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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Mississippi's Freeze says no knowledge of coaches paying players


    DESTIN — Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze said Tuesday he accepts responsibility for the ongoing NCAA investigation of his program but said he has no knowledge of his coaches paying players.

    "I stand here today owning the mistakes," Freeze said in some of his first public comments about the scandal, "but that is what they are — not some staff out trying to buy players."...

    Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze denied former Rebels offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil’s claims that he was paid while in school.
  2. Will Muschamp learns from his offensive woes at Florida



    With a year and a half to process what went wrong during his time at Florida, coach Will Muschamp has come up with a simple solution to fix those problems in his first season at South Carolina.

    "Score points," Muschamp said Tuesday during the SEC's spring meetings. "Make the scoreboard go up. That's going to help."

    It certainly won't hurt after what transpired during his tenure in Gainesville, or what the Gamecocks experienced last year when Steve Spurrier walked away from a scoring offense that finished No. 110 nationally....

    Will Muschamp during his home finale as Florida’s coach, a 52-3 victory against Eastern Kentucky in 2014. That was one of only three times in his four seasons that the Gators scored more than 50.
  3. Jim McElwain: Antonio Callaway not in summer school


    DESTIN - Florida receiver Antonio Callaway is not enrolled in summer classes as he continues to serve an indefinite suspension, Gators coach Jim McElwain said Tuesday during the SEC spring meetings.

    McElwain did not provide any other update on Callaway or Treon Harris. Neither have been with the team since January. Callaway's attorney, Huntley Johnson, said Callaway has been suspended during a university investigation into whether he violated an unspecified part of UF's code of conduct policy....

    Antonio Callaway's attorney, Huntley Johnson, said Callaway has been suspended during a university investigation into whether he violated an unspecified part of UF's code of conduct policy.
  4. Will Muschamp on what he wants to do differently: 'Score points'


    DESTIN - Will Muschamp is back at the SEC spring meetings in a different polo shirt.

    The former Gators coach now leads South Carolina and was asked to reflect on a few things during his Florida tenure. The No. 1 thing he hopes to do differently with the Gamecocks?

    "Score points."


    Muschamp said he wished he had more success at Florida, and he said that all falls on his shoulders. But he also said that his staff changed the Gators' culture....

    Will Muschamp, left, talks with his wife, Carol Muschamp, and Assistant Athletics Director Steve Fink, right, at South Carolina's Williams Brice Stadium in December.
  5. Arkansas' Bret Bielema wants SEC-Big Ten football challenge


    DESTIN - Bret Bielema joined Arkansas from the Big Ten (Wisconsin). Maybe that's why he came up with an interesting proposal today during the SEC spring meetings: An SEC-Big Ten crossover.

    His plan would be like the current SEC/Big 12 basketball challenge, but with the Big Ten. He suggested having the commissioners of each league come together with a list of teams, 1-4. Then use Weeks 2-3 of the season to come up with enticing matchups that would likely appeal to TV networks and fans....

    Arkansas' Bret Bielema signals in a play during a game against Rutgers.
  6. Live from SEC spring meetings!


    DESTIN - Good morning from the SEC spring meetings, where the league's coaches, athletic directors and power brokers will be chatting over the next few days.

    Among the issues expected to arise: handling transfers with a history of misconduct, revised replay rules, the current imbalance between the East and the West, satellite camps and the decline in men's basketball.

    Gators coach Jim McElwain is expected to address reporters around noon today; Alabama's Nick Saban, Tennessee's Butch Jones and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze are also on the media agenda. I'll have updates throughout the day....

    The SEC spring meetings start today in Destin.
  7. Michigan football spent almost $350,000 on IMG Academy spring break trip


    Michigan's controversial spring-break trip to Bradenton's IMG Academy cost the university $348,553, according to a financial breakdown obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through an open-records request.

    The Wolverines spent $146,912 on IMG Academy, the prep football factory that houses some of the nation's top recruits. That figure includes the cost of renting the facility for four practices plus housing and meals....

