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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 softball won the outright SEC regular-season title on Sunday despite not stepping foot on a diamond. Florida had done enough in posting an 18-6 league record that when the chips fell, UF emerged with its eighth SEC regular-season title of the season and the fourth in the history of the softball program. (The Gators have also won two SEC Tournament titles and an ALC regular-season title during the 2012-13 athletic year.) The eight SEC titles match the most in both program and league history and give Florida the opportunity to set a new top mark if the men's or women's track & field team can pull out a victory in the SEC Outdoor Championships from May 9-10. Gators softball, also on Sunday, was awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the 2013 SEC Tournament and will begin action in the quarterfinals on May 9 at 11 a.m. (ESPNU) against either No. 8 Alabama or No. 9 Texas A&M.
A round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs is now in the books yet it continues to astound me how well Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is playing with plantar faciitis. Noah started all seven games of Chicago's first-round series despite doctors telling him that he should shut it down for the rest of the season. He averaged 30.9 minutes, 11.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game while registering four double-doubles, one 20-10 showing and a dominant Game 7 performance in which he registered game-highs of 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. The Bulls took down the Brooklyn Nets and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Noah is one of five former Florida basketball players on three of the teams that remain in the hunt: Golden State (David Lee), Miami (Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller), San Antonio (Matt Bonner).
Tim Tebow's free agency is still making news even though there do not appear to be any teams chomping at the bit to sign him before minicamp begins. Two more stories about Tebow emerged on Monday, the first being fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars filing a petition on the White House's "We the People" website demanding that team general manager David Caldwell bring Tebow into the fold. "If the Jaguars sign & START Tebow, home games will be sold out, sales will spike, the team will win and the fans will be happy. Mr. Caldwell is ignoring lots of facts about the misunderstood Tim Tebow while in Denver," reads the petition, in part. Also on Monday, former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka told the Chicago Sun-Times that he thinks Tebow "can play quarterback in the NFL, but whatever offense you run might have to be tweaked a bit." He continued: "This kid is a talent and he proved it in college. He is an outstanding leader. Now, does he have an unusual throwing motion? Yes. But there are a lot of quarterbacks that didn't have a perfect throwing motion. Some of them turned out to be great quarterbacks because they were great leaders."
On the off chance that Tebow does not continue his professional football career (he will likely be on some team, somewhere next season), being a preacher may not be the only speaking gig in his future. According to the New York Daily News' Bob Raissman, "the odds of him landing a TV gig as a college football analyst are much better - excellent - if Tebow wants to take the plunge." With so many new names in the sports television landscape - CBS and NBC already have networks, FOX is in the process of developing two - ESPN "is aware Tebow could be in play" and "ain't letting Tebow walk [to other outlets] without pursuing him, big-time."
Repeating as ALC Tournament champion is a tough task for any team and No. 2 Gators lacrosse was simply unable to rise to the occasion when it fell 8-3 to No. 4 Northwestern in Sunday's championship game. Florida, which had won three of the last four games against its northern rival (including a victory in the 2012 title game and a 22-4 whipping two weeks ago), was overpowered by a hungry team that concentrated on winning draws and keeping the ball away from the Gators' offensive stars. Despite being one of the best teams in the country most of the season, UF was handed the No. 5 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will host both the first and second round of the event at Donald R. Dizney Stadium from May 10-12. Florida will receive a bye for the first round and would likely face No. 4-seed Syracuse if both teams advanced to the round of eight.
Some NFL free agents aside from Tebow are still on the market looking for new teams to call home. Two Gators - linebacker Brandon Siler and left tackle Max Starks - have not been received many (if any) phone calls and may have to wait until training camp to fill in as veteran injury replacements. Both players have been limited over the last few years by injuries. Siler bounced from San Diego to Kansas City for an opportunity to start but missed his entire first season with the team and served as a back-up last year. Starks, despite being best friends with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, has been treated poorly by the organization, which originally signed him to a long-term deal but cut him midway through and now inks him to one-year contracts for less than he is worth. It remains to be seen whether or not these two will play in the league this season.