Thoughts of the day: March 8, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning.


It is going to be a very emotional Senior Day ceremony prior to Florida’s final regular season game with Kentucky today (12 noon, CBS) at the O-Dome. Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather may not go down as the four most talented seniors that Billy Donovan has ever recruited but they have a chance to go down as the greatest senior class in Florida history. Today they will be going for their 23rd consecutive win overall and their 32nd in a row at the O-Dome. These seniors are 112-29 in their UF careers. How appropriate is it that the Gators can close out the regular season with a win over Kentucky? Kentucky will start the five most overhyped freshmen in the history of college basketball while the Gators will start four marvelous seniors who will leave school with three SEC championships, at least three trips to the Elite Eight game and college degrees. And who knows? A month from now they might be holding the NCAA championship trophy over their heads. You shouldn’t be surprised if that happens.


Freshman phenom Will Grier spent spring break in Key West. Girlfriend Taylor Walker sent out this tweet after Grier amazed her with a random act of kindness:

Taylor Walker‪@taylor_walker22

dating a man that gave his shoes off of his feet to a homeless man>>>  ‪#iLoveYou willgrier7

Grier gave the shoes off his own feet to a homeless man. From everything I know about the kid, that wasn’t done to impress the girlfriend but just the way he is. There is no question this is one of the more talented quarterbacks ever to sign with the Gators. Apparently as talented as he is, talent will never match up to his character, which is off the charts.


After years of debate, college football could be getting an early signing period. Details haven’t been worked out, but a 32-member panel of Division I commissioners and executives will meet in June with the early signing period a prominent part of the agenda. Apparently, it’s not a question of if this proposal will pass, just when the early signing period will take place. It has been suggested early summer, right after the camp season; August 1 before fall football camp begins or November at the same time of the early signing period for college basketball. My guess is that it will be one of the two summer dates. Also on the agenda will be allowing official visits during the spring and summer prior to a recruit’s senior season.


It was Senior Night at the O-Dome for #2-ranked Florida gymnastics and the Gators made it a night to remember for MacKenzie Caquatto, Alaina Johnson and Lauren Rose with a 198.325-194.925 win over West Virginia that featured another perfect 10 by Kytra Hunter, her fourth of the season. Johnson, last year’s NCAA uneven bars champ, won her specialty event with a 9.975 en route to a 39.825 score to claim the all-around title against WVU. Johnson scored a 9.950 on the vault, beam and floor. Caquatto also had a terrific Senior Night with 9.950s on the bars and beam while finishing second in the all-around with a 39.625. The Gators go to Missouri next weekend then go for their third straight SEC team title in Birmingham on March 22.


Florida’s 21-0 start to the season came to an end Friday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium with a 2-0 loss to Ole Miss in the first Southeastern Conference game of the season. The Gators managed only three hits off Ole Miss ace Carly Hummel. The Gators will try to rebound  today when they face Ole Miss at 2 p.m. … The Florida women ran out of gas down the stretch and fell to Kentucky, 75-70, in the second round of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Duluth, GA. The Gators have to wait until March 16 to find out if they are in the NCAA field of 64 or headed to the WNIT again … Florida’s baseball team pushed across a run in the bottom of the 11th to take a 1-0 win over UConn in the first of a 3-game weekend series. Casey Turgeon singled home Josh Tobias with the game-winner as five Florida pitchers combined for the shutout, limiting UConn to six hits.


After a year in which the NFL picked up black eyes from the likes of Aaron Hernandez and Richie Incognito, the league is proposing an early intervention program to identify problems before they happen. Calling it “high risk or high reward,” NFL vice president Troy Vincent wants to set new standards for the league while at the same time dealing with personal issues that might date back to childhood with some players. It is a fine idea at its core but not without complications in implementing it. Of course, the NFL Players Association will have to go along with it and that might be a very large speed bump, but at least give the NFL credit for trying to do something smart for a change instead of kicking 43-yard extra points.


Creighton’s Doug McDermott comes into the weekend needing 34 points to join college basketball’s exclusive 3,000-point club. Known in Omaha and around the Big East as “Dougie McBuckets,” McDermott will be the runaway choice for the John Wooden Award and any other award that signifies the national player of the year. The other members of the club are LSU’s Pete Maravich, Portland State’s Freeman Williams, LaSalle’s Lionel Simmons, Mississippi Valley State’s Alphonso Ford, Texas Southern’s Harry “Machine Gun” Kelly, Saint Peter’s Keydren Clark and Bradley’s Hersey Hawkins. It should be noted that Maravich scored 3,667 points in just three years without the benefit of the 3-point shot. All the others played four years.


John Mayall is 80 years old but he’s still doing a full concert tour this year. Very few have ever done the blues better. His band, The Bluesbreakers, has included the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor and Gary Moore over the years. I first started listening in 1969 when I was working at The Record Bar on W. University Avenue in Gainesville after school. Back in 1998 when I was living in London, I got a chance to hear John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers live and it’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. This is “So Many Roads” from a 2008 video taken at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. If you ever get the chance to go to Montreux, don’t pass it up. It’s an amazing. Tickets are pricey but well worth it.

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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.