O’Dome renovations pushed back one year

Plans to orchestrate a complete facelift of the O’Connell Center have been postponed for a year, the UAA announced yesterday.

There were a few reasons for the delay, including a change in the construction management team, suddenly increasing costs and an overly demanding construction schedule. But Jeremy Foley and President Kent Fuchs remain 100% on board with the overhaul. It’s still going to happen, it just won’t be until after next year’s spring sports end. UF has already invested $60 million dollars into this project, and it’s not like they can afford to renovate the O’Dome every other year, so they’re going to make damn sure they do it right. Even if that means putting the whole thing off for another year.

This shouldn’t have too big of an impact on Florida’s 2015-16 basketball schedule. The Gators were originally supposed to play the role of road warriors in the early part of the season- the non conference slate- before the completion of the project in time for the SEC opener. Florida was scheduled to be playing plenty of “road” games where they’ll be sure to have tons of fans, including at Miami, at Jacksonville and their annual appearance in the Orange Bowl in Sunrise, to ensure that they wouldn’t really feel like road warriors.

But this actually works out OK for Florida, as now they can host the SEC/Big 12 Challenge as well as Florida State next year the way they’re scheduled to, and simply pay their return visits to the two schools two years from now, when the O’Dome is undergoing renovations. They can then finish their non conference slate with some home games when the renovations are complete, and everything will be OK.

Assuming the team itself is, of course.

Missouri topples Florida: Rock Bottom

Well, now they’ve gone and done it.

This, girls and boys, right here before your very eyes, is the worst team Billy Donovan has ever coached. That includes his two years at Marshall, and that includes several of his Gator teams that finished less than spectacularly, like the 2008-09 team, and his first team at Florida, which finished with a losing record (but that team wasn’t really “his”, so to speak).

Never before have I seen such a flair for self destruction at just the right (or wrong) moments. Never before have I seen such an intense daily struggle to get to 60 points. And never before have I seen a Gator basketball team that actually makes me want to not watch.

Florida had a chance to win a basketball game against the worst team in the SEC. This particular win would have been Billy Donovan’s 500th. Instead of winning, the Gators did the only thing they’re capable of doing: they lost. Specifically, they choked on another late lead and lost.

Florida lost to Missouri, 64-52, in part because of a 39.1% night from the free throw line. OK, so it’s hard to win games without your two best players (Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith), but Missouri is absolutely awful. The Tigers were 7-20 coming into this game, including a woeful 1-13 in the SEC, averaging 61 points a game (305th in the nation), shooting a disgraceful 41% from the field as a team (293rd in the nation), and ranked #196 in the RPI. And the last time they won a game? That would be January 8th, five days after Adam Lane tore up the East Carolina defense in the Birmingham Bowl.

That 2008-09 team didn’t have a loss that was particularly embarrassing, but this team’s got three: Vanderbilt, FSU and now Missouri. Those teams are now a combined 38-45 with Missouri’s win. This Florida team has been blown out several times, losing four games by double digits; that 08-09 team only lost by double digits once. And that 2008-09 team at least got a win on a neutral floor over the Washington Huskies, who earned a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament that year. Yes, this year’s team beat Arkansas, but that was at home. And I’m betting Arkansas doesn’t get seeded any higher than #5 in their region, and probably lower than that.

NIT? Forget about it. Florida’s not even making the CBI this year, not at 13-15 with games against Tennessee, Texas A&M and Kentucky still on the table. I’m not even sure they’ll win another game, period, unless they can sneak out of the SEC Tournament with a win over a team of around Missouri’s caliber. Losing seasons for Gator basketball are unheard of, but that’s what this current batch of Gators is staring at unless they can win at least three more games.

In a cosmic sort of way, I kind of hope Florida waits until next year to give Billy Donovan his 500th win, i.e. lose out from here on out. It would be a real shame for Donovan to not get to enjoy such a milestone, and believe me, if he gets it with this team, he won’t. This team doesn’t deserve to celebrate such a milestone with Donovan, and he deserves to be able to sit back and enjoy it with a team that doesn’t make him want jump to the NBA.

Of course I’m rooting for Florida to pull a 2008 Georgia and win the SEC Tournament out of nowhere, make the NCAA Tournament, run through their region as a 13 seed and then pull the upset of the millennium to win the national championship. Unfortunately, the chances this actually happens are less than good and more than ridiculous. But this is the point: things have gotten so bad that I’m forced to think of silver linings for if the Gators lose every game remaining.

Anything short of what I described, and the season will remain the worst in Billy Donovan’s life. The only positive about this season is that it’s almost over. I say with 100% certainty that Gator basketball will be better next year, but only because it can’t possibly be any worse than it is right now. We survived the entire Will Muschamp era; we can survive one basketball season under one of the best coaches in college basketball that’s reminiscent of Muschamp’s tenure.

So in all kinds of weather, we’ll all stick together. Even in what’s nothing short of a nuclear winter.

NCAA finds Florida committed major violation; much ado about nothing

Remember that time about a year ago when word first spread that a Gator assistant coach (Joker Phillips) committed a “bump” violation and another Florida school (Miami) turned UF in for it? Well, the NCAA has made its ruling- and made the point to schools across the nation that handling such violations correctly internally would be looked upon favorably.

