A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning.
THE NEXT DATE WITH DESTINY
If you believe that this Florida basketball team is marching toward greatness, then you have to believe that today’s game with Dayton is just the next date with destiny. The Gators (35-2) are just one step away from their first final four since the 2007 national championship season and while a win over Dayton is not expected to be easy, this is a game that the Gators have the ability to dominate and impose their will, which is what great teams do. For months, we’ve heard Patric Young talk openly about the chase for greatness. At the Friday press conference in Memphis, Young defined the pursuit of greatness this way: “I believe, when we talk about chasing greatness, we’re talking about just the goal at hand, the opportunity of what we can achieve, what we set our goals for in the beginning of the year. In the moment, we can always chase greatness, whether it’s being great on a possession, striving to be great a whole game, holding a team to our standard defensively. Just having that mindset, really just change the way that you approach everything, especially when you’ve got a team of guys that are all bought in and locked into that concept and that theme.”
DEBOSE CLEARED FOR NON-CONTACT PRACTICE
At his Friday media encounter, Florida head coach Will Muschamp said that Andre Debose has been cleared for non-contact practice. Muschamp went so far as to say that Debose is “special” with the ball in his hands. Debose, who has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, could be a difference maker in the offense if he can (a) stay healthy and (b) the injuries haven’t slowed him down. If Debose can still blow by people on a dead sprint, then he’s going to be able to alter defenses just by his presence on the field. People tend to forget that Charlie Weis actually made Debose a deep threat in 2011. For whatever reason, Brent Pease hardly let Debose on the field in 2012 and he spent last year injured. The way Kurt Roper has run offenses in the past, there is reason to expect that Debose could have a prominent role in the fall.
KENTUCKY ADVANCES TO ELITE EIGHT
Whether you like him or not, give John Calipari credit for getting Kentucky to the Elite Eight game. The Wildcats, who have won five of their last six games and are peaking at the right time, took out last year’s national champ, Louisville, 74-69, Friday night in Indianapolis in a Midwest Regional Sweet 16 game. Of Kentucky’s 74 points, 68 were scored by freshmen, who also hit 20-24 from the foul line. Louisville’s downfall was at the foul line where the Cardinals went 13-23. Russ Smith went 1-7 from the 3-point line and only 4-10 from the foul line. Kentucky will face Michigan in the Midwest Regional Elite Eight game Sunday. Michigan survived a furious Tennessee rally that trimmed 12 points off a 13-point lead to advance to the Elite Eight by a 72-71 margin. In the East Region, UConn and Michigan State advanced to the Elite Eight.
EAGLES JETTISON DESEAN JACKSON
Following a report by NJ.com that claimed Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson had a continuing association with Los Angeles gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010, the Eagles opted to cut Jackson Friday, a move that reeks of controversy. Jackson is an All-Pro receiver who has never been arrested for anything. In a statement released to the press, Jackson called the reports “irresponsible and just not true.” Besides the gang tie allegations by NJ.com, reported that Jackson’s ongoing bad attitude, bad work ethic and missing team meetings had not endeared him to either head coach Chip Kelly or the Eagles’ front office. While it is understandable that the Eagles might want to part company with Jackson, it seems a bit bizarre that there was no attempt to trade for at least some draft picks. Even with the allegations, figure Jackson will sign a deal for a hefty amount of money with some NFL team rather quickly.
THIS WOULD CHANGE FOOTBALL RECRUITING DRAMATICALLY
Maryland coach Randy Edsall has proposed a reform of the football recruiting process that would delay scholarship offers until September 1 of a prospect’s senior year in high school and would take scholarship offers out of the hands of football coaches and put them in the hands of the admissions and financial aid offices. There would be no scholarship offer until a prospect’s junior year transcripts were evaluated along with the ACT and SAT scores. Currently, the NCAA prevents written offers to high school prospects before August 1 of their senior years, but coaches offer verbal scholarships long before (LSU offered an eighth grader recently). There are proposals moving forward that would bring about an early signing period but there are numerous coaches opposed to it. It will be very interesting to see if the Edsall proposal picks up any steam. I find it very difficult to believe that many coaches would be in favor of turning over scholarship offers to the admissions office.
IF PLAYERS ARE EMPLOYEES, THEN THE IRS WILL BE INVOLVED
The players who are celebrating the National Labor Relations Board decision that the Northwestern players have earned the right to form a union because they are employees might want to think again. The players will be asking for pay in addition to their scholarship benefits. Let’s say they get $1,000 a month for 12 months. Add that to the $63,228 it costs to attend Northwestern for a year and you have an employee in the 25% tax bracket. Not many players are going to have mortgages, interest payments, etc. to lower their taxable income, plus they’ll have to pay FICA and Social Security. Darren Rovell of ESPN writes, “One athletic director in a major conference, who requested anonymity, speculated that the value the players received from the training table, travel and even coaching could be taxed.” If this ruling is upheld in the courts, then the players and their new unions better get used to dealing with the Internal Revenue Service.
FLORIDA SPORTS UPDATE
Behind Marcin Ciselak’s second national championship, the #1-ranked Gators are sitting in third place, 40 points behind Texas and 33 behind California at the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Austin, Texas. The morning qualifiers for the Saturday night finals will determine if the Gators can score enough points to come home with the NCAA title … Florida’s #4-ranked softball team (31-5, 5-5 SEC) dropped the first game of its 3-game weekend series with Tennessee in Knoxville, 9-2 … The #4-ranked women’s tennis team (14-4, 6-2 SEC) blanked Arkansas, 4-0, at the Ring Tennis Complex Friday afternoon … The #15 men’s tennis team (9-7, 4-3 SEC) dropped a 4-2 decision to Arkansas on the road Friday … The opening game of a 3-game weekend series with LSU was rained out Friday night. The Gators will play a doubleheader Saturday with the first game starting at 1 p.m.
SEC SPRING FOOTBALL ROUNDUP
Kenny Hill, who was battling for the starting quarterback position at Texas A&M, was arrested for public intoxication. It is the fourth arrest of an A&M player since February … Juco transfer D’haquille Williams has made a big impact at wide receiver for Auburn … South Carolina is moving safety Brison Williams to cornerback … Kentucky opened spring practice Friday afternoon … Jeremy Liggins, who tips the scales at 296 pounds, is battling for the backup quarterback position at Ole Miss this spring. Liggins played quarterback and defensive end in junior college … Georgia will scrimmage Saturday behind closed doors. Word out of Athens is the Bulldogs have amped up the intensity this spring … While Tennessee believes it has upgraded its talent level considerably, the Vols are still very short on experience. Tennessee has only 13 seniors on the roster this spring.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Otis Redding never got to experience seeing “The Dock of the Bay” reach the #1 position on all the music charts around the world. Redding and members of the Bar-Kays died when their plane crashed into Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin in December of 1967. Redding’s album “The Dock of the Bay” was released in February of 1968 and the title song went number one worldwide. If you listen to the accompanying music, you’ll hear the guitar of Steve “Guitar” Cropper and the unmistakable bass of Donald “Duck” Dunn. Otis is just another great musician/singer who left us far too early.