A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
ERIK PASTRANA IS A SOLID HIRE FOR MIKE WHITE
Mike White filled one of the two vacancies on his coaching staff Monday when he announced the hire of Erik Pastrana, a Florida native known as an outstanding recruiter. A native of Miami, Pastrana has worked for Frank Martin (now HBC at South Carolina), for Brad Underwood (now Illinois) at Stephen F. Austin and Steve Forbes (now Wake Forest) at Northwest Florida State College. He has also worked as an assistant at Florida International and Florida Atlantic as well as head coach at Daytona Beach State College.
This is a solid hire for White, who hasn’t fared well on the recruiting trail in the state of Florida, landing only three freshmen (Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Eric Hester, Gorjok Gok) from the state in his six years on the job. Mann, who expects to be among the first 15 players selected in the upcoming NBA Draft, is the only Floridian White has recruited who didn’t transfer out. Pastrana has extensive connections at both the high school and junior college levels. He was instrumental in Oklahoma State landing Cade Cunningham, expected to be the first player selected in the NBA Draft, from Montverde Academy.
GATORS OPEN SEC TOURNAMENT AGAINST KENTUCKY
The 6th-seeded and 12th-ranked Gators (35-19) will send Tommy Mace (5-1, 4.48 ERA) to the mound today when they face Kentucky (29-22) in the first round of the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Alabama at 10:30 a.m. Kentucky will counter with Sean Harney (3-1, 3.86 ERA).
Mace and Harney opposed each other three weeks ago when the Gators staged a 4-run rally in the top of the ninth inning to knock off the Wildcats 8-5 in Lexington, a game won on a 3-run homer by Kendrick Calilao. Mace went seven innings in that game, giving up eight hits and four runs but didn’t factor in the decision. Harney gave up six hits in five innings, two of which left the yard off the bat of Jud Fabian, who drove in all three runs Harney allowed.
The winner of today’s game advances to the second round to face 3rd-seeded Mississippi State (40-13) while the loser goes home. Florida is almost certain to host an NCAA regional no matter what happens in Hoover. Kentucky, on the other hand, will almost certainly have to win one or two games to have a shot at an NCAA bid. Once into the second round, the tournament goes to double elimination so Tuesday’s winners will all be guaranteed two more games in Hoover.
Accolades: Center fielder Jud Fabian was named first team All-SEC and to the All-SEC Defensive team … Named to the Newcomer All-SEC team were catcher Nathan Hickey and pitcher Hunter Barco … Outfielder Sterlin Thompson was named to the All-SEC Freshman team.
Collegiate Baseball poll: 1. Arkansas 42-10; 2. Vanderbilt 39-13; 3. Mississippi State 40-13; 4. Texas 40-13; 5. Tennessee 42-14; 6. Arizona 38-14; 7. Notre Dame 29-10; 8. TCU 36-16; 9. Stanford 31-13; 10. Oregon 35-13; 11. Texas Tech 35-13; 12. FLORIDA 35-19; 13. East Carolina 38-13; 14. Ole Miss 38-17; 15. UC-Irvine 36-16; 16. South Carolina 33-20; 17. Georgia Tech 28-21; 18. North Carolina State 28-15; 19. Arizona State 32-17; 20. UCLA 32-18; 21. Miami 32-17; 22. Oklahoma State 32-16-1; 23. Charlotte 39-17; 24. Nebraska 29-11; 25. Fairfield 35-1; 26. Michigan 26-15; 27. Louisiana Tech 36-16; 28. Virginia Commonwealth 34-14; 29. Gonzaga 32-15; 30. UConn 30-16.
Baseball America poll: 1. Arkansas 42-10; 2. Vanderbilt 39-13; 3. Notre Dame 29-10; 4. Texas 40-13; 5. Tennessee 42-14; 6. Mississippi State 40-13; 7. Texas Tech 35-13; 8. Arizona 38-14; 9. East Carolina 38-13; 10. Stanford 31-13; 11. Ole Miss 38-17; 12. FLORIDA 35-19; 13. Oregon 35-13; 14. UC-Irvine 36-16; 15. North Carolina State 28-15; 16. Charlotte 39-17; 17. Florida State 29-21; 18. Old Dominion 38-14; 19. Nebraska 29-11; 20. Gonzaga 32-15; 21. TCU 36-16; 22. Louisiana Tech 36-16; 23. Southern Miss 35-17; 24. Miami 32-17; 25. South Carolina 33-20.
