With athletic director Jeremy Foley scheduled to step down on October 1, there were two reports of significance regarding the search for Florida’s new AD on Tuesday.
The first rumor involved Kansas State athletic director John Currie. One usually reliable website reported that Currie would be in Gainesville on Tuesday but it was confirmed that he was in Dallas for a meeting of the Division I athletic directors. The second report stated that Florida has offered the job to Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, who was also in Dallas for the athletic director meetings. The report regarding Stricklin said this was Florida’s second offer.
It should be noted that Foley remains the Florida athletic director and he, too, is in Dallas, so it’s entirely possible he interviewed one or both of Currie and Stricklin. Both Currie and Stricklin are outstanding fundraisers. Currie has SEC experience from his time at Tennessee, while Stricklin was at Kentucky before he became associate AD at Mississippi State under Greg Byrne. Stricklin succeeded Byrne, now the AD at Arizona, in 2010.
Something to consider: Byrne was either #1 or 1A on the Florida list. He was offered the job but turned it down. It might seem a logical progression that Byrne would recommend Florida go after Stricklin, one of the most likeable and media savvy athletic directors in the Southeastern Conference.
With Florida’s football team getting ready to face Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday, don’t expect any announcement at least until Monday, but it’s entirely likely that either Currie or Stricklin will be Foley’s successor.
EIGHT GAMES THAT HELPED SHAPE THE UF-UT RIVALRY
1. Florida 14, Tennessee 13, December 27, 1969: In the days before the Gator Bowl that featured the SEC champ Vols and Florida’s Super Sophs, Jack Hairston and Buddy Martin broke the story that Florida coach Ray Graves had been forced out and would be replaced by Tennessee coach Doug Dickey. As if that weren’t bad enough, the deal had been struck between Dickey and UF president Dr. Stephen C. O’Connell back in August BEFORE the season began. Led by senior captain Mac Steen, the Gators contemplated boycotting the game, but instead chose to make a statement with the way they played. Florida’s explosive offense was held in check by the Vols but the UF defense bent many times but never broke. A third quarter John Reaves to Carlos Alvarez touchdown pass gave the Gators a 14-10 lead which they never relinquished. Dickey replaced Graves the next year but he never led UF to the kind of success he enjoyed at Tennessee.
2. Florida 35, Tennessee 18, October 12, 1991: The Vols came into this game ranked #4 nationally with one of the country’s top pass-catch combos in quarterback Todd Kelly and wide receiver Carl Pickens. Pickens caught 7 passes for 145 yards that day, but the Florida defense picked off 3 passes intended for him including one in the fourth quarter that Larry Kennedy ran back 44 yards for a touchdown. The Gators also forced a couple of fumbles and blocked a punt. Shane Matthews threw a pick and was tackled for a safety on Florida’s first two possessions, but he ended up throwing for two TDs and got help from Errict Rhett, who ran for 2 more TDs. The 9th-ranked Gators jumped to #5 in the polls the following week on their way to the first SEC championship that counted in Florida history.
3. Florida 41, Tennessee 34, September 18,1993: The 5th-ranked Vols featured quarterback Heath Shuler, who was at the top of most Heisman hopeful lists coming into this game. Florida, meanwhile, was a shaky #9 after needing a last second touchdown pass from Danny Wuerffel to Chris Doering to beat Kentucky in Lexington the week before. For Wuerffel, this was his first start and he delivered a win, throwing for 231 yards and 3 TDs with help from Errict Rhett, who ran for 147 yards and 2 TDs. Judd Davis kicked a couple of field goals to help the Gators offset a 355-yard, 5 touchdown pass performance by Shuler. Shuler never won a Heisman. Three years later, Wuerffel got his and he finished his college career without ever losing to Tennessee.
