It’s an accomplishment to win more than 50 games in a college baseball season. It’s an accomplishment to win a regional and a super regional to advance to the College World Series. When you make it to Omaha, you’re one of eight teams still standing and there are 300 teams that would trade places with you in a heartbeat.
A trip to Omaha should be a celebration. So why does it feel like Florida’s 52-16 season that included regional and super regional championships is a total bust? That’s what it feels like right now after UF did a 2-and-through at Omaha, eliminated by Texas Tech, 3-2, Tuesday afternoon in a game decided by two mistakes.
The Gators were the #1 national seed and with a staff that included two pitchers drafted in the first round, one in the second, one in the third, one in the fourth and one in the 10th, it just seemed UF had too much pitching to fail, particularly in a CWS that might end up setting records for fewest runs scored. The pitching showed up. Logan Shore gave up only 2 runs Sunday night but the Gators plated only one. Tuesday, Alex Faedo gave up two runs on his only mistake – a breaking ball that stayed up in the zone and wound up in the left field bullpen – and pitched well enough to win but again the offense was a no-show until the bottom of the 9th and by then, the Gators had given Texas Tech a freebie run that proved to be the game-winner. The only offense the Gators got – a 2-run sub-orbital launch by Peter Alonso that might be the longest CWS homer since the days of Rosenblatt Stadium and aluminum bats – was just too little and too late.
When your pitching allows only 4 earned runs in two games, you have every right to expect to be 2-0 but not this year. And the fact that every team in Omaha seems offensively challenged doesn’t make it any easier. Florida had everything it takes to bring home a national championship if all the moving parts had been functioning.
But it didn’t happen and it makes what up to this point had been a very special season end on a sour note.
Not a great year to be a national seed: When the NCAA announced its tournament field there were 8 national seeds: (1) Florida; (2) Louisville; (3) Miami; (4) Texas A&M; (5) Texas Tech; (6) Mississippi State; (7) Clemson; and (8) LSU. Clemson never made it out of its own regional. Louisville, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and LSU were eliminated on their home fields in super regional play. Now that Florida and Miami have done a 2-and-through, only Texas Tech is left among the 8 national seeds and the Red Raiders are in the elimination bracket so their next loss sends them packing.
A BITTERSWEET YEAR FOR UF SPORTS
With the baseball loss Tuesday night, the 2015-16 sports year came to an end for the Gators. There is a men’s track national championship to celebrate for Mike Holloway, whose six NCAA titles are the most of any coach in any sport in UF history. While the Gators did well enough to win another SEC all-sports trophy and while they are certain to finish top 10 in the director’s cup once again, this will go down as a year of almosts.
Gymnastics was going for a 4th straight NCAA title and while the Gators won the SEC, they finished a disappointing 4th at the NCAA meet even though Bridget Sloan won the all-around and earned her place as perhaps the greatest collegiate gymnast of all time.
Softball was going for a 3rd straight NCAA championship and though the Gators were ranked #1 all but a couple of weeks during the season, they were shocked by Georgia at the super regional, dropping two straight games. Instead of a chance at a three-peat, the Gators stayed home while the WCWS was played in Oklahoma City.
The baseball team was ranked #1 all season and with the depth of pitching and the fact the Gators returned so much from last year’s team that made it to the final four at the CWS, a national championship was expected.
Lacrosse was expected to at least make the NCAA championship game but the Gators lost in the round of 16.
Florida football brought the excitement back to The Swamp with an SEC East championship, but the season ended on a disappointing 3-game losing streak.
Women’s tennis won the SEC and went to the NCAA championships ranked #1 nationally but lost unexpectedly in the round of 16.
Soccer and men’s swimming won the SEC and men’s tennis won the SEC tournament championship. Women’s golf finished second in the SEC and men’s golf finished third. Women’s basketball finished fourth in the SEC and made it to the NCAA Tournament.
There was enough success that Jeremy Foley will retire with another all-sports trophy and the highest finish of any SEC team in the Director’s Cup standings. That’s worth celebrating even if it does feel like the Gators might have come home with more than one national title.
FALLOUT FROM DECISION TO NOT CHARGE BAMA PLAYERS
As you might have expected, the fallout from the decision by the District Attorney for the Louisiana 4th District to drop the charges against Alabama football players Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones hasn’t been favorable. Here are some of the comments from around the country about DA Jerry D. Jones’ decision to let All-American left tackle Cam Robinson and backup safety Hootie Jones skate after they were arrested for possession of marijuana and two unlicensed firearms, one of which was stolen:
George Mathis of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Most people, even a really excellent marching band drum major, would probably face at least a misdemeanor charge ... Robinson may be a high draft pick, but Jones sounds like a bench warmer who should be cut from the team.”
