Win one for Jeremy!
If that isn’t the rallying cry of the Florida Gators in Omaha it should be. An NCAA baseball championship would mean Foley would depart the University of Florida as the only athletic director in the nation with a national championship in each of the big three sports for men (football, basketball and baseball).
The Gators (52-14) are the top seeded team to make it to Omaha for the College World Series and because of their combination of pitching and defense, they’re everybody’s favorite to win the national championship. With a pitching staff that includes two first rounders (A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning), a second rounder (Logan Shore), a third rounder (Shaun Anderson) and a 10th rounder (Kirby Snead), the Gators arrive in Omaha with the top ERA (2.93, 6th nationally) of any of the eight CWS teams. The Gators have committed only 44 errors all season and their .983 fielding percentage is third nationally, second at the CWS only to Miami, which has made three fewer errors in four fewer games.
Shore (12-0, 2.24 ERA) will get the start for the Gators when they face upstart Coastal Carolina (49-16) of the Big South Conference Sunday night in their first game of the CWS. Big 12 Conference rivals TCU (47-16)-Texas Tech (46-18) will also square off Sunday with the winner facing the Florida-Coastal winner on Tuesday. Should the Gators lose the opener, they would face the loser of TCU and Texas Tech on Tuesday.
The CWS format is essentially the same as the regional/super regional – a 4-team double elimination tournament with the winner advancing to a best 2-of-3 championship series. The difference between this tournament and the regional and super regionals is because there are 8 teams and only one field, there are days off. In an ideal situation, the Gators would win Sunday and Tuesday which would force another team to beat them two straight. With Sunday and Tuesday wins the Gators would be off until Friday.
If the Gators are able to win their bracket with a 3-0 mark, they could have Shore ready to go on Monday, June 27, when the championship round begins.
With Florida’s outstanding pitching staff, the Gators are everybody’s favorite to win the championship but they’ll have to start strong against a Coastal Carolina team that is equally comfortable winning with the long ball (nation leading 94 home runs) or small ball (#7 nationally with 107 steals in 134 attempts). The Chanticleers have four players with at least 15 homers and 50 RBI – Connor Owings (.379, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 14 stolen bases), Zach Remillard (.347, 19 HR, 69 RBI, 14 stolen bases), G.K. Young (.344, 17 HR, 65 RBI) and Michael Paez (.287, 15 HR, 52 RBI). Billy Cooke (.344, 3 HR, 35 RBI) is the biggest base stealing threat with 26 steals in 32 attempts while Seth Lancaster (.326, 7 HR, 35 RBI) has 15 steals in 17 attempts.
All-Americans all: The Gators landed three first teamers and two third teamers on the All-America teams announced Thursday by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and D1baseball.com. Making the first team were first baseman Peter Alonso (.373, 13 HR, 58 RBI), starting pitcher Logan Shore (12-0, 2.24 ERA) and closer Shaun Anderson (3-0, 1.00 ERA, 13 saves). Alonso and Shore made first team for both the NCBWA and d1baseball.com. Anderson was first team by the NCBWA and third team for D1baseball.com. Catcher/DH JJ Schwarz (.295, 7 HR, 60 RBI) and pitcher Alex Faedo (13-2, 3.25 ERA) were named third team by the NCBWA.
For Coastal, Owings and Young made first team All-America while Remillard made third team along with closer Mike Morrison (7-1, 1.06 ERA, 11 saves).
O’Sullivan finalist for the Skip Bertman Award: Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan is a finalist for the 2016 Skip Bertman Award, which honors the nation’s top coach from any level of college baseball. Last year’s winner was Paul Manieri of LSU.
UF SHOULD LOOK OUTSIDE THE FAMILY FOR THE NEXT AD
At some point in the next couple of weeks, the University of Florida will start its earnest search for a new athletic director. My preference would be someone from the outside who can understand the importance of following the straight and narrow path of integrity forged by Jeremy Foley, but isn’t so engrossed in all things Gator that he might overlook areas that require improvement. I have enormous respect for both Mike Hill and Chip Howard, who would be #1 and #1A if I were taking the inside route, but I think it’s in the best interests of the University of Florida to bring in someone with a fresh perspective. I think both Chip and Mike will move on to an AD job somewhere and do a fantastic job, largely because of the training and mentoring they’ve received from Foley, but because of the challenges that will face Florida athletics moving forward, it is my belief that it is important to bring in someone who will take a look with a different point of view at where Florida has been, where Florida is now and where Florida has to go in the future.
For all the positives he brought to the job, marketing has never been one of Foley’s strong suits. From the standpoint of managing the bottom line, having a well above average eye for coaching talent and making sure no coaches – head or assistant – ever thought about going rogue, Foley has been as good as it gets and his successor should show the same diligence. There are upgrades that must be made to facilities and other challenges that will come our way but the new AD can’t plunge UF athletics into an ocean of debt. Some debt will certainly be required, but following the Foley rule of keeping the debt manageable is a requirement.
And this is why it is important to bring in someone who not only understands marketing trends and how to exploit them in UF’s favor, but also has the ability to bring in fresh money from alumni, boosters and friends. The SEC Network projects substantial cash infusion, but what happens if the TV money flatlines? I look at what Arkansas has done as the perfect example of how to ensure there is money for facilities without incurring a mountain of debt. Jeff Long has already procured the almost $11 million for a new academic and wellness center from Cowboys owner and former Arkansas football player Jerry Jones, but a large portion of the $320 million that will be coming in for facilities and improvements over the next 30 years will come from private sources. That’s why I would do backflips down University Avenue if Florida were able to convince Long to relocate to Gainesville.
But what are the odds Long leaves Arkansas? At Arkansas he’s got billionaires like Jones, the Walton (Walmart) family, the Tyson (chickens) family and the Reynolds (aluminum) families fighting each other over who gets to give the next big gift. Now, let’s give credit where credit is due here – Frank Broyles is the one who learned to prime those money pumps. Frank may have gotten them accustomed to writing big checks, but apparently Long has made an art form of it.
Consider the possibility that Long is untouchable. Here are the four guys I think UF should target. You will notice that I don’t have Bernard Muir (Stanford) on this list. I think he is a brilliant AD and the perfect fit for Stanford, but I don’t see the evidence that he’s the kind of marketer that UF will need moving forward.
1. Chris Del Conte, TCU: Since taking over at TCU, Del Conte has overseen $250 million in construction projects while setting yearly records for donations to the scholarship fund. He’s turned TCU into an all-sports power in the Big 12 even though this is a small, private school with very high academic standards. Maybe the most impressive thing he’s done is keep football coach Gary Patterson happy. Patterson’s name is connected with just about every big time opening and he’s had plenty of offers to go, but has remained at TCU, largely because of Del Conte. Del Conte is 46-years old and makes $700,000 a year.
2. Greg Byrne, Arizona: He knows the SEC from stints at Kentucky (associate AD) and Mississippi State (associate AD and AD), plus he was in charge of fundraising at Oregon for four years. At Arizona, he’s overseen the upgrades to both the football stadium and basketball arena while bringing in more than $200 million in gifts from alumni and corporate sources. Byrne is 44 years old and could probably double his $625,000 if he would make the trek across the country to Florida.
3. Oliver Luck, NCAA: Luck is the former athletic director at West Virginia and a former Rhodes Scholar finalist. He has a law degree from Texas. Currently he is the vice president for regulatory affairs with the NCAA. He understands football, knows how an athletic department works, and knows the marketing arm of the NCAA quite well. As the man in charge of enforcement and eligibility at the NCAA he has skills that would make him a great fit at Florida … if Florida could lure him away from the NCAA. The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis where he son just happens to play QB for the Colts. Luck is 56 years old.
4. John Currie, Kansas State: He got his degree in sports management from Tennessee and was once the executive director of UT’s athletic scholarship fund, so he’s very familiar with raising money. He spearheaded a $192 million ($185 million put to work in 36 months) drive to improve the facilities at K-State, where he’s been the AD since 2009. Currie is 45 years old and makes $775,000 per year.
CAVALIERS-WARRIORS EVEN AT 3-3
If you are a believer in conspiracy theories, then the NBA got exactly what it wanted by suspending Draymond Green for game 5 of the championship series. Green came back Thursday night, but the Cleveland Cavaliers were unconscious and blew out the Golden State Warriors, 115-100. That sends the series to a deciding game 7 in Oakland Sunday night. LeBron James was good for 41 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Cavaliers.
Here is a prediction: The NBA will get the 7-game series it wants, but the Warriors will blow the doors off the Cavaliers to make it two NBA titles in a row, which will have everyone in the offseason talking about a dynasty in the making.
Three weather delays forced suspension of the US Open with unknown Andrew Landry in the lead at -3. He will have a putt for birdie Friday morning, which could give him a 66. He’s never had a round lower than 68 on the PGA tour.
Art Briles has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Baylor University. Believe it or not, he’s got a good chance to win.
Ray Griffin, younger brother of Ohio State 2-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, has sued the Big Ten Conference because of a concussion he suffered his junior year at Ohio State. Griffin participated in a study at Boston University that supposedly shows he has chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Von Miller says he will sit out the 2016 season rather than accept the franchise label and a salary of more than $14 million. I can’t imagine how he’d squeeze by on that amount, can you?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Should the University of Florida stay in house for its next AD or do you think it’s best to bring in someone from the outside?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of my favorite blues bands that I’ve seen in person is The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who were led by Jimmie Vaughan (the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s older brother) from 1974-89. Kim Wilson, who sings and plays harmonica, is still with the band, which continues a moderately heavy tour schedule. Today’s music is a Thunderbirds concert from London back when Jimmie Vaughan was still with the band.