12 memorable months


Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

His beloved Patriots had lost the day before, but very little can dampen the mood of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley these days.

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Florida quarterback Chris Leak scrambles for yards in a game earlier last fall. Leak helped lead the Gators to their first SEC Championship since 2000 and the school's second national championship.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun

Asked who would win the Super Bowl, Foley said, "The Gates (Gators)! No question. We're on a roll."

That would be the Chicago Bears, with four former Florida players on the roster to zero for the Indianapolis Colts, who are quarterbacked by Peyton Manning. Considering his record in college against UF, Manning must be feeling cold shivers down his back at the thought of facing a bunch of Gators.

The last 12 months have been incredible, almost unbelievable, for the University of Florida athletic teams as well as its celebrated alumni. While the Gator Nation bends to smell the flowers, we give you 365 days to remember, a year unparalleled in college sports history.

Jan. 22, 2006

— Former Gators Marquand Manuel (Seattle) and Max Starks (Pittsburgh) help their team win conference title games to reach the Super Bowl.

Feb. 1, 2006

— Urban Meyer's second signing class is official and is ranked either first or second in the country; Florida men's tennis team earns No. 1 ranking.

Feb. 5, 2006

— Starks is a starter on the Super Bowl champions.

Feb. 10, 2006

— The Florida baseball team opens the season ranked No. 1 in two polls.

Feb. 19, 2006

— Florida baseball sweeps a three-game series against Miami in Coral Gables for the first time.

Feb. 24, 2006

— Former UF track athlete Steve Mesler competes in the Winter Olympics on the USA's four-man bobsled team.

Feb. 26, 2006

— The Florida women's basketball team wins at Knoxville, UF's second-ever win over Tennessee.

March 5, 2006

— Florida basketball team wins in Lexington making it four straight over Kentucky; Ex-Gator Camilo Villegas finishes second to Tiger Woods at Doral and becomes an instant celebrity.

March 12, 2006

— Florida beats South Carolina 49-47 to win its second straight SEC Tournament title.

March 13, 2006

— Florida women's basketball is invited to the NCAA Tournament as a six seed.

March 18, 2006

— Florida basketball team throttles University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 82-60 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years.

March 26, 2006

— Florida beats Villanova 75-62 to reach its third-ever Final Four.

April 1, 2006

— Florida beats George Mason to advance to its second national title game under Billy Donovan.

April 3, 2006

— Florida defeats UCLA 73-57 to win the school's first basketball title.

April 7, 2006

— At Florida's national title celebration in the O'Connell Center, Joakim Noah announces, "Let it be done then. We back, baby!" All three potential first-round draft picks on the UF hoops team will return for another season.

April 23, 2006

— Florida's women's tennis team wins its fifth straight SEC tournament and 15th overall.

April 30, 2006

— Former Gator and current Gainesville resident Chris Couch wins his first PGA Tour event with a 50-foot chip-in on the final hole of the Zurich New Orleans Classic.

May 14, 2006

— UF golfer Matt Every is named the winner of the Ben Hogan Award, which goes to college golf's player of the year. He's the first Gator to receive the award.

May 16, 2006

— Emmitt Smith becomes the seventh UF player or coach to be voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

June 5, 2006

— Incoming UF freshman Tim Tebow is named the National High School Quarterback of the Year.

June 18, 2006

— After an intense recruiting battle, Dan Werner announces his intentions to be a Gator. Werner was released after North Carolina State switched coaches.

June 20, 2006

— Former Gators Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams help Miami win the NBA title with a 95-92 win over Dallas in Game Six.

June 29, 2006

— Florida finished fifth in the Director's Cup, which monitors overall success of each school's athletic program.

July 23, 2006

— Former Gator Chris DiMarco finishes second to Tiger Woods in the British Open, wrapping up a Ryder Cup slot for DiMarco.

July 28, 2006

— Florida is picked by writers to win the SEC East at Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

Aug. 3, 2006

— Florida fans get a break when the SEC rules the Gators don't have to play their opener at 12:30 p.m. for television, instead playing Southern Miss at 6 p.m.

Aug. 4, 2006

— Florida is voted No. 8 in the preseason coaches' football poll.

Aug. 10, 2006

— The Sun reports that Florida is the only SEC school to have all of its football recruits qualify academically.

Aug. 15, 2006

— Matt LaPorta, one shy of the all-time home run record at UF, will return for his senior season.

Sept. 16, 2006

— Florida beats Tennessee 21-20 in Knoxville giving Urban Meyer his first big road win as Florida's coach.

Sept. 27, 2006

— The NCAA releases a report that shows seven Florida sports achieved 100 percent graduation rates.

Sept. 30, 2006

— Florida reveals its Ring of Honor which has four members — Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Emmitt Smith and Jack Youngblood. Florida beats Alabama after the Ring is revealed.

Oct. 7, 2006

— Florida takes a big step toward an SEC title by handling LSU in The Swamp.

Oct. 27, 2006

— Former Gator David Eckstein is named World Series MVP after the St. Louis Cardinals win the series; Florida women's soccer wins its first SEC crown.

Oct. 28, 2006

— Florida beats Georgia for the 15th time in 17 tries.

Nov. 4, 2006

— Florida beats Vanderbilt and, coupled with Tennessee's loss to LSU later that night, the Gators are SEC East champions.

Nov. 12, 2006

— UF women's soccer team reaches the sweet 16; UF volleyball team wins its 16th straight SEC title.

Nov. 15, 2006

— Emmitt Smith wins "Dancing with the Stars."

Nov. 25, 2006

— Florida beats Florida State for the third straight time and second straight in Tallahassee.

Nov. 28, 2006

— Florida's Angie McGinnis is named the SEC player of the year in volleyball.

Dec. 2, 2006

— Florida beats Arkansas 38-28 in Atlanta to win the school's seventh SEC title and first since 2000.

Dec. 3, 2006

— The votes are in and Florida will play Ohio State in Glendale, Ariz., for the BCS National Championship.

Dec. 20, 2006

— Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan sets the all-time record for wins at UF; Ocala quarterback John Brantley switches his commitment from Texas to Florida.

Dec. 23, 2006

— In a much-anticipated matchup, Florida hammers Ohio State 86-60 in the O'Connell Center.

Jan. 8, 2007

— Florida beats Ohio State 41-14 to win the school's second national championship in football, as UF becomes the first school to hold both the football and basketball titles.

Jan. 15, 2007

— Florida's basketball team regains the No. 1 ranking in the polls; UF gymnastics is also ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Jan. 22, 2007

— Rex Grossman becomes the first UF quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl. He is joined by Bears' teammates Alex Brown, Ian Scott and Todd Johnson, all former Gators.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or dooleyp@gvillesun.com.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun

At left, Florida's Joakim Noah pulls in the ball after a block during second-round play in the NCAA Tournament against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 18, 2006. Florida won, 82-60, en route to the national title.

At right, Florida quarterback Chris Leak scrambles for yards in a game earlier last fall. Leak helped lead the Gators to their first SEC Championship since 2000 and the school's second national championship.

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