It’s not even fair. The Florida Gators are all alone at the top, champions of the two sports that matter most in all of collegiate athletics. Since there’s not a lot of competition at the top for the Gators, perhaps Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan should square off. As of Monday night, Billy has his second national title so obviously that means the ball is in your court, Urban.
Billy Donovan got it all started with the NCAA basketball championship in 2006 and Urban Meyer didn’t allow his good friend to trump him too long. He got the football version of the national title in January in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
Three months later, Billy Donovan is one-up on Urban as the Gators are once again the kings of college basketball.
Basketball held serve. Can Urban do the same?
What all this means is that the University of Florida is in heretofore uncharted waters. Nobody ever held the football and basketball championships at the same time until Donovan and Meyer did it. Now that Donovan’s trumped Meyer, Florida is in the unique position of a “sandwich” championship — two basketball titles to surround the football title.
There are plenty of sports played at the collegiate level but the only two proven revenue generators are football and basketball. They are the most watched sports when it comes to television money and they draw the largest and most consistent crowds. In the two sports that pay the freight for all the other sports, Florida is the king.
If we’re talking Billy vs. Urban head to head, it’s a one-point differential. In the Florida vs. the rest of the NCAA competition in basketball and football, the point differential is very one-sided. In the last three championship games, the Gators have won by margins of 16, by 27, and by 9 points. None of them were even close enough to sweat over out the last five minutes. When it comes to playing on the big stage with the whole world watching, the Gators have simply outclassed their opponents.
Sports Illustrated called Ohio State “The Program” even after the Gators dismantled them in the Arizona Desert. Maybe “tOP” is more correct, they should be “The Other Program” in light of Florida’s 41-14 win over tOSU in football and 84-75 win Monday night over the Buckeyes in basketball.
So, this egotistical follower of Florida sports (yes me), believes the only fair thing to do is pit the Gator teams against each other since Florida vs. Ohio State seems so unfair. Billy just did his part and now it’s Urban’s time to answer the bell.
Oh, he has a tough task to manage, this Urban Meyer but if we’ve learned anything about this native of Ohio, it is he knows how to lift a team out of the muck. Last year, Meyer and his senior leaders overcame turmoil and suspensions to forge a team capable of destroying tOSU when it counted the most.
Meyer makes no bones about it. His football team took a page from Billy Donovan’s basketball champions. Donovan’s 2006 team came out of nowhere in that nobody expected them to even make the NCAA Tournament when the season began, much less win it at season’s end. There were a lesson in teamwork and sticking together in adverse situations.
The characteristics of Meyer’s football national champs? Teamwork and sticking together in adverse situations. When they got to the national championship game, they played the same way Billy’s basketball team played against UCLA for the basketball championship — confident and relentless, or as Joakim Noah called it, “PHD … poor, hungry and driven.”
From a team that wasn’t expected to do anything to a team that was expected to do everything, Donovan faced a tougher challenge in the 2007 season. Great expectations can wear down the best of teams, but Billy led the way and helped the basketball team find a way to live in the moment and not in the shadow of someone else’s demands or expectations. He never let the team get too high or too low. They were never over-confident or lacking faith in one another. Knowing they were a “storm the floor” game everywhere they played, they had to maintain an edge. When you know you’re getting the other guy’s best shot every night out, you have to be ready at all times.
They didn’t win all their games even though fans and media thought they should have, but they handled things so well and so decisively that they got the number one seed in the entire NCAA Tournament over the team ranked number one in all the polls (tOSU) and supposedly, that got the Gators the path of least resistance in the NCAA Tournament. The seeding for the tournament as a whole may have never been better as the top seeds won almost every time. The Final Four teams included two number one seeds (Florida and tOSU) and two number twos (UCLA and Georgetown). The number ones won which means that everything fell into place, just as it was meant to be when the bracketologists drew up this most recent version of March Madness.
In the end, the number one of the number ones was truly number one. Florida won it all. Again.
Just two years ago it was devout Catholic Billy Donovan recruiting a Catholic football coach from Utah to coach the Florida Gators. Urban Meyer was quoted about his time spent talking to Donovan and just what a big part he had in luring Meyer to the Gators over Notre Dame, the ultimate Catholic school, where everyone thought he might be heading.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen and Athletic Director Jeremy Foley spent their time back then making sure Meyer knew what kind of place Florida was and Donovan helped reassure him. That the Gators were pitted against maybe the most storied program in college football for Meyer’s services, seems now of little significance. The fact is, and Meyer knew it then and now, the University of Florida is a better job than the one that has the most trophies and tradition.
Now it is Meyer’s turn to do some recruiting for Florida. We’ve seen how he does it with high school kids. He’s a closer like no other on that front. Now he needs to recruit his friend Billy Donovan, who is being recruited to take over at Kentucky, college basketball’s equivalent of Notre Dame. recruit.
But just like Notre Dame was locked out; just like UCLA hit the door hard last year in hoops; just like Ohio State was sent packing from the desert in Arizona; and just like the Buckeyes were sent home with tears in their ears from lying awake all night and crying after what happened in Atlanta, the Wildcats will have to search somewhere else to get this victory. Donovan would rather spend his time in Gainesville, going head to head with his buddy, Urban Meyer. Considering tOSU offers no stiff compettion and the Gators have beaten Kentucky six in a row in basketball, Meyer is a more worthy opponent for Billy.
So Urban, is this a basketball school, or a football school? You are one behind. Time to nut up and show us what you got.