1. GATORS NEED TO LAND A 2016 QUARTERBACK: Yes, it’s only February and there are still months to go before National Signing Day, but if you follow recruiting then you know that all the top quarterbacks for 2016 are avoiding the rush and committing early. Ole Miss has Shea Patterson. Georgia has Jacob Eason. Florida State has Malik Henry. LSU has Feleipe’ Franks. Miami has Jack Allison. Tennessee has Austin Kendall. South Carolina has Brandon McIlwain.
Those quarterbacks rank in Scout.com’s top 25 nationally and they’ve all chosen schools that Florida has to recruit against. Certainly, it’s too early to hit the panic button and with a season ahead in which Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier can weave some magic with incumbents Treon Harris and Will Grier, it could inspire some high school studs out there to think they would be best served to spend their collegiate careers in Gainesville. One thing for certain, the Gators need to land two quarterbacks in this next class. They are only an injury or a transfer away from a very dangerous situation.
But until someone pulls the trigger for Florida, nerves are going to be a bit frayed among the Gator Nation. Florida has only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for 2014 so this is a serious position of need. Also, we’ve seen so often in the past what landing the right quarterback can do for overall recruiting. Kids want to go play with a QB who is perceived to have the right stuff to make championship dreams come true so getting a quarterback for 2016 soon could very well turn recruiting momentum in Florida’s favor.
2. AN END TO THIS UF BASKETBALL SEASON: I’m a basketball guy. I played it, coached it and I love it that ESPN and all the other sports networks broadcast so many games that I have plenty of choices each night. I thrive at an event like the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina where there are four games played simultaneously in the same building from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. for days at a time. But, as much as I love the game, this Florida team is just too painful to watch. They miss too many wide open shots. They commit too many senseless turnovers. Guys forget to rotate on defense. Too many guys are worried why they missed their last shot rather than focusing on what they have to do at the other end of the floor when the other team has the ball. Free throws? I don’t even want to think about those.
I can only imagine how frustrating this season has been for Billy Donovan. When the Gators struggled in November it was easy to blame the problems on the early season suspension of Chris Walker, the plethora of injuries that sometimes limited Donovan to seven scholarship players and the wait for the end of the fall semester so Alex Murphy could be eligible and add some depth to an already thin front court. But look at what has happened since then. On some nights the Gators leave their defense in the locker room. Other nights their attention span is ridiculously short, evidenced by mindless turnovers and one brick after another at the foul line. Close games are an invitation to another disappointment because you almost know the other team is going to hit the shots down the stretch that the Gators will miss.
This season just can’t get over fast enough for me.
Even with this disastrous season, I remain convinced that Billy Donovan is on anyone’s short list of the best coaches in the college game. Even though the Gators have lost so many close games, the fact that they’ve been able to hang in there and play even mighty Kentucky to a standstill is all the evidence you need that the guy on the sidelines is as good as there is. You can be the best and sometimes things just don’t fall your way and that’s what has happened to Donovan.
If you’re worried about the future of Florida basketball you really shouldn’t. One of the reasons why Donovan is going to the Basketball Hall of Fame is because when the season is over and he re-evaluates everything that led to this ever so disappointing season, the first person to undergo intense scrutiny will be Billy Donovan. In case you are relatively new to following college basketball, Donovan has already re-invented himself at least three times since arriving in Gainesville and if he deems it a necessity, he’ll do it again and like it has happened with each re-invention, he will emerge better and so will the Gators.
There won’t be a repeat of 2014-15 for Billy Donovan. That you can count on. Now, if only would 2014-15 just come to an end.
3. DIVISION I FOOTBALL SCHOOLS SHOULD BREAK AWAY FROM THE NCAA: The latest silliness that proves the NCAA’s sell-by date expired long ago are the penalties against LSU. LSU signed offensive tackle Matt Womack to a financial aid agreement last August. Womack signed and pledged he would enroll in Baton Rouge in January. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to early enrollment. Alabama kept pushing hard and Womack de-committed LSU, didn’t enroll at LSU and signed a binding National Letter of Intent with Bama four weeks ago.
This is where sheer we see the sheer stupidity of the NCAA and its rulebook.
