In an article published by ESPN in 2015, it was stated that the Florida Gators had the most athletes suspected of crimes from 2009-2014. That trend does not seem to be improving.
A couple of weeks ago, we learned of seven Gators implicated in a credit/debit card fraud scheme, where the implicated players used University issued cards to buy items not deemed to be acceptable under the agreements placed between the cardholders and the University, as part of their scholarships. The players then re-sold merchandise in order to obtain cash, which is not permitted by the University (and likely the NCAA).
Then we heard about another player, Freshman James Robinson, who was busted with Marijuana and subsequently suspended.
Yesterday, news broke that two more Florida Gators had been named by another player, in conversations with the Police, as having involvement in the misuse of University funds scheme mentioned above. This could end up causing a trust issue among players, if there is a player going around coaches and speaking to cops rather than first going to the team administration.
To top it all off – a Florida TV reporter tweeted that the suspensions may not be over (embedded below).
— Zach Aldridge (@wzaldridge) August 31, 2017
So why do we care? Easy answer here is that the Gators are Michigan’s week 1 opponent, and the two teams face off in two days. Several of these players would have had a pretty significant impact on the game if they were eligible to play. Here is a list of players, in my estimated order of importance, who will not be suiting up on Saturday:
- Antonio Callaway (likely #1 WR)
- Jordan Scarlett (#1 RB who ran for 889 yards in 2016)
- James Robinson (Freshman WR but reports had him ready to contribute)
- Keivonnis Davis (Junior DL could provide depth, had 26 tackles last year)
- Ventrell Miller (Freshman LB who was slated to contribute in 2017)
- James Houston (Freshman LB also slated to contribute in 2017)
- Kadeem Telfort (Freshman OL could provide depth if not Redshirted)
- Richerd Desir-Jones (Sophomore OL, depth)
- Rick Wells (Freshman WR, likely Redshirt)
- Jordan Smith (Freshman DL, likely Redshirt)
This is nearly 10% of the NCAA allowed 105 players who can be on-roster prior to the start of class (once class starts or game 1 occurs, this limit is lifted). No matter how we slice it, this is a huge loss for Florida.
Being without players, to this magnitude, also poses a bit of a lose-lose perspective for Michigan. If the Wolverines win, the narrative will be “yeah you won but against a depleted Florida team”. If Michigan loses, the narrative instead will be “you couldn’t even beat a Florida team without their best offensive weapons”.
I had Michigan winning this game, regardless of the suspensions, and still have them winning. I believe that a win is a win, and as long as Michigan takes care of business, beating a depleted Gators team will still look like a good win when voters are evaluating the season going into the post-season.
On the flip-side, Florida can certainly rebound and put this behind them (win or lose), as long as they take care of their own business, both off the field, and on the field.
If the reports of more suspensions coming are true, that line which is currently 5.5 in favor of Michigan, may swing even further in the direction of the Wolverines being favorites to win.