The Silver Lining comes to you each Monday shining a spotlight on some of the biggest stories in sports and entertainment.
It is well known that fans are irrational and often blame the wrong parties when something goes wrong with their team which is why - just minutes after I tweeted and retweeted news this morning that three of the Florida Gators' incoming defenders may or may not qualify for admission with the school - I received multiple replies asking me what the problem is with the University of Florida's administrators, how angry head coach Will Muschamp is at them and how something like this can happen. The answer, of course, is the simplest one: Don't blame the administrators, blame the students.
When Florida or any school recruits a player, academics and that student's ability to be admitted to the school are taken into account. If there are issues with that person being able to qualify, the Gators help set a track for them to follow in order to be cleared by the NCAA and eventually UF's administrators. However, if student goes through three years of high school not caring about their grades and suddenly flicks the switch their senior year, often times that simply is not enough to raise the average and get the job done. That is just one reason why some supremely talented kids go to prep school for a year or take the junior college route for two years. Being a successful player begins with caring about what goes on in the classroom and being mature enough to handle your business off the field. Some are so supremely talented that they can get around that and skate by but that is a minority.
One of the major pieces of news this weekend was Florida alumnus Erin Andrews deciding to leave ESPN to take on a more prominent role with FOX Sports. As someone who has spoken with Andrews on more than a handful of occasions over the last two years, I can tell you for a fact that she loved working at ESPN but simultaneously felt hamstrung by the network's narrow view of what she could bring to the table. Andrews was/is fine with being a sideline reporter and enjoys that job but wanted to ramp up her responsibilities in a way that the Worldwide Leader was unwilling to do.
She wanted to be on the sidelines for Monday Night Football and they passed her over twice, most recently for Lisa Salters. She wanted to host and ESPN gave in just a bit - giving her the first hour of College GameDay on ESPNU and some spot work on College Football Live when the regular hosts could not be there. The network also promised her a relatively prominent role on Good Morning America covering sports and entertainment stories but scaled back her contributions over the course of her two-year contract signed in the summer of 2010. Andrews feels she can do more than what ESPN was allowing her to do and believes (rightly so, in my opinion) that she was in one role that simply would not expand no matter how much work she put into becoming better in other areas. Now she is at FOX Sports where she will help build their college football coverage from the ground up while also being able to take part in NFL and MLB action, likely as an in-game contributor. And she's probably getting paid a lot more, too, which is always a good thing.
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field have come to an end and four Gators - Tony McQuay, Will Claye, Christian Taylor and Kerron Clement - have made the team along with Florida head coach Mike Holloway, who will work as an assistant with the sprinters and hurdlers. Florida swimming is looking to match that success with three athletes already qualified - Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Elizabeth Beisel - and one more (Dara Torres) competing in the final day of trails on Monday. Additionally, Gators head coach Gregg Troy will be the king of the hill for USA Swimming in London, England.
With so many Olympic spots still undecided for both the United States and other countries, there is a solid possibility that dozens of current and former Florida student-athletes will be competing for the opportunity to stick their chests out proudly on the medal stand. "Gator Nation" would have finished 18th among countries at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and may have the opportunity to win more medals this summer.
Let's wrap-up some NFL and NBA news concerning former Gators that came to light over the weekend. Buffalo wide receiver David Nelson spent some time this offseason working with former Oakland pass catcher Tim Brown. Philadelphia WR Riley Cooper looks to have locked in the fourth receiver slot as he is showing improved acceleration and fluidity during minicamp. The Newark Star-Ledger reports that safety Will Hill may very well have (finally) turned his life around and is getting a fresh start at a football career with the New York Giants despite the fact that he may begin the season on the practice squad. Hill, based on talent alone, would have been selected in the later rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft but basically took a year off in 2011 after he became known as a toxic player that teams wanted no part of whatsoever.
Detroit did not extend a qualifying offer to forward/center Vernon Macklin, who the team selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Macklin will play with the Pistons summer league team and could still be re-signed but will certainly have plenty of other parties interested if he is not picked up by the team once again. On the other hand, Memphis made F/C Marreese Speights a restricted free agent with a $4.4 million qualifying offer. It is unlikely that another team will sign Speights to a much bigger offer sheet, meaning his return to the Grizzlies (where he performed more than admirably last season after some rough years with the 76ers) is all but certain. Former Gators point guard Taurean Green will spend some time with Brooklyn in the Orlando, FL summer league as he looks to return to the NBA and there are unconfirmed reports that PG Erving Walker may do the same out west with Phoenix as he hopes to get his first crack at the big-time.