The Back Nine: FBI probe impact in distant future

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Mike White, Bruce Pearl
Florida coach Mike White, left, greets Auburn coach Bruce Pearl before an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville. (AP Photo/Ron Irby)

The Back Nine comes at you after a full weekend that included one of the best atmospheres ever at the O-Dome, a little softball and baseball series win over the hated Hurricanes and a lot more.

10. Let us start with the scandal that rocked college basketball. The biggest question out there isn’t how it will affect the NCAA Tournament. There will be 68 teams and there may not be a Sean Miller, but the impact will be more on the distant future of the sport than the more immediate one. Everyone has an answer and an opinion on what should be done. It’s just that nobody has a lot of confidence the NCAA will figure it out. There have been proposals to allow the players more opportunities to make money by signing things and retaining the rights to their likenesses for profit. Like that would keep agents from trying to bribe players, coaches and families. Gary Parrish, one of the best in the business from CBS Sports, suggested we just get rid of amateurism and let players get paid by agents while they are playing. That’s another answer that makes some sense, but would make the sport even sleazier. There is one thing I believe would help, but it’s not up to the NCAA. The one-and-done rule has created this culture. But it’s still up to the NBA to go to the model that college baseball uses. Why make kids go to college if they don’t want to? If they want to go to the pros out of high school, let them go. If they want to go to college, make them stay for three years. But don’t act like basketball is the only sport where agents are involved while players are still eligible.

11. But no matter what changes are made, there are always going to be coaches who cheat and agents and shoe companies who are paying under the table. I did like what Mark Fox of Georgia said when he pointed out that it needs to start with administrators who continue to hire coaches who have been involved with NCAA investigations. I’m guessing he was looking at Bruce Pearl. Fired for cheating, goes to Auburn, ends up in the middle of another cheating scandal. Who saw that coming?

12. Brandon Zimmerman of the SEC Network pointed out that teams in the SEC playing Saturday night games at home have a much better record than those playing day games on Saturdays and we saw evidence of that in Gainesville. Saturday night crowds are different. The energy in that building against Auburn was reflected on the court. It doesn’t hurt when someone hits a shot from three-quarters of the court. (KeVaughn Allen’s reaction to the make was the most calm in the building; he just turned and started walking to the locker room). That was as loud as I have ever heard it in the O-Dome and it carried over to the second half. Media boys may not like those late starts, but the fans take it to a different level.

13. Florida’s win might be all it takes to secure a bid in the NCAA Tournament, but feel free to add something else to the resume, fellas. Certainly, the opportunities are there with a game at Alabama and a home game against Kentucky plus the SEC Tournament. The thing we all have to remember is that those Quadrant 1 wins are what really matters. (Joe Lunardi has Florida as a six seed because of the Gators’ good wins). Florida has eight Q1 wins this year, which is as many as Auburn and five more than Kentucky, which is a lock for the tournament. Take a team like Kansas, which Jerry Palm has as a one seed. The Jayhawks have 11, the most in the nation. And when you look at the teams just inside the bubble, their resumes can’t compare with Florida. There’s no doubt that this team has some bad losses. But all of them are within the conference that has a real shot at getting eight teams into the tournament. Saturday’s win was huge for a lot of reasons. “Hopefully, it gives us some confidence,” Mike White said.

14. Lunardi still has eight SEC teams in (which would be a record) and all are in comfortably (no team lower than a nine seed). Of course, things could change and he could be wrong, but he’s usually pretty accurate. One of the big questions is Mississippi State, which he has listed as being in his first four out. The Bulldogs have won 7-of-9, but are missing big non-conference wins. They may need to win out (Tennessee, at LSU) and make some noise in the tournament to get into the serious discussion. Then again, we could see some teams fall out because of the FBI probe and Mississippi State sneak in. Anything is possible.

15. You never like to lose, especially to Miami, but Florida is still ranked No. 1 in baseball after taking the series from the ’Canes. Perhaps a loss wasn’t the worst thing in the world, because it was all coming so easily for UF early in the season. The Gators are hitting .298 with an ERA of 2.08. Nelson Maldonado just keeps hitting with a .419 average while JJ Schwarz is at .400. It’s good to see Blake Reese get off to a good start with a team-leading 10 RBIs. It’s another busy week for the Gators, who have five games: against UNF and Stony Brook.

16. So what was a bigger deal Sunday — that Justin Thomas won the Honda in a playoff or that Tiger Woods finished 12th? I think you know the answer. Just having Tiger back in contention is like an adrenaline shot for the Tour. When is the Masters? Maybe the biggest deal was that Thomas got a heckler tossed during his final round.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to UF gymnast Kennedy Baker, whose career-ending Achilles injury resulted in the quietest O-Dome ever during a sporting event — “Hey you guys unfortunately my Achilles is torn. I love you all so much…. this is not the way that I wanted to end my senior season, but there’s no way I could’ve made it this far without all of your support. Thank you guys for being the best fans in the world.” She sent this out less than an hour after the injury. Baker is the kind of athlete/person who all UF graduates and everyone in this community should be proud of.

