Somehow, it only seems fitting that Lauren Haeger’s college softball career comes to an end like this. Four years ago she was the winning pitcher and hit the game-winning home run to lead her high school team to an Arizona State championship. Tuesday, on softball’s biggest stage, Haeger pitched the Florida Gators to their second straight NCAA championship and drove in the first run of the game with a single in the first inning as the Gators knocked off Michigan, 4-1, in Oklahoma City.
Haeger’s story makes Florida’s repeat so compelling. She spent three years at UF as an exceptional but not exactly a great player. She came into her senior year with 52 homers and 41 pitching wins, really good numbers but again not great ones. Haeger was always good, but this year she decided she wanted to be great. The fact she made that decision and became the Gators’ hardest worker and most determined player is the difference between a really good Florida team and the Gators being the best team in the country.
Championships are about teams with chemistry that have all the right parts and the determination to fight through adversity to win even when things aren’t going well. The Gators (60-7) had that this season, but they also had that one player willing to put the team on her back and be the difference-maker. That was Lauren Haeger, who finishes the season 32-2 in the circle to go with 19 homers and 71 RBI. Haeger finishes her career with 71 homers, and 260 RBI to go with a 73-13 pitching record. She is the only player with more than 70 homers and 70 wins in the history of college softball.
To choose one player as the greatest Gator softball player of all time is difficult when you consider the accomplishments of Stacey Nelson, Michelle Moultrie, Kelsey Bruder, Hannah Rogers and others, but after a season in which Haeger is the national player of the year and the Most Outstanding Player at the WCWS to lead the Gators to a national championship, she has earned her place as the best of the best.
Walton is now 552-120 in 10 seasons at Florida with four SEC championships, seven NCAA regional championships, six NCAA Super Regional championships, two NCAA runners-up and two NCAA champions.
A COMPELLING READ: For those of you who wonder why all the young women on the Florida softball team wear the sunflowers in their hair, take a few minutes to read this marvelous story by Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman. This story tells you even more about this marvelous team and program that Tim Walton has constructed.Sunflowers
There is plenty to celebrate in the Schwartz household down in Palm Beach Gardens today. Wednesday night Taylor Schwartz drove in two runs and played flawlessly at first base to help Florida win a second straight NCAA softball championship. Earlier in the day, younger brother J.J. Schwartz was named Collegiate Baseball’s Co-Freshman of the Year and was named to the Freshman All-America team along with second baseman Dalton Guthrie and catcher/DH Mike Rivera. J.J. Schwartz, who made second team All-SEC and was the MVP of the SEC Tournament, goes into Friday’s NCAA Super Regional against FSU with a .320 batting average to go with 15 homers and an SEC-leading 66 RBI.
The ballot is out for the College Football Hall of Fame with 76 nominees including Lomas Brown, the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the University of Florida and one of the four or five best in the history of the Southeastern Conference. On the ballot are a number of distinct holdovers from last year’s ballot such as Jerome Brown (Miami), Eric Dickerson (SMU) and Raghib Ismail (Notre Dame).
If I had a vote, this my 12-man ballot would look like this:
Derrick Brooks, LB, FSU
Jerome Brown, DT, Miami
Lomas Brown, OT, Florida
Terrell Buckley, DB, FSU
Tom Cousineau, LB, Ohio State
Eric Dickerson, RB, SMU
Jumbo Elliott, OT, Michigan
Raghib Ismael, WR, Notre Dame
Bert Jones, QB, LSU
Ray Lewis, LB, Miami
Simeon Rice, DE, Illinois
Rod Woodson, DB, Purdue
Among those that I would bypass would be:
Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky
Brian Urlacher, LB, New Mexico
Morten Andersen, PK, Michigan State
Troy Davis, RB, Iowa State
Randal Cunningham, QB, UNLV
Matt Leinart, QB, Southern Cal
Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska
Rashaan Salaam, RB, Colorado
Matt Stinchcomb, OT, Georgia
Scott Woerner, DB, Georgia
Bobby Humphrey, RB, Alabama
Keith Byars, RB, Ohio State
Kirk Gibson, WR, Michigan State
Todd Lyght, DB, Notre Dame
Jackie Walker, LB, Tennessee
The quarterback situation at Georgia just got a bit more complicated with the transfer of Greyson Lambert from Virginia. Lambert, who graduated in three years, is immediately eligible and given his starting experience at UVa, he could very well be the starter when the Bulldogs open their season September 5 against Louisiana-Monroe. When spring practice ended, redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey and junior Faton Bauta were neck and neck for the starting job with redshirt freshman Jacob Park right behind. The addition of Lambert crowds the field. He is a pure drop back passer who has played for bad teams at Virginia and has had to fight through injuries. If he’s healthy, there is every good chance that he starts which means some unhappy campers on the roster.
Georgia also has a commitment for the recruiting class of 2016 from Jacob Eason, considered the top quarterback prospect in the nation. Lambert’s decision to transfer to Georgia probably won’t affect him since he would likely take a redshirt his freshman year, but it more than likely means at least one of Ramsey, Bauta or Park will be packing and looking for a new place to play.
The NBA just grabbed up Billy Donovan and Fred Hoiberg from the collegiate coaching ranks, a trend that is probably going to escalate, particularly with Donovan, Hoiberg and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics likely to field teams that have a chance for strong playoff runs in 2015-16. Most NBA analysts believe there will be as many as seven coaching changes next season which should translate into the NBA looking to poach replacements from the college ranks. Here are five college coaches who will likely get calls whenever there is an opening.
1. Mark Few, Gonzaga: There probably isn’t a college job that could lure him from Spokane, but the NBA might be a different story. He runs an up tempo offense with a lot of pick and roll, spaces the floor well and gives his players a lot of freedom.
2. Danny Manning, Wake Forest: He was an All-American at Kansas and NBA All-Star in a fine 14-year career. He learned coaching from Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown and Bill Self. Since he played in the NBA so long, he understands the pro game and how to deal with the players.
3. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: He probably wouldn’t leave Wichita State for another college job but the pros might change his mind. There is a lot of Doc Rivers influence in the way he coaches thanks to his longstanding relationship with Kevin Eastman, Rivers’ right hand man. He understands defensive matchups as well as anyone in the college game and he’s not afraid to play four guards if that’s what it takes to win.
4. Ron Hunter, Georgia State: He became a head coach in college at age 30 and has won at two obscure places (IUPUI and Georgia State). He’s a great offensive schemer with tremendous people skills. He’s very well regarded by a lot of NBA execs.
5. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso: He played in the NBA for six seasons and he’s 94-42 at Valpo. He runs an NBA offense already and his teams are extremely efficient. He understands spacing the floor as well as any coach in college basketball which would translate well to the NBA. On a personal note, his father-in-law played the part of Little Ricky on “I Love Lucy.”
Today the University of North Carolina is expected to release the contents of the notice of allegations it received last week from the NCAA. There is a long list of academic irregularities and improprieties that will be addressed and all this is complicated by the fact UNC football was only recently hit with scholarship sanctions and had wins vacated from its 2008 and 2009 teams. The current NCAA allegations are considered an extension of the case against UNC football only expanded to involve athletes in multiple sports over an 18-year period. At risk is UNC’s 2005 NCAA basketball championship which could be vacated since 10 of the 15 players on that team majored in Afro-American Studies, the department that is at the center of the scandal.
After North Carolina was hit with sanctions in 2012, the NCAA restructured the way it handles violations, initiating a four-tier structure ranging from most serious to least serious. Academic fraud to enhance eligibility is considered level one, the most serious of offenses.UNC will have 90 days to respond to the allegations. After that the NCAA will set a date for UNC to appear before the infractions committee. Unless the NCAA has changed its tactics, don’t expect anything soon. If this thing is complete within 18 months you should be shocked.
In addition to UNC, the NCAA head of enforcement says there are currently 20 other schools under investigation for academic fraud and misconduct although it’s doubtful any of them have cheated to the extent of UNC.
New University of Texas president Greg Fenves is in favor of beer sales at football games. Beer is already sold at UT basketball, baseball and softball games so If if the UT Board of Governors approves the measure, Memorial Stadium will be selling beer this fall.
“It enhances the fan experience and makes coming to the Longhorn games more attractive,” Fenves said.Not to mention it makes money.
Already beer is sold at college football stadiums in the state. SMU reported profits of $350,000 from beer and wine sales at its football and basketball games in 2014 while North Texas made $46,000 profit in its first year of beer sales last year. Houston has allowed beer sales at its football games for a number of years.
A recent NCAA study said that only 22 athletic departments actually turned a profit last year which means schools are scrambling for new revenue streams. Adding beer to the game day concessions is probably looking like an attractive next step at a good many schools.
Are you in favor of beer being sold at Florida athletic events or do you think the potential problems outweigh the profit?
I saw the Robert Cray Band for the first time at Sun Fest in West Palm Beach back in the early 1990s. He spent a lot of years as an opening act for Eric Clapton and other big name acts on tour and developed a great reputation as a tremendous live club band. After he played with the backup band for the Chuck Berry “Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll” tour in 1987, Cray and his band started headlining and they’ve been rocking the house ever since. He’s won five Grammy Awards. His best live work is “Cookin’ in Mobile” which was filmed at the Saenger Theater in Mobile.