Posted: 2:20 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, 2014
By Andy Hutchins
After a disappointing fall, Florida's winter and spring sports teams have the Gators riding high.
On Monday, Florida finally rose to No. 1 in men's basketball. But Florida was already No. 1 a couple times over before Billy Donovan's Gators rose in their polls.
First, look in the pool, where Florida's men's swimming and diving team, newly crowned SEC champions, has been No. 1 for most of February. Florida's softball team, 12-0 on the year, was No. 1 in bothpolls released on February 18; it will probably remain No. 1 in at least one poll released on Tuesday.
Florida's gymnastics team, undefeated and defending its first national championship with10.0after10.0, is No. 3 — behind Oklahoma and LSU, two teams the Gators have already defeated in dual meets this season — in documented much of Florida's dominance on Sunday — and yet he neglected to mention Florida's lacrosse team, still a top-10 team in bothpolls that matter in the sport. It's easy to innocently forget a good team exists at Florida, simply because there are so many.
Of Florida's 14 teams currently in season — baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, softball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, and men's and women's indoor track — 13 are ranked in the top 25 in at least one of their sport's polls. 10 of those 13 ranked teams are in the top 10 of their respective polls; only two of those 10 top-10 teams have never won a national championship, and neither softball nor lacrosse has been a varsity sport at Florida for 20 years.
And the only unranked Florida team in season, Amanda Butler's women's basketball team, is still likely to make the NCAA Tournament, though the Gators will probably be one of the last teams in if they make it. And Florida has scrapped its way to that precarious position in a brutal SEC — as many as nine SEC teams might make the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and the conference should have no less than a tie for the most NCAA bids this year — despite having just eight active players for most of 2014.
It's a bizarre state of affairs in Gainesville when Florida's football program, which had the nation's longest NCAA-recognized bowl streak snapped last fall by its distastrous 4-8 campaign, is by far the school's worst team in an academic year. That's probably unavoidable for 2013-14 now, and, arguably, it hasn't happened since Florida's infamous 0-10-1 season in 1979.
But the other 2013-14 Gators squads have left that terrible season in the dust of the fall, to the delight of the growing number of Florida fans who care about more than just football. And Florida's all-around brilliance is the foundation for honest, smirky retorts to the same lame jokes about that 4-8 season, and charges that Florida is a "football school."
Yes, Florida is a football school, we can answer. But Florida is a basketball school, too, and a softball school, and a gymnastics school, and a track school, and a tennis school, and a swimming school. Florida is the everything school.
In all kinds of weather, and in every season, there's usually a team of Gators winning something.