THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 11, 2019
PAY RAISES OVERDUE FOR UF FOOTBALL ASSISTANTS
This past week, Clemson gave co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott raises, bringing each of their their salaries to the $1 million level. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables already makes $2.2 million a year and he’s got a 5-year deal with all the money guaranteed. He will get a raise to $2.4 million in 2020. Clemson assistants were paid $6.775 million last year. This year they’ll knock down $7.395 million.
What does this have to do with the Florida Gators? Plenty, starting with the fact Sal Sunseri (to Alabama) and Charlton Warren (to Georgia) left UF for higher paying jobs. Fortunately, for Dan Mullen, David Turner was available to replace Sunseri and it was addition by subtraction when Warren left because while Warren is a fine football coach, Torrian Gray is even better. If Florida intends to keep Turner and Gray and prevent the other assistants on the staff from leaving for higher paying jobs, it’s time to pony up. Soon.
In 2018, Florida’s assistants combined to make $4.855 million, nearly $2 full million less than Clemson. In the SEC, Texas A&M paid its assistants $6.789 million; Auburn $6.55 million; LSU $6.47 million; Georgia $6.42 million; Alabama $6.124 million; Tennessee $5.675 million; South Carolina $5.05 million; and Ole Miss $5.025 million. Florida State paid its assistants $5.715 million.
Florida spent way too many years getting by on the cheap when it came to assistant coach salaries and with facilities. Scott Stricklin is racing to bring UF out of the dark ages when it comes to facilities. It’s time to do the same thing for Mullen’s assistants. A program on its way back to championship status requires paying assistants like this is the only place they should ever coach unless they leave for a head coaching job somewhere.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD FOR UF HOOPS
What is it about this Florida basketball team that dooms it to repeat past performances against the really good teams on their schedule? As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like déjà vu all over again” far too often for the Gators (12-11, 4-6 SEC), who have lost three of their last five games by an almost identical scenario. Case in point, Saturday’s 73-61 loss to Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC) in Knoxville which bore a remarkable resemblance to Florida’s 78-67 loss to the Vols in Gainesville a little less than a month ago. In the first game, the Gators played great defense and well enough on the offensive end for 30 minutes but unfortunately, it’s a 40-minute game and the other 10 minutes were killers. The same thing happened Saturday in Knoxville. It happened earlier in the week at Auburn and it’s likely to happen a few more times since there are eight more games left in the regular season.
During these 10-minute droughts we tend to focus more on the bricks thrown up from the outside by any one of a half dozen or so shooters and the inability of Kevarrius Hayes to make a simple catch and dunk even though he’s been here four years. The problems run deeper than that, however. For reasons unknown, when the Gators go into one of their 10-minute funks, the defense that has been keeping them close tends to lose that ferocious intensity that allows them to neutralize larger and more talented teams. When the defense fails, Florida’s tiny margin for error shrinks even further, often turning a winnable game into another one of those what might have been if only outcomes.
Saturday, Noah Locke and KeVaughn Allen combined to hit 8-13 on 3-point shots. For the Gators to win games Locke and Allen have to hit a decent percentage from behind the arc but even when they are scorching hot they’ve got to get some help. Somebody else has to hit an occasional 3-ball. Somebody has to occasionally get in the paint and score a few points.
And even when it’s brick city, the defense can’t go south but even when you’re getting stops you have to score more points than the bad guys. Until the Gators can figure that out and do something about it, we will experience déjà vu all over on a regular basis.
POSTSEASON CHANCES FOR EVERY SEC HOOPS TEAM
TENNESSEE (22-1, 10-0 SEC): The only question for the Vols is where they will be seeded in the NCAA Tournament. Right now everybody has them one of four #1s, but they could be the overall #1 for the entire tournament. Saturday’s trip to Rupp will be the most watched game in the entire country.
Wednesday: vs. South Carolina (12-11, 7-3 SEC); Saturday: at Kentucky (19-4, 9-1 SEC)
KENTUCKY (20-3, 9-1 SEC): Joe Lunardi currently has the Wildcats as a #2 seed. They probably move up to the #1 line this week if they can win at Rupp against LSU and Tennessee. Both Kentucky and Tennessee have the look of Final Four teams.
Tuesday: vs. LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC); Saturday: vs. Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC)
LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC): With nine SEC wins already, the Tigers are in the NCAA Tournament. Lunardi has them as a #5 currently, but a 2-0 week that includes a win at Rupp Tuesday night should move them up to a #4.
Tuesday: at Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC); Saturday: at Georgia (10-13, 1-9 SEC)
SOUTH CAROLINA (12-11, 7-3 SEC): The Gamecocks have the strong resume in SEC play but at 12-11 overall they’ve got work to do. With eight SEC games remaining, South Carolina probably has to win six plus at least one in the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks are absent from Lunardi’s latest bracketology.
Wednesday: at Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC); Saturday: vs. Texas A&M (9-13, 2-8 SEC)
ALABAMA (15-8, 6-4 SEC): Alabama needs three more SEC wins to get in the NCAA Tournament but for seeding purposes, they need to go 5-3 down the stretch. Eleven SEC wins and 20 overall would probably make the Crimson Tide a #7 or #8.
Tuesday: at Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6 SEC); Saturday: vs. Florida (12-11, 4-6 SEC)
OLE MISS (16-7, 6-4 SEC): The Rebels seemed to right a listing ship with a couple of wins last week. Since they don’t have a signature win, they’ll need to get to 10 wins in SEC play to get anything higher than a #8 seed which is where Lunardi currently has them.
