Whitley's Believe It or Not: When does the Head Ball Coach get his Medal of Freedom?

Now that Ron DeSAntis has awarded Bobby Bowden the state's first Medal of Freedom, the second recipient should be obvious.

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
  • The Medal of Freedom was awarded for the first time last week.
  • As important as football coaches have been to Florida, air conditioning was even more vital.
  • If you have a few million to spare, a couple of famous Florida sports figures have a house for you!
  • In an effort to market UCF to today's youth, coach Gus Malzahn shouild sport a stylish new hairdo this fall.

Bobby Bowden was awarded the Florida Medal of Freedom last week. You'd probably heard of Bowden before the ceremony, but the award was probably a new one to you.

It was the first Medal of Freedom award in state history. The honor recognizes “any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to the interest in citizens of the state and culture public and private endeavor."

Florida fans might question how "meritorious" it was to turn FSU into a football dynasty, but there's no question Bowden deserved the honor.

That said, the medal is the state's highest civilian award. Nothing against Bowden, but it seemed a little off for Gov. Ron DeSantis to award the first one to a football coach, especially because honorees don't have to be alive.

I would have gone with John Gorrie, the Apalachicola doctor, inventor and humanitarian who invented air conditioning. Florida would not exist without air conditioning.

After him, maybe Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Ray Charles or Mickey Mouse. Maybe DeSantis is looking ahead to the 2022 gubernatorial election and wants to appeal to the FSU demographic.

I know one thing. If Bowden got the first Medal of Freedom, I don't even have to say who Florida fans think should get the second one. ...

#Gus — UCF's spring game Saturday was notable for two reasons. Gus Malzahn was head coach. And instead of the last names on their jerseys, players wore their Twitter handles.

It was a shrewd move to show potential recruits that UCF is hyped to market them on social media when players are allowed to start getting paid for promoting products.

“This is the new age of personal branding,” Malzahn said. “We’re going to embrace it within the NCAA rules."

Even if recruits are impressed, why do I have a hard time envisioning Twitter handles on the backs of Alabama's jerseys? ...

Soon-to-be Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence got married Saturday. As a welcoming gesture, Jaguars fans decided to buy Lawrence and his wife a $300 toaster listed on their wedding gift registry.

Three hundred bucks for a toaster?

The Twitter campaign ended up raising more than $6,000. Instead of buying 20 toasters, the plan is to buy one and donate the rest of the money to a charity of Lawrence's choosing. ...

Stud of the Week: FSU quarterback McKenzie Milton.

He almost had to have his lower leg amputated after a horrific hit while playing for UCF in 2018. The incredible comeback reached a milestone Saturday when Milton took the field at FSU's spring game.

Milton passed for 96 yards and one touchdown, and he might be the Seminoles' starting QB this fall.

Honorable mention: North Texas softball pitcher Hope Trautwein, who struck out all 21 batters in a perfect game win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In other words, North Texas could have won if only the pitcher and catcher had taken the field.

Thud of the Week: Billy Horschel at the 13th hole at Augusta National.

The former UF golfer became viral video fodder Saturday when he hit a ball into Rae's Creek and decided to try to hit it out. Horschel took off his socks and shoes, rolled up his pants legs and slipped while venturing down the slope to the creek.

Golf historians said it was the biggest flop at the Masters since Greg Norman blew a 6-shot lead in 1996. ...

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey went to Missouri-Rolla. Just wondering, when the Miners lose a football game, does Twitter censor the story? ...

Toaster Update — According to the website, Lawrence's new toaster has 63 settings and "uses intelligent heating algorithms to sear rather than bake for a crisp outside and a soft, chewy inside."

Still, $300 for a toaster?

Also on their wedding registry, the Lawrences are asking for a decent left tackle for the Jaguars. List price is $14 million per season without heating algorithms. ...

#Gus Redux — Despite its drive to impress today's youth, UCF has not committed to putting Twitter handles on jerseys this fall. But Malzhan did announce he plans to dye his hair gold and wear it in a man bun for the season opener against Boise State. ...

After DeSantis introduced Bowden and announced the Medal of Freedom, the 91-year-old coach showed his sense of humor hasn't faded. "I appreciate this great honor," Bowden said. "What took you so long?" ...

I bet John Gorrie could have invented a toaster for a lot less than $300. ...

Attention K-Mart shoppers, Shaquille O'Neal's house in Orlando is back on the market for $16.5 million.

The pending sale fell through on the 31,000-square foot mansion, which was originally listed at $28 million in 2018. Apparently there's a limited market for houses with a diesel truck mural and Superman-decorated movie theater and a massive bed with an "S" monogram in the master bedroom.

In related news, Steve Spurrier's 7,734-square foot beach house has been on the market since last summer. For $5.8 million, you can have five bedrooms, seven full bathrooms and a chef's kitchen.

The listing did not say whether the house has a massive bed with an "S" monogram or a $300 toaster. But if things go as they should, the seller might throw a Florida Medal of Freedom into the deal.

David Whitley

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