Back Nine: UF softball special
Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 27, 2013 at 11:40 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a memorable weekend out at the softball stadium they call “The Oven” where Florida advanced to another College World Series. In related news, my old favorite blues bar in Bricktown is no longer called the “Biting Sow.” That's disappointing, but I'll make do.
10. Monday was a good barometer to show you one reason why this Florida softball team is special. We can look at the 57 wins and the return to Oklahoma City, but on Sunday evening, Tim Walton told his team it could have the day off Monday before its chartered flight took off at 4 p.m. Instead, the ladies insisted on batting practice at 10 a.m. I don't know if this team will break through and give Florida its first national title in softball. I've seen Oklahoma play and it's hard to believe anybody is getting past the Sooners, especially with the home crowd advantage it will have. And certainly, Tennessee is a formidable opening-round opponent. But what these ladies have accomplished this year has been amazing considering how young they are. “I don't want anybody to tell them how well they have played,” Walton said. “I just want them to keep playing softball.” A bonus for the softball team— Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood will be playing a concert for tornado relief about three blocks from the team hotel in Oklahoma City Wednesday night.
11. The theme for this team all season as been “16Strong.” That's how many players are on this team and they all know their roles. “It's a family of 16 girls,” said freshman Taylor Schwarz, who had the game-winning hit Sunday. “It's just comforting knowing the girls have my back.” Chemistry is a funny thing. Last year's team obviously lacked it and it spilled out of the locker room. Coaches can try to force it with slogans and speeches. But in the end, it comes down to trust and personalities. And when you have players like second baseman Kelsey Stewart, it's going to be a good locker room.
12. I'm not stunned that Florida made the field for the NCAA baseball tournament because of the strength of schedule (even though UF's winning percentage was No. 143 among Div.-I teams). And part of that schedule was playing Indiana in three games in March. The Hoosiers won two of three in Gainesville and that helped Indiana be a host team. At any rate, it's important that Kevin O'Sullivan gets another week with this team. He said before the season that he just wanted to get in and hoped his team could cause some trouble. There's no reason why we should believe they will because of the way they've been playing, but maybe a jolt of life will turn this team around. The field also shows you about how fickle baseball can be. Defending national champ Arizona did not make it despite a 34-21 record. Andy Lopez's team had an RPI of 62. The committee definitely paid attention to who you played.
13. We all know that the nine-game SEC schedule is going to be discussed this week in Destin and here is what I've been able to gather from talking to a lot of people. If they walked into the room and took a vote, there is no way that the 9-game schedule would have enough votes to have a majority. Schools like Florida don't want it because they have a traditional rival at the end of the season. That bottom half of the SEC that Bobby Stoops made fun of a few weeks ago doesn't want nine games because it cuts down the chances of making a bowl game. Schools such as Kentucky just don't have the rosters to compete in nine games in this conference. My point is that there is no way the pro-nines have enough votes. But commissioner Mike Slive is a very powerful man who has helped make a lot of money for this league. And if he leans on the schools who don't want to go to nine games because the league has promised content to ESPN for the SEC Network, well, it could very well happen. Stay tuned.
14. If the Rutgers story was not so sad, it would make for a great comedy. Who is doing the vetting at that school? If you didn't hear, the school which has finished second on the scandal-meter only to Penn State in the last couple of years hired a new athletic director, who apparently quit her job as Tennessee's volleyball coach because the players wrote a letter accusing her of mental abuse. I've got the perfect replacement — Tony Soprano. He gets things done and as long as you're not vetting properly ...
15. I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend, but it's only great if you understand why you had Monday off. If you don't, go watch the first 15 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.” It doesn't matter whether you believe that war is or isn't the answer, the people who have to fight in them deserve our respect and support.
16. It wasn't a surprise that Urban Meyer told Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com last week that he has regrets about the way he left Florida. I've had a lot of conversations with Meyer over the last few months concerning a book I have coming out in August. The surprise was that he talked to Fowler. Remember their big flap on the practice field back in 2010? I think Meyer has changed a lot since his final season at Florida. I think the criticism he has received from the Gator Nation has made him look at things a little differently. I also think he wants to come back here when he's finished coaching. Meyer told me the night that Will Muschamp was hired and again a couple of months ago that the main reason he quit was that he felt like he was killing himself and worried about dropping dead on the sidelines. But he is addicted to winning football games.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from pro golfer David Duval — “Good golf and great golf are different things. Many club players play good. Not great.” If anyone should know the difference between good golf and great golf, it's Duval. There was a time when he was the best in the world. Now, not so much.
18. Before I get off on a rant that was inspired by Howard Stern, try these downloads -- “Let's Get Tired” by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, “A Kingdom” by Lanterns of the Lake and for the old schoolers “I'Ve Seen All Good People: Your Move” by Yes. Which gets me to my rant. I watched some of the Rock ‘n' Roll Hall of Fame inductions the other night. It's not really a rock and roll hall. In fact, it's a bit of a joke. When Yes, Deep Purple and the Moody Blues are not in and Donna Summer is in, there is nothing legitimate about your hall. Call it the music hall of fame, if you want to, but it's just ridiculous.