Saturday, March 22, 2008


It's not often I will sing the praises of the Florida Gators (the Southern Bureau and I had a negative experience with a Florida Gator die-hard, back in college). Besides their team colors, I'm just not a fan. It's also not often that I will sing the praises of a college coach - most of the big-name guys are disingenuous and don't really practice what they preach.

But I'm loving basketball coach Billy Donovan's reaction to his team's disappointing season.

A year ago, the Florida Gators won the national championship. This year, they didn't play very well, and they're making their way through the NIT. After the NCAA Tournament field was announced, and Florida wasn't included, Donovan told his team that they were not allowed to work out in the school's $11 million practice facility. He also banned them from wearing their Florida gear around campus.

I love it. Talk about an embarrassment. What player wouldn't want to rally around this and earn back those rights? Immediately, it made me think of the Mets last September, and whether or not Willie Randolph could have gotten away with similar consequences imposed on the Mets.

The situations are similar. The Mets weren't coming off a championship year, but they had won the division crown. And there was a similar complacency, waiting for the re-coronation, when everything fell apart. Unfortunately, there is no NIT in Major League Baseball.
But imagine if, instead of working out at Shea Stadium all off-season, David Wright had been relegated to Gold's Gym (not that he deserves the mention, since he was one of the few guys who showed up down the stretch....but I mention him because I've heard his name as one who spent much of the off-season working out at Shea). How about if all promotional/endorsement appearances, where the players could have earned an extra few bucks, were canceled as punishment?

That's where the problem lies. The difference between the college athletes and a coach's ability to discipline, and the majors, where the players' union would step in right away, is drastic. And you realize just how tough it has to be to manage these groups of men who, in the grand scheme of things, don't have to face very many consequences for not doing the right thing. Someone will still pay them millions, someone will still offer them an endorsement deal.

As a fan, you just have to hope their pride hurts, because that's what will get them going again. They're certainly not going to suffer in their wallets.

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