After the most news-worthy weekend in Florida Gators athletics in more than a month, the program decided to make a few more headlines on Monday, announcing the most decorated class ever to be inducted to the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame.
How loaded is this 2020 class? Well, Brandon Spikes, who only won two national championships and earned two first-team All-American honors, is emphatically not its headliner.
As for who is: Can you make a case for Tim Tebow over Billy Donovan, or vice versa?
Along with Spikes, the two-time national champion and Heisman-winning quarterback and two-time national champion and future Basketball Hall of Fame member lead a nine-Gator class that also features multiple two-time Olympians (swimmers Shaune Fraser and Gemma Spofforth), one of the best men’s tennis players in school history (Hamid Mirzadeh, a five-time All-American), one of the biggest game-changers in the history of Florida men’s basketball and one of the smallest game-changers in the history of Florida football (Andrew DeClercq and Brandon James), and a shot-putter whose five individual NCAA titles lead the entire class (Mariam Kevkhishvili).
The voting on and administration of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame is largely handled by a committed comprised of members of the F Club, Florida’s alumni group for former student-athletes.
Former Florida athletes must have been named first-team All-America or first-team All-SEC performers to be eligible for the Hall of Fame, and cannot be inducted until 10 years after their final year of intercollegiate athletics.
Of the Florida athletes going into the Hall of Fame this year, Tebow is obviously a cut above the rest in terms of his prominence and fame — and, even pitted against Spikes’s twinned team accomplishments or Kevkhishvili’s staggering haul of individual titles, stands apart in terms of both individual and team laurels.
Donovan, meanwhile is being inducted as an “honorary letter-winner” — a category reserved for “Coaches and athletic officials (after retirement) who were not letterwinners/athletes at the University of Florida, yet have rendered outstanding service to the intercollegiate athletic program through personal time, effort, interest and through many years of continued service.”
While the Hall of Fame’s website does note that “Emphasis at nomination should be placed on continued service,” and Donovan has now been an NBA coach away from the university for almost five full years, the only thing that would ever have held up his induction was timing, and being able to include him alongside Tebow in a class for a round-numbered year was probably something the F Club Committee relished.
When and how these Gators will actually be physically inducted into the Hall of Fame remains to be seen, as planning for gatherings of people in 2020 remains largely governed by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
But I think we can be sure that Florida will make absolutely certain that the Gator Nation knows when this particular celebration of these particular Gators is going down.