The signed financial aid agreement allowed LSU unlimited contact with Womack. However, when he flipped to Bama and didn’t enroll at LSU, it meant LSU broke NCAA rules for contact with a prospect that went well beyond the established limits. As a result, the Southeastern Conference stepped in and hit LSU with sanctions for failing to follow the NCAA rules. LSU lost 10% of its recruiting evaluation days and can’t bring in an early enrollee for two years.
What this tells us is it’s time for Division I schools to tell the NCAA to take a hike. The NCAA had all these years to bring Division I football into its championship fold but didn’t do it and despite pleas from the masses, refused to streamline its cumbersome set of recruiting rules that require every Division I school to have lawyers on staff to interpret.
It is time for the Division I schools to set up their own organization and come up with a rulebook that is based on common sense and logic. It’s not a question of if it happens, simply a matter of time before it actually does. What the NCAA better worry about is that when the power schools and whoever they allow to come along with them to the new division break away, will they come up with a championship plan to lure the basketball schools away to the new division?
4. AN END TO ONE-AND-DONE: A lot of folks are shocked when they discover that the biggest opponent to the current one-and-done rule that forbids kids to enter the NBA Draft until after their freshman year in college is Kentucky coach John Calipari. Cal actually hates one-and-done and has spoken out against the rule for years. What he would like – and Billy Donovan, Bill Self and several other prominent coaches are also in agreement – is a baseball-like model which allows a kid to be drafted straight out of high school, but if he’s not drafted, he has two choices: (1) play college baseball which means he can’t be drafted until after his 21st birthday; or (2) go to junior college where he can sign after his freshman or sophomore seasons.
The baseball-like model would work very well for college basketball. There are certain kids who are ready to go straight to the NBA out of high school so why hold them back by making them spend a year on campus in a two-semester sport where they only have to pass six hours in the fall to be eligible? For the kids who aren’t ready to go right away, the time in college would serve as an aging vat, a chance to refine their games and for their emotions to mature. For the kid who is convinced he simply needs one more year to make it to the pros, then give him the option of juco.
Some have even suggested the NBA have a draft for the developmental league (NBADL). The NBADL typically pays less than $30,000 but for some kids that’s all the money in the world and a chance to play basketball rather than endure hours in a classroom.
The college game really wouldn’t suffer with the change and the NBA game might improve a bunch. College basketball did very well back when kids could go straight to the league out of high school but one-and-done is disruptive. Too many kids who aren’t ready for the NBA bolt after one year and they could certainly benefit from the extra couple of years on campus. As for the NBA, the best 5-7 players on each team are typically world class. What you see beyond that are too many rosters with players eating up space and cap money because they left college way too early.
You would think the NBA Players Association would be quick to jump on a change in the rules since it would mean more veterans keep their jobs longer. But, that’s thinking logically and if there is one thing we’ve learned, logic and the NBA Players Association are two ships that pass in the night.
5. A BETTER RULE FOR FRESHMAN ELIGIBILITY: The question of going back to the 1970s when college freshmen were ineligible is being debated once again by the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences. As much sense as it might make for the overall development of the athletes from a physical, emotional and academic standpoint, it’s not likely to be adopted largely for financial reasons. When freshmen became eligible after the 1972 school year, it saved a whole lot of money. Immediately, football scholarships were reduced from 105 to 95 and then to 85, which amounts to substantial savings. Cash strapped programs aren’t about to jump on the bandwagon to add another 20 players on scholarship any time soon.
There is a need, however, to give scholarship athletes a better shot at developing physically, emotionally and academically. Perhaps a better approach would be to raise the academic standards for freshman eligibility. For example, if a high school kid scored a minimum 850 or 900 on his SAT and had a GPA of 3.00, then he/she would be eligible to play as a freshman. If not, then the kid would have to play a limited freshman schedule (used to be five games for football back in the 1960s; 15 games for basketball).
As you look at a roster with only three scholarship quarterbacks, are you concerned that the Gators didn’t sign a quarterback on National Signing Day?
One of the big disappointments in the spring of 1969 was the rainout of The Rascals concert scheduled for Florida Field in May. At that time, The Rascals were a very hot band with Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati writing the songs and handling the lead vocals. This is “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” which made it to #3 on the Billboard charts from their 1968 “Time Peace” album.