Four Reasons Why We Love This Florida Gator Basketball Team

By BUDDY MARTIN

Even though these guys really haven’t won the ultimate prize yet – and may not – I feel compelled to confess today that of all the sports teams fielded by the University of Florida over the past 60 years, Billy Donovan’s 2013-14 basketball squad is one of my all-time favorites. And really it has nothing to do with being the nation’s No. 1 team because, as everybody knows, such a distinction this time of year is usually fool’s gold.

No matter what awaits them in March Madness, this team will be on my Mt. Rushmore of Gator hoops. I love the way these Gators have bonded, the way they grew together and approached every game as if they were underdogs. The way they carried themselves with confidence, composure and countenance in crunch time.

But it didn’t come easily. Every game, it seems, was another chapter in “The Little Engine That Could.”

It’s easy to love the championship basketball squads like the ones which won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and ’07 and had three members drafted in the Top 10 of the NBA Draft.

The memories still resonate of Joakim Noah blocking a shot, snatching the ball in mid-air and dribbling on a beeline to the middle of the court to lead the fast break. The nimble giant would dish off to skywalking Corey Brewer on the mega-dunk or Al Horford taking it hard to the rack, or pass to a trailing Taurean Green who would knock down the trey.

Who wouldn’t have been inspired watching theatre and ballet unfold on the hardwood before your very eyes to say nothing of the trophies that were produced?

This 2014 team is not about aesthetics and bling, however. It is neither Picasso or Michelangelo, nor the grace or beauty of the triple axle.

It’s maybe more like MacGyver doing graffiti, a bunch of egoless blue-collared guys with lunch pails doing an honest day’s work. No convergence of art and music these days as much as it has been “Please be patient: Our site is under construction.” Divas need not apply.

There’s not much pretty about Scottie Wilbiken deking on his cat-and-mouse routine, darting in and then pulling back almost like a semi-do-over, dumping a ball-screen pass to Will Yeguete, a guy who only shoots as a last resort. Yeguete more than likely hands off to Casey Prather, who either drives to the hole or dishes to mammoth Patric Young. And sometimes on a hot night, Michael Frazier will be sweet-stroking 3s like buttah.

The heart of their offense is their pressing defense, the zone trap, turning over an opposing player and attacking their will.

They’ve come a long way since Donovan had to scour the parking lot for a quorum to hold practice. And even then it took his former team manager to fill the void and walk-on Jacob Kurtz has wound up playing significant minutes.

If it is true, as the experts say, that success is 90 percent about showing up, then the firm of Wilbiken, Young, Prather & Yeguete will all graduate magna cum laude from Donovan’s School of Grit & Determination.

These. Gators. Always. Show. Up. And. Play. Hard. Period.

In a year when some of the hard-core Gator football fans are flying their flags at half-staff and licking the wounds from a 4-8 campaign, they can proudly beam, “Well, at least we are a BASKETBALL school!” They then can proudly point to The Four Who Stayed For Four who amassed 113 wins, an annual invitation to the Elite Eight and a perfect SEC campaign.

Young, Prather, Yeguete and Wilbiken, through their loyalty, recharged the Gator Nation, raising the spirits of The Boys From Old Florida.

1. We all love Patric, whose guns are superseded only by his supersized heart. But isn’t every one of those jump hooks a hold-your-breath adventure? He lumbers downcourt like an 18-wheeler with one tire low on air, always pedal-to-metal. He goes up for rebounds like a starving lion after red meat and flings himself toward loose balls as if falling on a grenade for his best friend. Yet his signature moment of the season was his lunge for the errant ball against Tennessee and subsequent on-his-butt outlet pass that iced the clock. And let’s not forget that Young has become the most improved free-throw shooter on the squad. He knew if he didn’t become more accurate that his team would be hurt late in games because foes would turn him into a Hack-A-Pat target. He wasn’t the two-time SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year for nothing. Thank you Patric.

2. As much as Young has improved his free-throw shooting, Prather has improved his game times 10 over in the last four seasons. Either that, or when the equipment manager wasn’t looking, a clone of Kevin Durant slipped into that No. 24 uniform. There were times when Prather wanted to transfer, discouraged by his inability to shoot the 3-pointer and lack of scoring to help his team. He was a bit of a loner. So he worked through it only to be injured earlier in this year. Prather more than doubled his 6-point scoring average to lead the team in that department. His defense also became a huge asset. He delights in slapping the ball away for a steal and finishing the break, sometimes with a soft-butterfly landing to avoid the charge. Thank you Casey.

