink in the popsicle pink, hearty red and passionate fuchsia azaleas; eat up the popcorn white dogwoods; and stop to cool off among the green loblolly pines and the majestic magnolias.
Even when it’s hot and dry and so dusty that your mouth is cotton, it it’s tough for you to have a below-average day -- if for no other reason than being among the reverent patrons. You feel like you’re sitting in Bobby Jones’ first church of golf church, despite the absence of the papacy.
For the first time in over a half-century, neither Arnold Palmer nor Jack Nicklaus is playing in the Masters. It even sounds a bit different. Back in the day, you could discern between a Palmer roar and a Nicklaus hoorah. Especially 20 years ago when a 46-year-old Nicklaus pulled off one of the great upsets in sports by winning a sixth green jacket.
The ooohs, aaahs and hurrahs still reverberate out of the swales around Amen Corner, where they stand a half-dozen deep at the ropes, or sit 30-feet high in the grandstands, or lay back in the canvas-chair low-riders. It is an amphitheater of admirers equaled by none in sports.
Among the spectators in recent days, much of the talk has been about the added lengthto the course and how it would impact the outcome of the 70th Masters. As it was, some of the marquee names did struggle a bit Friday while a couple of old-timers turned back the clock.
Among those surprises were two former champions, Ben Crenshaw (-1) and Fred Couples (-3), who made the cut and find themselves on the leaderboard for the weekend. That’s not that far off the heels of leader Chad Campbell (-6).
Much has been made about “Tiger-proofing golf courses in the lst few years. Even the conservative green coats of Augusta National have joined the fray, stretching the layout to include two par 5 holes just shy of 600 yards, a pair of par 4s right at 500 yards and a par 3 of 240 yards.
Yet it will likely be the short shots, chipping and putting, that determine the outcom Sunday. And just watch what happens at two of the little holes, the 155-yard No. 12 and the 170-yard No. 16. It would serve them right if some short-knocking, 40-something shot-maker pulled off a victory, proving it’s not always nice to mess with Mother Nature at the first church of Bobby Jones golf.
Buddy Martin Sunday Best, Dec. 18, 2005
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR ALL GATORS
It's Tim Tebow to the rescue
Over the years I’ve made it a practice not to project the future of high school football players about to become collegians or collegians about to become professionals, because it’s just not possible to be that smart.
College recruiting is a cottage industry built on the backs of 17- and 18-year old boys, their parents and their coaches. So right off I’ve got a bigger problem with that that I do the NFL gurus like Mel Kiper who throw so much stuff up against the wall that some of it has to stick.
Having said all that, the news last week that Nease quarterback Tim Tebow picked Florida over Alabama was significant for more reasons than one. Aside from the fact that he’s a big, strong lefthander with football savvy who appears light years ahead of most high schoolers, he’s come to Gainesville at just the right time.
Urban Meyer could wind up after the Outback Bowl without an experienced quarterback should Chris Leak decide to leave early for the NFL Draft (although that appears unlikely). And even if Leak stays, backup Josh Portis has transferred and nobody is next in line.
The best scenario would be that Leak passed on the draft and Tebow strapped on his training wheels immediately, passing on high school baseball and enrolling for the spring semester to take part in the Orange and Blue game.
Having seen Tebow play on TV – but holding true to my belief that one cannot speculate accurately about a player until he sets foot on the college playing field – I will admit that he reminds me of other quarterbacks I’ve seen play in the past.
I’m not going to come out and say he’s a left-handed John Elway, but Tebow does have similar size (6-3, 217), arm strength and running ability as the Denver Broncos Hall of Famer.
If nothing else, Tebow gets the Good Timing Award for getting there just in time. Hopefully he’ll log some playing time his first season and not rot on the bench as did Portis, because clearly Tim Tebow is Urban Meyer’s future.
W.F. Buddy Martin, author, editor, broadcaster has best selling book
There’s just no slowing down W. F. Buddy Martin.
More newspaper and magazine awards came his way in 2006 as Martin’s new book on Florida football was released.
“The Boys From Old Florida: Inside Gator Nation,” provides an insightful, authentic perception of a football program that he has personally observed for more than 55 years as a fan and a journalist. Published by Sports Publishing LLC in Champaign, Ill., the book serves as an oral history of Gator football in its 100th year. The book has been on the SPLCC best-seller list since October 2006 and sold out in hard cover before Christmas.
In producing his sixth book, the Florida native has captured the essence of Gator football since 1950, from the dreary days of Bob Woodruff, to the high life of Steve Spurrier’s glory days, right up to the present day regime of Urban Meyer.
Meanwhile, Buddy was again awarded recognition for his columns in the Charlotte Sun in 2006, cited as one of the state’s best columnists by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and the National Newspaper Association. He also won first place in the state for non-sports columns by the Florida Magazine Association. Last year he finished second in the same category.
During his career, Martin has won over 150 writing and editing awards in newspaper and magazine publishing. Most recently, he was part of a team that received national and state recognition for his paper’s coverage in 2004 of Hurricane Charley, including being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news. He has since been promoted to editor of the Charlotte Sun.
Martin recorded one of his finest years in 2005, winning two National Newspaper Association awards for his columns: First place for humor and third place for serious commentary.
Recently, the Florida Press Club awarded Buddy first place in sports column writing for the under 50,000 circulation category and judged his work on Hurricane Charley (“Hurricane Heroes”) as the best feature material in the state. These were in addition to the ones Buddy had already achieved in the previous four years at the Sun: A Florida Press Club first place for sports columns; Florida Sports Writers Assn. second for sports columns; NNA third for humor columns; and a Florida Press Club third for sports columns.
The Sun, with 93 awards, was one of the most decorated papers in America in 2005.
Martin is a long-time broadcaster, co-hosting “The Tail-Gator Show” Saturdays in the fall on ESPN Radio, WMOP Ocala and WGGG Gainesville with Scot Brantley.
Buddy also appears three times weekly on "The Brady Ackerman Show." On Fridays he does "Buddy Martin's College Football Report" on KKFN Denver with Irv Brown and Joe Williams. And he writes monthly columns for OcalaStyle Magazine, “My Ocala.”
While working for CBS TV on “The NFL Today” show, Buddy was the recipient of an Emmy for his work with Terry Bradshaw.
Martin is a former sports editor/columnist at the Denver Post, New York Daily News, St. Petersburg Times, Florida Today and Ocala Star-Banner. He was a Gannett News Service syndicated columnist in New York City and features editor of the St. Petersburg Times, where the department twice won the J.C. Penney-University of Missouri section award for lifestyle sections.
Buddy is a third-generation journalist who has done work with the Poynter Institute in St. Pete, where he was a member of Dr. Roy Peter Clark’s faculty of writing coaches. In December of 2005, he was picked by Poynter as one of 90 professionals to work with other journalists in the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans/Biloxo, Miss. area. Also at the Poynter Institute in April of 2006, Buddy will be assist Clark with the direction of the “Sports Journalism Summit.”