Has Florida become a basketball school?
Everyone knows about “The Swamp,” and the over 88,000 fans that squeeze into the into the building to see the Gators play football. Since entering the Southeastern Conference in 1932 they have won eight conference titles. They have won three National Titles in 1996, 2006 and 2008. The University of Florida has established their football program as one of the best in college football.
At the same time football has been on the national radar so has the basketball program. Florida joins a very small club with Michigan, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas , Oklahoma and Stanford that can say they have both a quality football and basketball program.
What University of Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has done since arriving at Gainesville is nothing less than amazing. The 48 year old Donovan took a football school and has built his program into one of the most impressive in the entire country.
He has built a team that is one of the most successful and most consistent programs in all of college basketball, a true national power.
Their games at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, also known as the O’Dome have become epic. The building seats just under 12,000 fans or as they like to be known Rowdy Reptiles have made playing the Gators at home a very tough tast for the visiting team.
The Gators entered this season as the defending SEC Champions after a record of record of 24–6 that included finishing 14-4 in conference play. The Gators then defeated Florida Gulf Coast, No. 15 seed, in the Sweet Sixteen 62–50 but lost in the Elite Eight, this time against fourth seeded Michigan.
The Gators are the only is team in the nation to have advanced as far as the Elite Eight in each of those seasons from 2011–2013.
Florida is now on the same level in the SEC in basketball as the legendary program at Kentucky and after a quick look at the latest national rankings the 15-2 Gators are the conferences highest rated school setting in the sixth spot.
The Gators under Donovan have since the 1998-99 put together 15 straight seasons with at least 20 or more wins and with 15 victories already this year it looks like you can make that 16 straight. Donovan has led Florida to five SEC Championships and another three Tournament championship.
Under Donovan since 1998-99 the Gators have been involved a post season tournament 15 straight years, 13 NCAA Tournament appearances and back to back NIT bids in 2008 and 2009.
We know that the Gators won back to back NCAA National Championships in 2006 and 2007 which puts him up there with some of the all time greatest coaches in college basketball history.
Henry Iba 1947 and 1948 with Oklahoma A&M, Adolph Rupp with the University of Kentucky in 1948 and 1949, Phil Woolpert with the University of San Frasncisco in 1955 and 1956, Ed Jucker with the University of Cincinnati, John Wooden in 1964 and 65 (he would win an unprecedented seven in a row from 1967 through 1973), and Mike Krzyzewsk of Duke University went back to back in 1991 and 1992 before Donovan would do it in 2006 and 2007.
No one knows just how good the Gators with Donovan will be when he chooses to hang things up but for now he has the University of Florida known in basketball circles as a premier program. No bad for coaching at a football school.
We would be remiss in not adding what Leonard Hamilton has done at FSU and Jim Larrañaga is doing at Miami. Both programs are in good hands and headed in the roght direction, but right now they are both looking up at the Gators.