3. Yeguete does the dirty work – whatever scraps are left by Young. He boxes out, sets the picks, takes the charge or sometimes defends the low post. It’s easy to lose sight of Will because he’s not flashy and tends to blend into the background. Yet during high school at Florida Air Academy, he was known as a player who could “dominate a game without scoring,” according to an opposing coach. He was so shy four years ago that he practically needed to re-introduce himself to the team in practice. The fact that he spoke French and his family lived on the Ivory Coast didn’t make for an overnight relationship of sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows. After a slow start with tendonitis, Yeguete has become one of those unsung heroes you hear about. And he’s sort of the glue. Thank you Will.

4. If it seems like Wilbiken has been playing for Florida since the 1990s, it’s because he was so young (17) when he virtually walked across the street from The Rock to play four more years in his hometown. Yet he almost didn’t play that last season because he was in an eyelash of getting booted off the team late last summer for violation of a team rule. It was the second time in 18 months he broke a team rule and was sat down. His coach invited him to transfer unless Scottie was willing to move back in with his parents and follow a strict conditioning regimen. He also was required to apologize to his teammates and the fans. Even then he was suspended until further notice and didn’t come back until Game 6. Then he suffered an injury. Somehow it made him more resolute. When this team is struggling, needs a bucket but nobody else can throw it in the ocean, Wilbiken is money. He also plays belly-button defense, picks the pocket of his man often and has been known to shut down some of the SEC’s top scorers. If Patric Young is the heart of this team, Scottie Wilbekin is its guts. Thank you Scottie.

They went against the one-and-done philosophy of the basketball mercenaries. Long after any NBA riches might have come and gone, their names will be uttered in respect and Gator basketball lore will likely pay homage to The Four Who Stayed For Four.

In the end, these seniors leave behind a meaningful legacy. They’ve already bequeathed a 32-game homecourt winning streak at the O’Connell Center, not to mention the establishment of the record 18-0 standard in league play.

“They’re going to carry this with them for the rest of their lives,” says their coach. “They’re going to have their children and they’re going to come back here and they’re going to be remembered for what they’ve done. They’ve done something that’s not happened here before.”

Notice how Billy Donovan sort of left himself out of all of this success.

Despite some of the travails earlier in the season, I’ve got a pretty good idea that one day Donovan will admit that this has been one of his most rewarding seasons, because it might be the best coaching job he’s ever done. For right now, however, he’s got another hill to climb with “The Little Engine That Could.”

(Email Buddy Martin at buddyshow@aol.com)

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The Outdoor Renaissance Man

Mark Emery: From Brownie Camera to Winning Emmys

By BUDDY MARTIN/Best Version Media Editor

At first glance, Mark Emery sounds flat-out crazy.

Emery is a bit of a renaissance man – a onetime professional kick boxer who plays guitar and writes music; a producer/photographer who makes movies and writes his own scores.

You also might find the strapping 6-foot-4 Floridian swimming down the Silver River in scuba gear with members of a Special Forces team in training, hitching a ride on the tail of a gator. Or helicoptering to a beach in Alaska to photograph a pack of grizzly bears feasting on a whale’s carcass. Or sticking his head inside of an alligator den. Or perhaps hanging upside down in a small aircraft, which had crashed into a tree at some remote spot in Alaska – one of many predicaments he has managed to escape.

In his last assignment, Mark found himself swimming upside down just 18 inches underneath a rattlesnake with fangs visible.

Most outdoor-loving Huck Finns prey on grasshoppers or caterpillars or frogs, or maybe a grass snake or two. From the start, however, Mark Emery had his eye on bigger game.

At 14, Emery and his friends were trapping alligators around Central Florida, putting them to sleep by rubbing their tummies. He and his buddies captured a seven-footer in a retention pond, promptly putting the critter into a comatose state. Back then alligators were protected by law. When Mark’s dad discovered the reptile in a coma, he feared they had killed it.

