Most of us have heard that old saying “hindsight is the best sight” so the next few Tuesdays we’ll call “Hindsight Day.” Here are my first three hindsights and my OPINION on what would have happened if ...
1. In the summer before the 1969 football season, Dr. Stephen C. O’Connell made a deal with Douglas Adair Dickey to become the football coach at the University of Florida. That meant forcing out Ray Graves, who was allowed to stay on as an athletic director who had basically been neutered by the egomaniac of a school president. The Gators went on to finish 9-1-1, best record in school history, with a bunch of talented sophomores led by quarterback John Reaves and wide receiver Carlos Alvarez. What if Dr. O’Connell hadn’t brain farted and kept Coach Graves as the football coach?
MY OPINION: This will go down as one of the worst decisions ever made regarding University of Florida athletics. Dr. O’Connell had his sights set on Dickey, who had Tennessee on the verge of greatness, when he informed Coach Graves that the 1969 season would be his last. Dr. O’Connell did offer Graves the chance to stay on as athletic director and because he was not a wealthy man, Coach Graves was in no position to turn it down. Upon informing Coach Graves that the 1969 season would be his last, Dr. O’Connell made the deal – in August before the football season began – with Dickey would to take over his alma mater at the end of the season. Ironically, Tennessee won the SEC with a 9-1 record while the Gators finished second at 8-1-1 and they were matched in the Gator Bowl. There were very few bowls in those days and the Gator Bowl was considered one tier below the Big Four of the Rose, Cotton, Orange and Sugar Bowls. The week of the Gator Bowl Jack Hairston (Jacksonville Journal) and Buddy Martin (Cocoa Today) broke the story that Dickey had been hired and Graves was out. It was a national embarrassment and Florida fans were unhappy. So were UF’s players who had to be talked into playing the bowl game by Coach Graves. Florida won the game, 14-13, by the way.
Graves had recruited well and the Gators were built for a wide open, pro style offense that likely would have led to a succession of great recruiting years as integration began to bring skill people into the SEC, the likes of which we had never seen. Dickey wanted to run the veer and with a quarterback like John Reaves, that was like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Dickey had some success from 1973-76 but the bottom fell out and he was fired after the 1978 season.
While I’m not sure Florida would have overtaken Alabama as the SEC juggernaut with Graves in control, I believe he was responsible for what was – up until then – the best decade of Gator football in history. He wanted to coach 3-4 more years and should have had that choice. Dickey set the program back a few years.
2. Immediately after Doug Dickey was fired as Florida’s head coach, the replacement search zeroed in on three named: Arkansas coach Lou Holtz; SMU coach Ron Meyer and Clemson coach Charley Pell. Two years into the job at Arkansas, Holtz was already clashing with athletic director Frank Broyles and was ready to leave. Meyer was rebuilding SMU and was looking forward to a 1979 season with freshmen Craig James and Eric Dickerson, but he told Jack Hairston, “I’ll crawl backward from Dallas for the Florida job.” Pell had awakened the sleeping giant that was Clemson and remembered the words of Bear Bryant, who once said that someday, someone would awaken Florida and the Gators would become a football powerhouse. Meyer laid the foundation for SMU to get the death penalty. Holtz had run-ins with the NCAA at Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina in his future, but he did win a national title at Notre Dame. He was on the verge of taking the job but he was in an airport (no cell phones in those days) and couldn’t be reached when the take it or leave it call was placed. That led the job to be offered to Pell, who walked away fro a Clemson team that won the 1981 national championship. Pell turned UF around and had the Gators on the verge of becoming the awakened giant because he organized the UF boosters into a lethal force, but he was fired in 1984 because the Gators almost got the death penalty. What if Lou Holtz had taken the Florida football job?
MY OPINION: From a football coaching standpoint, there is no question that Holtz would have been the better choice of the three. Until he went to Minnesota, he had a rather good reputation as far as following the NCAA rulebook. Certainly, he won at every stop in his career except for South Carolina. From a personality standpoint, he would have charmed the media. I used to cover him at North Carolina State in the 1970s when he used to do magic tricks after practice, tell jokes and even invite the media to come to his home for cookouts. All that changed when he got to Notre Dame where life in the fishbowl turned him crotchety and cynical. I believe he could have won and won big at Florida, but I have to wonder if he could have done for the boosters what Charley Pell did? Lou Holtz was a better football coach than Charley Pell. I don’t doubt that for a second, but Charley Pell could charm snakes. He’s the one who turned Gator Boosters into the formidable organization that it is now. I believe that no matter how successful he had been at Florida that Holtz would have bolted the moment Notre Dame called. When he left would the boosters have been poised to become the financial juggernaut behind an athletic program that is one of the 3-4 best in the country?
