Dooley Noted: Bleary-eyed Gator fans

Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 3:04 p.m.

I know there were a lot of you out there who were a little bleary-eyed Friday around the office because you stayed up to watch the Florida-Arkansas game and couldn't turn it off because it came down to the wire.

Well, buckle up Gator fans because that's the way this season is going to be.

This isn't the kind of team that can blow out any team with decent talent, and it has shown so far that it can stay in there with anybody. As a result, in each of Florida's 10 significant games so far this season, the game has been in doubt in the last five minutes.

In those games, Florida is 5-5. That's respectable, but it's going to take more than .500 the rest of the way to make the NCAA Tournament.

I have to think Billy Donovan is sick of us asking questions and writing stories about whether the Gators will make it back. You could sense that a year ago. Unfortunately, that's the monster he created by going nine straight years and getting his teams to three national title games.

As we sit here today, I don't think Florida is an NCAA Tournament team. A trip to the Big Dance would be short. But there is a lot of season to play, and I am seeing some improvement in players adjusting to their new roles with this team.

Of course, the man of the hour is Erving Walker, who turned in one of the best performances in Florida basketball history in Fayetteville. That's right, I said it. As badly as Florida needed that game, and with nobody really helping him out offensively, Walker put the team on his back and willed UF to a win. That was special.

On the other end, we have Dan Werner, who has become painful to watch. It's depressing, really, because he's such a great kid and has done everything he's been asked by Donovan. He doesn't deserve to be vilified the way he has by Gator fans, especially the students yelling, "No!" every time he launches a 3-point shot in the O-Dome.

Werner looks like the proverbial deer in the headlights on the court these days. Somehow he has to get his confidence back. Because he's going to play. He's too valuable in other ways to sit. But if he continues to play the way he has in those very same 10 meaningful games (5.8 ppg in those games and 27 percent shooting in the last six) I think Florida is headed for another NIT berth.

TEBOW WITH TWANG: There has to be a country song in this somewhere — Tim Tebow is working out at the D1 Sports Training Center in Franklin, Tenn., about 20 miles south of Nashville.

And apparently he's not talking to the media until next week at the Senior Bowl.

I saw him at the Grand Ole Opry

And at Jack's where I ate smoked hog

But my best quote, he up and left me

Just like my truck, my girl and my dog.

PAYING THE PIPER: The next time an administrator or a coach or an NCAA official brings up the welfare of the "student-athlete," I want you to laugh really, really hard. I mean, tears in your eyes, guffawing, voice-gets-high-pitched kind of laughing.

Every day we are presented with examples of how the athletes are used like cattle, and even though I understand that they are getting a lot back and that there is a reason they can't be paid for what they do, I still insist on pulling the soapbox out every couple of months to point out the obvious.

So let me say it and get it off my chest. It's ridiculous the SEC agreed to make players play Thursday-Saturday games. Please, don't tell me about the welfare of the student-athlete. And don't tell me about back-to-back games in the SEC Tournament or Thursday-Saturday games at the NCAAs. You're not traveling between those games.

Another money grab, pure and simple. Just call it what it is.

THE KIFF: As we get further away from Lane Kiffin's stunning exit from Tennessee, more and more is coming out about his time there. None of it is sexy or significant (unless you believe the rumors) but it is interesting that after he left all of these stories are coming out.

Call it Tiger Lite.

Kiffin did this, did that. He wrecked his Lexus loaner and didn't report it until the next morning. He changed videos in the UT complex to show great Southern Cal players. He never switched his driver's license to the great state of Tennessee.

Hey, he's exactly what he was when you Vol fans jumped on the bandwagon.

Now Mike Hamilton, the Tennessee athletic director, is saying that in retrospect, Kiffin was "not a good cultural fit."

Noise pollution rarely is.

SSCCCRREEECCH! So NASCAR has relaxed its rules to encourage drivers to be more aggressive? Uh, I know you have a lot of safety devices and stuff, but those are flammable weapons you're driving around.

Heck, I think NASCAR should go all the way. Let all the drivers outfit their cars like James Bond with the spiked hubcaps and special weapons.

Have at it, boys.

PAT-POURRI: Looks like former Gator David Lee will be named as a reserve on the NBA All-Star team next week. Lee, who is averaging a double-double and will become a free agent next year, is about to become a very rich man. Who saw that coming? ... Mississippi State had to address a recruiting issue when players took recruits to a strip club in Starkville. I have but one question — there's a strip club in Starkville? ... Goodbye, Conan. Hope to see you soon. But if someone paid me $33 million to go away, I'd go far away. ... Wanna feel old? Fred Couples made his Senior Tour debut Friday. ... I'll take the Colts, 23-10, and the Saints, 28-24. But the way I performed in the bowl games, I'd lay big money on the Jets and Vikings if I were you. ... Be safe.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at and follow at

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