“In those days it was about a thousand-dollar fine for killing one,” said Emery. “I think my dad probably made about $95 a week. So I got my butt whipped. Once daddy realized we hadn’t killed the gator, however, he took us out for ice cream. First and only time I got a whipping followed by ice cream.”

It turned out Mark’s love for animals wasn’t just a boy’s passing fancy. He started with a Brownie camera, exploring creeks and rivers and forests at his back door in Ocala. He’s been tracking critters ever since – sharks and all kinds of fish, wild boar, alligators, deer, bears, etc. Not always to trap them, or kill them, but to shoot video and still photos of these magnificent creatures.

Working his way up as assistant at the Ross Allen Reptile Institute, he learned how to milk poisonous snakes. There he met pioneer film photographer Jordy Klein and began learning the trade.

Over the past few decades, Mark has spent countless hours in the water and the wilderness, studying the animals’ habits, building a bridge of trust that allowed passage into their world. That understanding of territorial imperative has provided a window of photographic splendor to nature which, coupled with Emery’s genius, has led to international renown and a pair of Emmys.

These days he plunders the wilds of Alaska and various other far away places, documenting animal behavior for The Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Those tasks can be daunting.

The stories of his wildlife adventures would have made a reality series itself, but it takes a toll. Never mind the plane crashes in Alaska or getting whacked by the tail of a crocodile. Just the task of trudging up mountains or through wild country with his team, hauling thousands of pounds of equipment is a massive undertaking.

“I am working out all the time just to keep up with these younger guys,” said Emery, 59, although still fit and trim and energetic.

While fearless, Emery knows the pace must eventually slow just a little over time. And as he does, he and his wife/business partner Mary hope to be around Ocala more, turning more toward teaching other young aspiring artists and photographers. So they have begun offering specialized education, including rivers tours for students from Silver Springs. His dream is have a film school there one day.

Come this May, the Emerys will once again pack for Alaska. Mark does some fly fishing guided tours and Mary works at the local salmon fishery. Like the creatures of the wild, they migrate there every year for four months. After all, they, too, are creatures of habit that just have to migrate.

(Email Buddy Martin at buddymartinshow@gmail.com)

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March 1, 2014 · 8:51 pm

Boeheim’s explosion is the gold medal winner so far, but stay tuned

Animal activists be forewarned: Get ready for the assault on the zebras. It’s open season on basketball officials.

Don’t get me wrong — some of these whistle-blowers have got it coming.  But be nice. They’ve got mommas and daddies and wives and children, too.

Good officials should be seen but not noticed. But there they were again, front and center at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday night, looking very much like the accidental game-changers who were unwitting instigators of the meltdown and subsequent ejection of a college basketball icon. First the first time ever in nearly 1,300 regular season games, a Hall of Fame-To-Be-Coach got thumbed out of the gym.

Tony Greene booted Jim Boeheim on a double-technical for doing his Mike Jagger impersonation; Boeheim sashaying across the hardwood to protest a block-charge call. If coaches can get flagrant technicals, he got one. Or two. So yes, he deserved it, even if the blocking call was perhaps debatable.

There has been sort of an undercurrent of discontent brewing all season, especially among the coaches who are having a difficult time understanding the changes in some of the rules and the different way the calls are being interpreted and implemented, depending on which crew is working the game. You knew this was coming sooner or later.

Beating Duke is never easy and there is this perception that if they are handing out breaks at the Good Luck Store, Mike Krzyzewski will get a bucketful.

Syracuse had a chance of defeating the Blue Devils for the second time this season when the wheels came off. C. J. Fair was called for blocking, Boeheim had his mid-court meltdown and Duke’s Quinn Cook made three of four shots to ice the game.

I thought the ESPN crew did a fairly good job of exlaining the new rule and why Greene had to make the call, but it was convulted by Dick Vitale’s diatribes which he later softened.

I like Dick Vitale personally and appreciate what he has done to help popularize the sport, but when it comes to his basketball “analysis,” his intrusion on the game is often annoying and his perception inaccurate. Vitale is too busy with the coronation of coaches rather than explaining why Duke’s interior play was so much more effective with Jabari Parker.

Block/charge is the most difficult of calls — many of them are 50/50 — and is naturally given to debate.