The NCAA declared that Phillips’ bump was a Level II violation, which is classified as a “major violation”. This is Florida’s first major violation in any sport since 1989- also committed by the football program, and then coach Galen Hall.

However, because Florida dealt with it in what the NCAA deemed an appropriate manner- forcing Phillips to resign- they won’t penalize UF any further. No bowl bans, no vacated wins or titles, no scholarship reductions. Nothing.

Here’s what the NCAA had to say about what Phillips did:

“A former University of Florida assistant football coach visited a prospect off-campus before NCAA rules allow for recruiting contact, according to a decision issued by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. The contact with the prospect resulted in the school receiving a recruiting advantage. In its decision, the panel noted that contacts of this nature exceed the boundaries of permissible recruiting and are a serious issue for the membership.

Before the former coach talked with the prospect, he was notified by a recruiting service reporter that the prospect would be waiting outside of his high school when they arrived. Once the former coach was at the high school, he spoke with the prospect, let him know the school wanted the prospect to be a part of their football program and got the prospect’s social media contact information. The panel determined the former coach’s contact with the prospect was a Level II violation because it was not inadvertent and provided more than a minimal recruiting advantage. Specifically, the former coach was able to get the prospect’s contact information at a time when coaches who were following the rules were unable to have the same level of contact.”

Essentially, they’re saying that Phillips orchestrated a so-called “inadvertent” meeting with a recruit at a time in which NCAA rules stated that he could not meet with him (or any other recruit). By doing so, Phillips gained an unfair advantage over other schools in that prospect’s recruitment.

But by forcing Phillips out- and then declining to recruit the prospect any further- Florida avoided any sanctions from the NCAA. Conversely, the NCAA took note that Florida handled the matter with dignity and integrity, and closed the book on the whole matter.

Gators shut down Hurricanes to claim crucial early season series

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The 5th ranked Gator baseball team is officially off to a red hot start.

Gator pitchers combined to allow three hits and one run, Harrison Bader blasted a solo home run in the 4th inning to give the Gators the lead for keeps, and Florida edged 14th ranked Miami 2-1 in the rubber match of the series. Florida won the first game of the series on Buddy Reed’s walk off base hit, and lost the middle game yesterday 7-2, forcing a winner take all matchup today between the Gators and Canes. With today’s win, Kevin O’Sullivan’s Gators improve to 6-1 on the year.

Dane Dunning started for Florida today, throwing five no hit innings. He did have a bit of a control problem in the second inning, walking three Canes- all with two outs- and then a passed ball by catcher Mike Rivera gave Miami a 1-0 lead. But after that, he settled right back down and continued mowing down the Hurricanes until he was relieved by Danny Young to start the sixth. Young sent the Canes down 1-2-3 in the sixth and got two outs in the 7th; Shaun Anderson came in and got three more outs before giving way to Kirby Snead with two outs in the 8th. Snead gave up a hit to Zack Collins, but Taylor Lewis came in and coaxed a popup to get out of the inning and preserve the 2-1 lead heading into the 9th. He then coaxed a harmless flyout off the bat of Brandon Lopez to end the game and cap a tremendous effort from the pitching staff.

Unfortunately for said pitching staff, the importance of their pitching performances was magnified by a less than stellar weekend from the Florida offense.

The Gators hit some balls hard this past weekend, and got 20 hits for the series. But eight runs in three games is nothing to brag about, especially when one came on a balk on Friday night. Two more came on solo home runs. This doesn’t speak too well of the Gators’ ability to launch a legitimate rally, and that’s certainly a bit concerning. Several times this weekend, Florida would string together back to back base hits, and get no runs out of it. For the series, the Gators hit a paltry 4-24 with runners in scoring position and left 19 runners on base. This is exactly the kind of offensive ineptitude that got the Gators unceremoniously bounced from their own Regional in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and while it’s February, three months away from when the serious baseball is played, it doesn’t exactly leave a great feeling.

On a more positive note, the Gators’ offense has seemed to find some power in the absence of cleanup hitter Pete Alonso. Harrison Bader has already blasted four homers on the year- through seven games, remember- and JJ Schwarz has hit three. The Gators have also hit 15 additional extra base hits, including four doubles by Bader and three from Dalton Guthrie. So the power hitting is there. Now it’s just a matter of getting it more consistently, so that a leadoff double isn’t wasted by three straight outs.

But we can save the concern about the lack of offensive production for another time, because for one thing, Miami has a very good pitching staff, and for another, it’s secondary in importance to the series win Florida just picked up.

Florida’s schedule is remarkably easy this season, which means Florida’s path to a favorable draw in the NCAA Tournament is going to have to be a gaudy win/loss record. It also means that the Gators will have to pick up big wins when they can get them, and taking two out of three from a Miami team that’s almost guaranteed to make the NCAA Tournament certainly qualifies. The only other opportunities for big non conference wins remaining are three midweek games against FSU, and because midweek games rarely feature either team’s top starters, those have negligible value in the eyes of the Selection Committee.