D1Baseball.com poll: 1. Arkansas 42-10; 2. Texas 40-13; 3. Vanderbilt 39-13; 4. Tennessee 42-14; 5. Texas Tech 35-13; 6. Arizona 38-14; 7. Notre Dame 29-10; 8. Mississippi State 40-13; 9. Stanford 31-13; 10. Oregon 35-13; 11. East Carolina 38-13; 12. Ole Miss 38-17; 13. FLORIDA 35-19; 14. Gonzaga 32-15; 15. TCU 36-16; 16. North Carolina State 28-15; 17. UC-Irvine 36-16; 18. Louisiana Tech 36-16; 19. Southern Miss 35-17; 20. Nebraska 29-11; 21. Arizona State 32-17; 22. Charlotte 39-17; 23. Florida State 29-21; 24. Old Dominion 38-14; 25. Maryland 26-15.
USA Today Coaches poll: 1. Arkansas 42-10; 2. Texas 40-13; 3. Vanderbilt 39-13; 4. Tennessee 42-14; 5. Texas Tech 35-13; 6. Mississippi State 40-13; 7. Arizona 38-14; 8. Notre Dame 29-10; 9. Oregon 35-13; 10. East Carolina 38-13; 11. Ole Miss 38-17; 12. Stanford 31-13; 13. FLORIDA 35-19; 14. TCU 36-16; 15. UC-Irvine 36-16; 16. Southern Miss 35-17; 17. North Carolina State 28-15; 18. Gonzaga 32-15; 19. Charlotte 39-17; 20. Louisiana Tech 36-16; 21. Old Dominion 38-14; 22. Florida State 29-21; 23. Arizona State 32-17; 24. South Carolina 33-20; 25. Nebraska 29-11.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC
Alabama: Catcher Sam Praytor was named first team All-SEC ... The 10th-seeded Crimson Tide (29-22) face Georgia at 2 p.m. today in Hoover in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
Arkansas: Second baseman Robert Moore, designated hitter Matt Goodheart and relief pitcher Kevin Kopps were named first team All-SEC. Kopps was named SEC Pitcher of the Year and Dave Van Horn was named Coach of the Year.
Auburn: Former LSU quarterback TJ Finley is transferring to Auburn. Finley threw for 941 yards and five touchdowns in five starts for LSU last season.
Georgia: Point guard Aaron Cook will be a grad transfer to Georgia. Cook, who started his career at Saint Louis, averaged 4.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.7 last year for the Zags, who finished NCAA runner-up to Baylor ... The 8th-seeded Bulldogs (30-23) will face 9th-seeded LSU at 5:30 p.m. in the SEC Tournament in Hoover.
Kentucky: The 11th-seeded Wildcats (29-22) will face No. 6 Florida in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Hoover at 10:30 a.m. Former Kentucky D-lineman Jerquavion Mahone is transferring to Temple.
LSU: Nicholls defensive back Quinton Page, who was a D1AA freshman All-American, is transferring to LSU, where he will have four years of eligibility remaining ... The Tigers (34-21), who are seeded 9th, will face Georgia in the SEC Tournament today.
Mississippi State: Outfielder Tanner Allen was named first team All-SEC and SEC Player of the Year.
Missouri: Defensive back Jarvis Ware, whose only interception in 2020 came against Florida, has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Ole Miss: How much of a difference did Lane Kiffin make for QB Matt Corrall? Writes Matt Hayes for Saturday Down South: “After one season with Kiffin, he was completing 70% of his passes, and his numbers rocketed in every category. In 10 games last season, he accounted for 3,843 yards and 33 TDs – his first full season as a starter.” … Starting pitcher Doug Nikhazy wa named first team All-SEC … Fifth-seeded Ole Miss (38-17) will face Auburn in the opening round of the SEC Tournament at 9 p.m. today.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks (33-20), who are seeded seventh, face Alabama at 2 p.m. in Hoover today.
