ESPN’s Chris Low, well known as one of the more accurate reporters about college football, tweeted that the Southeastern Conference is considering changes in its division alignment. Low tweeted that Gus Malzahn “would not be opposed to Auburn moving to the East” and quoted the Auburn coach as saying, “I think there will be discussion on that.”
From the perspective of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, exchanging Auburn to the SEC East for Missouri to the West would make perfect logistical sense. The only school in the East that’s more than 322 miles from Auburn is Kentucky. The closest SEC East school to Missouri is Vanderbilt (431.9 miles). If Missouri were in the West, Arkansas would be fairly close (296 miles) but everybody else would be at last 477 miles away.
But logistics aren’t likely to drive this discussion.
Moving Auburn will create more problems than perhaps the SEC is willing to deal with. While fans might salivate over the possibility of an Auburn-Alabama SEC Championship Game, would either school be willing to play that game back-to-back? The Iron Bowl has been played the last game of the regular season since 1948 and is as big a tradition as there is in college football. It would not make sense for Auburn and Alabama to have to play on campus one week and in Atlanta for the SEC title the next.
While an Auburn move to the East would renew the Florida-Auburn rivalry that was once one of the best in the SEC and the entire nation, it would be the end of the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry unless the SEC were to go to a nine-game conference format. So far, adding another regular season conference game has been met with stiff resistance from an overwhelming majority of league members.
A bigger problem is Missouri. While every team in the league seems to relish the College Station experience, nobody likes to go to Missouri and Missouri really doesn’t travel all that well. So whether Mizzou is in the East or the West, it’s not exactly a game or trip that people circle on their calendars a year in advance nor does it look like that’s going to change any time soon.
Auburn to the SEC East? Looks good on paper but don’t hold your breath thinking it’s going to happen any time soon.
UF SPRING SPORTS
Baseball: The #2 Gators (31-5, 9-4 SEC) took the first of their three-game series with Arkansas (21-13, 4-9 SEC), 12-8, thanks to a 6-run fourth inning and five dominant innings by lefty A.J. Puk, who allowed 2 runs and 5 hits while striking out 9 to even his record at 2-2. Designated hitter Mike Rivera hit a 2-run double in the fourth and added a third RBI with a ground out in the seventh.
Gymnastics: Florida’s quest for a fourth straight NCAA gymnastics championship begins at 2 p.m. today in Fort Worth. The Gators have the highest team score for a single meet this year (198.175) but their regional championship score was only the fourth best so they will be #4 overall and seeded second in semifinal #1 which will include #2 LSU, #6 Georgia, #7 Auburn, #10 Stanford and #12 Minnesota. In the second semifinal Friday night, the six teams will be #1 Oklahoma, #3 Alabama, #5 Utah, #8 UCLA, #9 Nebraska and #11 California. The top three teams from each semifinal advance to the Super Six to compete for the national championship Saturday.
Softball: It will be Florida’s pitching (Gators have the #1 team ERA in the nation at 0.85) against Louisiana-Lafayette’s hitting (.347 team batting average, 77 home runs) this weekend at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium. The Ragin’ Cajuns boast four hitters with at least 10 home runs led by All-American Lexie Elkins (.538 batting average, 17 homers). The #1-ranked Gators (38-3) will play ULL (32-3) twice on Saturday and once Sunday.
Four Gators were taken in the National Pro Fastpitch draft. Taylore Fuller was taken by the Scrap Yard Dogs (Houston, TX) while Kirsti Merritt, Kelsey Stewart and Aubrey Munro were taken by the USSA Pride (Orlando).
Lacrosse: The 2nd-ranked Gators (13-1, 4-0 Big East) start a 2-game Big East road swing Saturday when they face Villanova. Wednesday the Gators travel to Cincinnati.
Men’s Golf: If you go by the current Golfweek.com rankings, then the Gators are the #4 seed when the SEC Championships tee off at St. Simon’s Island today. UF is ranked 8th nationally, trailing # Georgia, #4 Vanderbilt and #7 LSU. Sam Horsfield is ranked #3 nationally and the top-ranked individual at the SEC tournament.
