Buddy Martin May 09, 2015
last eight days have been absolutely packed with breaking news from
the world of sports.
VEDRA BEACH, FL – Stop the Sports World, I want to get off. Or at
least hit rewind. After a whirlwind of sports news and events here on
Mother’s Day Week, my head is spinning. And it appears this
otherwise erstwhile golf tournament which I hold in high esteem and
always enjoy covering might wind up a footnote.
henceforth dub it as That Crazy Sports Week.
It’s been like
a runaway train. We’ve had almost a season of news crammed into
eight days. And so it’s going to take me a moment to gather my
notes from the two interesting interviews I had this week with Jimbo
Fisher of Florida State and Jim McElwain of Florida. Please hit the
pause button for now.
Grand as The Players Championship can
be, it wasn’t even the biggest story to hit Jacksonville over the
weekend. While the golf world pulled for a struggling Tiger Woods to
make the cut (he did) and rooted for new cover boy Jordan Spieth to
climb another ring higher on the stardom ladder (he didn’t – he
missed the cut), the biggest story was a football injury.
all the rookie draft choices, I picked Dante Fowler as the one likely
to have the biggest impact on his team because he can contribute
immediately. It seems I had no sooner gotten the words “good work
ethic, never takes a play off, smart football player” out of my
mouth to Jacksonville sports anchor Sam Kouvaris than the news spread
around The Players media center that Dante Fowler was injured on his
first day ever with the Jaguars.
Maybe a minor ding to the
promising Florida Gator pass rusher chosen as the third overall
player in the NFL Draft?
Hardly. As it turned out, when Fowler
got off the ground, grabbing his knee after getting tangled up with
Jaguars rookie offensive lineman Watts Dantzler, it was revealed he
has a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2015 season.
beyond terrible news for the Jags and coach Gus Bradley. Following
what had been labled as a stellar draft, Bradley lost a key component
to his defense in a program that could be slowly sinking into the St.
John’s River if his 7-25 record as coach is not reversed soon.
you want worse news? Fowler had not signed his four-year, $23.5
million deal yet!
In the same media center, the place was buzzing about
Florida’s new basketball coach. In some ways losing Billy Donovan
was like a death in the family. But to continue the metaphor, before
the body was cold, Jeremy Foley put away his Kleenex and announced
Donovan’s replacement four days later.
My first reaction?
Who in the heck is Michael White? Admitting ignorance, I Facebooked
that I was going to withhold judgment until I knew more, but “I
doubt the Gator Nation is turning cartwheels.” And the fact that he
was following a legend (see Ron Zook/Steve Spurrier) wasn’t going
to make it any easier.
An hour later I received a phone call
from the most prominent alumnus of Louisiana Tech, who telephoned to
inform me that Mike White might be every bit the find that Jeremy
Terry Bradshaw was effusive in his praise of
White, with whom he has interacted on numerous occasions:
going to love this guy. He's the real deal. We knew we wouldn't be
able to keep Michael (at LaTech). The players respect him … he can
recruit … he is beyond charming -- he is genuine."
also happens to be part of basketball royalty – the son of Duke AD
Kevin White. “You know that if Coach K picked up the phone and
called Jeremy to recommend Kevin’s son,” said a friend in the
media center, “he’d take the call.”
Having grown up in
Dunedin, Mike White is familiar with the Florida turf and reportedly
is a relentless recruiter who makes a big impression.
went to work on the numbers: Tough first season, but in the last
three posted an 83-24 record and three conference regular season
championships. Reportedly turned down offers at Tennessee and
Missouri – among other reasons, he wanted a six-year deal and they
only offered five. There is already a new man in Columbia, MO.
while I can’t really make that judgment yet, let’s just say I’m
warming up to the idea.
It’s spring and all football coaches are undefeated. Which
allows them to fly in on carpets of optimism and distribute gifts to
the natives – hungry alumni in search of crumbs. Both the
coaches at FSU and Florida stopped by the neighborhood during That
Crazy Sports Week.
Fisher and McElwain have never officially
met yet but will play each other Nov. 28 in Gainesville.
has shown us that he’s a poker player who is doing his best to
avoid the “tell.” He reportedly concluded his recent speaking
tour with rah-rah speeches – actually started one of them with the
famed “Orange/Blue” cheer led by a staff member – and was very
upbeat about some of the incoming players despite a thin
Since media members are not allowed inside for the
dinner and are only given a few moments with the coach for his
comments, there were only modest snippets of news.
my guest on my radio show, McElwain claimed he was “really excited
about these guys … we’ve got a long ways to go – I get it …
at the same time, when you’re playing and you get dealt a certain
hand, you’ve got to play it.”