They have tried to tweak the rule but, as Boeheim says, “It’s been explained a hundred times. C.J. (Fair) got in his motion. I saw the replay. The guy was moving. That’s it. Simple as that.”

Boeheim also joked that he wanted to see “if I had it in me to get out there — and I did. I was pretty quick. And I stayed down.”

I come down on the side of Boehein in favoring more of a block than a charge (or at least a no-call) on that controversial play, but running madly on the court was egregious behavior that is symptomatic of a larger problem: The growing animosity between coaches and officials. So he deserved to be tossed.

I was not aware that this was Boeheim’s first ejection ever (he says he was tossed in an exhibition game). Ironically, Boeheim said later in his post-game interview, that the game “was extremely well-officiated.” Swore he was serious.

However, officials have got to stop freewheeling on their judgment and establish more uniformity and game-to-game consistency. Coaches must stop going on the court and re-learn how to do their jobs from the bench. That worked pretty well for John Wooden.

Boeheim made his feelings known on what he called “The Worst Call of the Year.” He might have also won the award for “Worst Behavior of the Year,” although he isn’t likely to stay in that gold medal position as we approach the Ides of March.

However, Boeheim has no business setting picks on officials at mid-court.

In fact, I’m sick and tired of coaches thinking that they belong on the court in street shoes, roaming the hardwood sideline like they were on a football field. I wish more of them would be teed up for violating the boundaries of the coaching box. But officials have not enforced that rule.

Get ready for the post-season explosions, because they are coming, like an Independence Day Fireworks display four months early. Who are the most likely contenders to be on that podium with Boeheim? Stay tuned.

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/24453475/watch-jim-boeheim-goes-nuts-gets-tossed-in-final-minute

ImageCBS Photo.

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A Rescue Mission for The Great Hawk Maravich

Image

(reposted for a friend in need)

What to do when an injured animal shows up at your doorstep

“Come quickly!” my wife hastened, “there’s a giant hawk lying in the middle of the road.”

What do you when you find yourself eyeball to eyeball with a helpless bird of prey?

The beautiful brown Cooper Hawk was too crippled to fly. His piercing yellow eyes showed fear and pain, but despite the rumpled condition of his body, there was no blood; he could barely drag himself, inches at a time, along the asphalt road.

The first thing I did was to carefully get him out of the busy street where, at dusk, he wouldn’t last long. His large, powerful beak or imposing talons could easily puncture human flesh. I grabbed the tip of his wing — he angrily craned his beak — and finally placed him in yard of my neighbor. Then I went to call for help.

Starting with animal control and the humane society, I encountered seven straight recorded messages — none with a number of how to reach a live person. It was so-called “after hours” and since I couldn’t hand-carry the bird to transport him to safety, my only hope was to procure the services of a trained professional.

Meanwhile, Joni went back to check on the hawk.

We’d been having other hawk issues lately. One neighbor who raises a few chickens had been combatively

sshusshng hawks away regularly. And we were a little afraid one of them might swoop down and snatch our nine-pound dog Rinny.

Recently we had heard a loud thump at the rear sliding glass door, only to find a juvenile hawk lying on the concrete. Later he had revived himself and flown away. (Mostly fears fueled by Internet urban legend.)

“It’s nesting season,” Animal Control had informed us, “and they see their own reflection in the glass.”

Maybe that would explain the mystery of what happened next.

“It’s gone — must have flown away,” said Joni, returning from her mission

I marveled at the bird’s resiliency but wondered how an animal so badly hurt could recuperate so rapidly. That night I went to bed feeling gratitude that perhaps one of God’s magnificent creatures had been spared.

But maybe it hadn’t. The next morning as I walked passed the house of neighbors Patty and Cliff Saunders, I noticed a clump of grey/brown feathers next to the shrub. As I approached the hawk, it lunged mightily to safe haven inside the branches. Its condition had deteriorated.

I knocked on Cliff’s door, mainly to warn him of the hawk’s close proximity to his driveway. Immediately he began dialing for help. When I returned later, Cliff had placed a bowl of water in the bushes and erected a cardboard shield to block the searing sun.

By this time I had become emotionally tied to the hawk — had even given him the nickname of “Maravich,” one of the Atlanta Hawks’ most remarkable players.