4. Florida 62, Tennessee 37, September 16,1995: Eighth-ranked Tennessee was cruising to what was going to be a relatively easy win over 4th-ranked Florida when Lawrence Wright gave Joey Kent an out of body experience. Peyton Manning threw a deep slant over the middle and ball, Kent and Wright all arrived at the same time. The ball wound up 20 yards away and Kent lay almost motionless on the Florida Field turf. It wasn’t until someone looking through binoculars yelled out that he saw spit bubbles in the corners of Kent’s mouth that everybody knew he was still alive. Tennessee scored on the next play to make it a 30-14 game, but the big hit by Wright completely eliminated any passes over the middle as Tennessee’s offense turned rather pedestrian. While the Vols shot blanks, the Florida offense was just getting cranked up. The Gators scored the next 48 points in maybe the most dazzling offensive show ever seen in Gainesville. Wuerffel threw for 381 yards and 6 touchdowns while Terry Jackson ran for 119 yards and Ike Hilliard caught 9 passes for 112 yards and a school record 4 touchdowns.
5. Tennessee 20, Florida 17, September 19, 1998: Peyton Manning never beat the Gators in four attempts (one relief appearance in 1994 and three starts from 1995-97) but Tee Martin did it in his first year while leading the Vols to an unbeaten season and a national championship. Florida came into the game ranked #2 nationally but three fumbles, an interception and a porous offensive line that allowed 5 sacks totaling -54 yards spelled doom. Only one of the three fumbles was turned into points by UT, but the other two erased potential Florida scores. Terry Jackson fumbled into the end zone and Travis McGriff had a fumble deep in Tennessee territory when it appeared the Gators were going to score a game-winning TD or field goal in regulation. In overtime, Tennessee got a 41-yard field goal from Jeff Hall but Florida’s Collins Cooper hooked a 32-yard attempt that would have tied and sent the game to a second overtime.
6. Florida 23, Tennessee 21, September 18, 1999: The Vols, who won the 1998 national title, came to The Swamp unbeaten, ranked #2 nationally and figured to knock off a 4th-ranked Florida team that had given up 53 points while winning its first two games of the year. What the Vols didn’t anticipate was Alex Brown going legend. On a sweltering night when the temperature never dropped below the 90 degree level, Brown was Alexander the Great. He sacked Tee Martin 5 times, deflected 2 passes, intercepted another one and forced a Tennessee fumble. Brown’s big day offset an offensive day the Gators probably would have liked to forget. Even though Doug Johnson threw for 338 yards and 2 TDs, he threw 3 interceptions. Twice, late in the game, Steve Spurrier elected to go for it on fourth down rather than trust Jeff Chandler to kick another field goal (he had 3 for the game). On both occasions, the Vols got the stop but it was two Florida stops with less than 3 minutes to go in the game that made the biggest difference. On third and fourth down, the Gators stuffed Jamal Lewis to kill a drive that could have led to the game winning points.
7. Florida 21, Tennessee 20, September 16, 2006: When this one was over, Dallas Baker had redemption for a personal foul that proved costly in Florida’s 30-28 loss to Tennessee in 2004 and the legend of Tim Tebow had grown leaps and bounds. Baker, who caught 4 passes for 54 yards and 2 TDs, tied the game at 20-20 with 6:30 remaining on a 20-yard pass from Chris Leak. Chris Hetland’s extra point provided the margin of difference. On the 8-play, 65-yard game-winning drive, the Gators faced a four-and-1 at the Tennessee 28 with 7:53 remaining in the game. During a time out, Urban Meyer put the ball and the game in Tebow’s hands and the freshman quarterback barreled over the right side for two yards and the first down. Leak threw a 20-yard TD pass to Jemalle Cornelius in the first quarter and a 4-yard TDP to Baker in the third quarter. Reggie Nelson picked off two passes and the Florida defensive front played inspired, limiting the Vols to -11 yards rushing and only 220 total yards. The 7th-ranked Gators went on to win the SEC and national championships while 13th-ranked Tennessee finished the season 9-4.
