A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning.
RAISE AND CONTRACT EXTENSION FOR BILLY DONOVAN
Billy Donovan was rewarded with a raise in pay and a contract extension that locks him up with the Gators through the 2018-19 season. The deal will raise Donovan’s average pay to $3.7 million, which, quite frankly, really is not enough. Yes, coaching salaries have spiraled out of control and yes, $3.7 million is a lot of money, but Billy Donovan is worth every penny of that contract and then some for all he brings to the university and to the community. He is the best coach in any sport in the history of the University of Florida and for all he is as a coach, he is an even better human being. Should Billy Donovan bring Florida its third basketball national championship since 2006 in a couple of weeks, Jeremy Foley should tear up the old contract and pay his coach at least what Kentucky pays John Calipari, which is $4.6 million a year.
MUSCHAMP LIKES OFFENSIVE PROGRESS UNDER ROPER
When he spoke to the media Tuesday, Florida head coach Will Muschamp was quick to praise offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. In a statement that says much about Florida’s offense the last three years, Muschamp said, “It dawned on me yesterday as I’m watching practice and I’m seeing us moving the ball, the confidence and tempo our guys are playing with and you’re thinking about four days as opposed to four years. That puts it all in perspective about where you are.” If four days of spring practice can evoke that kind of response from the head coach, it makes you think the offense not only stunk it up in games but in practice as well in the last three years. Although there is nothing simple about Roper’s offense, the former Duke coordinator came to Gainesville with the reputation as a teacher who has the ability to simplify things in such a way that players catch on fast with excellent retention. It’s too early to know if Roper will be the football equivalent of Moses leading the Gators out of the offensive wilderness, but it is indeed nice to see both progress and enthusiasm on that side of the ball for a change.
NLRB READY TO RULE ON NORTHWESTERN UNION PETITION
Either today or Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board will rule on the petition by Northwestern University football players who seek to organize as a union. If the NLRB rules that the players are actually employees of the university, then they will have the right to form a union. While many legal analysts are skeptical that the NLRB will rule in favor of the players, Stanford professor William Gould told ESPN, “They undoubtedly are employees. The athletic department controls important aspects of the conditions under which they provide services.” A ruling in favor of the players has the possibility to undo much of college sports as we know them today as many sports would either be dropped altogether or reduced to non-scholarship status. Follow this one closely.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL LOSES IN NCAA SECOND ROUND
The Gators finished their season with a 20-13 record after falling to Penn State, 83-61, Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in State College, PA. This was probably the best coaching job Amanda Butler has done since she came to Florida. For much of the season, she played with an unconventional five-guard lineup because injuries and suspensions took away what little height there was. Butler has done a good job recruiting for 2014-15, so even with the loss of Jaterra Bonds, the Gators should be an improved team and perhaps a title contender in the SEC next year if they can stay healthy.
TELL US HOW YOU FEEL, BOBBY KNIGHT
On Mike and Mike Tuesday morning, basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t like the youth movement in the NBA. In many ways, Knight is echoing some of the things that Charles Barkley said last week as a studio analyst. Barkely said the NBA sucks right now because there are too many young kids playing who don’t know how to play the game and have rotten fundamentals. On Mike and Mike, Knight said, “If I were involved with the NBA I wouldn’t want a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old kid, to bring into all the travel and all the problems that exist in the NBA. I would want a much more mature kid. I would want a kid that maybe I’ve been watching on another team and now he’s 21, 22 years old instead of 18 or 19, and I might trade for that kid.”
COACHING MOVES, ETC.
USF made its choice Tuesday, hiring Steve Masiello to resurrect its sagging basketball fortunes. Masiello had a 60-39 record in three seasons at Manhattan, which lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Louisville and Rick Pitino. Masiello played for Pitino at Kentucky and was a Pitino assistant at Louisville before he landed the Manhattan job … James Dickey resigned as Houston’s head coach for “private family matters” on Tuesday. There are rumblings that Houston will hire Kelvin Sampson, the former Oklahoma and Indiana coach whose five-year show cause with the NCAA expired last year … The Detroit Pistons are rumored to be hot after Michigan State’s Tom Izzo as their next coach. Izzo says he is perfectly content at Michigan State … Rice hired VCU assistant Mike Rhoads … Wayne Selden says he will forego the NBA Draft to return to Kansas for his sophomore season.
FAREWELL RALPH WILSON, LAST LINK TO THE AFL
Ralph Wilson died Tuesday at the ripe old age of 95. He was the last surviving owner of an NFL team from that group that founded the AFL back in 1959. Wilson owned the Buffalo Bills, served at one time as president of the AFL and had plenty to do with the negotiation that brought about the merger of the AFL and NFL. Although the Bills won two AFL championships, they never won a Super Bowl after the merger although they remain the only team that ever made it to four straight Super Bowls. Wilson paid a $25,000 franchise fee to join the AFL back in 1959. It was considered a very risky investment but it’s safe to say the risk has paid handsome dividends. Forbes Magazine values the Bills at $870 million today. Wilson set a standard for the rest of the NFL by insisting that his players were involved in the community and role models for youngsters. All of pro sports could use a few more Ralph Wilsons.
GOOD HANDS PEOPLE; BAD HANDS PEOPLE
Who has the best hands in the NFL? That would be Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, who caught 82 passes last year and dropped only one ball. DeAndre Hopkins of Houston, Jeremy Kerley of the New York Jets, Rishard Matthews of the Miami Dolphins and Vincent Brown of the San Diego Chargers all dropped only one pass but none of them caught as many as Fitzgerald. So call them good hands people. Bad hands people? Topping that list is Davone Best of the Cleveland Browns, who had 42 catches and 14 drops. Kris Durham of Detroit dropped 10 of the 48 catchable balls thrown his way while Aaron Dobson of New England had nine drops out of 46. The most drops were recorded by Brandon Marshall of Chicago, who caught 100 balls but dropped 15. Wes Welker of Denver also had the dropsies 10 times to go with his 73 catches.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Riley B. King has called Memphis home since the 1940s. He worked as a disc jockey and singer on WDIA where he gained the nickname “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was later shortened to B.B. I started listening to B.B. King in 1969 when he released the single, “The Thrill Is Gone” off his “Completely Well” Album. He followed that up with an incredible album called “Indianola Mississippi Seeds” that featured Carole King, Leon Russell and Joe Walsh among others. If you’re into the blues, this album is a requirement. Today’s song is a very cool live version of “The Thrill Is Gone.”