18. Made a long playlist for the SEC Tournament so I have that out of the way. I don’t know when I’ve looked forward to the tourney more because the league is so much better, but I still don’t get St. Louis as a site. But that’s just me. Here’s a sample:

• “My Name is Jonas” by Weezer.

• “In This Life” by the Strumbellas.

• “To Find A Friend” by Tom Petty.

• “Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

• And for an oldie but goodie, “Nevada Fighter” by Michael Nesmith.

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

12 COMMENTS

  1. In above article photo, Coach Mike White is looking at Auburn’s Coach Bruce Pearl as if to say, ”those great colors don’t look good on you man! And you aren’t winning A.U.’s 1st SEC reg. season championship (in years) in G’ville, it ain’t happening man!” And Coach Pearl looks, as if he agrees. -Go Gators!

  2. Ironically, the “one and done” routine is one of those unusual “lose/lose” scenarios – harming both the college game and the NBA. NBA teams are (forced to? I guess) drafting teenagers they know precious little about, tossing big money at them and then crossing their fingers hoping the kid matures/grows into a good player. Up side? Maybe get a truly great player and get him on the cheap (rookie contract) for a while before having to pony up HUGE money on that second contract. Down side? Kid is just a kid. Doesn’t have or develop a work ethic. Doesn’t mature. Doesn’t really develop their game. Can’t handle their money. Out of the league in a couple of years. Wasted draft pick. For the colleges, HUGE temptation to take side money, not go to class, embarrass/harm the reputation of the school or a good coach. No real harm to Bruce Pearl. I love to watch his theatrics. He’s very entertaining. But he is recidivist sleaze merchant and always will be.

    • the nba was drafting teenagers they knew nothing about before the one and done era, and almost none succeeded. there has actually been much more success in evaluating young talent since the rule went into effect. do not understand this post at all.

  3. Not a Tiger fan and I’m tired of only or primarily hearing about Tiger and his comeback at the expense of the winner. A guy busts his tail to win a tournament and all the media wants to write about is Tiger Woods coming in 12th place. Good for him. He made the cut and finished in the top 12.

  4. I know newspapers don’t employ copy editors anymore (I was one), but even a high and mighty columnist should know the rules of capitalizing a title. Above, you have “My Name is Jonas” and “To Find A Friend.” You should cap all verbs and lowercase all articles (unless at the start of the title). Submitted with all due respect.

  5. The key point in the article is right there at the end of #10. Why are we forcing them to go to college for 1 stupid year, in which they will never sit in a college classroom? For the 1st semester, students only have to take 6 credits, which guys like Marcus Bagley and Kevin Knox will do as online courses. 50% of the college credits Greg Oden received in his career at OSU were from an online class entitled “Dinosaurs.” They then have to enroll in 12 credits, but there is no NCAA rule in attendance. They will enroll, never show up, and drop out in late March when their season ends. My son will have several choices when he turns 18 and graduates high school. One of them will be if he wants to take up arms and fight for his country. One will be if he wants to cast a vote to select our elected officials. But he will not have the choice to hire an agent and try out pro basketball, but he could go live in a college dorm and have a tutor take 6 online credits for him instead. Makes sense right?

    • The one and done is an NBA rule. I don’t think the NCAA can do anything about it. NBA is basically making colleges pay for player development while lessening the NBA’s draft risk. They want to see how the players do as college freshmen against higher caliber talent. The key to a solution is finding an incentive for the NBA to change the rule. Why and how would it benefit the NBA to change the one and done rule?

    • No one is forcing kids to go the college route. They have the choice to go overseas or the G-League if college is not for them. It’s fashionable to criticize the NCAA (to be fair, they do have their issues) over the lack of athlete compensation and the corruption. However, the League share the blame for not having a more robust farm system and paying those players better. I suspect the reason the vast majority of one and done players choose college is because it’s a better deal than the alternatives.

  6. Couldn’t agree with mkfgator more. I was beginning to think I was the only person in the world who wasn’t a Tiger Woods fan. If Woods is entered in a particular tournament, you would be hard pressed to know who won and that is even when he misses the cut. Whoopee, Woods is back, he finished twelfth. The Masters can’t get here quick enough. Woods finished twelfth!!!!!

  7. I’m part of a big competitive golf league. Tiger is a side story to most of us. Most of us believe he was possibly as guilty as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and many others during the late 1990s??? Where they guilty? We don’t know, but they do. I hope the best for him and his family, but he is not a hero. If I was his friend, I’d advise him that if he felt just one twinge, quite now, the rest of your physical life is not worth the long term suffering. Golf is way bigger than anyone player! This liberal sports media world embellishes their own values that ignore the whole person.