The Florida Gators basketball team is currently 29-2 and ranked #1 in the country. They have run through the SEC like a hot knife through butter and are poised at making a run at their third National Championship since 2006.
Billy Donovan’s run at Florida has been quite impressive. Since coming to the Gators in 1996 here is his resume…..
- 72.5% winning percentage (444-168)
- 16 straight 20 win seasons
- made NCAA tournament in 13 out of last 15 seasons (this season will make 14 of 16)
- has a 31-11 career record at Florida in the NCAA tournament
- has made the last three Elite Eights
- has reached the Final Four three times
- won back to back National Championships in 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 seasons
Through the first 12 games in 2014 conference play, the Gators led the Conference attendance…..
— Thomas Goldkamp (@Goldkamp247) February 18, 2014
While Florida has the #1 attendance in basketball in the SEC, this season they were 7th in football. The fall in football attendance can be attributed directly to their lackluster performance on the gridiron in 2013 as they won just four games and it’s also an issue across the board in college football.
With Florida’s recent sustained success under Donovan in basketball and their lackluster performance in the Will Muschamp era (22-16 in three years and 13-11 in the SEC), you have to question…
Is Florida becoming a basketball school?
Florida is one of the rare schools who has seen great success both on the gridiron and on the hardwood. We already talked about the basketball success under Bill Donovan, so what about the football success?
- 3 National Championships since 1996 (one with Steve Spurrier and two with Urban Meyer)
- 8 SEC Championships since 1991 (six under Spurrier and two under Meyer)
- 12 SEC East Divisional Championships
So how does that stack up to basketball?
|Conference Championships since 1991||6||8|
|National Championships since 1991||2||3|
Now let’s take a look at since 2000…
|Conference Championships since 2000||5||3|
|National Championships since 2000||2||2|
As you can see, the balance of power is definitely shifting towards basketball for Florida. A big factor is continuity. The basketball program has been able to keep Billy Donovan under wraps since 1996. During that same time period, Florida has had four head football coaches (five if you count Charlie Strong’s interim game during the 2004 season).
Another factor is that it’s easier to win in basketball in the SEC than it is in football. That doesn’t explain away Billy Donovan’s two National Championships, but it does help explain why Donovan was able to be so consistent as well as surviving a bit of a lull in the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 seasons when Florida had to settle for NIT bids.
In the SEC, there is only one school that can truly be called a “basketball” school and that’s Kentucky. Florida has had a highly successful basketball program since Billy Donovan came on board but Athletic Director Jeremy Foley has done a great job on getting all of their athletic programs up to speed. In fact, over the last five years (from the 2008/2009 season to the 2012/2013 season) Florida has finished fourth or higher every year in the NACDA Directors’ Cup standings.
The electricity went away in Ben Hill Griffin stadium last year for Will Muschamp’s team but it’s not quite time to call them a basketball school. Who knows, a few more years of Billy Donovan going to the Elite Eight and Will Muschamp (or a possible successor) struggling in mediocrity could definitely bring a change to Florida.
Football rules the SEC. One thing we can look at is how Florida started out the 2012 basketball season in terms of attendance and how their season ticket base has actually decreased. Ultimately, in the SEC, everything still runs through football and that’s the same with the Gators even when you factor in their recent success in basketball and mediocrity (during the Muschamp era) in football.
When given the choice of spending money on football or basketball, the Gators fans are still more likely to choose football which makes them a football school with a great basketball pedigree.