Back Nine: Sam will draw a bigger crowd than Tebow at Combine
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 at 7:36 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that was wrapped up beautifully by the Beatles tribute on CBS. My favorite — Dave Grohl and Jeff Lynne doing “Hey Bulldog.”
10. I have to admit that when I saw the crawl across the bottom of the screen I was stunned. Michael Sam's courageous decision to announce he is a gay man came out of nowhere to those of us detached from the Missouri program. Apparently, this was a lot less of a surprise in Columbia, Mo. I wondered about the timing with the NFL Combine around the corner, but Sam said enough people knew and he wanted the story to be his own. If you thought Tim Tebow drew a media crowd in Indianapolis at the combine in 2010, you haven't seen anything. In pure football terms, Sam had a great season at Missouri, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and his teammates were so bothered by his disclosure in August that they surprised everyone to win the SEC East. Sam was already thought of as a middle-round draft pick because he's not considered to be a dominant player. I read somewhere an NFL scout said most of his sacks came against garbage teams — such as Florida (ouch). But this is way more than a football story. When Jason Collins came out, he was at the end of his career and it was a lot easier for NBA teams not to sign a journeyman player (and he has yet to play since his announcement). This is different. A seventh-round pick just won the MVP of the Super Bowl so every NFL team knows the value of every pick. So we will see just how progressive the NFL has become. I just know if it's an either/or with the 13th pick in the fourth round, teams will shy away from something that could cause issues in the locker room. It would be great if we lived in a world where there is not an issue. But we don't. But here's one question I have — are you telling me Gary Pinkel can handle an openly gay player in the locker room but Bill Belichick can't?
11. So apparently if your initials were M.S., you were a big story over the weekend. Marcus Smart's shove on a Texas Tech fan became the big story for about 24 hours. His three-game suspension sounds about right to me. No matter what was said, you just can't do what he did. That said, college fans in all sports need to remember it's just a game being played by young men. They are not the enemy, just a group of kids trying to win a game. Don't take it personally.
12. Now that the Super Bowl is over and National Signing Day is in the rear view, sports fans around the country who are not enthralled with the luge or snowboarding are going to turn their attention to college basketball. It's the stretch run for the sport and fans start to peek at RPIs and bracketology. But Sunday was a perfect example of why college basketball just doesn't get it. Here was the first football-less Sunday since late August, and, while there were a bunch of mid-majors playing hard-to-watch games, there was only Michigan State-Wisconsin early in the day to get me interested. And I'm a college basketball guy, so enamored with the sport that I've watched more games on my laptop than many of you have on your big screens. Hey, SEC. You want some exposure? Try playing a couple of games on the Sunday after the Super Bowl.
13. And as we wind our way to the Madness, I can't help but wonder about the futures of a couple of SEC coaches. Anthony Grant has to be in trouble at Alabama. And did you see the crowd in Athens for Georgia's upset of LSU? I have never seen a second level as empty as the one in Stegeman Coliseum. I think Grant and Fox are good coaches but they just can't seem to get their programs over the hump.
14. Meanwhile, the guy in Gainesville is doing a pretty good job, although I'm sure you've noticed. I was on a radio show Monday morning and I said this — I think Billy Donovan is the best coach he has ever been. You watch this team play and the adjustments they make and the plan of attack and this is more than just rolling the ball out there. Of course, it starts to get really interesting for this team tonight with Tennessee on the road to start a stretch of four road games in 15 days. Not only does Florida finish with five road games in its last eight, but there's a chance five of the final eight will be against NCAA teams. And Vanderbilt has suddenly become a game you can't take for granted. The consensus is that Florida is a No. 1 seed right now, but the tournament doesn't start today.
15. Amanda Butler's women's team is also heading in the right direction after sweeping Kentucky. The win Sunday was a huge RPI boost for the women and they are comfortably inside the bubble right now. Meanwhile, Tim Walton's softball team had a sensational weekend in Tampa, going 6-0 against some tough competition to start the season. And baseball starts Friday night. This is a good time of the year.
16. You may remember back in the fall when the Back Nine told you that former Florida golfer Dudley Hart had found a doctor who cured his back issues and Hart was going to try the PGA Tour again. He made his first check in five years Sunday when he finished in a tie for 35th at Pebble Beach. Hart has 10 starts remaining to earn $475,145 on his major medical extension to keep his card.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Paul Stanley, yes, that Paul Stanley from KISS — “50 years ago today I saw the Beatles make their debut playing on the Ed Sullivan Show and my life changed forever.” Making this the Tweet of the Week is a bit of an inside joke. Please indulge me.
18. OK, we've started a new feature in the Back Nine and it was prompted by a pre-Missouri game conversation with Florida's athletic director. Jeremy Foley is a music-lover like me with slightly different tastes (but not that different) and I prodded him for this week's music recommendations. Next week, it's your turn. Give me two fairly new songs and one oldie and you'll be in this space. So here are the Foley recommendations and I have to say I downloaded all three — “Chill In The Air” by Amos Lee, “Temple” by Kings of Leon and for an oldie-but-goodie “Soul Kitchen” by The Doors. The rest of you are on the clock.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.