Mac went on to say that
while he’s pleased with incoming recruits, they would find
themselves pushed into action a little quicker than most players
would “in a program like this.” Especially offensive linemen.
asked Mac since he turned the Colorado State program around so
quickly why he couldn’t do with the Gators what he’d done with
the Rams in short order.
“Every place has a history and life
of its own,” said McElwain. “There are no two same places. And
yet, the base principals, foundation and fundamentals of being
successful – you’ve just got to adapt those to where you
Non-committal about his quarterback situation,
McElwain would only say of Treon Harris and Will Grier: “We have
two guys who have really immersed themselves in trying to play the
position. They’re hungry, they’re open, and they really want to
learn what it takes to be successful. The biggest thing for us is how
these guys affect the people around them in a positive way all summer
before we get into training camp. For the most part, they threw it to
the right colored jersey – and that helps you be successful.”
also got an update on his dog Clairibell, made famous in his initial
press conference when Mac said he could put her at quarterback and
win. This was taken out of context of by Will Muschamp in his new job
at Auburn. He suggested Mac had said he could play his dog at
quarterback over other candidates for the job.
said he could coach a dog and win,” Muschamp said. “Heck, does he
like the dog better than his players?”
Really? I just saw it
as a moment of levity by McElwain, who has a great affection for the
“There’s something about a dog’s
unconditional love,” said McElwain. “Because when you walk
through the door that dog is excited to see you. Sometimes in this
profession there are fans who are not real excited to see you.”
remarked that for a dog that had yet to take a snap yet at Florida,
perhaps Clairibell was being overhyped. He laughed and replied:
“That’s good stuff.”
Don’t make the mistake of suggesting that there’s going
to be a falloff at Florida State or that Jimbo Fisher didn’t get
fired up about the players' showing in the Seminoles’ spring
Yes, it’s true that incoming quarterback and heir
apparent Sean McGuire didn’t resemble Jameis Winston in the spring
game – we’re talking on the field here – and his coach told him
to stop trying to be like the guy who just left as the No. 1 pick in
the NFL Draft. “Stop trying to be like Jameis,” Fisher told
McGuire. “You can’t be Jameis! Just be Sean McGuire!”
of all what Jimbo appreciated was the concentration and the drive of
the players overall. Fisher said he saw “hunger” in their eyes
and whenever the coaches pushed them, “they weren’t looking
around – they were going.
“It’s one of the teams I’m
most excited to coach since I’ve been at Florida State,” Fisher
told me. “This is an extremely young team but VERY talented! It’s
fun to watch them develop as football players but I’m excited to
see where they can go. What I saw in spring – I can begin to see
how it’s going to piece together and what it looks like.”
FSU just accomplished after winning the national championship -- to
come back and win 29 in a row before losing to Oregon in the Rose
Bowl -- probably hasn’t been fully realized or appreciated yet
because of the season ended on a losing note.
part of the growing process and we didn’t finish it off. We had one
bad quarter and we let it get away from us. But that’s football.
I’m excited about our team and the future looks incredibly
Ca-ching! That’s the sound of the cash register
ringing as tickets are selling – something the Florida State
program has done more efficiently and consistently than their rivals
in Gainesville lately, where attendance has fallen off.
And that’s not all that happened in
That Crazy Sports Week.
Then there is the Tom Brady Cheated
allegation/revelation, the fruits of a $4 million NFL investigation.
They could have saved the money and asked anybody on the street.
Sorry, under-inflating footballs is not a felony, although Brady
should be fined and forced to sit a couple of games.
And if I
failed to mention it, the Saturday-to-Saturday sports week also
included an impressive Kentucky Derby win by American Pharoah, a
not-so-impressive win by Floyd Mayweather and Alex Rodriguez passing
Willie May’s home run record that almost nobody wanted him to break
– including the front office of the New York Yankees.
Thursday night, Rodriguez hit his 661st career home run, putting him
fourth in career home runs ahead of Willie Mays, who turned 84 just a
day earlier. This is the equivalent of Fodor’s Travel guide ranking
Disney World ahead of the Statue of Liberty for historic places to
Did I fail to mention that ESPN decided to fire Bill
Simmons after his contract ends later this year?