8. Florida 28, Tennessee 27, September 26, 2015: Tennessee was well on its way toward breaking a 9-year winless drought against the Gators when Jalen Hurd finished off a 16-play, 70-yard drive with a 10-yard TD run that gave the Vols what seemed like an insurmountable 27-14 lead with 10:19 to go in the game. The Gators, who had escaped close calls the previous two weeks with East Carolina and Kentucky, answered with a time-consuming 17-play, 86-yard touchdown drive, cutting the lead to 27-21 when Will Grier and Brandon Powell connected for a 4-yard TD with 4:09 to go in the game. The Florida defense, which the Vols had run over, around and through all day, came up with a 3-and-out on the ensuing possession to force a punt that gave the Gators one last gasp. Down to their last play and facing fourth-and-14 at the Florida 37, Grier connected with Antonio Callaway on a deep curl. Spinning to avoid three UT defenders, Callaway picked up a great block from Powell that sprung him for the TD to tie it up with 1:26 to go. Jorge Powell added the extra point to put UF on top for the first time since the first quarter, but UT still had one last chance to pull out the win. The Vols drove to the Florida 32 with three seconds to go but were flagged for a substitution infraction that cost them 5 valuable yards. That proved critical because on the last play, Aaron Medley’s 55-yard field goal attempt to win the game missed by a matter of inches to the right. Florida went on to win the SEC East title while Tennessee finished 9-4, its best record since 2007.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
#1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Wide receiver ArDarius Stewart is doubtful for Saturday’s game with Kent State while safety Eddie Jackson (shin) and QB Jalen Hurts (wrist) will be good to go.
#18 Arkansas (3-0, 0-0 SEC): Linebacker Khalia Hackett, who started game one at linebacker, won’t even be on the travel roster for Saturday’s game against Texas A&M in Arlington, TX. Per HBC Bret Bielema, Hackett has some accountability issues.
Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Auburn will once again go with Sean White at quarterback when the Tigers host LSU Saturday.
#11 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter remains suspended. He won’t be available for Saturday’s game at Ole Miss nor is there any time frame set for his return to the team.
Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Drew Barker is definitely out for Saturday’s game with South Carolina which means juco transfer Stephen Johnson II will get his first start at QB. Running back JoJo Kemp, held out of the game with New Mexico State, will be back in action Saturday.
#17 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC): LSU is working to eliminate penalties and turnovers, which have everything to do with woeful second half offensive performances in three games so far.
Mississippi State (1-2, 1-1 SEC): The Bulldogs are looking for some offensive consistency against UMass in Foxboro on Saturday. Nick Fitzgerald, who watched as Damian Williams led two late TD drives that made the LSU loss close, will return as the starting QB.
Missouri (1-2, 0-1 SEC): All you have to do is look at turnovers to understand why Mizzou lost 28-27 to Georgia. The Bulldogs turned the ball over only once on a Jacob Eason interception while Missouri threw 3 interceptions and fumbled the ball twice.
#21 Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Chad Kelly has been sacked 7 times and the starting O-line has allowed 37 QB pressures with RG Jordan Sims allowing 13 and RT Sean Rawlings 8.
South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC): Wide receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring) is reportedly moving around well and expected to play Saturday when the Gamecocks travel to Kentucky.
#12 Tennessee (3-0, 0-0 SEC): Linebacker Darrin Kirkland and corner Cam Sutton are definitely out for the Florida game. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder) is expected to play but is likely to be less than 100%.
#13 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The Aggies are confident in a pass rush that has sacked QBs 12 times for -95 yards in three games. There are concerns about the run defense. Auburn gouged the Aggies for 236 yards last week.
Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Vanderbilt named running back Ralph Webb and safety Ryan White as permanent captains for the rest of the season.
The NCAA gave former Florida forward Alex Murphy a 6th-year waiver that will allow him to play immediately at Northeastern this season. Murphy’s younger brother Tomas is committed to Northeastern as part of the recruiting class of 2017. Murphy injured his foot last season during an exhibition game and didn’t play again at UF.
In an extraordinarily respectful and classy move, the Navy football coaching staff attended the funeral of former Army player Brandon Jackson, who died in a single car auto accident.
Former UTEP basketball player Chris Craig was arrested Monday after he threatened by email to blow up Eagle Valley Elementary School in Eagle Mountain, Utah.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Take Nick Saban and Urban Meyer out of the equation. Other than those two, who do you want on the sideline if you have to win a big game and, other than those two, if you’re going to try to turn a program into a powerhouse, who do you choose?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
After almost 50 years of listening to his music, I still never tire of James Taylor. Today’s music is a concert recorded on Sirius XM from the Apollo Theater in New York in the summer of 2015.