gil column

College football is the gift that keeps on giving.

The latest example came last Saturday night when Florida hosted the oh-how-the-mighty-have-fallen LSU Tigers. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, here’s a recap. The game was tied 34-34 with less than two minutes to go when Marco Wilson made the bonehead play to end all bonehead plays. Things started off great for the young man from Miami, Fla. as he tackled the LSU ballcarrier well short of the line to gain on third-and-10. The Tiger player’s cleat came off in the tussle and wound up in Wilson’s hand. What he did next will baffle Florida fans, including former Atlanta Braves great Chipper Jones, for centuries. Wilson flung the cleat wayyyyyyyy downfield in an odd show of post-play emotion. The shoe flew the coop, and so did the Gators’ chances of getting into the College Football Playoff because he was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which kept the LSU drive going. The Tigers drove down and kicked what became the game-winning field goal as Florida was unable to match. The Gators still get to go to the SEC Championship to face Alabama this weekend, but even an unlikely win won’t be enough to earn a CFP berth. 

What’s even more striking to me than the play itself or its consequences is Florida head coach Dan Mullen’s response to the incident. He’s quoted by multiple media outlets as saying: “I don’t think there was any intent to taunt. It wasn’t like he was throwing it at their sidelines or doing any of that.”

Intent is decided in a courtroom, and I don’t think any courts will be hearing the case of The Swamp shoe that flew. Throwing an opposing player’s shoe is disrespectful and — wait for it — unsportsmanlike, and merits a flag every single time.

If the clueless Coach Mullen would like some idea as to how to comport oneself after such an incident, I would direct him to UGA head coach Kirby Smart’s comment: “I hate it for Marco because he’s a great kid — he’s a kid we recruited. I’ve known him for a long time. His dad’s a high school coach in the Miami area. He’s a really good football player, and it’s tough, it’s unfortunate. Hopefully, he learns from the mistake and some teams can as well because no coach wants to see a game decided by things like that.”

Not enough? Well here’s Smart from earlier this season when his wide receiver George Pickens squirted water on a Tennessee player on the sideline.

“When somebody comes out of bounds and you squirt water at them, what are we? Are we 7, 8 years old? I mean, come on. Let’s play football. Let’s don’t be silly.”

Two coaches. Similar situations. Polar opposite responses. If I weren’t already a fan of one, I know who I’d choose.

The Gators got what was coming to them. We all know the old saying about what karma is, and if that’s true then I’d sure hate to meet her sister, instant karma. You can probably find her somewhere down in Gainesville this week.

Merry Flingmas, Florida fans. 

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