The Back Nine comes at you in a bit of a panic because it is only three weeks until the 26thBob Dooley Invitational and I’m starting to freak out. This is, of course, an annual occurrence.
1. Because we live in football town (and remind me to tell you about the shirt I once bought in Athens), we’ll start with the news that the SEC Network is going to show the two-hour Inside the Gators special Monday at 9 p.m. This is a replacement for having a spring game, which couldn’t be played because the Swamp was being used for vaccinations and golf balls falling from the sky. The truth is that you will enjoy this special more than you would have a spring game and I don’t even have to see it to know that. I agree that having a spring game on TV can help in recruiting but it’s a good thing they are not recruiting me because I haven’t watched a second of any of them. Mostly, they are for the fans and provide content for the SEC Network, which you will realize when you are flipping it around on a Tuesday afternoon in July and narrow it down to The Golden Girls or “Vanderbilt spring game” on your TV. Anyway, please enjoy Monday night and then hunker down for the NFL Draft. Because after that, it’s a long way until SEC Media Days.
2. Something Dan Mullen said on 1010XL caught my eye when he was talking about the transfer portal. “I’ve seen so many guys grow, develop during their college career, and then move on to excel, that you would start skipping some of that development just trying to jump around to find a place where you start if that’s their concern,” he said. Yeah, but you don’t mind if they jump to Gainesville. Florida has done very well through the portal and it is simply something coaches must embrace with both hands. Look, I am as concerned as anyone that too many football and basketball players are seeing this portal as some magical gateway to a better place and might find themselves without anywhere to land and end up not getting a degree. I worry that these young men are being raised in a culture that says it’s being made easier to quit on one thing and try another. I get all of that. But this is reality and sometimes you have to evolve even when you don’t want to. The NCAA and the coaches brought this on. The NCAA should have made one-time transfers OK decades ago and by now we would have either accepted it or the players would have discovered it wasn’t really greener in the other pasture. And coaches quitting on their teams for more money and prestige at an ever-increasing rate (not to mention coaches getting fired like crazy, even in a pandemic year) has made the players want more rights.
3. Oh, yes, the s-shirt I bought in Athens, Ga. I actually wore it out. This was 1995 and Ray Goff was the coach at Georgia and the Dawgs were about to take another Steve Spurrier butt-whipping, this time in their own stadium. So, there was this shirt that said, “Athens – A Drinking Town with a Football Problem.” I loved that shirt.
4. I know that everybody is pointing to Florida’s weekend series at Auburn and thinking sweep before the Gators have won even one game. Auburn’s record is bad (2-13 in the SEC), but the Tigers are third in the league in hitting, have 11 fewer errors than Florida and seven more home runs than the Gators. Florida also could be looking ahead to next weekend’s series with Vanderbilt. I’ll take two-out-of-three right now and head on home.
5. The Gators are still at No. 30 in RPI although I don’t know how seriously the selection committee will take a metric that continues to list Fairfield as the No. 1 team in the land. Fairfield is unbeaten and deserves credit for having an unblemished record. On Wednesday, the Stags won twice, beating Saint Peter’s 20-2 and then winning the second game as a forfeit. There are four teams in the conference Fairfield plays in (the MAAC) with RPIs of 220 or lower. Okay?
6. Florida’s softball team also heads into a possible sweep situation against a struggling South Carolina team. Florida has three conference series left and the Gators are pretty much assured of hosting regional and Super regionals with a 33-6 record and No. 2 RPI (Oh, now you think the RPI is just fine). Florida’s opponents in those last three conference series have a combined record of 18-27, but the Gators need some help from LSU and Missouri against Arkansas (the Razorbacks have the last weekend off) to win an SEC crown.
7. When I heard the news that Keyontae Johnson is planning to return to the Florida basketball team, there were certainly some mixed emotions. I am sure he is going to have to be 100 percent cleared by doctors and the thought of the ovation he’ll get when he plays his first game gives me chills. But it’s still scary. Some things cannot be unseen and one of them is the scene in Tallahassee when he collapsed.
8. It is “Trivial Trivia Time” and this one is a doozy. No Google allowed. We all know that Tim Tebow won the Heisman as a sophomore, the first sophomore to ever win. Florida’s other two Heisman winners received votes as juniors and finished in the top 10 the years before they won. Where did Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel finish in the Heisman balloting in their junior years?
9. OK, now’s the time on Sprockets when we dance. Sorry, I was watching some old SNL. No, this is the time when I give you something to watch. Today it is the movie “I Want to Live!” starring the great Susan Hayward. This 1958 movie is so campy and so overacted and so full of cliches, well, I just can’t help myself. The answer to the trivia – Spurrier was ninth in 1965 while Wuerffel was third in 1995. And congrats to Danny for winning the John Wooden Citizenship Award. Can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.