At 4:30 Cliff checked in and from the look on his face the news didn’t appear good. He had reached Dr. Michael Bowen of PAWS in Ocklawaha (352-288-3228) and thetwo of them had placed Maravich in a net to tender aid.

Once hooked up to an I.V. (yes, they have them for large birds), the hawk immediately flapped its wings and came to life, but was taken to emergency care.

“The hawk was badly injured. Dr. Bowen looked him over and didn’t see anything broken,” said Cliff. “Thought maybe he had suffered a concussion from hitting a car.”

A week later I called PAWS. Dr. Bowen said he had taken the badly dehydrated Maravich over to Happy Tails in Ocklawaha, where it had been nursed back to health by Dr. Lisa Bright, whom he said has worked for free seven years on these injured animals. “She’s treated everything from a bear to baby wild boar,” said Bowen. “She’s amazing and we all owe her debt of gratitude.”

Once they determined the hawk could fly again and forage for food, Maravich was released. “He’s back in the neighborhood, looking for squirrels and rats,” he said.

Bowen did say he would write the name “Maravich” on his file.

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A Rescue Mission for The Great Hawk Maravich

Image

“Come quickly!” my wife hastened, “there’s a giant hawk lying in the middle of the road.”

What do you when you find yourself eyeball to eyeball with a helpless bird of prey.

The beautiful brown Cooper Hawk was too crippled to fly. His piercing yellow eyes showed fear and pain, but despite the rumpled condition of his body, there was no blood; he could barely drag himself, inches at a time, along the asphalt road.

The first thing I did was to carefully get him out of the busy street where, at dusk, he wouldn’t last long. His large, powerful beak or imposing talons could easily puncture human flesh. I grabbed the tip of his wing — he angrily craned his beak — and finally placed him in yard of my neighbor. Then I went to call for help.

Starting with animal control and the humane society, I encountered seven straight recorded messages — none with a number of how to reach a live person. It was so-called “after hours” and since I couldn’t hand-carry the bird

to transport him to safety, my only hope was to procure the services of a trained professional.

Meanwhile, Joni went back to check on the hawk.

We’d been having other hawk issues lately. One

neighbor who raises a few chickens combatively sshusshes  hawks away regularly.

Recently we had heard a loud thump at the rear sliding glass door, only to find a juvenile hawk lying on the concrete. Later he had revived himself and flown away.

“It’s nesting season,” Animal Control had informed us, “and they see their own reflection in the glass. 

Maybe that would explain the mystery of what happened next.

“It’s gone — must have flown away,” said Joni, returning from her mission.

I marveled at its resiliency but wondered how an animal so badly hurt could recuperate so rapidly. That night I went to bed feeling gratitude that perhaps one of God’s magnificent creatures had been spared.

But maybe it hadn’t. The next morning as I walked passed the house of neighbors Patty and Cliff Saunders, I noticed a clump of grey/brown feathers next to the shrub. As I approached the hawk, it lunged mightily to safe haven inside the branches. Its condition had deteriorated.

I knocked on Cliff’s door, mainly to warn him of the hawk’s close proximity to his driveway. Immediately he began dialing for help. When I returned later, Cliff had placed a bowl of water in the bushes and erected a cardboard shield to block the searing sun.

By this time I had become emotionally tied to the hawk — had even given him the nickname of “Maravich,” one of the Atlanta Hawks’ most remarkable players.

At 4:30 Cliff checked in and from the look on his face the news didn’t appear good. He had reached Dr. Michael Bowen of PAWS in Ocklawaha (352-288-3228) and the two of them had placed Maravich in a net to tender aid.

Once hooked up to an I.V., the hawk immediately flapped its wings and came to life, but was taken to emergency care.

“The hawk was badly injured. Dr. Bowen looked him over and didn’t see anything broken,” said Cliff. “Thought maybe he had suffered a concussion from hitting a car.”

A week later I called PAWS. Dr. Bowen said he had taken the badly dehydrated Maravich over to Happy Tails in Ocklawaha, where it had been nursed back to health by Dr. Lisa Bright, whom he said has worked for free seven years on these injured animals. “She’s treated everything from a bear to baby wild boar,” said Bowen. “She’s amazing and we all owe her debt of gratitude.”

Once they determined the hawk could fly again and forage for food, Maravich was released. “He’s back in the neighborhood, looking for squirrels and rats,” he said.