Women’s Golf: The Gators are ranked #8 nationally by Golfweek.com as they begin play in the SEC Championships in Birmingham. Ranked ahead of the Gators from the SEC are #3 Alabama and #4 Georgia.
MIKE WHITE AND THE FLORIDA NUMBERS GAME
If Alex Murphy is granted a sixth year by the NCAA and Devin Robinson pulls out of the NBA Draft (he hasn’t hired an agent and is currently testing the waters), then Mike White will have one available scholarship that he could use for either a graduate transfer, an unsigned 2016 prospect or for point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a 6-4 phenom out of Canada via Chattanooga who could very well reclassify. At this point, figure Murphy will get the extra year (great grades, no issues) and Robinson will be back (needs 20 pounds of muscle and consistency with his jumper).
The unsigned 2016 prospect the Gators have focused on is Yuat Alok, a 6-11, 210-pound shot blocker who has gone the Africa to New Zealand to US route. Alok has Florida, Auburn and Texas on the radar. He visited Florida last month but probably isn’t going to make a decision for another 2-3 weeks. Gilgeous-Alexander has a good enough jumper that he could be a combo guard at the next level but he would be wise to let his body mature (he’s a skinny 180 now).
As for graduate transfers, there are three on the radar and two should be taken quite seriously – Canyon Barry, the youngest son of NBA legend Rick Barry, and Rodney Pryor. Barry averaged 19.7 points per game before an injury cut short his season at Charleston while Pryor averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds per game at Robert Morris. Barry is pretty much down to Florida, California and Miami (Rick’s alma mater). He’s a 4.0 student who wants to pursue a graduate degree in either nuclear engineering (UF has that) or physics. Pryor almost doubled his rebounding last season at Robert Morris but his hard work inside took away from his outside game (3-point % dipped from 42.7 to 29.0). Either Barry or Morris could pick up the scoring slack left by graduated senior Dorian Finney-Smith.
If there is no attrition and the Gators don’t add another 2016 recruit, the Gators will have four available scholarships for 2017.
Seniors (3): Kasey Hill (6-1); Justin Leon (6-8); * Alex Murphy (6-8)
* Petitioned NCAA for 6th year
Juniors (3): Chris Chiozza (6-0); ** Devin Robinson (6-8); John Egbunu (6-11)
** Declared for NBA Draft, but did not hire an agent
Sophomores (3): Brandone Francis-Ramirez (6-5); KeVaughn Allen (6-2); Kevarrius Hayes (6-9)
Freshmen (3): *** Keith Stone (6-8); Eric Hester (6-4); Dontay Bassett (6-8)
Non-scholarship (2): Schuyler Rimmer (6-10, SR); Zach Hodskins (6-4, JR)
Graduate transfer possibilities: Canyon Barry (6-6, 205, 19.7 ppg from Charleston); Rodney Pryor (6-5, 205, 18 ppg from Robert Morris); Anthony Livingston (6-8, 255, 15.9 ppg/10 rpg from Arkansas State)
Non-committed for 2016: Yuat Alok (6-11, Christchurch, New Zealand/Sarasota, FL Impact Basketball Academy)
2017 Commit: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6-4, 180, Toronto, Ontario/Chattanooga, TN Hamilton Heights Academy)
2017 hot list
C: Victor Uyaelunmo (7-0, 220, Lagos, Nigeria/Miami, FL Gulliver Prep); Ikey Obiagu (7-1, 235, Lagos, Nigeria/Atlanta, GA Greenforest Christian Academy)
PF: Tomas Murphy (6-9, 200, Wakefield, RI/Gill, MA Northfield Mount Hermon); Derek Culver (6-10, 230, Warren, OH Warren Harding)
SF: Kevin Knox (6-8, 205, Tampa, FL Catholic); David Christian (6-7, 200, Milton, Ontario/Saxtons River, VT Vermont Academy); David Nickelberry (6-7, 210, Orlando, FL Windemere Prep); L.J. Figueroa (6-5, 180, Boston, MA/Oldsmar, FL Oldsmar Christian); Andre Rafus (6-9, 200, Baltimore, MD/Newark, NJ Roselle Catholic)
SG: Hamidou Diallo (6-5, 180, Flushing, NY Putnam Science); Josh Anderson (6-5, 180, Baton Rouge, LA Madison Prep); Chaundee Brown (6-6, 200, Orlando, FL First Academy); Jamal Johnson (6-4, 195, Hoover, AL Spain Park)
ESPN is reporting that Percy Harvin has told the Buffalo Bills he’s retiring. He’s been a diminishing return for the last three or so years and certainly not worth another $6 million paycheck. Percy showed flashes of superstardom in his seven years in the NFL, but the combination of injuries, self-medicating which made him moody and unpredictable and an inability to get along with teammates did him in.
