University of Florida: Championship Central

Gainesville, Fla. — So I ran up here today from Tampa with Gazette photographer Jim Slosiarek to do stories for Gazetteonline.com and Wednesday’s Gazette on Dan McCarney.

The former Iowa State head football coach is in a happy place for a coach, namely the staff of the University of Florida. Iowa State, which showed McCarney the door two Decembers ago after he put in 12 years there, tries to spin straw into gold.

Florida takes gold and tries to turn it into … gold to the nth degree, I guess.

Urban Meyer’s football team practiced just a half-block away from the O’Connell Center, where the Gators men’s basketball team had a rare mid-week day game against the Stetson Hatters.

A banner attached to the gym reminds anyone who didn’t know around here that the Gators were 2006 and 2007 national champions. The arena seemed pretty modest to me, and the gathering for Florida’s 78-57 win over Stetson, of DeLand, Fla., just north of Orlando, was announced at 10,007.

There weren’t that many people there.

You walk just another hundred yards or so over to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a.k.a. “The Swamp,” and you see banners reminding you Florida won the national football championship in 2006, as well as in 1996.

The Swamp

The Swamp

They’re kind of greedy here.

Oh, the football complex attached to the stadium got a $28 million renovation this year. McCarney was generous enough to give us a quick tour of the complex, and let’s just say Iowa State and Iowa can’t quite compare – with the best of their football facilities put together.

The weight room has more video screens than a Best Buy. Most college weight rooms have motivational phrases posted on walls. The phrases are on the video screens here. Kids relate better.

McCarney showed us a strip of artificial turf in the weight room where players are videotaped practicing their starts off the line of scrimmage. They see what they did and didn’t do immediately after the fact.

They have a big meeting room where the team eats together after home games and watches a big-big-big screen replays of the wins they have just collected.

Florida is in another national-title game on Jan. 8. Gee, I wonder how the Gators keep getting such good recruits. Winning tradition, fantastic facilities, ideal weather, a state with fields full of primo football players.

Yep, the Gators are due for another national-championship. They haven’t had one in two years.

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