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Fire Zook site makes a comeback

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 20, 2002

As if Ron Zook didn't have enough to worry about between Florida's loss to top-ranked Miami and a trip Saturday to face Tennessee, he can add a familiar pleasantry to the list.

Fireronzook.com is back.

The site emerged this spring, calling for the Gators coach's job months before his first Florida game. The site's owner took it down in April after being hit with "an amazing flood" of give the guy a break e-mails.

"It started to get to me because the biggest comment was that we hadn't given him a chance," said the owner, who would only identify himself as Mark. "I kind of saw their point."

Five months later, after seeing three games under Zook, Mark had seen enough and opted to resurrect the site Wednesday.

"We arose from controversy," reads the site's flashy new intro page. "We sat back and gave him a chance ... and now we're serious." From there, you're directed to the main page, which is headlined: "We're back ... and not very happy to be here, mind you."

Mark is serious about the anonymity -- he's pictured with a bag over his head on the site, and that's only half-kidding. While admitting to being a Florida graduate, he would not disclose his location in a phone interview Thursday beyond saying he's not currently in Florida.

Zook can find consolation in this much: There might be enough angry fans to support a site devoted to his removal, but there are also enough fans supporting him to keep his biggest critics shrouded in secrecy.

Mark said he was getting nearly 150 e-mails a week before he took the site down in April, and about 60 percent was in support of Zook. Asked if he thought a Steve Spurrier-coached Florida team would have beaten Miami two weeks ago, he said he thought "it would be a lot closer." And despite the site's name, he said he doesn't expect Zook to lose his job any time soon.

"We realistically know he won't be fired in the middle of the season," said Mark, whose site counts down the days to Zook's "removal," using his three-year contract for the end date.

So before his first Southeastern Conference game, thanks to a single loss to the defending national champion and a 28-point victory deemed unimpressive by many, Zook has reclaimed the honor of being college football's favorite online target.

"Nobody was going to replace Steve Spurrier," Mark said. "I'm not sure if this week is a defining game if (Zook) goes up and beats them, but I think Tennessee is going to kill us."

ON THE BALL: Tampabayclassic.com, the official site for this week's PGA tournament, has a rotating leaderboard that shows not only the top scores from the Westin Innisbrook Resort, but other PGA and LPGA events as well. The site hasn't had much content this week, but has linked to features at PGA.com, such as a live online radio show, ticket sales and PGA-sanctioned fantasy golf games. Kudos if you had K.J. Choi and his opening-round 63 in your lineup for this week.

TID-BYTES: Here's a strange one: Buccaneers.com asked fans Thursday which of seven players would be the "best weapon in the passing game" Monday night against St. Louis. Tight end Rickey Dudley, who joined the team this week, drew more votes than receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell and tailback Michael Pittman, while tight end Ken Dilger led the balloting with 29 percent. ... ESPN.com is a finalist for two Online Journalism Awards, presented by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. One is for General Excellence in Online Journalism, with a tough field that includes MSNBC.com, washingtonpost.com, NYtimes.com and USAtoday.com. ESPN's "DraftCast" feature, used during the past two NFL drafts, was nominated for an award for Creative Use of the Medium. ... CNNSI.com's Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman picks the Rams to beat the Bucs on Monday, and he's not the only one. According to voting for ESPN.com's Six-Pack Pick 'Em Game, 62.7 percent of participants are taking the Rams to win.

-- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at auman@sptimes.com.

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