My guess is after sitting a year and learning that you run through the bucks in a hurry when it’s all outgo and no income, Percy attempts a comeback.
It wasn’t that long ago that you could pencil the Atlanta Braves in for the playoffs. They are 0-9 after Thursday’s latest loss. If you’re counting, they are 12 losses from tying the record (1988 Baltimore Orioles) and 13 away from owning it outright.
Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his farewell game. He only required 50 shots to get there. His Los Angeles Lakers teammates combined to launch 35 shots, four from the 3-point line. Kobe fired up 21 3-balls (he hit 6). I’m trying to say something nice here since my grandma always told me if I can’t say something nice then don’t say anything. Okay, here goes something nice – I won’t miss him.
Tubby Smith got a 5-year deal that will pay him a little more than $3 million a year to coach Memphis. To get out of his contract at Texas Tech, Smith will have to pay $900,000.
Thon Maker beat the system and will enter the NBA Draft. He spent the year in prep school, didn’t have the flaws in his game exposed at the college level and will probably be one of the first 2-3 players taken in June.
The biggest loser in the trade between the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans was Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The Titans would have selected Tunsil as the #1 overall pick, but now that the Rams own the first pick, it’s almost certain they will choose between quarterbacks Jared Goff (California) and Carson Wentz (North Dakota State). With the second pick, Cleveland almost certainly takes one of the quarterbacks. If I’m the Rams, I take Wentz. I like guys with championship pedigrees and he’s got one. Tunsil could drop all the way to #6 or #7, so the trade will cost him millions.
Rapper Ludacris will perform at halftime of Georgia’s spring game Saturday. As if I needed a reason to watch this thrilling seminar on composting on PBS.
They’re so happy with Bobby Petrino at Louisville that he just got a new 7-year contract that will pay him $4.35 million per year. Last year Petrino was paid a little more than $3 million. The contract includes a $10 million buyout. I wonder if there’s a clause that prevents Petrino from riding a Harley with his secretary?
Wide receiver Fred Brown was dismissed from Mississippi State for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He caught 27 passes for 412 yards and 3 TDs last year.
The Sacrificial – oops, Sacramento – Kings have fired George Karl. Their next coach will be their seventh since 2007. And they wonder why they remain NBA bottom feeders.
Dikembe Motumbo’s nephew, a mere 6-9, signed an LOI to Florida State, joining an impressive basketball recruiting class that includes Jonathan Isaac, Trent Forrest and C.J. Walker. The Seminoles are loaded up with talent. They’re still going to find a way to lose 10-14 games next year. You can almost bet the farm on that.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
While it’s unlikely the SEC will realign teams anytime soon, the question of another conference game is probably going to be part of the discussions when the league meets in Destin next month. Do you favor a 9-game SEC schedule or are you content with the current 8-game format?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I was never a big Tears for Fears fan although they did make one really good album (“Songs from the Big Chair”) and a couple of really nice singles in “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” although I like reggae artist Ken Boothe’s version better. I heard “Sowing the Seeds of Love” on the radio today and couldn’t get the song out of my head. If I have to spend a day with Tears for Fears ringing between my ears, then it’s only fair that you have to also.