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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

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. Steve Spurrier rejoining Florida Gators as ambassador, consultant

    Blog

    Steve Spurrier is returning to the Florida Gators.

    The UF legend will join the athletic department as an ambassador and consultant, athletic director Jeremy Foley announced Friday morning.

    "My wife, Jerri, and I are extremely thrilled to be returning home to our alma mater, and to Gainesville where we met on campus over 50 years ago," Spurrier said in a statement released by the school. "I'm very appreciative to Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, Head Coach Jim McElwain and Phil Pharr of Gator Boosters for their role in making this happen.

    "I also want to say thanks to the University of South Carolina for allowing me to be their coach from 2005 to 2015. Also a special thanks to all of the Gamecock players, coaches and fans that allowed our teams to set so many school records. I will now pull for South Carolina to win every game but one, just as I did when I pulled for Florida to win every game but one as the Gamecock coach. I will try my best to promote and assist in any way I can to help the Gators to continue to be one of the very best athletic programs in America. I admire what Coach McElwain and his staff accomplished last year. I'm anxious to watch the Gator football team as they strive to be the best in the SEC and the nation in the years ahead."...

    Steve Spurrier will join the University of Florida athletic department as an ambassador and consultant.
  2. College Football Playoff moving semifinals away from New Year's Eve

    Blog

    The College Football Playoff is calling an audible.

    The sport's four-team playoff will move its semifinal games away from New Year's Eve and to the preceding Saturdays in 2018, 2019, 2024 and 2025. The move won't affect this year's semifinals (Dec. 31 in Atlanta and Arizona) or the Jan. 9 national title game at Raymond James Stadium....

  3. FSU football puts five on preseason All-ACC team

    Blog

    Florida State placed five players on the preseason All-ACC team, the league announced this morning.

    Running back Dalvin Cook, offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, safety Derwin James and receiver Travis Rudolph were all selected. The ACC doesn't do second- or third-team honorees.

    Miami's only representative is punter Justin Vogel, a former Gator and Berkeley Prep alum. Clemson receiver Artavis Scott (East Lake High) was one of 10 Tigers chosen....

  4. Florida Gators' Treon Harris set to transfer

    College

    Treon Harris' turbulent tenure at Florida has ended, while the Gators' quarterback carousel continues to spin.

    Harris, who started 15 games at quarterback in his first two seasons, intends to transfer, UF confirmed Monday.

    The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Harris entered UF with high expectations as a four-star recruit and showed flashes of living up to them, leading the Gators to a 38-20 win over No. 9 Georgia in his first career start. He won three of his other five starts as a true freshman....

    Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris (3) catches a touchdown pass from wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) on a trick play in the first quarter of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl between the Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. (Loren Elliott | Times)
  5. Florida Gators assistant Geoff Collins receives $300,000 raise

    Blog

    In non-Treon Harris news, the Florida Gators released updated coaching contracts Monday.

    Most notably, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will earn more than $1 million this year. Collins received a $300,000 raise in base pay (to $890,000), in addition to a $150,000 retention bonus due in February. Collins led a Gators defense that was one of the best in the nation last season, and his name was rumored to be in the mix for the head coaching job at UCF....

  6. Florida Gators' former starting QB Treon Harris to transfer

    Blog

    Former starting quarterback Treon Harris intends to transfer after two turbulent seasons with the Florida Gators, the school confirmed Monday.

    The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Harris was entering his junior season. He started 15 games in his first two seasons at UF, where he completed 174 of his 346 passes for 2,695 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

    Harris was indefinitely suspended in the spring for undisclosed reasons but was allowed to return to campus and work out with the team during the summer. He previously served two suspensions -- one for what reportedly failing a drug test and another in 2014 after he was accused of sexual assault by another student. The woman later dropped her complaint, and he was reinstated....

  7. ACC football predictions: Clemson, Deshaun Watson over FSU, Dalvin Cook

    Blog

    Clemson, not Florida State, is the favorite to win the ACC, according to the league's preseason poll by media members at last week's ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte.

    The Tigers received 144 of 191 votes; Florida State was second (39), followed by North Carolina (seven) and Louisville (one). As I wrote last week, I gave the Seminoles my vote to win the league and UNC to top the Coastal Division....

    The ACC's media poll predicts the Clemson Tigers to top the Florida State Seminoles and win the conference title.
  8. DE DeMarcus Walker confident in FSU defense

    College

    Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker knows what a dominant defense looks like. He started three games as a true freshman in 2013, when the Seminoles led the nation in scoring defense and won the national championship.

    So Walker has some credibility when he proclaimed his enormous preseason goals during last week's ACC Football Kickoff. He believes this year's defense can be "the best that FSU ever had."...

    Defensive end DeMarcus Walker, left, is optimistic for the season, saying the defense could be “the best that FSU ever had.”
  9. All ACC title ambitions run through FSU and Clemson

    College

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even after his Seminoles spent a year stumbling out of the national championship hunt, defensive end DeMarcus Walker isn't shy about his team's expectations.

    "We're back," Walker said. "We're better than ever."

    But they still might not be the best team in their own division.

    The budding ACC rivalry between Florida State and Clemson is set to peak this fall, with more than the Atlantic Division title at stake....

  10. FSU's Dalvin Cook says he's healthy and ready

    College

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Florida State RB Dalvin Cook's sophomore season was the most prolific in school history: 1,691 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns and 7.4 yards per carry.

    Those numbers are even more impressive considering that he wasn't fully healthy. He battled nagging ankle and hamstring injuries throughout the season and continued to tweak them during games. He hurt his shoulder in the offseason and required surgery in April....

    Florida State's Dalvin Cook answers a question during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, July 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) NCCB128
  11. Deshaun Watson on Dalvin Cook: 'He's one of the best running backs in the country'

    Blog

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- We haven't yet heard from Florida State at the annual ACC Football Kickoff, but the Seminoles have been a major topic of discussion.

    Clemson players were complimentary of their Atlantic Division rival, including FSU's star running back, Dalvin Cook.

    "He's one of the best running backs in the country," said Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite. "He does a lot of great things. He pass protects. He runs the ball well. He catches the ball well. He runs routes. He does everything. He's a great athlete and a great guy..."...

    Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson praised FSU star Dalvin Cook on Friday during the ACC Football Kickoff.
  12. Bobby Petrino: Louisville football 'right there' in competing with FSU, Clemson

    Blog

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Florida State and Clemson have been the class of the ACC, and that will likely continue this season. But don't sleep on Louisville.

    The Cardinals have one of the top quarterbacks in the league (Lamar Jackson), and coach Bobby Petrino said he thinks his team is close to challenging the Seminoles and Tigers. Louisville's two losses to Clemson since joining the ACC have been by a combined nine points, and the Cardinals took a 21-0 lead on FSU in 2014 before the Noles rallied to win....

    Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson addresses reporters Friday during the ACC Football Kickoff.
  13. Why I'm picking FSU to beat UNC for the ACC football championship

    Blog

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The ACC will announce its preseason predictions and all-conference teams in the coming days. In the meantime, you'll have to settle for picking apart what I submitted Thursday night during my stay here at the ACC Football Kickoff. But please do remember that I get paid to write, not make predictions; if I were any good at that, I'd be living in Vegas and driving a much nicer car....

    I'm predicting FSU to win this trophy, a few blocks away from here, less than five months from now.
  14. Poachers, beware: ACC enjoying unprecedented stability

    College

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The official reason the ACC opened its Football Kickoff on Thursday with a celebration was the formal announcement of its ESPN-backed TV network, which will bring more exposure and income when it launches in 2019.

    The bigger reason applause broke out at the Westin Charlotte was the other deal that came with the TV contract: the 20-year grant of rights agreement that all but secures the league's long-term stability in a college sports landscape that remains unsteady....

    Commissioner John Swofford, left, is flanked by ACC coaches as he announces an ACC/ESPN Network during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) NCCB102
  15. Mark Richt settling in with Miami Hurricanes

    College

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mark Richt is entering his first season as coach at Miami. And judging by his comments during Thursday's ACC Football Kickoff, he plans to stay until he retires.

    "Being back at my alma mater is huge for me," said Richt, who graduated from UM in 1982. "It's a good spot for me to finish my career."

    Richt's words don't seem empty; he spent 15 years as coach at Georgia — an eternity in the profession — and is trying to build a foundation for the Hurricanes' future through South Florida's tradition-rich youth football leagues. ...

    Miami head coach Mark Richt speaks during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) NCCB107