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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Florida lacrosse to join BIG EAST in 2015

After five years as members of the American Lacrosse Conference, the Florida lacrosse team will join the BIG EAST conference for the 2015 season.

The decision is a result of the dissolution of the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC).

“We’re very excited for this next step for Florida lacrosse,” Florida coach Amanda O’Leary said. “We enjoyed the high level of competition in the ALC, and are looking forward to the new challenges the BIG EAST will provide. We’ve built a legacy of success during our first five years and that’s something we look to continue while competing in the BIG EAST.”

For competition in 2015, the conference will include eight teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Florida, Georgetown, Marquette, Temple, Vanderbilt and Villanova.

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Gators coach Billy Donovan leads Men's U18 National Team to gold medal

Florida coach Billy Donovan helped lead the United States U18 national team to the 2014 FIBA Americas gold medal with a 113-79 win over Canada on Tuesday night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

It is the third time Donovan has led Team USA to a gold medal. In 2012, he led the U18 team to gold, and was head coach of the U19 team that won gold in 2013. Florida guard, and Tampa resident Michael Frazier II was a member of that 2013 team.

Donovan is 19-0 as a head coach in international competition.

“I’m just honored,” Donovan said. “I think that as a coach in this kind of event, you’re only as good as your players. I’ve been very fortunate that in he past three years, I’ve coached some great guys, great kids and have had some great coaches working with me. These guys were unbelievable to deal with. They bought in, they listened and they’re the ones who really played well. I’m just happy I could be a part of it and be taken along for the ride.” …

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Gators finish national runner-up in Learfield Sports Director's Cup

The University of Florida athletics program has finished in second place in the national Learfield Sports Directors' Cup - the third consecutive runner-up finish for the Gators.

The Learfield Sports Directors' Cup is presented annually by the nation's athletics directors and recognizes the schools with the best overall sports performances in an academic year.

Points are awarded based on finishes and participation in 20 NCAA Division I sports. Stanford won the Directors' Cup - its 20th consecutive.

Florida was aided by two national titles (gymnastics and softball) and 12 top-10 finishes among its sports teams during the 2013-14 academic year. …

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Florida Gators women win Capital One Cup

Bolstered by two national championships (gymnastics and softball) and eight top-10 finishes, the Florida women's athletics program is the winner of the 2013-14 Capital One Cup.

It is the first for the Gators' women.

Florida will be formally honored at the ESPY Awards televised by ESPN on July 16, when the Capital One Cup trophy will be presented.

Florida is the first school since the Capital One Cup was introduced for the 2010-11 season to claim the award in men's and women's competition. The Gator men's program won the first two Capital One Cups in 2011 and 2012.

For each win, Capital One contributes $200,000 to UF to support student-athlete scholarships.

Eight sports contributed to Florida's winning total of 152 points. The Gators won NCAA team titles in gymnastics and softball, had top-four finishes in indoor (T-3rd) and outdoor track (4th), and a sixth-place finish for swimming & diving in NCAA Championships competition.

The Gators also received points for placing among the top 10 in the final sport polls for lacrosse (4th), tennis (5th) and soccer (10th). …

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Gators Kelsey Stewart shines at USA Softball selection camp

Florida sophomoe infielder Kelsey Stewart had four hits and a stolen base to help the  USA Softball Women's National Team Selection Camp to two wins in a doubleheader against the Ohio All-Stars on Tuesday.

Former Gator outfielder Michelle Moultrie contributed in the second game. The USA team won the first game 3-0, then earned a 5-0 win in the second game that evening.

Batting out of the No. 8 spot in the opener, Stewart had a hit in each of her three at-bats, including a two-out double in the second inning and a one-out RBI single in the fourth. Stewart
stole second after her base hit, but she was stranded. The infielder beat out a bunt single in the sixth, then advanced on an error and a teammate's base hit before scoring from third on a one-out single to produce the final margin in Team USA's 3-0 win.

Moultrie and Stewart were slotted back-to-back at the top of the batting order for Game 2, and each had a single in the game. 

