Thoughts of the day: December 15, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning: 


There is no news to report about Florida’s search for replacements for Brent Pease and Tim Davis. There is also no need for panic. Bowl games don’t begin until next Saturday and you can bet the ranch that Muschamp doesn’t announce his new hires until after they’ve coached their bowl game. There is growing speculation that the coordinator will be either Blake Anderson (North Carolina), Mike Norvell (Arizona State) or Tim Beck Nebraska. Anderson’s bowl game is December 28, Norvell’s is December 30 and Beck’s is January 1. The timing could be perfect for Anderson because he could be in place along with offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic (expected to go with Anderson if he leaves UNC) prior to the Under Armour All-American Game on January 2 in St. Petersburg and the US Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on January 4. The pool could also shrink by one rather quickly if Texas goes after Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. Given the money pool that Graham would be working with and the new opportunity at Texas, it is highly unlikely that Norvell would leave his boss of the last six years.


The soonest we will know how long it will be before Chris Walker is allowed to suit up for the Gators will be Monday, but he is enrolled at the University of Florida now and he practiced Saturday. Add Walker to Florida’s rotation and the Gators suddenly have the look of a team that can go very deep into the NCAA Tournament in March. The Gators are just starting to hit their defensive stride as we saw against Kansas last week, so when you add Walker and his ability to reject shots to that mix, suddenly this is a Florida team that is starting to take on a formidable look. It is speculated that Walker will miss two or three games by NCAA mandate for taking an unofficial visit to Kansas that was paid by a former AAU director who is serving out a five-year ban by the NCAA for steering players to NBA agents.


For the second straight year, the Heisman Trophy has gone to a freshman. This year it’s Jameis Winston, who is about to discover that life as he has known it ceased to exist Saturday night when he joined that unique fraternity. Winston avoided much of the hype and expectation this year, in large part because Florida State’s weak schedule included a couple of orphanages, a convent or two and a rest home for veterans of the Spanish-American war. The hype and expectation just escalated X 100 Saturday night. Now, whatever Winston does, people will expect more. If he doesn’t light up Auburn in the national championship game and FSU loses, everything Winston did will be dissected like never before. And, as he will discover in 2014 just as Tim Tebow discovered in 2008-09, unless he has better stats next year, simply doing his best won’t be good enough.

TEBOW IN 2008-09

Tebow won his Heisman in 2007 when he put up outrageous numbers as a sophomore (32 touchdown passes and 23 rushing touchdowns). His stats the next two seasons were exceptional but didn’t match up to 2007 and as Tebow discovered, simply doing his best and winning – he got a national championship in 2008 and was a game away from playing for a second straight in 2009 – isn’t good enough to satisfy a good many of the Heisman voters. At the Heisman awards ceremony in New York in 2008, two Dallas media types told me that Tebow would be no better than the fourth or fifth best quarterback in the Big 12. Funny, but they were nowhere to be found the day after the Gators beat Oklahoma and Heisman winner Sam Bradford for the national championship. There was no doubt that night that Tebow was America’s best player but his numbers didn’t add up to the year before and it cost him. That is something Jameis Winston better get used to from here on out. If the numbers aren’t better, then people will doubt him.


Only a day after it was reported that Mack Brown would not be fired and would be back to coach another year at Texas, the university announced that Brown will be “stepping down” as head coach after the Alamo Bowl. “Stepping down” is a fancy way of saying fired. It has been a circus in Austin, that’s for sure. At a 1 p.m. (CDT) Sunday press conference you will hear one person after another sing the praises of Mack Brown. You might even think he’s a candidate to be the next pope. No doubt, Mack is a decent guy and he definitely deserved a better sendoff than this, but let’s face it: If he had won more  football games, none of this would have happened in the first place.


Whether you agree or disagree with Jeremy Foley about giving Will Muschamp another coach the Gators is totally irrelevant, particularly after what we have seen the past few months at Texas. At Texas we’ve seen what happens when nobody takes charge of a situation. That whole shebang went toxic months ago because there was no strong leadership in place. You can argue that Foley has gotten two of the last three football coaches wrong or a dozen other things. He’s the best bottom line athletic director in the country, but perfect he isn’t. One thing you can’t argue, however, is that Foley is decisive. He understands that someone has to take charge of a situation and whether he’s right or wrong, he’s willing to make a choice and take the heat, something that didn’t happen in Austin where indecision has made the Texas athletic department the laughing stock of the country.


Let’s start by eliminating these names from contention immediately: Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Jimbo Fisher, Art Briles and Gus Malzahn. Those seven guys aren’t going anywhere. So who are the best coaches available? I think the Texas short list will include Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State); James Franklin (Vanderbilt); Al Golden (Miami); Dabo Swinney (Clemson); Bill O’Brien (Penn State); Charlie Strong (Louisville) and Todd Graham (Arizona State). New Texas AD Steve Patterson signed an agreement not to go after Graham if the Texas job came open, but already there is speculation that the agreement wouldn’t hold up in court. If I were in charge of making the choice, the only two names on my list would be Gundy and Strong.


The 40-0 season that was being predicted by Kentucky players and some others caught up in the hype of a great recruiting class has been history for more than a month. After Saturday afternoon’s loss to North Carolina, Kentucky has gone down three times already and if the game against the Tar Heels is indicative of things to come, then the Wildcats are going to go through some rough times before things get better. Until Kentucky figures out the necessity of team chemistry, the Wildcats are going to have a lot of peaks and valleys and it wouldn’t be surprising if they implode. There are way too many egos on that team and far too many kids who are looking at the NBA instead of concentrating on what’s happening with the Kentucky Wildcats.



Toward the end of the 1960s, just before the combination of drugs, transcendental meditation and emotional problems changed him from a creative genius into a troubled recluse, Brian Wilson squeezed out a few more songs for The Beach Boys, one of which was “Breakaway.” It was not a part of the “Friends” or “20/20” albums although it was added on later as a bonus track when those albums went from vinyl to CD. The song has had a nice revival since the release of “The Warmth of the Sun” which is a compilation album. It’s typical Beach Boys with incredible harmony. I often wonder how long the band would have been relevant had Brian Wilson not suffered several nervous breakdowns. When he wasn’t around to lead, dysfunction set in and The Beach Boys were never the same again.


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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.