It may have been Super Bowl week in Houston, but it was “Super Week” in Gainesville, full of crashes. The good kind of crashes — for both the Gator football and basketball programs.
Jim McElwain’s football recruiting program, under fire from critics for lagging behind half the SEC in rankings, crashed back into the Top Ten after what looked to be a failed campaign.
Then young Mike White’s Gators crashed onto the national basketball scene Saturday night at the expense of John Calipari, who promptly wandered off into the desert with his second worst defeat ever — and wondering who he had just been sucker-punched by.
It was a signature win for White –- a John Hancock-sized signature — and the most lopsided Florida victory in history over Kentucky. A win that would surely vault the Gators into the Top Ten.
This was a scrapbook kind of night in a majestic setting: A glittering new Exactech Arena stuffed with loud, passionate fans relishing the commemorative baptismal of the refurbished O Dome. They rejoiced hallelujahs at the beatdown basketball royalty.
The knockout was delivered by a suffocating defense and the re-emergence of Kasey “The Jet” Hill.
In football parlance, the Florida Gators had not just beaten, but beaten down Alabama, the football equivalent of the Kentucky basketball.
That brings us back around to “Super Week” which will no doubt go down as Scott Stricklin’s Four-Day Blessing of Abundance. The new athletic director may not get – or deserve — the credit, but this did all happen on his watch.
As for the cynical, whiny, entitled Gator fans who think Florida should sign every five-star recruit, beat Alabama in football and Kentucky in basketball every season and go the Final Four, there is a valuable lesson to be learned: Stop pushing the panic button.
The University of Florida is a juggernaut athletic program with vast resources and deep tap roots into a state with rich heritage and rich alumni. Just remember those things have residuals.
Case in point: On the final visit for football recruits, Steve Spurrier asked McElwain if he was needed to “say a word” to the high school seniors. He did.
“I just told them, ‘I waited to make Florida my last recruiting trip,” said Spurrier, himself a five-star recruit before they designated such. “And I’m glad I did, because it was the greatest decision of my life.”
Though Spurrier was old enough to be their grandfathers at 71, most knew who he was. Some snapped selfies with the HBC. “Legend,” tweeted one recruit. How could you miss him? His name is on the stadium: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field.
I don’t know how many – if any — of the recruits in that Top Ten class of commits were influenced by Spurrier’s words. But all of a sudden I saw a ton of other former Gator starts tweeting “best decision I ever made.”
Right about now, following The Four-Day Blessing of Abundance, I’ll bet Scott Stricklin could be coaxed into retweeting that.
By the way, it should be remembered as a Five-Day Blessing, because without the gloomy Tuesday, many of the whiners and complainers may not have learned their lesson. On second thought, never mind. We all know better.
(Buddy Martin has been one of America’s great sports journalists as a columnist, editor, broadcaster, author and TV producer for five decades. He has won close to 200 awards, including an Emmy. He co-wrote the best-selling book “”Urban’s Way” with coach Urban Meyer and recently releasased his latest book, co-authored with Steve Spurrier, titled “”Head Ball Coach. My Life In Football, Doing It Differently — and Winning.” The book is available on Amazon and already is a best-seller.
He is a third-generation Floridian and journalist, having begun his early career at the Ocala Star-Banner where his father and grandfather also launched their careers. From there, Buddy had a distinguished career in newspapers as editor/columnist at Florida Today, Gannett News Service, the St. Petersburg Times, The New York Daily News and The Denver Post. As managing editor of The Charlotte Sun in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, Martin directed coverage of Hurricane Charley which won many state and national awards — and was one of three finalists in the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news.
For his role as an associate producer and editorial consultant for the NFL Today Show on CBS, Buddy was awarded an Emmy.Returning to his hometown a few years ago, Martin has served as editor in chief of Ocala Magazine and a columnist for Ocala Style.
Martin is the author of eight books. He also wrote the autobiographies of two Hall of Fame athletes – Terry Bradshaw and Dan Issel — and was awarded an Emmy while working with Bradshaw on “The NFL Today” at CBS Sports.
Among the awards he or his newspapers have claimed were best Best Lifestyle Section nationally (Penny-Missouri), Best Sunday Sports Section nationally (APSE), Best Feature Writer New York State (Associated Press) and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news (2005). He has been named best columnist or sports columnist in Florida for both magazines and newspapers six times.
Buddy is a Gator through-and-through. He was educated at the University of Florida.
He is a regular contributor to woodypaige.com.