Thoughts of the day: November 25, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:


The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Jeremy Foley will stick with his decision to bring back football coach Will Muschamp next year although there will be significant changes in the coaching staff. I don’t doubt for a second that Foley intends to bring back Muschamp. I also don’t doubt for a second that things could change between now and next Sunday. The stadium will be filled next Saturday but only because Florida State fans are buying up every available ticket. It’s going to be a sad day at The Swamp if something like a third of the stadium is wearing garnet and gold. It could happen. And, what happens if the Seminoles run up the score? Don’t think Jimbo Fisher would do that on an old buddy? Think again. FSU needs all the style points it can get to fend off Ohio State to get to the national championship game.


The carryover of a beatdown by the Seminoles in The Swamp could be enormous, particularly when it comes to Florida’s purse strings. I’m convinced that Foley believes that Florida can weather the storm for a year and that Muschamp will have the Gators winning again, but is winning alone enough to bring the fans back? The Gators won 11 games in 2012 but there were plenty of tickets to be had for any of the home games, even sellouts like LSU, Missouri and South Carolina. Remember the Jacksonville State game? Announced attendance was 82,000. Actual attendance was probably more like 65,000. Should the Gators go in the tank against FSU, Foley is going to have to weigh the potential financial hit against the logic of keeping Muschamp. So, while it might be prudent to say that Foley is bringing Muschamp back, remember a lot can change in seven days.


While the powers that be contemplate Florida’s football future, Florida State has a roster that is absolutely stacked and built for future success. As good as the Seminoles are this year – easily the best team from top to bottom of the roster since the 1999 national championship team that went bell-to-bell at #1 – they could be even better next year, particularly if Jameis Winston skates through his current legal difficulties. A look at the FSU two-deep shows only eight senior starters and four other seniors filling out their two-deep. The Seminoles are loaded at running back (all three top rushers are juniors), wide receiver (10 of their top 11 receivers are underclassmen) and the offensive line (only one senior starter and one other senior on the two-deep). If Winston comes back, this will easily be the nation’s most explosive offensive unit.



Scottie Wilbekin is back from his five-game suspension at a most opportune time for the Gators since freshman point guard Kasey Hill is out indefinitely while he recovers from a high ankle sprain. Wilbekin gives the Gators a tested, tough lock down defender on the perimeter and a shooter who can knock down the open three. What he also gives the Gators is a measure of maturity. Donovan gushed Sunday afternoon about how Wilbekin has used this embarrassing time in which he was suspended from the team to take stock of himself and become more of a team-oriented player who genuinely cares about each of his teammates. Wilbekin is just one more reason that I’ve said for years that Billy Donovan is the best coach in any sport that has ever been at the University of Florida. With Billy, it has been and always will be more about turning the boy into the man.


 Very quietly, #3 Ohio State is creeping up on #2 Florida State in the BCS Standings. Last week, FSU led the Buckeyes by .0792 points. The margin shrunk to .0497 points in the latest standings released Sunday evening. That margin could narrow considerably in the next couple of weeks. While FSU closes its regular season with the 4-7 Gators, Ohio State will finish out with 7-4 Michigan. In their conference championship games the following week, Ohio State will be squared off with Michigan State, currently #11 in the BCS standings, while Florida State is likely to face #25 Duke, although Duke’s spot in the BCS standings is precarious. The Blue Devils have to face a red hot North Carolina team Saturday. Where Ohio State could really make up ground is in the Harris Poll where humans, not computers will take into consideration what happens with Jameis Winston. If Winston is charged with a sexual crime, he will be suspended and that would certainly make an Alabama-Ohio State matchup more palatable to the TV network people.


This is the final year of the BCS, so let’s inject an interesting hypothetical here. Let’s say that Auburn beats Alabama in the Iron Bowl, then loses to Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Over in the Big Ten, let’s say that Michigan State knocks off the mighty Buckeyes and down in the ACC a Winston-less FSU gets knocked off in the conference championship game. Would one-loss Missouri from the SEC make it to the national championship game? Or would the BCS computers still pick Alabama? Would a one-loss Oklahoma State from the Big 12 move up high enough to make it? Or how about one-loss Michigan State? I never have liked the BCS but I do love this scenario. It would be a fitting ending to the BCS from my standpoint.


Aaron Murray’s college career came to an unceremonious end Saturday night in Lexington when he tore the ACL in his left knee during Georgia’s 59-17 win over Kentucky. Murray finished his career as the SEC’s most prolific passer ever with 13,166 yards and 121 touchdown passes. Murray is also the only quarterback in SEC history to record four consecutive 3,000-yard seasons. He is a product of Tampa Plant who chose Georgia over Florida because Georgia ran a pro style offense while Florida ran a spread option. A note of praise for Murray: He was in the football office watching film Sunday to help backup quarterback Hutson Mason get ready for Georgia Tech.


Do you ever wonder what happened to former Gator basketball players who didn’t make it to the NBA or chose to extend their careers elsewhere? Currently, there are 19 former Gators playing overseas: Mohamed Abukar, Spirou (Belgium); Kenny Boynton, Netanya (Israel); Bonell Colas, Randers (Denmark); Taurean Green, Limoges (France); Justin Hamilton, Spirou (Belgium); Donnell Harvey, Shandong FB (China); Walter Hodge, Laboral Kutxa (Spain); David Huertas, Halcones Rojos de Vera Cruz (Mexico); Lee Humphrey BC Kyiv (Ukraine); Vernon Macklin, Barangay Ginebra (Philippines); Adrian Moss, Bambitious Nara (Japan); Anthony Roberson, Al Jaysh (Qatar); Mike Rosario, Ponce (Puerto Rico); Alex Tyus, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel); Erving Walker, Stelmet ZG (Poland); Matt Walsh, Granarolo BO (Italy); Dan Werner, Ferro-ZNTU (Ukraine); James White, Grissin Bon RE (Italy); and Brent Wright, Oostende (Belgium).


The late, great Laura Nyro made her name writing songs for everyone else, but she had a hauntingly beautiful voice that was even better in person than it ever was in the studio. One of her truly best efforts was a song she didn’t write. “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” was first recorded in 1965 by The Royalettes, who peaked at #41 on the charts. Laura Nyro recorded it in 1971 on her “Gonna Take a Miracle” album.

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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.