Donovan, Horford will be at BCS game

Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 8:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 8:57 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE Florida men's basketball coach Billy Donovan plans to arrive today and root hard for the Gators when they face Oklahoma in the BCS title game at Dolphin Stadium.

Donovan will sit with the center who helped lead his Gator team to back-to-back national titles in 2006-07. Former Gator big man Al Horford has a break between games with the Atlanta Hawks and was able to land the hot ticket, courtesy of his former coach.

Donovan couldn't make Florida coach Urban Meyer's first BCS championship win in 2006 because it was in Glendale, Ariz., and the Gators had a game against Arkansas the following day.

This time around, the logistics are better. Florida doesn't play its Southeastern Conference season-opener until Saturday against Ole Miss and a flight from Gainesville to Fort Lauderdale is considerably shorter than a flight to Arizona. Meyer attended both of Donovan's championships.

While Donovan intends to pull for UF, he also has close ties and admiration for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. The two met when Donovan was first hired at Florida in 1996. Stoops was defensive coordinator at UF at the time under former coach Steve Spurrier.

"He's a great guy," Donovan said. "I'm not rooting against Bob Stoops. I'm rooting for Florida."

A friendship was forged during their time together in Gainesville that's lasted for more than 12 years. Both Stoops and Donovan own condominiums near each other on Crescent Beach that serve as getaway spots during the summer. Sometimes, the two will spot each other jogging on the beach and will stop for a chat.

"I'll text him every once in a while after games, and I'll reach out to him," Donovan said. "I was in Oklahoma a year ago recruiting and they had a big win I think over Texas. I was a ways away from Norman, but I reached out to him and we talked. He was always very nice in '06 and '07 when we won two national championships. He reached out and congratulated me, something he didn't have to do in that situation, but something I really appreciated."

Likewise, Stoops admires Donovan's coaching ability.

"Billy is a great friend, love the guy, love the way he coaches and the style they play and how tough he coaches," Stoops said. "I've always been a big fan and also fortunately a good friend with Billy."

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