Part of what has helped fans make it through a long, frustrating quarantine is the abundance of fan polls on social media. In particular, 64-team, March Madness themed brackets that allow fans to vote on the winner of each matchup in each round have captured a lot of attention and served as an excellent distraction as people followed the progression of the brackets. I’ve even done one- the #GoatGators “Greatest Florida Gator team of all time” bracket, the championship round of which is underway.
Now, though, comes the bracket I’ve been putting together for almost a month- the Greatest Gator Ever.
The massive, 256 player- yes, that’s right, 256, as opposed to 64- field includes all sports and will take place over the next couple of months. Here’s how it will work.
I divided the 256 players into sixteen Regionals of sixteen players. So essentially, the Regionals will work just like the 16 member Regionals of a 64 team field, except that the Regional finals will be the Round of 32 as opposed to the Elite 8. The sixteen Regional winners will comprise the Sweet 16.
In terms of Regional seedings, I ranked the top sixteen players overall and paired their Regionals up bracketologically. Meaning, should chalk hold and all sixteen #1 seeds win their Regionals, the #1 overall seed would face the #16 overall seed, i.e. the sixteenth and final #1 Regional seed, in the Sweet 16. Beyond that, the overall seedings were only used to determine what seed line the player was on. In the #EverythingSchool spirit, I tried hard to avoid having players from the same sport meet up in early rounds and create a lot of parity in the sixteen Regionals among the different sports the Florida Gators sponsor.
Voting will work similarly to the way it worked for the greatest team bracket. The polls for the matchups throughout the Regionals- the Round of 256, 128, 64 and 32- will be held on twitter. After that- from the Sweet 16 through the championship round- voting will expand to Facebook as well, and the player with the most votes on Facebook and twitter combined will win the matchup.
As for what determined the seedings for this Greatest Gator Ever bracket? Well, they were based on a number of criteria. No one criteria factored in more heavily than the other; I simply weighed them all together. They were:
- All time statistics at Florida, and where the player ranks all time at Florida in their statistics. Consistency, as well as the totality of your output, was obviously a factor. Leading (or being second or third for) Florida all-time in a major category, like yardage, points, batting average, goals, etc. gave you a major leg up on everybody else in this criteria. As a side effect of this, players who were in Gainesville for four years get a major advantage in this criteria over players who were in Gainesville for one or even three years.
- Was the player clutch at Florida? Stats are stats, and they tell a lot of the story, but not all of it. Hitting a buzzer beater or a walk-off in the NCAA Tournament was an easy way to vault your seeding in this. On a less dramatic note, coming through with a clutch hit or catch in a championship game could be enough to get you into the field whereas without that moment, you were on the bubble between being just a great player and being one of the 256 to make it into the field. For example (and I’m only doing one of these so as to not give away the whole field), softball first baseman Taylor Schwarz- by all accounts a great softball player, but maybe not one of the top 256 athletes in Gator history- got into the field this way with her 2-RBI single against Michigan in Game 3 of the 2015 WCWS Finals.
- How good was Florida while the player was there? If you were a stat machine but the team sucked, you could very well find yourself behind a very good or great, but not elite, player who led Florida to a Final Four or a New Year’s Six Bowl. More specifically, how big of a role a player had in how successful Florida was during his or her career was considered heavily because there’s something to be said about a player that simply makes the team around him or her better.
- A separate, but related-to-the-above-two categories: did you win a national championship at Florida, and did you play a significant role in that national championship? All factors are weighed evenly, to reiterate, but true greatness is best determined by if you brought the ultimate form of glory back to Gainesville. So if there were two players with identical stats, but player A won a national championship and player B played on four terrible teams, player A now has three separate legs up on player B: playing on good teams, (presumably) coming through in the clutch and winning a national championship.
- Awards won at Florida, both in the regular season and postseason. Receiving the award for being the best player in your sport, such as the Heisman, Wooden or Golden Spikes Award, is obviously the biggest sub-criteria in the “awards” criteria, followed by being named SEC Player of the Year, an All-American, or the MVP or MOP of a national championship, Final Four, or College World Series- the latter of which ties into the prior three criteria but was made separate to give those players an extra advantage.
- Being named captain of a highly successful team at Florida. Maybe your stats weren’t elite, but if your teammates thought enough of your leadership abilities and on-field play to name you a captain, and you captained that team to a national championship or very close to one, that would be considered a factor.
- Professional career after Florida, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, the ATP for tennis, PGA for golf, representing a national team for the Olympics, World Cup or other international event. All six of the prior criteria for performance at Florida are used to judge the player’s professional career, as well as being selected in the All-Star game or Pro Bowl. Major bonus points in this criteria for players who were elected into their sport’s professional Hall of Fame.
The Selection Show will be held on Sunday via a Periscope broadcast. A link to the broadcast will also appear on my twitter page. Voting will begin next Tuesday and run throughout the summer. Be sure to check back here- as well as our twitter and Facebook pages- to vote on all the matchups as well as see the results and bracket as the tournament progresses.
Behold: the sixteen Regional brackets.
Now, let’s zoom out and look at the full bracket:
Here’s hoping that the argument about who the greatest Gator ever was will help get us through the rest of the quarantine.