Notebook > Sports

Gator power

Sports | NCAA champs in both football and basketball, Florida has the resources to dominate

Issue: "Don't run, Newt," April 14, 2007

It's been good to be a Florida Gator recently. If college football and basketball are the only two collegiate sports with broad national appeal (and they are), Florida has just swept through the past three seasons of note.

That's right, 3-0. With a win over UCLA last year, Florida claimed the 2006 basketball national championship. With a victory over Ohio State on the gridiron in January, the Gators took home the football national championship. And fielding a basketball team with a close to identical roster to last year's NCAA winner, Florida took down an Ohio State team in a national championship game for the second time in four months on April 2.

It's an unprecedented streak for a school. Former Florida running back Emmitt Smith even won ABC's Dancing with the Stars. About the only time Gator magic fell short, it seems, was when former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman couldn't pull off the Super Bowl upset over the Indianapolis Colts.

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Leading into Florida's most recent conquest, a leader of a search firm that places top-flight coaches with well-respected programs said it's no coincidence both Florida and Ohio State are having great success in both flagship sports. "When you have resources, that usually means you have the wherewithal to have good facilities," Chuck Neinas said. "You build a tradition of success that attracts talent, and that allows you to pay for good coaches."

Not that fans of Ohio State-losers in the past two big national championship games-will find any solace in that just yet.

Around the Horn

BASEBALL: Talk about a return on investment: When the Tribune company sells the Chicago Cubs after the 2007 season, analysts predict the baseball club could fetch $600 million dollars. That's quite a profit considering the media company that operates the Chicago Tribune bought the National League mainstay for $20.5 million in 1981. The Tribune Company's announcement that it would sell the Cubs came on opening day.

TENNIS: After fading from prominence in women's tennis, Venus Williams says she's ready to start moving up the world rankings. Back from a wrist injury that held her out of all but one tournament this year, Williams says she feels physically as good as she did when she won any of her five grand slam singles championships. For seven years ending in 2005, Williams never finished lower than 11th in the final WTA world rankings. Since then, she's slipped and currently ranks 32nd.

BASEBALL: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would veto a proposal by other city leaders to ban aluminum bats from high-school baseball programs in the city's school district. But it's not for tradition's sake that aluminum opponents are seeking a return to wooden bats. They say wooden bats are safer, arguing that batted balls come off wooden bats with less force. Actually, the mayor identifies aluminum as traditional in refuting the safety-first wooden bat proponents. "There are risks in everything," he said. "We want to reduce the risks as much as possible, we don't want to destroy tradition of the game, but that's up for the people running the sports." Prior to 1970, wooden bats were the tradition in New York City prep leagues.

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