Bowen did say he would write the name “Maravich” on his file.

 

 

 

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Why college football’s future is a bit murky today

Putting another season in mothballs

Down in these parts, our lifestyle often centers around the “Five Fs”: Faith, family, friends, food and football. The latter is such a big part of our culture that it transcends sports.

I’m not sure of what the future holds for the game that some of us love so dearly. But as we wound down January’s college games and the NFL playoffs, pointing to the Feb. 2 Super Bowl in New York/New Jersey, some of us shook off the owies of a painful season (Gators), while others basked in the glow of success (Seminoles, Knights).

The discussion about football today, however, is not so much about complaints or bragging rights, but how the changing landscape imperils the future of the sport. The popularity of the game is massive, but the financial model is much like the bloated stock market: What goes up must come down.

There are some warning signs ahead – impending demands for paying players, a weakened NCAA governing body, diminishing stadium crowds and a division between the haves and have nots.

Recently in a conversation with one of the SEC’s brightest administrators, we talked about the deteriorating stadium experience and he assured me that college football was working on it as we spoke.

I was surprised to learn why many of the students were taking early outs:

“It’s because their cell phones don’t work,” he said. “Their culture revolves around being connected electronically and cell phone service is not very good in most stadiums.  So if you have 25,000 students, half of them will be gone by the half. Can it be fixed? It will be very costly – maybe $2-$3 million.”

Notice all those empty seats? How can you not? Truth is that the ticket buyers don’t impact the financial windfall nearly as much as the TV revenues do. However, colleges are deeply concerned about early-exiting fans and waning attendance as they count their money from the networks. So coaches – even Nick Saban of Alabama – went as far as to challenge fans not to leave games early.

There are other negatives to the stadium experience – overpriced tickets and fees, traffic and parking, hostile fans, etc. Apathy and disinterest also play a factor. And some of the have-not schools are mired deep in red ink, unable to keep up with the high cost of escalating coaches’ contracts and expenses. Eventually they will fall into second-tier conferences.

All of which portends of a national super-conference, with seven or eight league games and the rest against regional or national competition. A junior NFL.

At the same time, the big payoff for the upcoming four-team playoffs will ensure short-term financial success. But the field for eligible teams will ultimately shrink.

For the super conference, there are other streams of newfound money: Paying intersectional brand-name teams instead of cupcake opponents. Paydays are phenomenal.

Take Florida’s opening game against Michigan in 2017 to be played at Jerry Jones’ house in Dallas. That’s a $6 million payday, with about 10 percent expenses. Unlike a bowl, this is a one-night trip. The remaining $5.4 million doesn’t have to be split among the SEC either.

The NFL, meanwhile, has enjoyed a spectacular run of big payoffs — most-viewed programs on TV, emerging markets, etc. However, it has been bruised by injury lawsuits and the long-term damage looks even worse. That payout to the concussed players thought to have been settled was thrown out by a female judge.

Surveys show that fewer kids are playing youth football, held back by concerned parents. Eventually the talent pool diminishes. Then it’s everybody problem.

So maybe what we have today, at this very moment, is the golden age of football, to be appreciated for what it is now – even if some of our teams fell off the radar screen this season.

Once proud programs like the University of Florida have suffered setbacks and are in danger of having a tarnished brand. Not to mention that the Gators picked a bad time to slip to a losing (4-8) season as their state rival Florida State was enjoying perhaps its greatest year ever. And then there is BCS bowl winner Central Florida, sneaking up from the south to grab a piece of the pie.

Gator fans are waiting to see if new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper from Duke can save the day. So we lament that famous battle cry of “Wait ‘til next year!” There is a flicker of hope. Just remember: A year ago, Auburn didn’t win an SEC game, either.

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Ten reasons why Muschamp should be fired. One reason he won’t.

By BUDDY MARTIN

Actually, I was hoping to sit this one out, because I’m on record as never having agreed with the hiring of Will Muschamp. I have no relationship, working or personal, with the Florida coach, so pardon my aloofness. Full disclosure, however: I have enjoyed both a working and personal relationship with the Gators’ last three coaches. So take what I am about to say with a grain of salt. I do feel impelled to finally comment. Callers to my radio show, Buddy Martin’s Sports Page, (5 p.m. Monday-Friday on WOCA.com and1370 AM/96.3 FM) won’t let me off the hook and neither will some of my friends on Facebook or Twitter. So here goes.

