Thoughts of the Day: September 17, 2013

1. TENNESSEE MEMORIES, 1993: Just a week before, Florida had struggled to beat Kentucky. Terry Dean and Danny Wuerffel combined to throw seven interceptions and yet the Gators still won the game, 24-20, when Wuerffel and Chris Doering connected for the game-winning touchdown with only three seconds remaining. Tennessee came into the game ranked fifth on the heels of a very impressive, 38-6, thrashing of Georgia and there was plenty early season hype about quarterback Heath Shuler, at that point considered a Heisman Trophy contender. Shuler certainly didn’t disappoint on that day, throwing five touchdown passes including bombs of 70, 55 and 41 yards but Wuerffel got the win with three touchdown passes in his first career start. Florida went on to win the first of four straight SEC championships that year while the Vols went 10-1 in the regular season before losing to Penn State in the Citrus (You can’t spell Citrus without a U and a T) Bowl.

2. WHAT HAPPENED TO HEATH SHULER?: Shuler, who chose the Vols over Florida out of Bryson City, North Carolina, finished second to Florida State’s Charlie Ward in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1993. He left early for the NFL and was drafted third overall by the Washington Redskins where he embarked on an unremarkable 5-year career. He later became a US Congressman from North Carolina.

3. FLORIDA OL SHOULD BE IN GOOD SHAPE FOR SATURDAY: The Gators benefitted from the week off. It was a chance to get Tyler Moore and D.J. Humphries healthy enough to start Saturday against Tennessee and for Jon Halapio to be declared ready to go at right guard. Halapio’s presence also means that Kyle Koehne will be available to step in at right or left tackle if either Humphries or Moore have any physical problems. It also means that with Halapio and Max Garcia at the guards and Jon Harrison at center that the Gators should be stronger up the middle than they have been at any point this season, good news for Matt Jones, who could have a career day against Tennessee’s very shaky defensive line.

4. WHO’S HOT AND WHO’S NOT: The Who’s Hot list includes Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, FSU QB Jameis Winston, Florida’s defense (ranked third nationally), Oregon’s offense (averaging 61.3 points per game), Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott, Oregon’s dynamic duo of Marcus Mariota and DeAnthony Thomas, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, Oklahoma QB Blake Bell and LSU’s pitch-catch combo of QB Zach Mettenberger and Odell Beckham. The Who’s Not list includes the defenses at Texas A&M, Nebraska and Tennessee, Mack Brown, Bo Pelini, Charlie Weis and the Pac-12 zebra crew that called the Arizona State-Wisconsin game.

5. NCAA SAYS PAYING ATHLETES NOT A GOOD IDEA: This is a controversial subject for a lot of folks, but Mark Emmert’s statement Monday that the NCAA doesn’t think it’s a great idea for athletes to get any kind of monthly stipend beyond their scholarships isn’t going to resonate well with the schools from the power conferences. The schools in the power conferences have the money to offer a monthly stipend to all of their scholarship athletes. It’s the schools from smaller D1 conferences and the ones in Divisions IAA that are opposed along with a good many of the smaller non-football schools that play D1 basketball. They are the have nots of Division I and the fact that they have a say in what happens at the higher levels has always been a source of friction. It’s at the point where it could create a rift that ends the NCAA as we know it now.

6. EMMERT IS ON SHAKY GROUND ANYWAY: Mark Emmert is about as popular as the guy who hasn’t taken a bath in a month on a crowded elevator when the power goes off. Under his “leadership” the NCAA has turned a slam dunk case against the University of Miami into a total debacle and has done everything but hand out the death penalty to Penn State over the case of a sexual predator who was retired from the PSU coaching staff but still had access to all the facilities. He is viewed as a leader who has used and abused the power of his office to the detriment of college sports. If he insists on taking the stipend to a full vote of all 350 Division I schools it could indeed cause a revolt in the ranks. The power conferences could bolt and form their own football only Division which would allow them to play by their own rules. Don’t think for a second this isn’t in the works. It’s probably just a matter of when it happens, not if.

7. ARIZONA STATE FANS THINK EVERYTHING IS ALL SQUARE NOW: If you’re a Sun Devil fan, Saturday night’s bizarre ending which gave ASU a 32-30 win over Wisconsin is payback for what happened in Madison back in 2010. Arizona State lost that game, 20-19, when Wisconsin blocked an extra point that would have tied the game, but a bit earlier the Sun Devils had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown when Wisconsin corner Niles Brinkley shoved ASU receiver T.J. Simpson out of bounds in the end zone while the ball was in the air. The Big 10 official swallowed his whistle. In Sun Devil-think, the officials screwing up at the end of the ASU-Wisconsin game in Tempe is nothing more than payback and everything is all square now.

8. ZEBRAS REPRIMANDED BUT THIS DOESN’T HELP WISCONSIN: The Pac-12 took a look at the film Monday and concluded that the zebra crew in Tempe indeed screwed up. The officials acted indecisively when Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave took a knee with about 15 seconds to go, setting up what would have been a game-winning field goal attempt. When the ball popped out after Stave took the knee, the officials weren’t sure whether it was a fumble or something that happened after the ball was downed so they let ASU scramble for the ball before ruling that Stave had indeed touched his knee. Then the head official stood over the ball while the final four seconds ticked off without allowing Wisconsin to get a final snap. The Pac-12 says it will sanction the officials, something that should be done, but it doesn’t do anything for Wisconsin, which probably had a win snatched away.

MUSIC FOR TODAY: Lyle Lovett kills and if you’ve ever heard Lovett and his Large Band perform then there is also a good chance you’ve heard Francine Reed, maybe the best female blues performer in the world. Reed quite often tours with Lovett, but she’s also worked with the likes of Delbert McClinton, Roy Orbison and Willie Nelson in the past.  If you live in Atlanta, stop by Blind Willie’s some night and you might hear her at the mike. She will blow you away with that incredible voice and sassy presence on stage. I think the best song she’s ever done is “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues,” performed in this version with Lovett’s Large Band. Lovett’s band, by the way, is one of the best touring bands going. You name the style, they can knock you dead.

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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.