Torrential rains in Gainesville yesterday — seriously, it was raining from about 10 a.m. until about 10 p.m. — scuttled a lot of plans for the precious few people still in town. And Florida's football team's plans to practice were among those washed away.
I meant to type up a clever IPF tweet yesterday but forgot. No worries, UF had to scrap second outdoor practice in last two weeks anyway.— Thomas Goldkamp (@ThomasGoldkamp) November 26, 2014
Florida also didn't practice outdoors once last week, while preparing for Eastern Kentucky. (That sure seemed to hamper the Gators come Saturday!) And as with any mention of Florida having to miss practices and/or lack of an indoor practice facility (IPF), the usual suspects made sure to chime in on the subject.
Look: Missing practices is not ideal. In an ideal world, Florida would have an indoor practice facility large enough to accomodate two full-field practices like the ones it holds outdoors. But that facility would cost millions, and there's no space on Florida's campus that makes perfect sense to, er, facilitate it: When "planning" an IPF, fans virtually never talk about raising the money to pay for it, and have to contort themselves into unorthodox solutions like re-routing 2nd Avenue — the road that bounds the north edge of campus, including Florida's practice fields — to make it happen.
I have faith that Florida will end up with an IPF at some point. Submitting a request for proposal to the Florida Department of State for the project, as Florida did in October, is a clear indication that Gators leaders understand the importance of at least evaluating the viability of an IPF. And the tidy $11.9 million price tag the University Athlatic Association put on that project is doable: A good year on the gridiron, one would think, could get that money raised in a hurry.
But to hear some of the fans who bay for an IPF, one would think that missing a practice in November — when teams are trying to refine, streamline, and stay healthy, and practices are closer to glorified walk-throughs than at any other point in the year — is the difference between a blowout win and a blowout loss. And the screeching that comes whenever the rains wash out a day — or contribute, however nebulously, to something like Dominique Easley tearing his ACL on a wet field in 2013 — seems entirely out of proportion, especially given that Florida won all three of its national titles while dealing with the same meteorological vicissitudes that the Gators do today.
Simply put, the practical value of an indoor practice facility — preserving five or six practices over the course of a season, and giving players an shiny new place to train — is not quite as great as the emotional and symbolic value. Florida fans want desperately to compete in the SEC, and with the rest of the conference's schools in possession of an IPF or plans for a full-size facility, not having one feels like being the kid on the block without the hottest new Skylander. Florida's "falling behind," or something, based on the lack of a building that most fans will never pay for or use, because recruits ... make their selections of school based on IPFs, I guess?
Florida's got catching up to do, sure, but it will do that rationally, reasonably, and responsibly, and definitely not at the whims of fans with Twitter accounts, unless those fans also have the seven-figure checks that make things happen in college athletics.
And Florida, which has almost certainly been prepping for FSU since last week, given how little preparation was truly necessary to steamroll Eastern Kentucky, won't be hampered except marginally by missing a practice a couple days before Thanksgiving.
If the Gators beat the Seminoles on Saturday, it won't be in spite of missing a practice, and if they lose, it won't be because of missing that practice. This late in the season, games are typically decided on the merits, not the margins.