Franz Beard's Thoughts for Memorial Day

A few thoughts to jump start your Memorial Day morning...


Take a moment today to say thanks to that veteran that you know and also take a moment to say a prayer of thanks to all the military heroes who never came home. We owe our freedom to young men and women who have always been willing to put their lives on the line so that we can live free.


Tim Walton has the Florida softball team off to the women's college world series again after taking two out of three against Washington to win the Gainesville Super Regional. After dropping Sunday's first game, 4-3, the Gators overcame a long rain delay to put four runs on the board in the fifth inning to get an 8-0 run-rule win over Washington to punch the Gators' ticket. It's another 50-win season and a sixth trip to the WCWS for the Gators, who had never gone to the WCWS before Walton arrived in 2005.


The Gators (40-21) lost to LSU in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama but they will host an NCAA Regional and in all likelihood, get a high enough national seed (#1-8) so that they will have home field advantage the rest of the way. This is one of the youngest teams in the country and if they can get through the regional and super regional, they will have a real shot to go deep into the College World Series in Omaha. The ball yard in Omaha is built for teams that pitch well and play small ball, which is what the Gators have to do to win. With one of the deepest and most effective bullpens in the country, the Gators could do some real damage if they can simply get to Omaha.


Every team in the SEC has that one guy that if he gets hurt the season might tank. Here is the Memorial Day team by team Mr. Indispensible.

1. ALABAMA: Amari Cooper, wide receiver. With him healthy the defense stretches and that makes the ground game work, important because this year Bama will have problems on the O-line.

2. Arkansas: Trey Flowers, defensive end. He's the best player on a so-so defense. Lose him and the defense loses its pressure guy off the edge.

3. Auburn: Nick Marshall could win the Heisman Trophy if the Auburn offense is as good as Gus Malzahn thinks it will be, so Auburn can't afford to lose Nick.

4. FLORIDA: We saw what happened when Jeff Driskel went down last year. It wasn't pretty.

5. Georgia: Hutson Mason, quarterback. A lot of folks in Athens think the Poodles will be better with him than Aaron Murray.

6. Kentucky: Alvin Dupree, defensive end. He's the only guy the Wildcats have who can get pressure off the edge.

7. LSU: La'el Collins, left tackle. They will be breaking in a new quarterback and both the #1 and backup are inexperienced. Collins better stay healthy.

8. Mississippi State: Dak Prescott, quarterback. He's the heart and soul of this team. Dan Mullen says he thinks he's capable of Tebow-like numbers.

9. Missouri: Matt Hoch, defensive tackle. He collapses the pocket from the inside making the defensive ends lethal off the edge.

10. Ole Miss: Laremy Tunsill, left tackle. Bo Wallace finally has a healthy shoulder. It will be Laremy Tunsill's job to keep it healthy.

11. South Carolina: Mike Davis, tailback. When he's healthy, South Carolina has a guy who can grind tough yards and still has the speed to take it to the house.

12. Tennessee: A.J. Johnson, linebacker. The line is average at best so losing a tackling machine would be disaster for the defense.

13. Texas A&M: Malcome Kennedy, wide receiver. Now that Mike Evans is gone, he's got to be the go to guy in the passing game. There isn't much in the way of experience or production behind him.

14. Vanderbilt: Jerron Seymour, running back. He grinds out first downs, which is important for a team that lacks the ability to stretch the field.


Although autonomy will be the main focus when the SEC Spring Meetings begin in Destin tomorrow, an early signing day for football will be once again debated. Whether or not there is enough support to pass it remains to be seen, particularly since so many SEC schools seem to feast on commits to smaller schools who blow up their senior seasons. The topic is hot enough that the Conference Commissioners Association, which meets in mid-June, is expected to vote on an Atlantic Coast Conference proposal for an August 1 early signing date. Unless the ACC proposal includes a July dead period, meaning that all the on campus recruiting has to be resolved by June 30, I don't think it will pass. June is camp month so coaches are used to having players on campus at that time. July is typically the only month they can take vacations, so I think coaches would insist on a July 1-31 dead period, and even then there is one major problem – can you get the signing period done before fall practice begins? I think an early signing period is a good thing, but at this point I'm not at all sure how they will implement one.


According to federal tax returns, both the Pac-12 ($334 million) and the Big Ten ($318.4 million) earned more money than the Southeastern Conference, which came in at $314.5 million for the fiscal year that ended on August 13, 2013. It should be noted that during this same fiscal year, BOTH the Pac-12 and Big Ten had their own cable networks so their scoring bigger payouts than the SEC requires an asterisk. The SEC launches the SEC Network in August and if the revenue it produces in the first year are anywhere near as close as some of the projections, then the SEC will easily surpass the Pac-12 and Big Ten as the richest conference in the country. There was a lot of pressure on Mike Slive to launch a conference network five years ago, but by nature, Slive is very meticulous. There will be fewer glitches when the SEC Network is launched and a sports package that will showcase the SEC like no other network. When it comes to college sports, count me as one of those In Slive We Trust kind of guys.


Somebody named Ryan Hunter-Reay held off another someone named Helio Castroneves to win the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, not that I would actually know or care who either one are. That wasn't always the case. Growing up, the Indy 500 was a very important race that captured the imagination of the entire country. The names A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser meant something. I remember the two years in the 1960s when Brits Jim Clark and Graham Hill won. It was almost a national outrage! When Hunter-Reay won Sunday, it was the first time since 2006 that an American had won the race and he did it driving a car propelled by a Honda engine. He could have been driving a vehicle powered by a lawn mower engine and fueled by vegetable oil for all that matters to me.


Okay, so it wasn't the US Open or the Masters or the British Open. It was the Senior PGA and it meant that Scotland's Colin Montgomerie won't go to his grave known as one of the great golfers who never won a major. He shot a 65 Sunday to win a major on the seniors tour in his fifth attempt. He was 0-for-71 on the regular tour in his attempts to win the Masters, US and British opens and the PGA. Now that Monty has finally gotten a major of some sorts, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of Lee Westwood. They've been talking about how great a ball striker he is for years, but he's never won the big one. He's 48 so he can join the seniors tour in two more years and get a sort of major just like Monty.


Are you in favor of an early signing period for football or do you prefer to keep things as they are with a February National Signing Day?


If you were there in May of 1968 when Buffalo Springfield was one of the opening bands (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap were the other two) for The Beach Boys at Florida Field, then perhaps you remember their incredible performance of "Bluebird" which featured some rather incredible guitar work by Gainesville's own Stephen Stills. The band featured Stills, Richie Furay, Neil Young and Jim Messina. Personally, as much as I love The Beach Boys, that night really belonged to Buffalo Springfield. "Bluebird" is from the 1967 album "Buffalo Springfield Again."

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