1. Florida MAKES FINAL FOUR: After three straight runs that ended in the Elite-Eight, the Florida basketball team, off of their best regular season in history, got over the hump and made the Final Four. The Gators finished (36-3, 18-0) and beat Albany Pittsburgh, UCLA, and Dayton before succumbing to Connecticut in the national semi-final ending a 30-game win streak. It was just the fifth time in program history to make the Final Four, the fourth for head coach Billy Donovan and third in the last eight years.
2. Jim McElwain NAMED TO SUCCEED MUSCHAMP: It didn’t take long for Foley to find Will Muschamp’s replacement. Amid speculation that he was targeting Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, Foley and a group of Florida officials made their way to Fort Collins, Colorado to interview Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. McElwain was no stranger to the Gators. He was the offensive coordinator for two Alabama national championship teams before resurrecting Colorado State from three straight 3-9 seasons to a10-2 regular season in his third year on the job.
3. GATORS RUN SEC BASKETBALL TABLE: This is such a big deal it should be mentioned this high. The Gators became the first team in SEC basketball history to run both the regular season and conference tournament tables. The Gators went 18-0 in the regular season including an 84-65 Senior Day destruction of Kentucky at the O-Dome, then one week later finished off the Wildcats at the Georgia Dome to win the SEC Tournament.
4. GYMNASTS WIN SECOND STRAIGHT NCAA TITLE: It came down to the last event of the night but the Gators fought their way back from a serious deficit due to unexpected trouble on the balance beam to tie Oklahoma for the NCAA championship. It was the second straight NCAA title for the Gators of Coach Rhonda Faehn, who will start the 2015 season favored to win their third straight national title behind All-Americans Kytra Hunter and Bridget Sloan.
5. Scottie Wilbekin SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR; ALL-AMERICAN: This is the tough love story of the year. Back in the spring, Wilbekin was suspended from the team and it angered Donovan to the point that he shoved transfer papers across the table and told Wilbekin to fill in the blank and he was as good as gone anywhere in the country he wanted to go. Wilbekin wanted to stay so he spent the next five months jumping through more hoops than a circus poodle. The tough love worked. Wilbekin came back with a prove myself chip on his shoulder and became the SEC Player of the Year and made most of the All-American teams.
6. SOFTBALL TEAM WINS FIRST NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP: After years of knocking on the door, Tim Walton’s Florida softball team kicked the door down. The Gators got hot at just the right time. After losing their opening round game in the SEC Tournament, the Gators went 10-1 the rest of the way, winning eight of the 10 in shutout fashion behind senior All-American Hannah Rogers, who was the Most Outstanding Player at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. Rogers went 7-0 in NCAA play with six shutouts. Making the NCAA title that much sweeter was beating SEC rival Alabama two straight at the WCWS to claim the big trophy. Although Walton will have to replace Rogers, he has seven starters returning from his national championship team.
7. SURPRISING SEC TITLE FOR FLORIDA BASEBALL TEAM: The Gators were thought to be a year away from being a serious SEC contender when the 2014 season began, but someone forgot to tell Kevin O’Sullivan and his team. Instead of playing to their youth, they played like seasoned veterans to take the SEC championship with a 21-9 league record. The Gators made a school-record seventh straight trip to the NCAA playoffs behind a freshman/sophomore dominated roster. With an incoming recruiting class that was rated as high as #3 nationally, the Gators will be favored to make it back to Omaha for the College World Series.
8. DONOVAN BECOMES #2 ON ALL-TIME SEC WIN LIST: Billy Donovan not only won SEC Coach of the Year for a second straight year in 2014 but he passed former LSU coach Dale Brown as the second winningest coach in league history. Donovan posted his 17th consecutive 20-win season and won his sixth SEC championship. In the 77 seasons prior to Donovan’s arrival in Gainesville, the Gators won exactly one national championship. Sometime in January or February, Donovan will earn his 500th career win.
9. FLORIDA WOMEN WIN CAPITAL ONE CUP: When the Gators took out Alabama to win the Women’s College World Series they also pushed the entire women’s athletic program at UF to the top of the Capital One Cup standings. In 2014, the Florida women won national championships in gymnastics and softball and made the NCAA field in all 11 sports.
10. Vernon Hargreaves III MAKES ALL-AMERICA: Sophomore corner Vernon Hargreaves III will have his name immortalized in stone. A first team All-SEC performer in both seasons at Florida, Hargreaves was recognized as a first team All-America by ESPN and Sporting News and second team by the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated.