I have nothing personal against U of F. I’ve never been to Gainesville, but I hear it's a great town. I’ve had the privilege of working with numerous alumni of the school. The overwhelming majority of them are/were great people. I just don’t usually root for their alma mater when it comes to sporting events. You see, Gator fans can be pretty obnoxious and annoying. They’re brashly arrogant in victory and incessantly whiny in defeat. Their fight song stinks, and the Gator chomp is decidedly unimaginative.
I did root for the Gators’ football team when they played Ohio State in this year’s BCS Title Game. I was no longer living in Gator Nation. I’d gotten a few e-mails last spring when Florida defeated UCLA to win the 2006 NCAA College Basketball Tournament. I was pretty sure that I could handle rooting for the University of Florida under those circumstances, particularly when their opponent was the Ohio State University. I have never rooted for an OSU football team. This was true even before my undergraduate days, when someone who turned out to be one of my closest friends, revealed the extent of his Buckeye mania. Unless an OSU victory would bring about world peace, end hunger, or save innocent lives, I doubt I ever will root for the Buckeyes on the gridiron. I celebrated OSU’s loss, and endured U of F’s victory. Granted, that was two championships in a relatively short time period, but I wasn’t too concerned. College basketball season was underway, and it’s not like anyone repeats in college hoops anymore, right?
Let’s fast forward to April 2, 2007.
As Florida and OSU tipped off at the Georgia Dome, I was faced with a Hobson’s choice. I didn’t really want either school to win. I found myself rationalizing. I have nothing against OSU’s basketball program. I actually like Greg Oden. I think he was the oldest person on the basketball court Monday night (referees included), but they tell me that 70 is the new 60, and I think that his outstanding performance sent a positive message to senior citizens. On the Gator side of the ledger, there hadn’t been a repeat basketball national champion since Duke in 1992. It’s been a feather in the Dukies’ cap for 15 years. I wouldn’t root for a Duke basketball squad even if there were innocent lives hanging in the balance, and how could I not support anything that would, even on a small scale, erode their prestige? I just couldn’t make up my mind. I stayed neutral throughout the first half.
A few strange things happened, though, as I watched the second half unfold. Florida led throughout, and, with the way OSU was playing, a Gator victory seemed pretty likely.
It occurred to me that Billy Donovan has the potential to be every bit as annoying as Mike Krzyzewski. At least Coach K, though he often comes across as a phony, is something of an original. Billy Donovan still comes across like a guy doing his best impression of Rick Pitino.
The camera also gave me a few glimpses of U of F’s head football coach, Urban Meyer. He appeared tan and rested. He also had a look of smug self-superiority written across his face. In other words, he looked like Steve Spurrier after a corporate makeover. I began to feel a sense of unease.
After the final horn sounded, and the Gator players, coaches, and fans celebrated a well-earned 9-point victory, it hit me. The University of Florida had now won the last 3 of college sports’ most widely viewed championship games. They have 2 young, hotshot coaches, neither of whom are exactly camera or microphone shy. Visions of cheesy articles, dual television interviews, and fluff pieces about the similarities and differences between Donovan and Meyer danced through my head. This morning I learned that Florida’s team will be featured on a Wheaties’ box. Enough’s enough.
I think that the NCAA needs to intervene. These guys need to be separated like any other 2 problem children. Urban Meyer’s not going anywhere, but the powers-that-be must somehow ensure that Billy Donovan either takes the University of Kentucky job or leaves the college ranks for the NBA.
I have yet to open the e-mails I’ve received from University of Florida alums.