Kevin Scarbinsky of Al.com: “Jones reinforced the widely held notion that athletes receive preferential treatment, and his timing couldn't have been worse. ESPN just spent an entire week airing a five-part documentary brilliantly describing how O.J. Simpson likely got away with both domestic violence and murder.
“Justice is supposed to be blind, but there's no question it sees colors. Especially if your colors are crimson and white, orange and blue, etc., etc., etc. The legal system works for people who play games in ways it doesn't for the rest of us.”
Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser: “There's still a big elephant in the room and it has big question mark on the side of it. When Alabama opens the defense of its national championship Sept. 3 against Southern California, will Robinson and Jones be in Arlington, Texas, playing against the Trojans or back in Tuscaloosa watching it on the hi-def flat screen?
“I expect that suspension will be lifted right before or during preseason camp, but if Robinson and Jones don't miss any action on Saturdays, that's sending a message that making bad decisions won't cost the athlete the opportunity to do what he truly loves — play the actual game.”
Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage: “The only way I can think there could be an issue here is if the arresting officer went on social media and bragged about arresting the Alabama players or if he was recorded on a dash cam saying something improper, planting evidence, or bragging about how he was going to bet on LSU now that he'd arrested two Alabama football players.
“I just don't see how this evidence is inadmissible absent some serious misconduct by the officers.
“So the officer either did something wrong or this is a small town Southern cover-up.”
Patrick Redford of Deadspin.com: “There is a long, established pattern of college athletes and football players receiving preferential treatment from their schools and from the law, but for someone to come clean and admit that he was willing to look the other way because the people in his court happened to be football stars is incredible. Nick Saban has said that he would wait for the legal process to run its course before deciding on any disciplinary measures, and given the sudden dropping of these charges and Robinson’s importance to the team, there’s very little chance Robinson or Jones receive any significant penalties for their arrest.”
BEST 10 WIDE RECEIVERS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016
1. Ju-Ju Smith Schuster, Southern Cal, JR (89-1,454, 10 TDs, 1-4 rushing; 4-51 kickoff returns)
2. Calvin Ridley, Alabama, SO (89=1,045, 7 TDs)
3. Gabe Marks, Washington State, SR (104-1,192 yards, 15 TDs; 11-106 punt returns)
4. Malachi Dupre, LSU, JR (43-698, 6 TDs)
5. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M, SO (80-1,009, 7 TDs; 11-54 rushing; 14-341 punt returns, 2 TDs; 20-385 kickoff returns)
6. K.D. Cannon, Baylor, JR (50-868, 6 TD, 7-114 kickoff returns)
7. James Washington, Oklahoma State, JR (53-1,087, 10 TDs; 1-10 rushing; 3-59 kickoff returns)
8. Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky, SR (86-1,467, 17 TDs)
9. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech, JR (75-1,164, 11 TDs; 7-51 rushing; 1-2 passing, 14 yards)
10. Antonio Callaway, Florida, SO (35-678, 4 TDs; 28-435 punt returns, 2 TD; 1-1 passing, 2 yards, 1 TD; 3-19 rushing; 3-79 kickoff returns)
Just missed: James Quick, Louisville, SR; Travis Rudolph, Florida State, JR; Drew Morgan, Arkansas, SR; Rodney Adams, South Florida, SR; Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech, SR; Richie James, Middle Tennessee, SO
Defensive tackle Kivon Bennett (6-3, 265, Fort Lauderdale, FL St. Thomas Aquinas) committed to Tennessee. That’s interesting because his dad is former Alabama All-American linebacker Cornelius Bennett.
Alabama pays strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran $525,000 a year. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will be paid $1 million while offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (still being paid by Southern Cal) will have to squeeze by on $714,000.
The lawyer of a woman suing Baylor University for indifference to her sexual assault by a BU football player, says former BU coach Art Briles did not show up to apologize to the woman as promised.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has secured his place as a finalist for this year’s George Washington Award. Washington, nicknamed the “Father of his Country,” would be proud of Harbaugh, who will be a father for the 7th time, 3 with first wife and 4 with his second.
Draymond Green got away with a kick in the Golden State Warriors’ Western Conference Finals series against Oklahoma City. He wasn’t so lucky when he got suspended for a game in the Championship Finals against Cleveland. Now video has surfaced showing Green managed to kick Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving in the ribs in the final 10 seconds of game 7.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Even with the successes, does it feel like Florida’s athletic year had more than its share of disappointments?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Robin Trower first made a name with himself playing lead for Procul Harum during the 1960s. After five albums with Procol Harum, he formed his own band although he took a couple years off to perform with Jack Bruce, formerly the bassist with Cream. Trower has put out more than 25 albums, but he’s far better in concert than he is in the studio. He toured the east coast and did a concert in Fort Lauderdale back in March. If you ever get a chance to catch him live, he’s worth the price of admission. He’s one of the most underrated guitarists I’ve ever heard.