VETTEL: Comparing Disappointing UF Seasons

For older subscribers I'll liken this column to a spoonful of castor oil. For younger ones, maybe it's broccoli or spinach. To others, imagine life without an x-box. No matter how you take your medicine, this is one of those columns that does not uplift, inform or entertain. It's medicinal.

I write for lots of reasons, but primarily to inform and entertain. I also try to lend analysis and perspective to the situation involving the Gators or other aspects of the sports world. Today I'm going to look at some of the most disappointing seasons in Gator sports history. This is not intended to cause pain or embarrassment. It's meant to put this past baseball season into some context and to remember how short-lived the pain of even the most disappointing season can be. I also hope this serves to remind UF partisans just how good you have it most of the time. There aren't that many seasons to choose from, which is pretty impressive considering the number of teams and years we're talking about.

So you've been warned and informed. If this column annoys you, you have only yourself to blame.

Some Most Disappointing Seasons I've Been Through

1986 Baseball: The Gators had just made it to a Regional Final the year before, losing to Miami in the infamous "Rodney Brewer" game. After consecutive 43-win seasons it appeared Joe Arnold was well on his way to establishing UF as a consistent winner. But in '86 everything went wrong and Arnold eventually left the team to deal with personal problems. It took a five game winning streak at the end of the year to avoid a losing season and finish at 27-26. Two years later the Gators made it to Omaha.

1979 Football: "Give 'em Hell Pell" was scribbled on my main school notebook as well as many others. The new coach brought with him a can-do attitude and commitment to discipline the program desperately needed. After battling #13 Houston to a 14-10 loss, the Gators tied Georgia Tech at seven while losing stud linebacker Scott Brantley for the season. Nine straight losses followed as UF tried five different quarterbacks. The next year, Florida set an NCAA record for turnaround, going from 0-10-1 to 8-4.

1995 Basketball: It's probably a bit greedy to put a team on this list that earned just the fifth NCAA bid in school history, but it fits. The '94 Gators went to the Final Four and raised the image of Florida basketball. But the '95 unit collapsed under the expectations. Despite returning four starters from that '94 team, the Gators struggled to 17-12 record and a nerve-wracking Selection Sunday. Florida was the last team in as far as the TV announcement was concerned and got the break by playing close to home in Tallahassee. But the team that never could "Find a Way" instead found a way to lose its tournament opener to Iowa State. A year later, the Gators hired Billy Donovan.

1977 Football: This ultra-talented football team was coming off an 8-win season and did not lose a player chosen in the first eight rounds of the NFL draft. Yet this group, which had ten players drafted the following April, managed to win just six games. The fact that three of those wins came over Georgia, Miami and Tennessee just added to the feeling that this group was one of the under-achievingest (if that's a word) ever at UF. A year later Coach Doug Dickey was replaced by Charley Pell.

1989 Football: The NCAA sanctions had run their course and Florida had a full roster once again. The Gators also had Emmitt Smith back and healthy and any kind of passing game should have let the Gators become a contender. Instead, Florida dropped the season opener to Ole Miss 24-19, leaving the field to a resounding chorus of boos. They rebounded with five straight wins, including a last season win over LSU in Baton Rouge. However, Galen Hall was fired after that loss. The Gators played their hearts out in losing to Auburn in the final minutes and staggered home with losses to Georgia and FSU. It all ended with a blowout loss to Washington in the Freedom Bowl in the final pre-Spurrier game. The Gators had the best record in the SEC the very next season.

1990 Basketball: The Gators were coming off a third-straight NCAA bid and the first SEC title in school history. But midway through fall practice Norm Sloan was forced to resign, and instead of letting capable assistant Monte Towe and Kenny McCraney guide the team, Florida brought in Don DeVoe who had just been canned by Tennessee. "Saddam" DeVoe quickly turned on star players Livingston Chatman and Dwayne Schintzius who both quit the team in protest and frustration. The Gators went from champs to chumps, from 13-5 in the SEC to 3-15. They went from a program on the rise to a program in complete disarray. Two years later Lon Kruger led the Gators to 19 wins and the NIT Final Four.

Those are some of the most significant disappointing seasons I can remember. Of sure, there have been many others, but I didn't want this to be too depressing. What I wanted to do is illustrate that no matter how disappointing this baseball season was history tells us the Gators will bounce back big. And in a big hurry.

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