Whitley's Believe It Or Not: Gators need to get on the stick

David Whitley
Gator Sports

HOOVER, Ala. — There is unprecedented news out of the SEC Media Days. Vanderbilt is the runaway preseason No. 1 team!

The poll is for Team Least Likely to Lose Due to Dumb Decisions.

Word of warning — Florida wasn’t even ranked.

Allow me to explain. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey laid down the COVID Law, saying teams that don’t have enough players for a game due to the virus or quarantining will likely have to forfeit that game.

The easiest way to avoid that is through this thing called a “vaccine.” Besides the health benefits it provides, the SEC won’t require regular testing or mask requirements for teams that have at least 80% vaccination rate.

Sankey said six teams have hit 80%. Vandy is 100% because, as the league's lone private institution, it can require students to get the shot.

Sankey didn’t identify the other schools that have hit 80%, but Florida isn’t one of them. Coach Dan Mullen wouldn’t say exactly where the Gators should be ranked.

“We’re getting close to the threshold numbers you need to be at,” he said.

When North Carolina State was eliminated from the College World Series last month due to a COVID outbreak, I wrote a column warning of the perils teams face if players don’t get vaccinated.

Because vaccines have become a political football, a few upset readers pointed out that shots are dangerous, people who get vaccinated are sheep and it’s all a totalitarian plot.

Fine. People are free to pick their science and refuse the shot. The problem for Mullen is if enough players do that, it hampers weekly preparation and increases the chances of an NC State replay.

Imagine if UF tied Georgia for the SEC East crown, but lost the tiebreaker because on Oct. 9, Vandy beat the Gators by the forfeit score of 1-0.

Now that would be dumb. ...

Best story from Tuesday’s SEC gabfest was Kirby Smart recalling how he was with his family at a burger joint in Augusta this summer. After a bunch of people asked him for autographs, an elderly woman came over and asked if he was somebody famous.

“I certainly don’t think so,” he said.

The lady proceeded to guess that he was a golfer, then a NASCAR driver. Then she guessed “track star.”

“My daughter almost spit out her food,” Smart said. ...

Stud of the Week: Alexey Molchanov, of course. The Russian set a world record by free diving (no breathing apparatus) to a depth of 433 feet. Observers called it the greatest nosedive since Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters. ...

Dud of the Week: US News & World Report. The magazine did not list Gainesville on its annual “150 Best Places to Live” list in America.

Among the cities that made the cut: Buffalo (70), Peoria (87), Trenton 117, Detroit 127 and Flint 141. Apparently, the magazine gives points for high crime rates, being buried under snow four months a year and having to boil the water before drinking it. ...

Honorable Mention: “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” LeBron James’ sequel to the 1996 Warner Bros. original was blasted by critics, getting an overall 31% rating at the Rotten Tomatoes website. It’s so bad that Daffy Duck has reportedly requested a trade to Orlando. ...

The biggest shock out of Big 12 Media Days was Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy showing up without his famed mullet hairdo. Gundy told his barber, “Let's try to cut my hair to where I don't have to cut my hair until the season is over.”

Cowboys fans are praying that, like Samson, the mullet will have its length and strength back by the Oct. 16th game against Texas. ...

LeBron II: James was spotted courtside at Game 5 of the NBA Finals with a big bottle of his 1707 Tequila brand under his seat. What does it say when the league’s best player needs to do shots to watch a game? ...

U.S. News & World Report has ranked USF No. 1 in its preseason football poll, followed by Kansas, Akron and Gainesville Eastside. ...

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said players might be called for a personal foul if they flash the “Horns Down” sign at Texas players this season. Today’s poll question: Should the SEC penalize opponents for doing the ‘Chomp” at Florida players? ...

NIL Madness – Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller and Demani Richardson will be paid $10,000 each for “exclusive feature interviews” with an Aggie fan site. Mike Gundy’s mullet is reportedly holding out for $15,000 from prospective bidders. ...

This just in: LeBron James has announced he’s offering a free 750ml bottle of tequila with the purchase of two tickets to “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” ...

U.S. News & World Report has listed Kirby Smart as the gold medal favorite in the 100-meter dash. ...

Update: Due to budget cutbacks, the Sun can offer Emory Jones, Jacob Copeland and Kaiir Elam only $10 each for exclusive interviews. But we promise to spell their names correctly at least 92% of the time. ...

Yikes, that’s about all the space we have for this week’s “Whitley’s Believe It or Not.” If you needed a shot of tequila to get through it, please hold your complaints. Per the recommendation of U.S. News & World Report, I will be vacationing next week in Gary, Indiana.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley