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In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators basketball did not conclude the SEC Tournament the way they wanted and was dealt a No. 3 seed by the Selection Committee rather than the No. 2 seed that Florida hoped to earn. UF will face the No. 14 Northwestern State Demons out of Louisiana in Austin, TX on Friday in a game set for 7:27 p.m. on truTV. "We're excited to be in the NCAA Tournament, and we look forward to a great challenge against Northwestern State on Friday," head coach Billy Donovan said late Sunday in a team-released statement. The Southland Conference champion Demons have had success previously as a 14-seed, knocking off three-seed Iowa 64-63 in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. In that same field, the three-seed Gators went all the way to and won the national championship. Should Florida get past Northwestern State, No. 6 UCLA or No. 11 Minnesota will be waiting. The Gators have taken down the Bruins in three NCAA Tournament meetings (2006, 2007, 2011) but also may be going against former Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith who is now in his seventh season with the Golden Gophers.
Arena Football's Orlando Predators are already the home of Chris Leak, so why not Tim Tebow, too? Team owner Brett Bouchy told the Orlando Sentinel over the weekend that the Predators would love to have Tebow in the fold once he exhausts his NFL opportunities. "We'd love to have him. I think he would definitely improve as a quarterback in our league," Bouchy said. "Kurt Warner told me that when he got back to the NFL after playing in the Arena League, the NFL game was like slow motion. Everything in the Arena League is just so much faster and quicker and predicated on accuracy. Whenever Tim is willing, we have a contract waiting for him to sign." Though all indications were/are that the New York Jets would be cutting Tebow at the start of free agency, he remains in the fold. The team's owner and general manager - speaking at the NFL league meetings in Phoenix, AZ on Sunday - did not indicate a release was coming soon. Perhaps they are using the league meetings as a last-ditch effort to trade Tebow before they cut him and get nothing back in return.
The NFL's all-time leading rusher had some choice words for the league office when he heard late in the week that the NFL Competition Committee proposed a rule that would penalize running backs for initiating contact by lowering their heads while carrying the ball. "If I'm a running back and I'm running into a linebacker, you're telling me I have to keep my head up so he can take my chin off?" Smith opined on Dallas, TX radio station 105.3 The Fan. "As a running back, it's almost impossible [not to lower your head. The first thing you do is get behind your shoulder pads. That means you're leaning forward and the first part of contact that's going to take place is your head, regardless. I disagree with the rule altogether. It doesn't make any sense for that position. It sounds like it's been made up by people who have never played the game of football." Though some new rules will be passed (and other abolished) before the season begins, this rule in particular is not expected to be adopted at this time.
One Florida team that had a great all-around weekend was No. 3 Florida women's softball, which played not one, not two but three extra-inning games against No. 6 Tennessee in Gainesville, FL. The Gators won the opening contest 6-5 in eight innings on Friday, dropped the second 3-1 in eight innings on Saturday and pulled off a big come-from-behind victory to win the rubber match 5-3 on Sunday. Down 3-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Florida saw sophomore Lauren Haeger hit a three-run bomb to tie the game. When Haeger got back to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, she hit a two-run walk-off blast that sent her team rushing to home plate to celebrate in the victory. UF softball, despite losing five prominent players in the offseason, is now 27-3 and 4-2 in SEC play.
Receiving the other end of the stick over the weekend was Gators baseball, which continued its lackluster and unimpressive 2013 season losing a three-game series to the No. 10 Wildcats. Florida picked up a 4-1 win in the series opener on Friday but dropped the final two games of the contest by a combined score of 17-7. Each of UF's starters, including junior Jonathon Crawford (who is now 0-3), gave up five earned runs. Crawford coughed his up in six innings, allowing three hits but walking four batters and only striking out two. The Gators actually led 3-0 through five innings before Crawford imploded in the sixth and seventh. On Sunday, Florida trailed 5-0 and was never able to get back in the game. UF is now 9-12 on the season and 1-2 in league play.
Spending six years in the NFL was just the first act of former Gators tight end Erron Kinney's professional career. Now located in Mt. Juliet, TN, Kinney was selected as the town's new Fire Chief last week. "It is very humbling, an honor and a privilege to be appointed as Mt. Juliet's Fire Chief. I am excited about working in one of Middle Tennessee's best cities. I am extremely excited about the opportunities that are ahead for the city's new fire department," he said. Kinney has been working in the industry since retiring from football and has already been a fire captain at two other firehouses. He was also named to a seven-year term with the Tennessee State Firefighting Commission in 2004 by the state's governor.