Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Billy Donovan's change of mind

Until now, I've been quiet about the Florida Gators and their recent rise to college athletic stardom with back-to-back NCAA basketball championships, preceded by a National Football Championship.

The reason for my hushed-up self is obvious. They beat my beloved Buckeyes this year in both football and basketball. See previous post about this being a year of disappointment.

The Buckeyes losing to the Gators, twice, was just one of many.

Worse, I live in Gator country, had to endure friends at church sporting their championship t-shirts and hats, making sure I saw them at every turn, grinning at me like the Cheshire cat.

Okay, okay, I can be a good sport. Yay for your team.

Then this whole Gator Nation idea was birthed. Like they are invincible, indestructible, never to be defeated again. They will have all the good coaches, all the good recruits and college sports will now be dominated by the nation of Gator. They have the best players the world has ever seen.

Well, last Friday, Billy Donovan skewered the Nations high ideals of never being defeated again. He signed on to coach the Orlando Magic.

Gasp! Oh, no. The cloud settled over Gainsville. Tropical Storm Barry passed over. And, they lost a major recruit to Kentucky. Boo hoo.

And you guys laughed when Ohio State fans cried after loosing their perfect season on January 8th.

Then, the sun broke on Monday and Donovan changed his mind. But it's too late. Everyone knows where his heart is now.

Florida Today columnist Peter Kerasotis says, "All of this brings Billy Donovan's character -- or lack thereof -- into question."

Not just because he changed his mind, but because his recruiting has been questionable and before Orlando, he talked to Memphis about coaching the Grizzlies.

When Donovan's Magic signing was announced, 200 season tickets sold over the weekend. So, in his wake are disappointed Magic fans as well as Gators.

But in my humble opinion, the Gators' coach
found "Magic" when he recruited Horford, Noah and Brewer, the three who really gave the Gators and Donovan back-to-back championships. Before the last two NCAA tourney's, he'd never gotten out of the second round.

All three seniors go on to NBA draft. And good for them. Not sure they graduated, but that's another story. Why get an education when the NBA offers so much money and sex.

Yeah, I'm making a point here.

Where's the commitment to the heart of college sports? Why are we losing players after their freshman year to the NFL or NBA? Where's the commitment to education and sticking with something you start?

What happened to coaches loving the sport, education and training up young men and women?

Donovan was beyond lucky when his top players chose their final Gator season over the NBA. And it paid off for them, proving they are a little smarter than cavemen. (Hey, that's their t-shirt slogan, I didn't make it up.)

More than standing out as a team who won back-to-back championships, they stand out as men who set their sights on something amazing and went for it. They banded together to play their senior year and dribbled their way to another national championship.

They are an example to other players that the same possibilities await them. Stay in school, grow, mature, study, then go out into the big bad world of pro sports.

It's amazing how much Noah, Brewer and Horford's "stock" went up after winning back-to-backs.

Let college sports BE college sports. Players, stay two, three years. Give yourselves and your teams a chance.

As for Billy Donovan, best to you bro. I'm sorry you're in this mess. I honestly believe this has been a very hard decision for you. Mayb God give you wisdom.

After all, Gator Nation is still just a Swamp in north central Florida. ;)


Nise' said...

Hello, I hope it is okay to post this thank you here! I won your book, Georgia On Her Mind, over at Katrina's Callapidder Days. I was so excited to win and was anxiously waiting for it to arrive. What a wonderful surprise to find that you signed the book and included a lovely note! Thank you so much! I am leaving on Thursday to go to Washington State and I will read the book on the plane! I hope to have time to "blog" about it before I leave!

Will H. Donaldson Family said...

Honestly, I understand these players leaving after only one or two years. It makes sense. If I were a high school athlete that had the kind of potential some of these kids do, I'd major in finance my first year and hit the draft the 2nd or third. Every game you play is a chance to be hurt permanently and ruin a career. If I can make only {!} a hundred thousand dollars a year playing basketball (or whatever), then when I'm too old and hurt to play, I can afford to go back to school and give ALL my attention to my education.

Anonymous said...

Would it make you feel better if you knew what most Gator fans don't seem to....the whole XXXXXX Nation being used to collectively refer to the fans originated in Tallahassee. The Seminole Nation, which is a legit nation, uses the term to refer to the university community at FSU, and not just the sports, but the whole community. They are just pretending in hogtown.