3. When John Lotz was hired as Florida’s basketball coach in 1973, it was thought the Gators had pulled off a serious coup. Lotz was Dean Smith’s right hand man and expectations were that he would turn Florida into a program capable of competing with Kentucky for the SEC title. That might have happened except when top recruiter Dick Grubar left basketball coaching for private business, Lotz didn’t have the guy he needed to lure talent to UF. Things went south in a hurry and Lotz was fired before the end of the 1979-80 season. Then AD Bill Carr got a call from Bob Knight recommending his former point guard and West Point assistant, Mike Kryzyzewski. Coach K was on the verge of saying yes when Florida boosters made a big push to bring back Norm Sloan, who had won the 1974 NCAA title at North Carolina State. Sloan didn’t feel appreciated at NC State and wanted to come back. Bill Foster decided to leave Durham for South Carolina unexpectedly and Duke AD Tom Butters hired Coach K. What if Coach K had come to Florida?
OPINION: The Florida basketball program was at a very low point when Coach Sloan agreed to come back for a second stint. The team he left behind at UF in 1966 was capable of playing in the Final Four if only Coach Graves (he was the AD) hadn’t gone cheap and hired Tommy Bartlett, a fine tennis coach who was a very bad basketball coach. Bartlett succeeded three years in spite of himself and then UF basketball nose-dived. Sloan, meanwhile won it all at NC State, so when he wanted to come back, consensus opinion of the boosters was he had the big name that trumped the potential of Mike Kryzyewski. Coach Sloan rebuilt the Florida program and got the Gators into the NCAA Tournament for the first time, but he more or less let the inmates run the asylum. Florida was a collection of head cases when the NCAA forced Sloan out in the fall of 1989. Coach K, meanwhile, had a rough go of it at first when he was at Duke, but we all know how that turned out. I have to think that Coach K would have won big at UF. Some coaches are just naturally born for greatness and I think he’s one of them.
RIP JACK HALL
Former UF football assistant Jack Hall passed away Sunday evening at the age of 87. He was Doug Dickey’s recruiting coordinator and was primarily responsible for the Gators landing Wes Chandler, Don Gaffney and Nat Moore. I knew Jack during the Dickey years at UF then reacquainted with him last fall at the Gainesville Quarterback Club. I never knew him to lack an encouraging word to say to anyone. The world was a better place with Jack Hall in it.
While the University of Florida has a well-deserved reputation for developing players who become great corners and safeties in the NFL, UF also has done an outstanding job of churning out D-linemen. Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com went back over the past several seasons and came up with a point system to rate which school is truly D-Line University. The system is based on NFL starts, Pro Bowls, draft picks overall, first round draft picks and total points.
Of the teams to make his top five, Florida had the most first round picks – four.
Here is how Solomon rates the top five:
