Crist chats with Meyer, Donovan


Published: Saturday, September 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 31, 2007 at 11:22 p.m.

With two national championships to his name, University of Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan probably doesn't need many more assurances that he's one of basketball's hottest coaches. But now Donovan has a gubernatorial endorsement, too.

"We're so proud of you and I'm so glad you're here, continuing to stay here," Gov. Charlie Crist told Donovan at a meeting in Donovan's office Friday.

Donovan didn't dwell on the subject of his decision to stay at UF, rather than head to the Orlando Magic, but he noted "I'm happy it all worked out."

Followed by a throng of reporters, Crist dropped by Donovan's office and then headed to meet with Urban Meyer, UF's football coach. Crist was visiting UF to promote the university's alternative energy research, but said he wanted to chat with the Gators' star coaches a bit before he left town.

In his talk with Donovan, Crist noted the two had an auaintance in common. Crist recently met Bill Belichick, the famed New England Patriots' coach who also happens to be a close friend of Donovan's.

"He loves you, as you know," Crist told Donovan.

Turns out, Belichick actually tried to help Crist score some tickets to the Gators' national championship game in Atlanta last year.

"He wanted me to get you a ticket, and I said I didn't think that would be a problem," Donovan recalled.

The governor and the coach chatted for several more minutes, as Donovan discussed his close relationship with Meyer. The two are neighbors and their children share a common bus stop, Donovan said.

Crist then headed to Meyer's office, where he met with the football coach, starting quarterback Tim Tebow and backup quarterback John Brantley.

While media were allowed to film Donovan's meeting with Crist for several minutes before the two talked privately, officials with the governor promptly shooed reporters from Meyer's office after just a few seconds.

Meyer, who is busy planning for a game today against Western Kentucky University, was on a tight timeline and had rearranged his schedule to accommodate a meeting with Crist, according to UF officials.

Crist, who played quarterback while attending Wake Forest University before transferring to Florida State University, praised UF's recent athletic successes after he left Meyer's office.

"The Gator Nation is on fire," he said.

Jack Stripling can be reached at 352-374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@gvillesun.com.

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