So even though we’re still in February, Florida needed to win this series. And they did that. It’s obviously way too early to talk about where Florida’s going to wind up in the NCAA Tournament or the SEC, but this series win puts them in as favorable a position as anybody can be in.

Buddy Reed’s walk-off hit lifts 5th ranked Gators over #14 Miami

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This was one of the strangest baseball games in Gator history.

Miami’s starting pitcher was scratched from his start minutes before the game. Florida’s starting pitcher left the game after facing just one batter. Florida scored its first run on a balk. Miami scored its first run on a passed ball.

But check out the teams’ records. It’s going to count anyway.

Buddy Reed drove in Josh Tobias with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, like every little kid dreams about doing, and the Gators took game one from the Hurricanes, 4-3.

Here’s what it looked like:

Reed’s heroics capped off a Gator comeback that was engineered without power hitting Pete Alonso, who isn’t expected to be back for  a few weeks. That’s not to say the Gators couldn’t have used him- Florida only picked up seven hits- but it was an impressive job by Florida to get hits when they absolutely needed to. Catcher Mike Rivera was responsible for the other two Gator runs that were driven in, driving the ball to the opposite field to score two runs in the sixth inning. That hit came with Florida down 3-1.

But as they say, defense is what’s most important, and Florida would have almost surely lost without two tremendous defensive efforts- one of them by Reed.

First, the job Bobby Poyner did coming in for ace Logan Shore after he hurt himself on the second batter of the game was tremendous. Poyner had absolutely no idea he’d be needed this early, and had to warm up from scratch after being told he was needed out of the blue. He calmly took the mound and allowed four hits in 5.1 innings, striking out seven Hurricanes. That’s more than you can ask for from a relief pitcher, even if Poyner has started several games before. After he came out, Miami scored all three of their runs in the 6th to go up 3-1.

Then came Rivera’s two RBI single to tie the game at 3-3 in the sixth. Two innings later, Miami’s Zack Collins singled. Willie Abreu then doubled in the gap in right field, which seemed certain to score Collins. But Reed threw an incredible relay- off balance, I might add- to shortstop Richie Martin, who then gunned Collins down at home, preserving the tie. It remained 3-3 heading into the ninth, when Florida’s Taylor Lewis came in and mowed down the Hurricanes, 1-2-3. So to the bottom of the ninth we went, still tied at three.

That’s when Reed became the offensive hero.

Leadoff man Josh Tobias was hit by a pitch. Ryan Larson then sacrificed him over to second, and then with two outs, Reed delivered the game winner.

That puts Kevin O’Sullivan’s Florida Gators at 5-0 on the year, and it gives them their first quality win. As I’ve said before, the Gators’ schedule is unusually easy this year, so Florida is going to be counted on to pick up big wins whenever they can get them if they want to get the type of high seeding they’re looking for in the NCAA Tournament. Winning one of the next two games against Miami (if not both, obviously) would definitely be considered a quality series win, even though Miami lost a midweek game to Florida Atlantic.

So it’s a good start, obviously. Now let’s take the series tomorrow and go from there.

Video: Mac Will Bring Us Back

Part of the reason I haven’t been posting too much content in the last couple of days is because I’ve been putting the final touches on a very special project, and now it’s finally time to release that project to the public.

Florida AD Jeremy Foley made a huge mistake in hiring Will Muschamp. But that mistake is in the past now, and it’s time to practice what Frozen preaches, and let it go. Jim McElwain is our coach now, and we have to move forward. With the talent Mac has to work with right away, his recruiting ability and offensive mind, Florida will be back in no time. I’m sure of it- and I’m not the only one.

Special thanks to Gator great Chris Rainey for lending his voice.

Two site announcements

We’ve got two exciting things to announce today.

The first of these regards our social media presence, particularly Facebook. Many of you may be familiar with the popular Facebook Page Gator Nation Unite, which had well north of 20K likes and has been around (at least) since this website was called Fire Steve Addazio in 2010. Well, I’m excited to announce that In All Kinds Of Weather’s Facebook page has merged with Gator Nation Unite. The moderator of that page, Alex Pickett, basically ran that page the same way I run IAKOW, both the site itself and our various social media handles, so for those of you that have been following GNU for a long time, don’t worry, virtually nothing is going to change other than the name and the affiliation with this website.

On the same note, I’m proud to introduce Alex Pickett as our site’s co-director of social media, along with myself. He’s built Gator Nation Unite into what it is today, and because of our near identical approaches to how we appeal to audiences, it’s only logical to let him keep doing what he’s been doing. Again, what you’ve seen from Gator Nation Unite content wise thus far is pretty much what you’ll be seeing going forward, because the majority of what you see will be from him.

The second announcement is a brief one, concerning the release time of our upcoming pump up video for 2015 Gator football. It will be out at 7:30pm, and it features a special surprise at the end, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

DE Eric Mitchell gives the Gators their second commitment of the day

Florida just picked up their second verbal pledge of the day. Mere hours after LB Vosean Joseph committed to Florida, fellow Miami defensive prospect Eric Mitchell joined him. His commitment came just a couple of days after Florida offered. Mitchell’s physical … Continue reading