Tennessee: Shortstop Liam Spence and third baseman Jake Rucker were named first team All-SEC.
Texas A&M: Wide receiver Camron Buckley, who caught 62 passes for 877 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons, is transferring to Indiana. Buckley missed all of 2020 with an injury.
Vanderbilt: Starting pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter and outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. were named first team All-SEC. Leiter was named Newcomer of the Year and Bradfield was named Freshman of the Year.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT PHIL
From Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated: “Anybody could have won the first major with a throng of fans since the country shut down last year. Koepka, who led with 17 to play, could have done it. Louis Oosthuizen who was one lousy swing on No. 13 from possibly tying Phil, could have won his second major. But Phil was most deserving, and not only for his play all week, or even for his play since he turned pro in 1992, the year Koepka turned two. He deserved it because he stopped needing a last name half a lifetime ago. Nobody since Arnie embraced the public life of a pro golfer more than Phil.
“… After it was over, as fans roared, Phil stood in the sun by the 18th green, hands on his hips, scorecard signed, waiting for the Wanamaker Trophy presentation – quite a ceremony for a man who is supposed to be a ceremonial golfer. PHIL MICKELSON will be engraved on the Wanamaker twice now, and Phil will be engraved in our memories, not just for how much he won, but for how firmly he believed he could.”
From Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: “On the back nine Sunday, when he should have been his most fatigued, hammered a 337-yard drive on 15 that rolled past playing partner Brooks Koepka, who is nearly two decades his junior. Then on 16, he wailed one 366 yards, the longest by anyone all week.”
From Daniel Rapaport, Golf Digest: “How easy would have been, in that moment, with a cacophony of overserved well-wishers ringing in your ears and history at your fingertips, to let it all spiral out of control. Instead, 50-year-old Phil Mickelson calmly traipsed up toward Kiawah’s 18th-green and two-puttied for the W. It was the summation of his multi-year crusade against the proverbial setting sun. This time, for once, Father Time finished second.”
From Bob Harig of ESPN: “The game is too deep, the young players too seasoned, the physical skills too demanding for AARP members to remain factors. And yet here is Phil, nearly a decade after going into the World Golf Hall of Fame, finishing above them all, including Brooks Koepka, the four-time major winner who seemed poised to steal Mickelson’s brilliance.”
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Without question, name, image and likeness (NIL) is going to change college sports forever and probably not in a good way. If you love college sports, then this quote by North Carolina head football coach Mack Brown (from a column by CBS Sports Dennis Dodd) should send shivers up and down your spine.
“Our [athletic director], Bubba Cunningham, came over and talked to our team about NIL a year ago … In the end he said, ‘Do you have any questions?’ Sam Howell stood up and said, ‘I don’t like it because I’m going to make more money than anybody else in here being a quarterback. That’s not good for our locker room.”
Howell wasn’t boasting when he made that statement, just laying out the facts. Because he is the face of the UNC program and quite possibly the No. 1 draft pick when the NFL selects in April of 2022, he is going to have opportunities that aren’t available to other starters. No parameters have been set for how much money a player can make so Howell could be at the center of a bidding war between boosters. A few dollars here and there probably won’t matter much, but what happens to the rest of the team if a Mercedes dealership offers Sam Howell a $130,000 automobile?
The NCAA has a hard enough time enforcing rules when a basketball coach like LSU’s Will Wade openly brags about offering thousands upon thousands of dollars. Once NIL is in place, how will the NCAA prevent a big time booster offering a stud recruit six figures to represent his business if he signs an LOI?
This is a time when college sports are desperate for leadership from the NCAA but unfortunately, the airhead in charge (Mark Emmert) is clueless. As we steamroll down a highway that crosses dangerous and uncharted territory, Mark Emmert is sitting in his office wondering if his brain does something other than part his ears.