Back Nine: Not all bad for UF's bowl-less season: Savings of $1.43M


SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, left, answers a question while sitting next to SEC Network President Justin Connolly during a press conference the day before the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 6 in Atlanta. (AP Photo)

Published: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 9:01 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after one of the great Christmas weeks of my life thanks to so many great people, including a wife who makes every holiday special.

10. I looked long and hard. I searched under rocks and deep within Twitter messages. I threw out theories and speculated like a blogger working in his mother's basement. For days, I sat in my recliner watching bowl games and trying to rack my brain for it. And then, it came to me. I found it. Stay with me on this. OK, here goes. There is a silver lining in Florida not qualifying for a bowl game. The athletic department actually makes money by the football team staying home. When SEC commissioner Mike Slive hands out the checks next spring in Destin, Florida's will still be right around $21 million even though the Gators didn't contribute to the take the league receives from its 10 bowl games. But Florida won't lose any money on expenses for unsold tickets like it did last year ($880,000) and the $550,000 it holds in reserve to help balance bowl budgets each year will not be needed. So Florida will make $1.43 million because it failed to qualify for a bowl game. What do you mean I'm reaching? What do you mean you're not buying it? Well, I tried.

11. Miami found out over the weekend that Louisville's football team with a chip on its shoulder is no fun to play. But it was hardly a great weekend for the Cardinals fans. The basketball team lost to hated Kentucky and on Monday Rick Pitino dismissed Chane Behanan from the team. Behanan was a major cog in the team and you may remember two years ago when he hit a fallaway jumper in the paint that was the biggest shot in Louisville's Elite Eight win over Florida. The Kentucky win was good and bad for the SEC. Good because any team that beats Kentucky will have collected a quality win and bad because the Wildcats look like they are figuring it out and are going to be tough to beat. The SEC looks a bit top-heavy again this year with (RPI-wise) Missouri at 14, Kentucky at 15, Florida at 20 and surprising LSU at 22 and then nobody else in the top 50. The other 10 teams in the conference come under one of two categories — 1. They haven't played anyone (Arkansas is 10-2 with a strength of schedule that is 148th) or, 2. They've played a tough schedule but can't get an important win (Alabama, for example, is 129th in RPI with a 4-7 record and a No. 8 SOS).

12. There's nothing like Black Monday in the NFL, the day when coaches get fired liked fast food employees on a bad day. It's funny how college athletic directors will keep a guy a lot longer than NFL owners. One reason is the owners don't mind forking over the millions on the contract. The other is there is no recruiting season to lose. The Back Nine hated to see our old friend Mike Shanahan have to deal with the diaper mess that is the Washington Redskins under Daniel Snyder. When Steve Spurrier was the coach there, one of his problems was that players went behind his back to the owner to lodge complaints. The NFL is like everything else. There are good cooks and bad, good doctors and bad and there are good owners and bad ones.

13. I don't know when Chris Walker will become eligible for the Florida basketball team, but when he does everyone needs to show a little caution when it comes to expectations. Yeah, I've seen his highlight video. There is no question he will add athleticism to the Gator team. But it's not like Florida's coaching staff just rolls the ball out and lets them play. The system is way more complex than you think. You know when Walker is really going to help this team? In March when he's adjusted and has a bunch of minutes under his belt and Florida is playing in the SEC Tournament or, more importantly, the NCAA Tournament and Patric Young gets two fouls five minutes into the game or four fouls with 10 minutes to go. That's when he will really help the Gators. But I am looking forward to his first breakaway dunk.

14. It's always a bit of a downer when college football season is over, but the bowl games help, even if most of them are games that don't overwhelm you (remember, the bowl games are not for you). But I was thinking about this the other day and another thing that makes it easier for those of us who are sports fans is Florida has been so good in basketball for the last 15 years. The transition is almost seamless and for that Billy Donovan, I thank you. I know it's that way at some other schools, but maybe I just noticed more this year because Florida is not in a bowl game.

15. The two scores that jumped out at me in college basketball this weekend were both posted by … St. Katherines. I had never heard of the school but someone posted on Twitter an account of its loss to San Diego State and I watched for its Utah score (the next day, believe it or not, at Utah). For those of you not familiar with the school in Encinitas, Calif., this is its first year of basketball. Those two games over the weekend were 118-35 and 124-52 losses. In the first game, the Firebirds were 3-of-38 from 3-point range. In the second, they were outrebounded 71-12. But here's the real kicker. On the team's website, their coach's cell phone number is listed with an invitation to call. So I called him. “It's part of the deal,” Scott Mitchell said. “I'm real accessible. Call me every day.” Mitchell said the program has received some attention for playing two games in 12 hours and then lobbied for a game next year at Florida. “Tell Billy, we have nice uniforms and we look good on film,” he said. “He'll get a 'W' and we'll get a check so it's a win for everyone and Billy can show what a big heart he has by giving us a chance.” I like this guy already.

16. One of the best things about this Christmas was that it seemed like we had something going every day from last Sunday through Saturday. Family was the theme of the week and having my daughter, Jennifer, in from California really made it special. One of the highlights of the week was Friday night when we went to the F Club to watch Norm and Sylvia Carlson renew their wedding vows after 37 years of bliss. I told my wife that Norm, the retired sports information director and current UF football historian, would have to be on the Mount Rushmore for UF football when you are talking about people who weren't players or coaches. So that started a whole discussion about who else would be on it and I nominated longtime trainer Chris Patrick and the late Bud Fernandez and, of course, Jeremy Foley. And then we started talking about the Mount Rushmore for players and coaches and mine was Tim Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier and then who for the fourth? It made for an interesting ride home. Talk among yourselves and send me your suggestions.

17. This may be old news by now but the Tweet of the Week still comes from my friend Chris Fowler of ESPN -- “Never before needed a Heimlich at halftime. (Or any time)! Thanks Jesse Palmer! He saved me from death by dry chicken sandwich. Really.” Fowler was trying to grab a bite to eat during the halftime of the Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday and started choking on a bite when Palmer came to the rescue.

18. One of my many Christmas presents (it was a little ridiculous how much I received this year) was a pair of sweet noise-blocking headphones. So excuse me if I don't hear you yelling at me while I'm listening to my tunes. To close out the year, I salute my two favorite bands of 2013 -- “Not With Haste” by Mumford and Sons, “Skin and Bones” by The Avett Brothers and for you old-schoolers an underrated song from my favorite band ever “Not A Second Time” by The Beatles.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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