LARRY VETTEL: The word is "Inte-Greedy"

If you are among the many whom wistfully wonder why student-athletes who announce they are "committed" to a school continue to visit other schools, it should be clear now. You can't ask kids to have integrity when it comes to their word when the coaches, athletic directors and presidents at the schools they are considering don't have any either.

This point was further illustrated in the past week as Larry Fedora and Joe Wickline reneged on their commitments to join Ron Zook at Illinois and bolted for better deals at Oklahoma State. Leave aside the unlikely scenario of anyone actually volunteering to live in Stillwater, this was a strange maneuver, which better work for both former Gator assistants because their word won't be worth much for awhile.

Now it turns out Florida assistant Mike Locksley, a man who rejected the Zooker to stay at UF is back talking with his former boss about replacing Fedora as the offensive coordinator with the Illini. Obviously the chance to possibly become a coordinator is more than enough to offset the chance of being viewed as a turncoat.

I understand people want the best for their families and the chance to make more money or take on additional responsibilities. But as far as I'm concerned, you get one shot each off-season and when you take it, you're done. I suspect people at the University of Louisville would support my stance after watching Bobby Petrino throw his name in the mix for every job out there.

I don't see how you can recruit in good conscience after what has been done by Fedora and Wickline and considered by Locksley. Recruiting and coaching is about trust and relationships. Where can there possibly be trust?

Recruiting Season In Full Swing

I remember the first year I got into covering recruiting for Florida. It was in January of 1980 and Charley Pell was taking an 0-10-1 record on the road and selling it to high school seniors. It was fascinating to watch the process develop and to have the chance to speak with some of the high school stars in the state.

Back then you had Bill Buchalter at the Orlando Sentinel, who had almost a stranglehold on recruiting news. Then David Stirt and I plus the Gainesville Sun and Florida Times-Union started getting into the mix. Still, coaches were thrilled to hear from us and to get the attention.

Now there are so many internet sites, magazines, shows, 900-numbers ("I swear honey it was a recruiting call!") that most coaches seem to cringe at the thought of hearing from any of us. I'm glad I got to do most of my recruiting stuff when there were relatively few of us doing it. And I have a world of respect for those here at Gator Country who tirelessly keep after it in this day and age.

Nothing Will Ever Top Emmitt

In 1987, the Gators had what I still consider to be their greatest recruiting year ever but it would not matter if one particular guy got away. Emmitt Smith from Pensacola Escambia was THE guy in 1987 despite being downplayed by some in the recruiting biz. Escambia's version of the Gators wears Orange and Blue just like UF. Emmitt played his final high school game at Florida Field --- a bowl game against West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman.

One week before signing day I had said on the air, Emmitt was going to be a Gator. While I was extremely confident in my information, suffice to say much of UF's staff was less than confident it would turn out that way. And they made it clear they were none-to-thrilled about my raising expectations.

Finally, the afternoon of signing day we got hooked up with a radio station in Pensacola which was broadcasting live from the school as seven members of the team were signing scholarships including at least two with UF in quarterback Johnny Nichols and lineman Mark White. Nichols was Emmitt's best friend and supposedly the "dead clincher." But then word came out that Emmitt was wearing red and white and rumor had it he would wear the colors of his chosen school. Florida, Auburn and Nebraska were the final three.

Meanwhile the phones in our newsroom were ringing off the hook. Our news department at WRUF could not get a line to make outgoing calls because of the interest.

Escambia Head Coach Dwight Thomas was the emcee for the event as each player signed his letter-of-intent, and of course, Emmitt would go last. After Thomas introduces Emmitt there was a silence on the line as the superstar runner approached the table and sat down. Emmitt grabbed the hat of his chosen school and put it on the roar of the crowd on hand. The radio commentator said, and I quote, "And Emmitt Smith finally makes his college choice.".

And he never said what it was!

For an agonizing two minutes we waited as the host ran into the gym, found out what school Emmitt had chosen and ran back, huffing and puffing with the news. Florida had gotten its man and the rest, as they might say, would be history. There's no way any player since has generated a fraction of the intensity and energy surrounding his choice than Emmitt Smith did.

So between now and early February enjoy the jousting. Watch as more and more verbal commitments are tossed aside in the name of inte-greedy. And when it's over, remember this: the most important part of the process ---developing the players to be productive members of the team --- is just beginning.

Hoops Needs Follow-Up Win

Saturday's win over Arkansas was one of the Gators most important regular season victories in the past couple of years. In the aftermath of the debacle at FSU, Florida showed energy, commitment and resolve in beating what I think is a pretty darn good Arkansas squad. David Lee's performance was even better than his stat line of 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists because he set the tone with effort on the defensive end from the very beginning.

Now the Gators need to follow that one up with a road victory Wednesday night at Auburn. The Tigers do not start a player over 6-6 and were blown out by Mississippi State in their conference opener. This might be the easiest conference road trip of the year and the Gators have to capitalize, especially since Florida has a difficult roadie at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

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