Thoughts of the day: December 11, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:


That was a statement win for Billy Donovan at the O-Dome Monday night. In knocking off one of college basketball’s blue bloods, the Gators let the college basketball world know that just because they don’t have the deepest bench in the world, they are a team that is going to be reckoned with in March. In beating Kansas in what can only be described as a March Madness atmosphere, the Gators showed that they can win even on a night when they aren’t shooting all that well. Florida only shot 37% but the Gators played ferocious defense, particularly out of that 1-3-1 zone trap that helped force Kansas into 26 turnovers. There was a time when some alleged experts claimed that Donovan was a great recruiter but only average as a bench coach. Those people are idiots. He took Bill Self to school Tuesday night and as long as he’s on the bench, don’t worry about the Gators. They’ll do just fine.


After several conversations with people in the coaching search business including one who has served on staffs with Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, here are the four names that I hear the most: Mike Norvell (Arizona State); Blake Anderson (North Carolina); Noel Mazzone (UCLA); and Tim Beck (Nebraska). I know that there are conflicting reports about Norvell I was told late Tuesday night that (a) he’s very much in play and (b) has had contact with Florida. Whether that’s fact or not, I can’t tell you. I’m simply passing along the information as I hear it. Of the four, Beck is the highest paid at $700,000 while Norvell makes about $490,000. Mazzone is paid $375,000 at UCLA while Anderson is making only $250,000 at North Carolina.


Of those four candidates, the one that I’m told wants the job the most is Mazzone, who could be paid the same amount he’s making at UCLA and but make substantially more money at Florida because of the lower cost of living and the fact there is no state income tax in the state. The one that probably makes the most sense to me is Anderson. From what I’m told from other interviews he has had, Anderson will bring with him UNC offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic, who is considered a rising young star. The one that I like the most is Norvell, but I can’t see him leaving Arizona State right now. If you ask me the one I think Will Muschamp will settle on, it’s Beck because Beck is the most run-oriented of the four.


I continue to hear that Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite and interim Southern Cal head coach Clay Helton will not be part of the Florida search moving forward. Two very prominent Florida boosters that I talked to at Tuesday night’s Florida-Kansas basketball game both insisted that neither Applewhite nor Helton is under consideration. From the answers I was given to the questions I asked, I’m not 100% certain that either one of them got anything more than a courtesy call. Another name that I’ve not gotten any feedback on is former Wyoming coach Dave Christensen. I’m not sure how his name ever got attached to the Florida vacancy because there seems to be no connection to Muschamp.


On a night when the rumor mill churned out a couple of reports that Mack Brown is being forced into retirement at Texas, Brown tweeted that he’s in Florida recruiting and wouldn’t be working this hard if he were about to retire.  One thing for certain, Mack Brown is not going to ride off into the sunset peacefully. This is not about money. Brown is not posturing for a large buyout that will buy his silence. He is well enough invested that he won’t miss his coaching salary. This is more about the nine wins he needs to tie Darrel Royal as the winningest head coach in Texas history. To get there he needs a farewell tour season.


Think Tennessee. The last thing Texas wants is a protracted search for a new football coach that ends poorly like it did in Knoxville. The Vols have been through three coaches since Phil Fulmer was ousted. Lane Kiffin was a surprise choice in 2009 but that ended poorly. Next came Derek Dooley, who only got the job after at least four other prominent candidates said no. Butch Jones just finished his first year on the job and he might have been further down the Vols’ search list than Dooley. If Texas is going to replace Mack Brown, the last thing it needs is the perception that it can’t get its man on the first try. There is already speculation that Nick Saban will be offered his very own Brinks Truck loaded with cash to take the Texas plunge, but what if Alabama counters with as much or more? And, would Saban be willing to leave with the perception that he got run out of the state of Alabama by Gus Malzahn of Auburn? Taking that into consideration, Texas might be very wise to indulge Mack so it can spend a season finding the right coach, whether that’s Saban or someone else. Right now it doesn’t appear that Texas really has a backup plan in case Saban does what is expected and says no.


Saban, obviously is at the top. He’s been asked about the Texas job and everytime he has been asked he denied it. He did that at Michigan State, LSU and the Miami Dolphins also. Usually, when he denies he’s leaving somewhere you immediately suspect he’s about to bolt. People who know Saban fairly well claim that he would have been far more likely to leave Alabama if he had beaten Auburn two weeks ago. The other names on the Texas wish list are Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers) and Jimbo Fisher (Florida State). Harbaugh has the 49ers playing like they might make it back to the Super Bowl a second straight year and Fisher has Florida State prepping to face Auburn for the national championship, which means neither of them are ready to make a move. If Mack Brown is to be fired, then Texas needs someone now and the only one on the wish list that seems to be in position to make a move is Saban. Good luck on that one.


As expected Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson left for Wake Forest. Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin’s name will be mentioned prominently in the Bowling Green search … Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has interviewed for the UConn job. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and Ball State head coach Pete Lembo are the other candidates … Alabama offensive line coach and former FIU coach Mario Cristobal is not being considered for the job at Florida Atlantic … Boise State could name Dirk Koetter as its new head coach today.


Good friend Doug Wedgworth down in Palm Beach County recently introduced me to Mingo Fishtrap, an Austin, Texas based band that fuses soul, funk and the blues into a terrific sound. It’s a nine-piece band with a great horn section and outstanding vocals by Roger Blevins Jr. This is “Jangle When I Walk,” a cut off their “In the Meantime” CD. This is performed at Threadgill’s in Austin, where Janis Joplin used to wait tables and sing.

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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.