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Quarterback John Brantley takes helm of Florida Gators as father faces surgery for prostate cancer

GAINESVILLE — John Brantley IV has waited patiently for three years to become the starting quarterback at Florida, but now in the midst of preparing for the biggest role of his football career, he finds himself caught between focusing on the game he loves while worrying about the father who taught him that game.

Former Florida quarterback John Brantley III has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and is scheduled to have surgery March 10. His son, who begins spring practice March 17, said Friday that his 53-year-old father's prognosis is good, and he's trying to take things one day at a time.

"We've got a very close relationship, so it's been tough," said the younger Brantley, who turns 21 Wednesday. "I don't talk about it too much, I try to keep it off my mind as much as I can. It's going to be a tough day, a really tough day. But stuff happens. He should be fine. He's having surgery."

A former Gatorade national player of the year out of Ocala who redshirted a year, Brantley spent the past two seasons as Tim Tebow's backup. With the starting job finally his, Brantley knows how important spring practices are as he and the Gators begin the transition into the 2010 season. So his family, which includes his uncle Scot Brantley— who played with brother John at UF in the late '70s — is doing all it can to keep him from becoming overloaded with worry.

"They say, 'Don't worry about it, just focus on what's going on now. We'll figure out the other stuff when it comes down the road,' " he said. "But it's always tough to just focus on that and not think about other things. But you know, they keep trying to stress to me it's going to be fine, it's going to be fine, which it will be."

Scot Brantley, who played eight seasons with the Bucs, had heart surgery last summer to repair damage caused by two strokes and lost nearly all his vision in his left eye.

Tennessee: In an effort repair the image of a maligned athletic department, the Vols will go back to their three-strikes-you're-out drug policy on July 1. After changing their policy in 2007, student-athletes needed to fail four drug tests before being dismissed.

baseball: Ohio State scored twice in the seventh and once in the eighth to rally past USF 4-2 at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg on the first day of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. Play continues at various sites today and Sunday (results and schedule, 7C).

On verge of SEC title, UK's Calipari shrugs

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Coach John Calipari is one win away from clinching an SEC title in his first season at basketball-mad Kentucky, and he couldn't care less.

The No. 2 Wildcats (27-1, 12-1) can assure themselves of at least a share of their 44th league title by beating No. 19 Tennessee today in Knoxville. They would get the championship outright if Vanderbilt also loses at Arkansas.

But asked what winning the SEC would mean, Calipari answered: "Nothing."

Calipari says his real aim is getting a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 15 Butler 74, Valpo 69: Willie Veasley scored 20 as the visiting Bulldogs (26-4, 18-0 Horizon League) stretched their nation-leading winning streak to 18 games.

Women's basketball

No. 6 Duke 83, No. 21 Va. 65: Jasmine Thomas scored 21 and the host Blue Devils (24-4, 12-1) clinched the ACC regular-season title. Duke beat Virginia (20-8, 8-5) for the 17th straight time.

No. 22 Ga. Tech 64, UNC 57: Alex Montgomery had 20 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to lead the host Yellow Jackets (22-7, 8-5 ACC).

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Quarterback John Brantley takes helm of Florida Gators as father faces surgery for prostate cancer 02/26/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 27, 2010 12:06am]

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