A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning.
ENCOURAGING WORDS FROM WILL MUSCHAMP
“We’re going to have a good team here next year.”
Those are encouraging and very necessary words from Florida football coach Will Muschamp, who knows he can’t expect an extension of the mulligan he got for last year’s 4-8 disaster unless there is significant progress in 2014. Yes, it spring and yes, Muschamp needs to generate some confidence that the Gators are going to improve, but there are reasons to believe. New coordinator Kurt Roper is installing an offense that promises to be much better than the one that couldn’t put the ball in the end zone last year and there are good looking athletes at every position on the defensive side of the ball.
Besides bounding back from a losing season, 2014 is going to be critical for Muschamp for another reason. There are still some holdovers out there from the Urban Meyer era, but for the most part, this is Muschamp’s team made up of players he and his staff have recruited. This is his team and the roster is 90% his players. Now it’s time to produce. He has his players. Now it’s time to produce.
The first real chance fans will have to gauge the progress through 15 spring practices will be Saturday. Even though it’s spring and spring football is always Muschamp thinks fans will like what they see.
“I think when they see our football team and offensively where we are – and I think they’ll see a formidable unit on defense playing well – they’re going to see a good looking team,” Muschamp said.
A good looking team is nice. A team that can win and challenge for the SEC East championship would be a whole lot nicer.
OFFENSE AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
Muschamp also said Tuesday that the offense is ahead of schedule and that can only be a good thing. It’s not difficult to see the Roper impact at practices. The ball is in the air a lot but it’s also being spread around. A lot. When he was at Duke, Roper didn’t have near the talent he has at his disposal here in Gainesville, but he maximized what he had by spreading the ball around to make it difficult for opponents to key in on one player and take him out of the game. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the combination of his concepts and Florida’s speed work together both in the passing and running games. It’s pretty obvious that it’s going to be very difficult for any defense to crowd the line of scrimmage against this offense and the faster tempo will make it much more difficult for defenses to substitute so they can counter mismatches. I do believe that Jeff Driskel is going to have a really strong year and at least one of the wide receivers will break the 1,000-yard barrier.
GATOR BASEBALL COMPLETES IT SWEEP OF FSU
The Seminoles might be ranked #1 in all the college baseball polls, but they just did an oh-fer against the Florida Gators. The Gators put the hammer on FSU, 8-0, Tuesday night before a full house at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, to sweep the season series for the first time since 1994. Danny Young pitched five shutout innings and four other UF pitchers completed the whitewash. Casey Turgeon hit a 3-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Gators all the runs they needed. FSU Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston went 0-2 at the plate with two walks and pitched 1-1/3 innings of hitless baseball with one strikeout in mop-up duty.
HANK AARON HIT #715 40 YEARS AGO TUESDAY NIGHT
Do you remember when Hank Aaron his home run #715 to break the record that had stood for nearly 40 years by Babe Ruth? That was April 8, 1974 at the old Atlanta Stadium. It happened in the fourth inning when Aaron knocked an Al Downing pitch into the left field bullpen were Braves’ reliever Tom House caught the ball. I also remember the two students who ran out on the field and jogged alongside Aaron as he circled the bases. Did you know that Craig Sager, now the TBS/TNT announcer who always wears those funky sport coats, ran onto the field and stuck a microphone (he was working for a Sarasota TV station) in Aaron’s face? Aaron was and remains such a great ambassador of baseball. He finished his career with 755 home runs, which I still regard as the all-time record. There is no way I will ever recognize Barry Bonds as the home run king. Bonds doped. Hank didn’t.
If you listened in on any of the press conferences held last weekend at the Final Four, then you never heard the word “players.” Instead you heard “student-athletes.” The NCAA insists on this. When CBS Sports.com’s Gary Parrish asked UConn’s Tyler Olander how often he had been in class lately, Olander answered honestly, “Not often, but, I mean, I don’t really have class anyway because … I only take two classes. Three days a week, I’m off.” The previous four weeks, UConn played in the American Athletic Conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Do you really think the “student”-athletes spent a lot of time being students? I once heard an interesting proposal that makes more and more sense the older I get. Why not remove the notion of going to class while a sport is in season? There would have to be some tweaking, but football players wouldn’t go to class in the fall and would have January to August to get the required hours for eligibility. It would mean that basketball would become a January to May sport and baseball would be played on campus in the summer.
ALABAMA ATHLETICS MAKES MORE THAN ANY NHL TEAM
With revenues of $143 million last year, the University of Alabama took in more money than all 30 NHL teams and get this – more than 25 of the 30 NFL teams. Of course, the NHL shares its revenues with its players. The minimum wage in the NHL where teams carry 23 on the roster is $550,000 and the minimum salary cap is expected to rise to $52 million for the 2014-15 season. You could also make the argument that Alabama football – which is responsible for the bulk of its $143 million income – shares its revenues with the players since football covers the scholarships for every other sport on campus with the exception of men’s basketball. When the inevitable lawsuits hit the courts regarding players and their right to unionize, you know that revenues at places like Alabama and Texas ($165 million) are going to be used by the players to prove they deserve a slice of the pie. The counter argument will be that revenue is already being shared with the players in the form of 85 football scholarships and anywhere from 150-300 other scholarships depending on the athletic program in question.
STORRS IS THE CAPITAL OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL
UConn’s women made some history Tuesday night when they blew out Notre Dame to complete a clean sweep of the NCAA basketball championships by the school one day after the UConn men claimed the title by knocking off Kentucky. That was the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and his ninth NCAA title, one more than Pat Summit of Tennessee and one less than John Wooden got with the UCLA men. UConn has 13 NCAA basketball titles since 1995 – nine by the women and four by the men. When we talk basketball blue bloods, we always talk about UCLA, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and Duke. Maybe UConn hasn’t been at it as long as those schools, but UConn’s 13 titles are more than the men’s and women’s programs COMBINED over the same period of time.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The music today is from St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a band from Birmingham that I just discovered thanks to a heads up from good friend Doug Wedgworth down in Palm Beach County. This is one of the best rhythm and blues bands I’ve heard in a long, long time and lead singer Paul Janeway sounds like a cross between Al Green and Otis Redding. Today’s song is the first track off their “Half the City” CD. It’s called “Call Me.” It will blow you away. The guys in the horn section are all students at Samford University.