Time for Gator fans to pinch themselves

OK, Gator fans, wake up! This has all just been a wild dream for the past four years.

And you thought those four national championships were real???! Hah! Things like that just don’t happen to The Gator Nation. We just don’t deserve it.

Rumplestilkskin just isn’t going to believe it, is he?

Every now and then Gator fans ought to pinch themselves out of gratitude. Maybe these are not the best days for finance, but the Florida Gators have certainly been paying dividends for their investors.

It’s too early to make predictions for the Gator football team in 2009, coming off that national championship, but I must warn you: Perusing all that returning talent on the three-deep roster can be hazardous to your cynicism.

Billy Donovan just racked up his 20th victory and, while not assured of an NCAA tournament berth, he is encouraged by the future of this young team because of its commitment to hard work and hustle.

Out there on the Cul de Sac of Champions where the braintrusts for football and basketball reside, one would expect they are living large, shielded from the bad economic news.

Of course that’s absurd, because Donovan won’t sleep until he’s found just the right rotation and chemistry. If he could only find a little more depth in the cupboard …

Rest assured that Urban Meyer is not up nights worrying about Lane Kiffin, but realizes it will take every ounce of his concentration to keep his team on top. He need only look back to the latter years of the Steve Spurrier era when the rest of the SEC started closing the gap on the Ol’ Ball Coach’s teams.

Think about this: If Urban’s 2009 team is as good as we all suspect – let’s not forget about the Mississippis of the world, now – then the Gators could become what Oklahoma was to the game in the 1950s. A third BCS title in four years? A 24-game winning streak?

We can only dream. But, then, the dreams have been coming true lately.

Not even the biggest of Gator dreamers can see any kind of basketball championship ahead this season.

Critics like to lampoon Billy for not recruiting better and winding up without a big man or more talent on the bench. They forget that Maurice Speights came out early, Jai Lucas transferred and a whole class came out early after the 2007 championship.

Hey, it’s possible that Donovan might have taken his eye off the recruiting ball after he briefly signed with the Orlando Magic, but more than likely it has been just the natural course of things.

The stock market goes up, the stock market goes down. You just hope it doesn’t crash. Donovan’s team has struggled, but hasn’t crashed.

It hasn’t been that long ago that the critics were assailing Donovan because he kept losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This is no joke: The critics were so vocal that one night during Billy’s birthday party, his own mother worried about her son’s job security. That year he won his first national title.

Otherwise, what Donovan’s 2007-09 team is to basketball, the 2010 football team might become in a transition year. Johnny Brantley could be finding a little of what Nick Calathes has experienced. Except JB mentored for two years behind Tim Tebow; Calathes didn’t get to play behind Taurean Green or Al Horford or Corey Brewer.

As GatorCountry.com basketball writer extraordinaire Franz Beard wrote this week, Donovan has the fifth longest active streak of 20-win seasons (11), a number that not even Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp achieved.

And radio colleague Brady Ackerman points out that if Tebow had never come along, we’d all be talking about Calathes as the best athlete at Florida.

So these are the halcyon days of Gators sports. I need not lecture you fans about how lucky you are to be living in these days. But I will. You are.

Short Stuff

1. So Utah finally won a national championship, even if it did come from CollegeFootballTalk.com. (Wonder if GatorCountry.com could award one next year?)

2. Geez, Brandon James has been playing with a broken bone in his foot – how fast will he be when it heals?

3. Percy Harvin might be the most examined human in the universe when he hits the NFL combine, because the pros want to make sure he’s under warranty.

4. Is it just me, or is Texas Tech’s Mike Leach an offensive coordinator posing in a head coach’s body?

5. Memo to Urban Meyer: Well, that’s it, the Spread offense is officially dead because Joe Theismann says there won’t be enough quarterbacks around to run it in the NFL.

Short Stuff

I love the style (and the last name) of Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin, who just lowered the price of football tickets in a state depressed by the down cycle of the auto industry. … Has Jeremy Foley checked the stock market and the housing market lately? (Hint, hint). … Best looking freshman I’ve seen this year is Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair, who dominated Hasheem Thabeet in the Panthers’ upset of UConn.

And Good Morning to …

Mr. and Mrs. Steve Spurrier. Congratulations on the Feb. 28 wedding of your son Scottie, who will be marrying Jennifer Marie Fairfax in Columbia, S.C. (Make you feel old?)