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Whitley's Believe It Or Not: Ben Sasse gets vote of confidence when it comes to Gators sports

David Whitley
Gator Sports
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Ben Sasse’s path to the UF presidency hasn’t been smooth. But when it comes to sports, his views should sound good to people on campus.

The Nebraska senator is already talking trash about the Gators’ biggest rivals. Literally.

During his four-hour job interview with the UF board of trustees last week, Sasse admitted he called the SEC “trash” when he was a kid.

“That was wrong,” he said. “If I could get the freedom to revise and extend my remarks, I should have said that Georgia, Alabama and LSU were trash.”

That probably didn’t assuage UF’s Faculty Senate, which approved a no-confidence vote on the presidential selection process. But Sasse seems to have a good fix on college athletics and their role on campus.

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“They’re not the most important thing, but in some ways it’s the most important daily thing,” Sasse said. “And let’s just admit at (a) pragmatic level, that Gator symbol is one of the five or so most recognized icons and brands in college athletics, not just in this country but internationally. And we ought to be exploiting and taking advantage of that front door.”

The academician in him would probably like higher ed to be all about books. The realist in Sasse knows college sports has blossomed into a multi-billion-dollar asset that must be nurtured.

Ben Sasse had nothing to do with the hiring of Scott Frost by Nebraska.

Colleges shouldn’t sell their souls for athletics. But nothing stirs school passion and loyalty quite like a winning team.

Sasse knows that passion, having been raised on Cornhusker football. As a senator, he had a weekend gig selling runzas (explanation to follow) at Nebraska games.

His Twitter feed bleeds red-and-white. He bet with an Iowa journalist that Nebraska would beat the Hawkeyes in 2016. Iowa won 40-10 (explanation to follow). Sasse had to dress in Iowa gear and work as an Uber driver in Iowa City for a day.

More importantly to concerned UF followers, he apparently had nothing to do with Nebraska hiring Scott Frost.

Sasse vows to become a Gator “super-fan” when he takes office.

“I would gladly be an equipment manager for Billy (Napier) when I get there as a side hustle,” he told trustees.

That’d be good. But until Napier’s rebuild is further along, Sasse should hold off with the wagering. The last thing we need is Florida’s president driving an Uber around Starkville while clanging a cowbell. ...

Stud of the Week: Florida gymnast Leanne Wong, who helped the U.S. win the World Gymnastics Championship in Liverpool, England. If Sasse wants to wager on a UF team, gymnastics is always a safe bet.

Stud II: The 13 Miami fans who stuck around for the second half of the ‘Canes 45-3 beatdown by FSU.

Dud of the Week: West Toronto Prep. We usually cut high schoolers a lot of slack, but the 0-6 Golden Warriors outdid themselves in falling behind 96-0 at halftime to Bradenton’s IMG Academy. Mercifully, they didn’t play the second half.

Dud II: The Brooklyn Nets. Not only did they fire their coach, they had to suspend Kyrie Irving for refusing to fully apologize for promoting anti-semitic film. On a positive note, however, the Nets beat West Toronto Prep in overtime. ...

Mike Leach is chair-man of the SEC Board of Coaches

Coaching Move of the Week: With his wide receivers underperforming against Auburn, Mississippi State’s Mike Leach calmly went down the sideline folding up and tossing aside every chair in the receiver section. The message was they hadn’t earned the right to sit down.

If Mario Cristobal took that approach, nobody would have sat down on the Miami sideline since September. ...

Please raise your hand if you thought Kansas would become bowl eligible before Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Miami and Florida and the Bucs. ...

Sasse Trivia: In his only other presidential tenure, Midland Lutheran College didn’t lose a football game from 2010-2014.

Kook Update: The two Belgian climate activists who glued themselves to a famous painting were sentenced last week to a month in prison. Prosecutors wanted them glued to seats at Hard Rock Stadium for the Hurricanes final home game against Pitt, but the judge said that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. ...

A runza is a sort of a hot pocket sandwich stuffed with ground beef, onions and cabbage. Scott Frost treated his team to runzas after every big win, which explains why the Huskers’ offensive linemen weighed an average of 173 pounds. ...

NIL Update: Miami super-booster John Ruiz has offered $15 million to any recruit who can score a touchdown. ...

This Just In: Nike has suspended its relationship with Kyrie Irving until he apologizes to the Chinese government for promoting an anti-slave labor film. ...

With Kansas becoming bowl eligible, Nebraska now holds the distinction of being the Power Five team with the longest bowl drought. No wonder Sasse was eager to get to Gainesville. ...

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. Until next week, don’t bet on Miami unless it’s playing West Toronto Prep.

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

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