MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
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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 diving coach Donnie Craine a 37-year coaching veteran who book ended his career with 32 combined years at Florida, died Thursday in a boating afternoon off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida. The NCAA Diving Coach of the Year in 1985 and a six-time SEC Women's Diving Coach of the Year (three with Florida), Craine led his divers to five individual national titles (two with the Gators) and 19 individual SEC titles (12 at UF). "You'll never meet a nicer guy than Donnie Craine," said Florida head swimming coach Gregg Troy, who worked with him hand-in-hand in each day. "He was caring not just for the athletes he worked with, but for everyone he came in touch with. He was a tremendous family man. This is a great loss for everyone."
A day after center Jonotthan Harrison made comments that fueled additional criticism of the program (Harrison learns from experience), Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his thoughts on the situation be known in a rather short format to columnist Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. "When we won 11 games (two years ago), my energy and passion were my strength," he said Thursday. "Now that we went 4-8, we're out of control." Muschamp told Bianchi he understands people will take shots at the UF program after a poor season, like 4-8 last year, but both he and some of those covering the Florida program seem to believe a bigger deal is being made of this story than it deserves. While they are correct in a sense - things Harrison talked about happening at the Gators occur at other schools - UF has not necessarily been under a firestorm of criticism. A story being covered by a journalist is not a story being blown out of proportion, though Florida does seem to have a close eye on fan reaction via message boards as of late.
The final Rivals 150 for the Class of 2014 dropped on Thursday with the Gators holding commitments from three of the top 42 players in the country in five-star forward Devin Robinson (No. 20), four-star guard Brandone Francis (No. 35) and four-star point guard Chris Chiozza (No. 42). All three players should see minutes right away for Florida next season with Robinson either finding a starting role or at least backing up Dorian Finney-Smith at the three, Francis working behind Michael Frazier at the two and Chiozza obviously being only the second floor general on the team in back of Kasey Hill. Though not overly hyped, UF's 2014 class should have a bigger impact on next season than even its 2013 class did last year.
Over and over again, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah's successes have been covered this season - and deservingly so, there have been many. Despite having a double-double in the second game of the NBA Playoffs this week, Noah and Chicago have struggled overall in the series. Noah lost a friend and mentor before the series with the Washington Wizards began. Then on Wednesday, TMZ revealed that his original endorsement deal with Le Coq Sportif, a French footwear company, has gone south. Noah signed a six-year, $6 million deal with the company that used to sponsor his father Yannick Noah but claims to be owed $1.65 million in unpaid money. Additionally, Noah cites that Le Coq Sportif has gone back on much of its deal with him and tried to back out of it at one point even though he "held up his end of the bargain and wore Le Coq shoes in every NBA game he played even though he claims they were 'not well designed and likely contributed to [my] development of plantar faciitis.'" Noah dealt with the injury in back-to-back seasons but now seems to be fully healthy. He is wearing adidas this season.
Really? The bi-polar Gators baseball team is at it again. Just days after being elevated to a No. 12 ranking by the nation's coaches, Florida lost consecutive home games to Jacksonville and Florida A&M, the latter being the first time in program history UF has fallen to FAMU. Were there contributing factors to the Gators' midweek struggles? Perhaps. Florida's students - including its baseball players - are not only in the midst of finals week but the end of a school year. Additionally, baseball teams are notoriously down for mid-week games, even though the Gators beat the No. 1 Seminoles three times in such contests. Florida will have a chance to right the ship this weekend with a home series against Missouri. A sweep would be nice to help get UF back on track as it looks to finish out the regular season strong.
Softball, currently ranked No. 3, is the only other major Gators team taking the field over the weekend and is also set for a home series against the Tigers. Florida comes in at 41-8 (11-7 SEC) on a 10-game winning streak dating back to April 4 (which came at the heels of a period where UF lost three of four games). Mizzou marks Florida's second-to-last SEC series before postseason play begins. Though the Gators are a top-five team nationally, UF is four games back from the regular-season crown and currently slated to earn the No. 5 seed in the SEC Tournament.