Zook's tenure allows brilliant perspective

Published: Friday, March 4, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 4, 2005 at 12:19 a.m.
It wasn't the plan, wasn't a blueprint for success, but in retrospect Jeremy Foley's hiring of Ron Zook three years ago was like the Guinness commercial.
Follow my logic (or lack of it) here and you will come to the same conclusion even if you were one of the members of the Gator Nation who had a three-year red face about the hire.
First of all, Zook's three years here gave Gator fans a major dose of perspective. How long it lasts is another story. But certainly Florida fans now understand that it's not easy to win 10 games in college football.
They should realize that winning the East is not a birthright, that BCS bowls are not automatics. It takes a lot of things to make a season a success, including a bit of luck. So they enter the Urban Meyer Era with the same expectations but much greater appreciation for double-digit win seasons.
Second, we all know that the former coach left behind a nice nest egg of players for the next coach to take over. Foley thought he was hiring the right guy for the job three years ago, but even he had to have some doubts. The one thing he didn't question was that Zook could recruit.
Third, Zook was the perfect buffer for the transition from Steve Spurrier to Meyer. Somebody had to follow Spurrier and the chances were pretty good that coach would have a difficult time doing so.
And fourth, the three years allowed Meyer to become the hottest young coach in the country. Three years ago, it's not like there were hot prospects lining up at the door. I mean, who else would you have hired? But by the time things had gone sour for Zook, Meyer had established himself.
I know the 15 losses have been difficult to deal with, but you're starting to buy into my theory that Zook was the perfect choice to succeed Spurrier in 2002.
Aren't you?
  • GETTING WARM: Speaking of coaches who have struggled in their first three seasons at Florida, I'm officially putting Carolyn Peck on the hot seat.
    The Florida women's basketball team lost Thursday in the first round of the SEC Tournament for the third straight year, making Peck's overall record 42-44. Florida was next-to-last in the SEC in home attendance this season, ahead of only Mississippi State.
    Next season is a crossroads for Peck at UF. If Bernice Mosby returns, Peck will have a strong nucleus back to go along with her best recruiting class. It's time to get it done at a school that does not suffer mediocrity well.
  • RPI RIPOFF: The Ratings Index Percentage will again be a tool used by the NCAA men's basketball committee when it sits down next Sunday to decide which bubbles are popped. The new weighted RPI, which gives a ridiculous percentage of points for road victories, could be the difference between the SEC receiving five or six bids.
    In fact, there is growing suspicion that if the new RPI is taken too seriously, it will favor the mid-majors and hurt the middle-tier major conference teams.
    But while we won't know the answers until the decisions are made, Vanderbilt fans could be among the angry ones. The Commodores don't have a sterling resume to get in, but are really being hampered by the new RPI which has them 29 spots lower (at 75th) than the old one that would have rated Vanderbilt.
    On the other hand there is Akron, 38th in the new RPI and 71st in the old one.
  • BILL ME LATER: The plan for the Buffalo Bills after cutting Drew Bledsoe is to have J.P. Losman as the starter with Shane Matthews, the former UF quarterback, as his back-up and tutor.
    But if the Bills want Matthews to come in for all of the mini-camps and meetings in the off-season, they had better come up with a significant signing bonus. It was difficult enough for Matthews last year to be away from his family, but if Buffalo offers the same deal as last year (a $25,000 signing bonus and the NFL minimum for a 12-year veteran $760,000) Matthews will stay in Gainesville until the late summer.
    "I had no bargaining power then," Matthews said. "I thought I was retired when they called me. We'll see what happens but I'm not losing any sleep over it."
  • SPECIAL TIME: Is there a better time of the year to be a sports fan in this state? OK, other than football season.
    You have the college basketball season winding down, heading for its last weekend and into the conference and NCAA Tournaments. You have spring training baseball officially cranked up all around Florida. The PGA Tour on Thursday began its Florida swing down at Doral. NFL free agency is in full bloom.
    And there are no hockey highlights to take up valuable time on SportsCenter.
  • SHUT OUT: I've already made my case for Anthony Roberson being named player of the year in the SEC, but if history is any indication he has no chance.
    This is the 41st year for the Associated Press award and 19th for the coaches' honor. No Florida player has ever won.
    The only other school that has never had a winner is South Carolina, which only entered the league in 1992.
    But here is one more reason for Roberson - he's averaged 22 points in SEC road games this season. It's one thing to score when you're at home in friendly surroundings and familiar backgrounds, another on the road.
    And Dick Vitale agrees with me. He picked Roberson as well on his Web site.
  • THE GRADUATE: The NCAA trying to make sure coaches do everything to graduate their athletes who happen to be students is fine, but we all know the problem is in the way it is computed.
    For example, Baylor's basketball team had one of the lowest scores in the Academic Progress Report. Why? Because of a tragedy that sent most of the players to other schools. I guess the late Patrick Dennehy counted against Baylor's retention rate.
    On the other hand, coaches can't complain too much about players who leave and go to the pros because it's still only a select few and the cut-off line for the APR is half of the players graduating.
    The NCAA can solve this issue so easily - simply allow for a certain number of transfers or at least invest the time to see if those who did are in good academic standing at their new schools. And any player who turns pro should not count against a school. That's ridiculous.
  • ROGER AND YOU: The Veterans' Committee of baseball's Hall of Fame had a chance to right a great wrong this week. With all of the steroid issues out there, wouldn't it have sent an important message to vote Roger Maris into the Hall?
    Doesn't baseball owe something to the Maris family? For putting Roger through all of the asterisk nonsense? For allowing his record to be smashed by looking the other way when acne was breaking out all over the enlarged heads of its players?
  • PAT-POURRI: Former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus, who was supposed to win all of those Heisman Trophys for the Irish, is now Charlie Weis' director of football program management ... Whatever that is ... SI.com recently ranked the best men's college golf program over the last 20 years. Florida was sixth with Oklahoma State in the top spot ... The NCAA basketball committee usually has a sense of humor when the brackets come out, which is why you can expect Cincinnati and James White to be in Florida's bracket ... What's the more egregious error in the John Chaney flap - him sending in someone to physically harm another player or the AD and president at Temple allowing him to mete out his own punishment? ... I already miss Rick Mahler ... Be safe.
    You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.
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