How much did the Gators (50-13) miss Peter Alonso in the 27 days prior to the NCAA Gainesville Regional? All you have to do is take a look at Alonso’s 3-day reign of terror that helped punch Florida’s ticket to the host slot of next weekend’s Gainesville Super Regional against Florida State. Against Bethune-Cookman, UConn and Georgia Tech, Alonso went 8-14 with 3 homers and 8 RBI while raising his batting average 22 points to .374. In Sunday night’s 10-1 win to clinch the regional title, Alonso was 3-5 with 2 singles, a double and 3 RBI.
In addition to Alonso, Florida’s fab four freshmen (Jonathan India, Deacon Liput, Nelson Maldonado and Danny Reyes) came through in a big way, going a combined 19-43 (.442) with 2 homers and 11 RBI. Reyes, who was just 2-19 for the entire season prior to the SEC Tournament, has gone 10-26 (.384) since with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run and 9 RBI. Reyes hit a home run against UConn and India hit a homer in the 8th to provide the 6-5 margin of victory.
Sunday night Alex Faedo pitched 8 shutout innings while scattering 4 hits and striking out 10 to improve to 13-1 on the season. His 13 wins are the most by any Gator pitcher since 2002 and are tied for second most for a single season in UF history. Saturday night, the pitching story was Dane Dunning and Shaun Anderson, who combined for 4-2/3 innings of 1-hit relief. Anderson picked up his 13th save to tie Josh Fogg and Danny Wheeler for the all-time single season record.
While this was not exactly the most challenging of regionals, it was exactly what the Gators needed to prep for Florida State (40-20), which outscored three opponents, 43-14, to win the Tallahassee Regional. During the regular season, the Gators beat FSU all three games.
Elsewhere in the SEC: The SEC went 13-5 for the weekend. Advancing to host Super Regionals were #4 seed Texas A&M (50-14) and #6 Mississippi State (43-16-1). Because of rain delays, #8 seed LSU (44-18) will need one win against either Rice or Southeastern Louisiana today to advance. South Carolina (45-16) will need a win against UNC-Wilmington to win its region. Oklahoma State beat Clemson so South Carolina will host a Super Regional if the Gamecocks beat UNC-Wilmington on Monday. .
THE STATE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL
I want you to take a few minutes of your valuable time and read this column written by my friend of the past 10 years, Rachel Baribeau, who doubles as a radio host on SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation and columnist for gridironnow.com. The column is headlined “College football is breaking my heart.” Read it and your heart might start to break, too.
I found this part of her column particularly chilling: “This week, I spoke to Paula Lavigne from ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines.’ She told me of at least four women that she knows of, personally, who have yet to come forward with allegations of assault at Baylor. Their alleged attackers are football players who haven’t been named.”
What happened at Baylor is a sad commentary on the state of college football, but by no means is it isolated and by no means is it limited to just sexual and domestic violence against women. We are seven weeks away from the start of fall camp everywhere in Division I. If it’s a typical year, we’ll have dozens of arrests for drugs, robberies and assorted other crimes by the time August gets here and lest we forget, we’re still waiting on a new trial date for the two former Tennessee football players who have been accused of rape.
So how does college football clean up its act? How do the people in charge at the NCAA and every university get a grip on things and bring about a cultural change? That’s what it’s going to take and it starts with school presidents, athletic directors and coaches coming up with a zero tolerance policy that they are willing to enforce regardless of who’s involved.
I am often reminded of Bobby Bowden stating he was “praying for a misdemeanor” for Peter Warrick after he was initially charged with grand theft for buying $412.38 worth of clothing for $21.40 at a Tallahassee Dillard’s. Forget that Bobby said that and focus instead on his follow-up comment about the “millions of dollars involved here” in which he was talking about how star players fill the stands and lead their teams to national championship games.
I have no doubt that the “millions of dollars involved” have everything to do with why there is a situation at Baylor. Art Briles was being paid $6 million to coach football at Baylor. I think he looked at what was going on and looked at his paycheck and the paycheck won. Sadly, I think the paycheck is the tiebreaker in a lot of decisions by college football coaches.
Maybe something good can come out of the situation at Baylor, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Alabama and anywhere else that football players think they are above the law. Maybe the people in charge are going to say enough is enough and demand better of their athletes. Maybe the people in charge will remind their multi-million dollar athletic directors and coaches that there aren’t a lot of jobs out there that pay this much money and if you don’t clean things up, then you’ll have to find out what life is like in a substantially lower tax bracket.
We can only hope.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
I had a couple of close encounters with Muhammad Ali as a writer, but what I remember most is a night down at the Greenleaf resort in 1976 at the Florida Sports Writers annual meeting when the late, great Jack Hairston and I spent several hours listening to Ali’s long time trainer and father figure Angelo Dundee tell stories about The Champ. This was a few months after the “Thrilla in Manila” and the death of Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. Following the death of Elijah Muhammad, Ali became what Angelo called “a true Muslim and not a black nationalist.”
My job that night was two-fold: (1) Remember that God gave me two ears and one mouth for a reason and (2) whenever Angelo and Jack were empty, go over to the bar and bring back a refill. I would have gladly paid for the privilege.