    Michigan football practices at IMG Academy during its spring break trip
  8. 100 things about 100 Indianapolis 500s

    Auto racing

    Today marks the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, though it's not the 100th anniversary of the event. That came in 2011, because five previous races were canceled due to World War I (1917-18) and World War II (1942-45).

    Here are 99 other things to know about the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

    Perspective (things 2-6)

    The 2½-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway is big enough to hold the White House, Yankee Stadium, Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs and Madison Square Garden in its infield, with plenty of room to spare....

    FILE - In this May 15, 1980,  file photo, racedrivers Bobby Unser, left, A.J. Foyt, and Al Unser, right, talk at the speedway in Indianapolis. Long before he won the Indianapolis 500, Al Unser was an up-and-coming 25-year-old sprint car driver who had showed up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch his older brother try to qualify.  (AP Photo/File) NY161
  9. Pinellas Park's Jordon Scott commits to Florida Gators


    Pinellas Park defensive lineman Jordon Scott has orally committed to the Florida Gators, he told our Rodney Page on Wednesday night.

    "When I went to their camp in the summer and got to work out in the Swamp, I knew that's where I wanted to go," Scott said. "I wanted to look at other schools and talk to other coaches, but in the back of my mind I always knew it would be Florida. I'm excited. When all this first started I never thought I'd be an SEC player."...

  10. Florida Gators to face former coach Lon Kruger in SEC/Big 12 challenge


    The Florida Gators will face their former coach, Lon Kruger, in this season's SEC/Big 12 basketball challenge, the league announced Tuesday.

    UF will play at Oklahoma on Jan. 28, 2017. The start time and television information have not yet been decided.

    Kruger coached the Gators from 1990-96. He was 104-80 at UF and took the Gators to the 1994 Final Four. Kruger's Sooners finished 29-8 this season and lost to Villanova in the Final Four....

  11. Jimbo Fisher talks FSU football schedule, Dalvin Cook and USF's 'Super Bowl'


    TAMPA — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was in town the past two days for his latest stop on the Seminole Boosters' tour.

    If he gets his wish, he'll be back here two more times for the 2016 season — when his Seminoles play USF in September, and in the Jan. 9 national championship game at Raymond James Stadium.

    "We have a chance to be a good team," Fisher said at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. "We've got a lot of question marks with consistency and being what we want to be. …"...

    Jimbo Fisher likes FSU’s combination of youth and experience.
  12. Jimbo Fisher on Bucs' Roberto Aguayo trade: 'To me, it was genius'


    Before Jimbo Fisher's Seminole Booster tour hits the Old Memorial Golf Club today, the Florida State coach sat down with me and a few other reporters to talk about the upcoming season. 

    During our conversation, I told Fisher that some Bucs fans (and pundits) are unhappy the team traded up to draft former Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round....

    Former FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo is seen during the first day of Buccaneers rookie minicamp at One Buc Place.
  13. ACC announces kickoff times for FSU football, Miami games


    The ACC announced kickoff times and TV information for some of this fall's early-season games.

    Florida State's 8 p.m. game against Ole Miss on Labor Day was already known. After that the Seminoles will host Charleston Southern on Sept. 10 at 12:30 p.m. and travel to Louisville for a noon kickoff the next week. ABC will broadcast that game, which could feature two ranked opponents.

    FSU's Friday game (Nov. 11 against Boston College) will be at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2....

  14. Florida still important to Ohio State football's Urban Meyer


    Even though Urban Meyer has left Florida, he keeps coming back to the Sunshine State for recruits.

    Meyer, Ohio State's head coach, said his top state is, of course, Ohio, but Florida remains one of the most important ones for him and the Buckeyes.

    "It's right there," Meyer said last week before he was honored at the 11th annual Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota....

  15. Athlon preseason rankings: FSU No. 2, Florida Gators in top 25


    Too-early Top 25 polls have begun morphing into actual rankings from preseason magazines.

    One of the first is Athlon Sports, which released its Top 25 on Monday.

    Florida State is No. 2 and "poised to challenge for the title," Athlon writes. The only team ahead of the Seminoles is defending national champion Alabama....