Wednesday: at Auburn (16-7, 5-5 SEC); Saturday: vs. Missouri (11-11, 2-8 SEC)
AUBURN (16-7, 5-5 SEC): When the Tigers are healthy, they’re capable of beating just about anyone in the country. The problem is they haven’t been healthy so they’ve struggled to be at break even. Four more wins and they’re in the NCAA Tournament, five and they might justify the #7 seed that Lunardi has them at right now.
Wednesday: vs. Ole Miss (16-7, 5-5 SEC); Saturday: at Vanderbilt (9-14, 0-10 SEC)
ARKANSAS (14-9, 5-5 SEC): The Hogs might make it into the NCAA Tournament with a 5-3 finish in the regular season and then at least one win in the SEC Tournament. Six regular season wins would certainly get them in. Right now, they’re out.
Tuesday: at Missouri (11-11, 2-8 SEC); Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6 SEC)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (16-7, 4-6 SEC): Lunardi has the Bulldogs on the #7 line but trending downward. A 5-3 close to the regular season will get them in the tournament but a lot lower than a #7. With the exception of a roadie to Tennessee, the other seven SEC games are winnable.
Tuesday: vs. Alabama (15-8, 6-4 SEC); Saturday: at Arkansas (14-9, 5-5 SEC)
FLORIDA (12-11, 4-6 SEC): If the Gators don’t break even in SEC play, they’re not going to make it to the NCAA Tournament. There are eight games remaining, two against LSU and one at Rupp against UK so it’s a precarious road to 9-9 in SEC play. Even if the Gators go 5-3 down the stretch, they’ll need to win one or two in the SEC Tournament. This has NIT written all over it.
Wednesday: vs. Vanderbilt (9-14, 0-10 SEC); Saturday: at Alabama (15-8, 6-4 SEC)
MISSOURI (11-11, 2-8 SEC): For Mizzou to get into the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers would have to go 7-1 or 8-0 down the stretch and even then win at least one game in the SEC Tournament. Right now, even getting in the NIT will take six or seven more wins.
Tuesday: vs. Arkansas (14-9, 5-5 SEC); Saturday: at Ole Miss (16-7, 6-4 SEC)
TEXAS A&M (9-13, 2-8 SEC): The only way the Aggies make the NCAA Tournament is to win the SEC Tournament. To get into the NIT they’ll need five or six more regular season wins and then a win or two in the SEC Tournament. Donkeys might fly first.
Tuesday: vs. Georgia (10-13, 1-9 SEC); Saturday: at South Carolina (12-11, 7-3 SEC)
GEORGIA (10-13, 1-9 SEC): Getting into the NIT would be quite an accomplishment considering where the Bulldogs are right now. Of course, they fired Mark Fox and hired Tom Crean because they were tired of going to the NIT. Getting into the NCAA would require either going 8-0 down the regular season stretch and then making it to the SEC Tournament semifinals or else winning the SEC Tournament outright. Two chances that happens – no way and no how.
Tuesday: at Texas A&M (9-13, 2-8 SEC); Saturday: vs. LSU (19-4 9-1 SEC)
VANDERBILT (9-14, 0-10 SEC): Right now, Vandy’s biggest goal has to be avoiding a reverse run of the SEC table. The NCAA is a pipedream and would involve winning four games in a row in the SEC Tournament.
Wednesday: at Florida (12-11, 4-6 SEC); Saturday: vs. Auburn (16-7, 5-5 SEC)
STEVIE AND THE WONDERS
Okay, it wasn’t the NFL Saturday night at the Bounce House on the UCF campus, but it was vintage Steve Spurrier in the debut of the Orlando Apollos in the opening weekend of the Alliance of American Football. Spurrier’s first offensive play was a bomb (receiver was open but overthrown by a good 20 yards). He called a double reverse with a pass to quarterback Garrett Gilbert for a TD late in the second quarter. The game-winning formula was familiar to Gator fans – throw the ball all over the yard until you get a big lead, then grind the opponents (this opponent was the Atlanta Legends, who lost the game, 40-6) to a pulp with the running game.
The AAF is just the latest attempt at spring football and it would be smart if the NFL got behind the fledgling league. It’s a great place for guys who need a second (or as in the case of Will Hill a third or fourth) chance, for unknowns to show what they can do and a place where the NFL can send its third string quarterbacks to get reps against live competition. The game is not going to be as quick or as hard hitting as the NFL. The players, for the most part, won’t show the same skill level that you see on Sundays in the fall but a few of them might be worth invitations to NFL training camps if they show a measure of consistency and, as in the case of Hill, some heretofore unseen maturity.
Even if nobody from the AAF proves NFL worthy, it’s still football, Spurrier is coaching and the game is fun. I watched Saturday night. I’m going to watch again.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Duke coach Mike Kryzyzewski is claiming no knowledge of an allegation that a Duke basketball player raped Meredith Watson in 1999. Watson is the woman who alleges that Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2000 when both were Duke students … Basketball coach Sean Miller received strong words of support from Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke, this in spite of having to fire assistant coach Mark Phelps last week for allegedly doctoring the transcripts of Shareef O’Neal and assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson a year ago as part of the college basketball corruption scandal … There were reports that Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House was leaving to become linebackers coach of the Kansas City Chiefs but there are newer reports that indicate House has elected to stay at UK … Texas A&M has hired Josh Henson from Oklahoma State to coach the offensive line … Terry Fair is leaving the Tennessee coaching staff. It is being reported that former Oakland Raiders DB coach Derrick Ansley will replace Fair … Vanderbilt has promoted quarterbacks coach Gerry Gdowski to offensive coordinator … Oakland Athletics position players are due to report for spring training on Friday. The A’s have no idea if Kyler Murray will report.