The University of Florida football program has risen from years of mediocrity to national prominence through a formula established by, then, head football coach Steve Spurrier. It's a formula that, current, head football coach Urban Meyer uses to this day.
The formula is simple, win the SEC and beat your rivals. Believe it or not but Spurrier's and Meyer's top goal each season is to win the SEC, which means they must make it to the SEC championship game. It's inherent in their coaching, their philosophies, and their recruiting. That's right recruiting. Sure everyone can see top classes and say well they just recruit the best players, but that's not all, they recruit players with a purpose for beating their rivals and winning in the SEC.
So why hasn't this philosphy carried over to another very recently successful Gator sport (or not so recently successful depending on how you define recent), men's basketball?
Billy Donovan came to Florida knowing that the Fighting Gators were a sleeping giant in basketball. Florida sits as a hot bed for athletic talent, and a prime location for kids looking to garner national interest, get out of the cold, and is backed by a powerhouse football program, which means money and facilities.
Donovan started by recruiting the best talent period, and he knew how to reel them in. McDonald's All-Americans seemed to riddle every recruiting class Billy brought into Florida. However Billy, wasn't able to win the SEC, he was making ripples in the Tournament picture, but not the conference.
Then came the 99-00 year, Billy showed his coaching genius (coupled with some good luck early on, Remember Mike Miller's shot) and took his team to the National Championship game. Yet that team didn't win the SEC either. Maybe, just maybe, Billy thought that he could buck this formula Spurrier had developed. Maybe that was football, and this is basketball. Besides isn't NCAA tournament success more important than conference success???
Well following the championship run, Billy continued to make waves or ripples in the NCAA Tournament. Then came the Roberson and Walsh years ...
Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh (along with other good Florida players like David Lee) seemed to never play as a team at first, and it drove Billy bonkers. So much so, he changed his recruiting methods. He recruited the 04's (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green). But there was something even more special about the 04's than Donovan realized. This class was built to win the SEC.
They had the tough inside presence, with bench depth. They had a true point guard and a hot hand from the outside. They were athletic and fast. They played tough and they played with passion.
Ever since that recruiting class dazzled the eyes and hearts of Gator fans and basketball pundits everywhere, Billy has missed the boat with recruiting. Most of his recruiting classes have been with guys without true positions, tweeners, undersized, under athletic, and under used. That's not to say that every recruit has been that way, but of recent note, most of the recruits have not fit the formula. They do not improve the Gators chances at winning the SEC.
If Donovan wants to get back to good tournament runs and great recruiting and Final Four appearances, he needs to focus on #1 win the SEC and beat your rivals. Then #2 recruit the players that will help you win the SEC, not the ones that will get you to the tournament. If you win the SEC you will make the tournament and no matter what happens in the tournament, you are still champions of one of the best conferences in America (if not the best, overall in all sports).