Team USA's exhibition tour concludes Thursday in Purcellville, Va., where the Selection Camp invitees will play a doubleheader against the Virginia All-Stars beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The USA National Team will be selected on Sunday.

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Urban Meyer calls 2008 Gators best to play the game

Urban Meyer has been associated with his fair share of excellent football teams, but one stands out for the former Florida Gators head coach.

His 2008 BCS National Championship team at Florida.

Meyer, now the head coach at Ohio State, recently told a group attending a camp in Detroit: "I’ve been a part of a couple great teams, I think the best team to ever play the game in ’08 (at Florida)."

That national title team was one of two Meyer coached while at Florida, and included Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, WR/RB Percy Harvin, LB Brandon Spikes and CB Joe Haden. Three of  those remain on NFL rosters.

More on Meyer's comments via YouTube.

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Gators catcher Taylor Gushue to join Pirates organization

Florida catcher Taylor Gushue won't return for his senior season after agreeing to terms with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Gushue, who was selected in the fourth round of last week's MLB Draft with the 131st pick, is the third member of the 2014 Gator baseball team to sign a professional contract.

A second-team All-American by Louisville Slugger and a first-team All-SEC selection, Gushue batted a career-high .316 and led the Gators in total bases (105), RBI (49), doubles (16), sacrifice flies (11), homers (6) and slugging percentage (.467).

The Johnny Bench Award semifinalist for the nation’s top catcher, Gushue led the SEC in conference games with a .389 average and was the runner-up in slugging percentage (.583) and on-base percentage (.449).

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Palm Harbor's Casey Turgeon, a Gators standout, signs with St. Louis Cardinals

Casey Turgeon, the Palm Harbor native and Dunedin alum, will forgo his final season with the Gators after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Turgeon was a 24th round selection in the MLB Draft last week, No. 735 overall. He has been assigned to the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals in the Rookie Appalachian League.

In three years with the Gators, Turgeon started 185 games and had a career average of .269, with 112 runs, 95 RBI, 28 doubles, 23 stolen bases and 13 homers.

Turgeon batted .259 this season with a team-high 35 walks and was second on the squad in runs (36), RBI (33), doubles (11) and home runs (4).

He became only the second Gator in school history to be named as the NCBWA National Hitter of the Week on May 6 after batting .727 (8-for-11) in Florida’s first sweep of Alabama in Tuscaloosa since 1988 and was also chosen as the SEC Player of the Week for his efforts against the Crimson Tide.

In 2013, he was one of the three Gators to start all 59 games, with 50 starts at second base and nine at shortstop.



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Gators Fawn Miller wins national title in javelin throw

Florida junior Fawn Miller earned the Gators' first individual national title at the 2014 NCAA Track & Field Championships in the javelin throw with a personal record of 58.13m/190-8.  Miller hit the distance on her second throw.

It is Florida's first national championship on the women's team since 2010.

“I'm super excited, it still hasn't sunk in," Miller said. "My first throw I just wanted to go out there and really set the tone and make everyone come after me -  it worked out to my advantage this time.
PRing here (at Hayward Field) is a big thing and I'm happy about that one.”

Miller’s first-place finish was the best collegiate mark this year, No. 9 all-time and No. 2 in UF history. 

It put the Gators on the board at the NCAA Championships with 10 points, good for third place in women’s action after the first day.

Junior Stipe Zunic’s sixth-place finish in the shot put (19.67/64-6.5) gave Florida three points and put the Gators in a tie for 16th heading into today's competition.


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Gators WR coach Joker Phillips abruptly resigns

With just two months until the start of fall football camp, Florida has lost its wide receivers coach.

The Gators announced this afternoon that Joker Phillips has resigned. Former Gators QB and current graduate assistant Chris Leak will coach the wide receivers for the 2014 season.

The surprising news means that the Gators will now have had four different wide receivers coaches during Will Muschamp's four-year tenure as head coach - six since 2009.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons," Phillips said in a statement released by UF.

A 26-year coaching veteran, Phillips, 51, joined the staff in December 2012 after he was fired as the head coach at Kentucky. He spent three seasons (2010-2012) as the Wildcats' head coach, and is a former Kentucky player and assistant coach.

He was hired by the Gators to bring experience and stability to a unit that has struggled the past several years. …

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Tampa native Preston Tucker named to Texas League South Division All-Star game

Former Gator Preston Tucker, now a member of the Corpus Christi Hooks, has been named to the Texas League South Division All-Star game.

He will be joined on that all-star team by former Gator and current teammate Nolan Fontana. Fontana will be a starter and Tucker a reserve on the all-star team selected by league managers, coaches, broadcasters and beat writers.

Tucker, a Tampa Plant alum, leads the Hooks in runs scored (35), home runs (14), RBIs (40) and total bases (125). He has a .266 batting average. The former Gator has been with Corpus Christi for nearly a year, after his promotion from Advanced-A Lancaster June 26, 2013.

Fontana is currently batting .325 with a .505 on-base percentage. A former second-round pick, Fontana has a .279 batting average with one home run, 23 RBI, and leads the league  in walks (53) and OBP (.437). Fontana is tied with North Division All-Star Alex Yarbrough for the Texas League lead in doubles (19).

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Changes in charter options to force Gators to increase travel budget more than $1 million

A change in the size of planes the University of Florida Athletic Association will be able to charter for its team travels will force the Gators to spend about $1.15 million more on team travel in 2014-15 than it did this past season.

The majority of that increase - approximately $800,000 - will be used for charter travel for the Gators' men's and women's basketball teams.

"The charter world has changed," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "We used to charter a 50-seat jet from Delta and those are no longer in the inventory. And so we had to bid it out, and we're in the process now of reviewing those bids, but the costs are up significantly because we're not getting a 50-seat airplane. We'll get a significantly larger airplane, and we don't fly with empty seats."

Foley said despite the rising costs, he considers it an area of the budget where cutting corners is completely out of the question. …

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Gators Justin Shafer signs with Blue Jays

Florida pitcher/outfielder Justin Shafer has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and will forgo his final year of eligibility.

Shafer was selected in the eighth round (No. 234 overall) in last week's MLB Draft. 

He made 18 appearances on the mound for the SEC Champion Gators, including a pair of starts, and was 1-0 with a 4.17 ERA in 36.2 innings. Shafer had 27 strikeouts and seven walks.

He also started 29 games as a position player, 15 in left field, 12 in right fielder and two as UF’s designated hitter, and hit .211 with 12 walks, 10 RBI and 10 runs.

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Gators coach Mike Holloway earns Coach of the Year honors

Florida track and field coach Mike Holloway has been named the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association South Region Outdoor Men's Coach of the Year on Monday. 

Also, Gators junior sprinter Dedric Dukes has been named the South Re Men's Athlete of the Year.

Holloway, who was also the 2014 Indoor Women’s South Region Coach of the Year in March, has tutored a contingent of 25 Gators - including 13 men -  to the 2014 NCAA Championships. That is the second-most in school history.

This week, the Gators this week will vie for their seventh and eighth national championships in program history - including a third straight in men’s outdoor action. The NCAA Championships will be held June 11-14 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. …

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TE transfer Jake McGee getting accustomed to life with the Gators

In about one month's time, Jake McGee has already learned who he to buddy up with.

The guy who can throw him the ball.

The TE who transferred from Virginia last month is now one of Florida QB Jeff Driskel's roommates, and he said today he's "getting in his quarterback's ear" anytime he can, solidifying his buddy status.

"If I have some extra food I'll pass it to him before anybody else," he jokingly said. "If he needs a ride, I won't know where I'm going but I'll take him where he needs to go.''

Kidding aside, McGee said he's quickly building a bond with Driskel and other Gators teammates that he hopes will translate on the field this fall.

McGee, who graduated from Virginia in May, uitlized the NCAA graduate transfer rule that will allow him to play immediately.

He said since the Gators are installing a new offense, he doesn't feel too far behind the rest of the team as afar as learning the new system.

McGee said his familiarity with Florida's new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper factored into his decision to join the Gators. …

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