1. Georgia: 692 starts, 7 Pro Bowls, 12 draft picks, 0 first rounders – 730 points.
2. LSU: 592 starts, 4 Pro Bowls, 14 draft picks, 3 first rounders – 637 points.
3. Florida: 569 starts, 1 Pro Bowl, 9 draft picks, 4 first rounders – 601 points.
4. Texas: 541 starts, 5 Pro Bowls, 10 draft picks, 2 first rounders – 577 points.
5. Southern Cal: 540 starts, 2 Pro Bowls, 9 draft picks, 3 first rounders – 571 points.
CBSSPORTS.COM MOCK DRAFT ROUNDS 1-7
NFL Draft Analyst Dan Brugler did a 7-round mock draft that has X Gators hearing their names called. Here is where Brugler sees the Gators going:
Round 1, #9: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay Bucs
Round 1, #29: Keanu Neal, S, Arizona Cardinals
Round 2, #41: Jon Bullard, DL, Chicago Bears
Round 5, #155: Kelvin Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Round 5, #164: Demarcus Robinson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Round 7, #241: Alex McCalister, DE, New York Jets
Round 7, #248: Antonio Morrison, LB, Green Bay Packers
Round 4, #127: Jacoby Brissett, QB, Chicago Bears
Round 6, #187; Jeff Driskel, QB, Washington Redskins
Here is how SEC schools fared in the Brugler draft: Alabama 7, Arkansas 5, Auburn 3, Florida 7, Georgia 5, LSU 4, Mississippi State 4, Missouri 3, Ole Miss 5, South Carolina 3, Tennessee 1, Texas A&M 2, Vanderbilt 1
FLORIDA SOFTBALL BY THE NUMBERS
Through 44 games:
* UF has a team ERA of 0.84, which ranks #1 nationally. Opponents have an ERA of 6.28.
* Florida pitchers have struck out 373 batters in 283-2/3 innings. Florida hitters have struck out only 144 times.
* The Gators have 359 hits this season. Opponents have managed only 155.
* Florida hitters have walked 205 times. Opposing hitters have managed only 89 walks against UF pitchers.
* The Gators have a team batting average of .323. Opponents are hitting .159.
* UF pitchers have allowed only 43 runs all season. That’s less than 1 run per game. The Gators have scored 267 runs.
* The Gators have stolen 57 bases in 68 attempts. Opponents have stolen 3 and they’ve only attempted 9.
* The Gators have only grounded into 2 double plays.
* Opponents have combined to hit 9 home runs vs. Florida pitchers. The Gators have hit 40.
* Through 44 games, Florida hasn’t given up a triple.
* Through 44 games, the Gators have committed only 19 errors. UF is #1 nationally in fielding percentage (.983).
The polls won’t come out until Wednesday, but the Gators should remain #1. The Gators are still #1 in RPI with Michigan, Oklahoma, Alabama and Auburn following.
UF BASEBALL STILL #2
Miami remained in the #1 position in the USAToday Coaches Poll but just barely. The Hurricanes earned 16 first place votes and the #2 Gators (33-5, 11-4 SEC) got the other 15. Also in the top 25 from the SEC are #3 Texas A&M (29-7, 10-5 SEC); #5 Vanderbilt (28-8, 9-6 SEC); #7 LSU (25-11, 9-6 SEC); #8 South Carolina (29-8, 11-4 SEC); #11 Mississippi State (24-12-1, 8-7 SEC) and #16 Ole Miss (26-10, 7-8 SEC). Florida State (26-10) was ranked #10 while Florida Atlantic (25-8) was ranked #17.
The Gators rank #1 in strikeouts per 9 innings (10.6), #1 in strikeout to walk ratio (4.35-1), #3 nationally in fielding (.983) with only 24 errors in 38 games and #19 nationally in ERA (3.03).
Other UF spring sports:
Lacrosse: The Gators (14-1, 5-0 Big East) remain second in the polls, trailing unbeaten Maryland (14-0) with North Carolina (12-2) at #3, Southern Cal (14-0) at #5 and Syracuse (12-4) at #5.
LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson and LSU gymnast McKenna Lane have fairly famous moms. Kramer’s mom is Baylor head basketball coach and former Louisiana Tech All-American Kim Mulkey. Lane’s mom is Mary Lou Retton.
Urban Meyer says that while Cardale Jones has a high football IQ and can easily learn any football system, his former QB “wasn’t necessarily very good at school.” Meyer thinks Jones will be fine in the NFL where he “can focus completely on football.”
Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy got fined $25,000 for saying LeBron James “gets to do what he wants,” hence, so few offensive foul calls against the star of the Cleveland Cadavers. Really? Preferential treatment for LeBron? Surely you jest, Stan!
The Cleveland Browns are considering trading their second pick overall in the NFL Draft for multiple picks later on.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen ran the Boston Marathon in 4:28.35.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
This is like Let’s Make a Deal. There are three hindsight questions up there. Which one makes you think about what might have been at UF and why?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
It’s very difficult to classify the music of The Avett Brothers because they’re all over the place from bluegrass to blues to folk rock to honky tonk. Their melodies are fun, their lyrics run the gamut from funny to thoughtful to political and their harmony is exceptional. These guys are definitely worth the price of admission. Todays’ music is a live performance from the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville.