A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
GATORS FACE SOUTH FLORIDA AT NOON IN GAINESVILLE REGIONAL
If the Gators (38-20) are to make a run toward Omaha for the College World Series, they’ll have to take the first step today at the Florida Ballpark against American Athletic Conference tournament champ South Florida (28-27) at noon (SEC Network).
Tommy Mace (6-1, 4.32 ERA) will get the ball for the Gators while South Florida will counter with redshirt freshman Jack Jasiak. Mace is coming off a 5-inning outing against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament in which he gave up one run and seven hits while striking out eight. Jasiak went 8-2/3 innings against Tulane in the AAC Tournament, allowing no runs, two hits and striking out 12. In his last 29-2/3 innings, Jasiak has given up just 11 hits and three runs while striking out 27. If Jasiak can last deep into the game, the Bulls turn the game over to closers Lyle Logan (4-1, 2.03 ERA, 4 saves) and Orion Kekering (4-3, 2.36 ERA, 4 saves).
The Bulls are a dangerous team that has gotten hot at just the right time. They’ve won six of their last seven games including two over East Carolina, which is seeded No. 13 nationally and hosting a regional. USF doesn’t hit for average (just .266) but they have three power hitters in the lineup who can drive the ball out of the yard in Roberto Pena (12 HR), Riley Hogan (11) and Carmine Lane (10).
Florida’s game with USF will be followed by Miami (32-19) and South Alabama (32-20) at 5 p.m. Saturday, the two losers from Friday will face off in an elimination game with the two winners playing in game two. The winner of the elimination game and the loser of the winners’ game will face off Saturday night with the loser of that game going home. It’s a double elimination format with the team that starts off 2-0 needing only one win on Sunday advance to the super regional next weekend.
PROS AND CONS OF FLORIDA BASKETBALL In an article entitled “Sales Pitch: Who has the most to offer on the SEC men’s basketball recruiting trail,” a couple of unnamed coaches made the following comments about the University of Florida, which is considered the second best program in the SEC:
Pro comment: "You're the lone SEC school in the state of Florida," one coach said. "There's so much talent in there. And it's just Florida, Miami and Florida State. They're the flagbearer for the SEC in the state. They're really close to Atlanta. Gainesville isn't too far off from other places ... And it's not just tradition, it's recent history, too. It's national titles within the last 15 years, they have guys that are in the NBA, that's important. Their facilities aren't that bad. And it's 60 degrees and sunny in the winter. And for kids in the south, that can't go overlooked."
My comment: Florida is the second-best program in the SEC, but it’s also become the second-best program in the state behind FSU, which is doing a far better job of landing the best talent in the state despite rotten facilities.
Con comment: “The fan support isn't what it is at Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, even Auburn," one coach said. "Unless they're winning national championships, that place [the O'Connell Center] isn't full. And they play in an older facility, although they've renovated it."
My comment: The fan support is embarrassing. Unless it’s a big game the O-Dome is rarely full and if the game isn’t white knuckles, fans are leaving for their cars with about 7-8 minutes to go. The renovated O-Dome is better than it used to be but it’s still lipstick on a pig. For what was spent to renovate UF could have built a brand new arena like the one at Ole Miss, which is beautiful and high tech. The renovated O-Dome may look better but it is lower third of the SEC. The practice facility which was once as good as it got anywhere in the SEC, is in desperate need of a makeover.
SEC CHANGES INTRA-CONFERENCE TRANSFER RULES
The Southeastern Conference has eliminated the one-year residency requirement for transfers from one league school to another. Thursday, the SEC presidents and chancellors voted to give intra-conference transfers immediate eligibility, which falls in line with votes taken in the other power conferences. This clears the way for players like former Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o to play immediately for Alabama this fall where he’s expected to take over for the graduated Dylan Moses and become a force for the Crimson Tide defense.
Athletes who have already announced their intent to transfer will be eligible in 2021 but future athletes will have to declare their intent to transfer by February 1 for fall sports, May 1 for winter sports and June 1 for spring sports.
In another matter voted on by the league presidents and chancellors, schools that receive an NCAA postseason ban in basketball or football will be limited to 50 percent of the conference-distributed money in that particular sport while the ban is in place. If a school gets a postseason ban in football or basketball in the five years after they come off a postseason ban, they will forfeit 100 percent of the distributed revenue for the duration of the ban. To put that in perspective, LSU has a potential postseason ban in football for which it has self-imposed some sanctions to stave off a harsh response by the NCAA. If the NCAA issues a postseason ban for the 2021 season for LSU football, the school will only receive 50 percent of the conference’s distribution that is directly tied to football. And, if LSU went on probation again in the five years after that ban, then it would not receive any football money for as long as the probation was in place. That is needed legislation.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC Alabama: Third-seeded Alabama (51-7) knocked off 11th-seeded Arizona , 5-1, in the first round of the Women’s College World Series. Alabama will face 2nd-seeded UCLA, a 4-0 winner over Florida State, in the second round today … Former Alabama wide receiver Joshua Lanier is transferring to Jackson State to play for Deion Sanders. Lanier never caught a pass at Alabama … Alabama (31-23) will face North Carolina State (30-17) in the Ruston Regional today as the NCAA Baseball Tournament gets under way.
Arkansas: The No. 1 seed Razorbacks (46-10) will face New Jersey Tech (26-22) in the first round of the Fayetteville regional today.
Auburn: Eli Stove, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent, has been waived after surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Georgia: Georgia (34-22) dropped a 3-2 decision to 5th-seeded Oklahoma State in the first round of the Women’s College World Series. Georgia will face national No. 1 seed Oklahoma, which lost for only the third time all season to James Madison Thursday in an elimination game today. Georgia, it must be noted, handed Oklahoma its first loss of the season back in April.
Kentucky: Chris Collins has been hired to coach the defensive backs at UK. He coached safeties and served as recruiting coordinator at Georgia State last year.
LSU: One day after it was announced O-line coach James Cregg has been fired, Coach O Brad Davis from Arkansas to take his place. Davis has coached in the SEC at Missouri and Florida. Also, former Kansas O-line coach Lee Grimes has joined the LSU staff as an analyst … The Tigers (34-22) will face Gonzaga (33-17) in the Eugene, Oregon regional today.
Mississippi State: The No. 7 national seed Bulldogs (40-15) will face Samford (35-22) in the Starkville regional today.
Ole Miss: The No. 10 national seed Rebels (41-19) will face Southeast Missouri State in the Oxford regional today.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks (33-21), who are the 2nd-seed in their own regional, will face Virginia (29-23) today.
Tennessee: The Vols (45-16), who are the No. 3 national seed, will face Wright State (35-11) in the Knoxville regional today.
Texas A&M: Former Aggie QB Johnny Manziel says he was paid $3,000 to sign 10,000 autographs after he won the Heisman Trophy.
Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt (40-15), the No. 4 national seed, opens its Nashville regional against Presbyterian (22-21) today.
COACH K SAYS IT WAS TIME TO CALL IT QUITS At the press conference in which he confirmed the reports that he’s retiring, Duke basketball coach Mike Kryzyzewski dismissed the idea that he’s leaving for any reason other than it is time to move on to whatever is next in life. After more than 40 years of the almost year-round grind of coaching, there is plenty more even though he’s 74 years old. Perhaps there are other reasons that he’s keeping to himself why he’s walking away, but whether there are or whether there aren’t any, he’s been around long enough with more than enough success to dictate the terms of his departure. He will turn 75 next February, but I don’t think anyone believes he’s too old to relate to today’s generation or that the game is on the verge of passing him by. I do think he won’t miss what’s in store in the next four or five years once the wild, wild west of the transfer portal merges with name, image and likeness.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Major League Baseball umpires have vowed to crack down on pitchers who are doctoring baseballs with banned substances after the league says the practice has gotten out of control. I’m reminded of Gaylord Perry, who won 314 games with a career ERA of 3.11 for eight teams and who wrote a book entitled “Me and the Spitter.” Umpires were constantly searching Perry for any kind of illegal substance that he used to make the ball dip and curve. Although he was inspected by umpires on a regular basis they only found an illegal substance on him once in his 21st year in the big leagues. For that he served a 10-game suspension. At the 1972 All-Star Game, played at the Launching Pad, AKA Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, I was in a group of reporters who were interviewing Gaylord when someone asked how often he throws a spitter during a game? He just grinned and answered something to the effect of “If nobody can catch me throwing one how sure are you that I throw it?” Well, he threw it although I have no idea how often. Still, should he be in the Hall of Fame when he broke the rules and guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro aren’t for using banned substances in their bodies?