It’s getting perilously close to the time for Athletics Director Jeremy Foley to push the eject button on his embattled head football coach. By any standard, Muschamp must be labeled a failure. By Foley’s and Florida’s standards, an abject failure.

Matter of fact, Muschamp is one butt-whipping away by South Carolina and a drubbing from FSU from having somebody else put Foley’s finger on the eject button and pushing it for him. Given the above scenario, the decision to fire Muschamp might be out of the erstwhile AD’s otherwise capable hands.

The Gators lost more than a football game Saturday. They lost their dignity.

Getting pushed around and beaten by Vanderbilt for the first time in 23 years was bad enough; losing at home to the Commodores for the first time since 1945 was downright disgraceful, considering the difference in talent.

This was one more level down in a death spiral that began in the January Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville, after that “Fool’s Gold” 11-win season. Since that time Muschamp’s teams not only haven’t improved — they have gone backwards, losing their last four and six of the last 10.

Equally as devastating as the losses of games is the fact that the Gator Nation has lost its passion. Already swept up in a wave of apathy that seems to be eroding the fan bases of college football like a pack of termites, Gator fans are walking out early even if they show up in the first place. I know 50 or so devout fans who gave up their tickets this year which they’ve been buying for decades.

Now why would those expatriate fans ever want to come back?

They are fresh out of excuses in Gainesville.

Let’s not cop out with the injury card or the feeble buck-passing “empty cupboard” myth.

Muschamp was clearly not the right man for the job in the first place.

It’s time to cut your losses — in this case, literally — and just clean up the mess. Here’s are some reasons why:

Ten Reasons Why Muschamp Must Go

1. Florida’s brand has been severely damaged and a winning tradition erased. All the momentum gained more than two decades over rivals FSU, Georgia and Tennessee that was built up by the last three coaches has dissipated and Gators are back to square one.

2. Ron Zook’s record was better than Muschamp’s and Zook was fired before the season was over. Muschamp 23-14 for .629; Zook 22-13 for .662. In his entire six years, Urban Meyer only lost 15 games.

3. A tidal wave of Gator Nation discontent may have started before he arrived, but it has now reached epic proportion. It may be irreversible for the foreseeable future.

4. FSU’s remarkable season and the popularity of quarterback Jameis Winston has captured the imagination of many fans, which means major recruiting inroads to talent in Florida and the South.

5.The Seminoles will likely be playing for a national championship while the Gators are unlikely to even reach the lowest rung of their goals, to become “bowl eligible.”

6. The offense is dull and uninspiring. We knew that from the first game of the season, even when Jeff Driskell was playing. Baby Boomer Gators have seen this movie before: Starring Doug Dickey and or even Bob Woodruff.

7. This “empty cupboard” myth has gone too far. Urban Meyer’s last three classes and how ESPN ranked them nationally: 2008 — No. 4; 2009–No. 5; 2010–No. 1. So where did all that talent go? Worse yet, look for some major decommits and misses on the recruiting trail.

8. Will Muschamp wouldn’t know an offensive coordinator if you drew him a picture of one (see Charlie Weis fiasco). And anyway, he certainly can’t find one who enjoys wearing handcuffs.

9. What he lacked in coaching skills, Muschamp certainly hasn’t exactly made up for in social decorum. He got into a hissing contest with a Gator fan after the Georgia game. And while his petulant child-like tantrums may have been tamed him a little, the images of his meltdowns linger vividly in the minds of fans and player.

10. Finally, there’s no denying Muschamp’s DNA: He’s the long lost great, great grandson of Gen. Robert Neyland and great grand nephew of Bob Woodruff. He thinks defense wins games and proves that by putting most of his talent on that side of the ball. One step away from punting on third down.

And what’s the reason he won’t get fired? If Foley digs in, putting his job on the line to save his coach, but makes Muschamp fire some assistants as sacrificial lambs, the AD has enough respect from President Bernie Machen and key boosters to give him a mulligan. As far as I’m concerned, Foley is delaying the inevitable. But like I say — maybe I’m prejudice.Image

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