Early in the evening, Angelo talked about the fight in Manila and how “no two human beings ever beat each other up that badly.” Frazier’s kidneys were never the same after that fight and Dr. Ferdie Pacheco has said many times that Ali’s Parkinson’s syndrome began shortly after that fight. Another interesting moment was when Angelo told us, “The Champ’s never watched the film of that fight and he watches every one of his fights hundreds of times.” Asked why not, Angelo replied, “The Champ says it’s because that fight was hell and he didn’t want to go to hell twice.”
It was well after midnight when Angelo began talking about Ali and the Nation of Islam. Until his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad had tremendous influence over Ali but the closest people to Ali were Dundee and business manager Gene Kilroy, who were white, and Drew Bundini Brown, a black man who converted to Reform Judaism. “The Champ never turned his back on the people he trusted, no matter who was telling him different,” Angelo said.
Angelo also talked about Ali going to Mecca for The Haj and how that changed him. I’ve heard this many times this weekend, but the first time I ever heard it was that night at Greenleaf when Angelo said, “The Champ came back and said he saw people of every color and from every nation who were Muslim and he said he could never hate again.”
Other than laugh, ask if someone needed a refill or carry on small talk when someone had to use the rest room, I was largely silent but I listened and I learned and I came away with a great appreciation for Ali. I always thought of him as the most entertaining athlete I had ever encountered and I had no doubt that he was as great a boxer as had ever lived, but I learned about the human side of the man and that gave me a greater appreciation for him.
WARRIORS GO UP 2-0 ON CLEVELAND
Just call them the Cadavers because by the time the fourth quarter rolled around Sunday night LeBron and his Cleveland mates had no pulse. Golden State’s 110-77 win was astonishingly easy as the Warriors dominated every aspect of the game to go up 2-0 in the NBA Championship Finals and for the second straight game it was without A Game performances from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Oh, they were better than they were in game one: Curry scored 18 while hitting 4-8 of his 3-pointers and Thompson had 17, also with a 4-8 from the 3-point line. If Curry and Thompson had scored like that against Okie City they would be watching the finals on TV.
The Warriors still have three home games in which they can right the ship, but I would be surprised if Cleveland wins more than one more game.
If the Cadavers lose for the second straight year in the championship finals, I have to wonder if LeBron James will try to lure Dwayne Wade and a couple other buddies to Cleveland. And I wouldn’t put it past LeBron, World Wide Wes and Nike to put the full court press on John Calipari to leave Kentucky for the NBA.
BIANCHI ON SEC EXPANSION
After spending a few days at the Big 12 meetings, where he was reporting just in case the league elected to expand by adding UCF, the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi writes “The SEC should just dispense with the formalities, move forward with its master plan of world domination and go ahead and bankrupt the Big 12 and ACC by buying FSU, Clemson, Texas and Oklahoma.”
It’s all about the money, writes Bianchi, who points out that estimates have the SEC and Big Ten likely to start distributing somewhere around $25 million a year more to their member schools than either the Big 12 or ACC. Bianchi asks the question, “Do you really think FSU is going to sit idly by while the Gators are making $250 million-per-decade more than the Seminoles are making? The same goes for Clemson and South Carolina and Texas and Texas A&M.”
Bianchi is 100% correct that FSU, Clemson, Texas and Oklahoma desperately need the SEC. At some point in the SEC’s expansion process, all four have had a chance to bolt to the SEC and all four have refused. Now it’s the SEC’s turn to say no.
If the SEC decided it is in its best interests to expand to 16 teams, Texas would certainly be front and center and perhaps Oklahoma, but Oklahoma typically comes with baggage – country cousin Oklahoma State, which the SEC has steadfastly refused. Neither Clemson nor FSU bring enough to the SEC table. They certainly don’t expand the television footprint. The prize would be a dynamic duo of Texas and Notre Dame.
It sounds far fetched but Texas and Notre Dame bring their own networks (Longhorn Network for Texas and NBC for Notre Dame) and that means a chance to expand the SEC’s television footprint in a very big way.
I feel for those kids on the Vanderbilt baseball team. Teammate Donny Everett drowned while fishing a day before the Commodores were set to host the Nashville Regional. Is it any wonder why they lost two of the three games they played to inferior competition?
The Los Angeles Dodgers have designated Carl Crawford for assignment. He is owed $35 million on a contract that won’t be finished until 2017. He hasn’t played great or consistent since 2010, but he’s got enough good baseball left in him that someone will probably offer the Dodgers $5 million, leaving the Dodgers on the hook for the rest of the contract.
Jordan Speith went 74-73 the last two days of The Memorial to finish in a tie for 57th place. He won’t play again until the US Open at Oakmont in a couple of weeks. I would put money on him playing well at the Open.
Are there concerns about the direction of the US men’s national soccer team after failing to qualify for Rio then dropping a 2-0 decision to Colombia in its opening match of the Copa America?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Does college football need a commissioner to deal with all the off the field incidents and arrests and if you say yes, who would make a good candidate for the position?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of the best new bands I’ve discovered in the last couple of years is The Main Squeeze, which is based out of Bloomington, Indiana. I think vocalist Corey Frye is one of the most talented soul singers to come along in awhile. Their most recent album was “Mind Your Head” which was released last October.