By ANTONYA ENGLISH, JILL MARTIN and JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 30, 2002
TAMPA -- One month after Wednesday's Outback Bowl, Florida coach Ron Zook will get extra cash for his efforts.
As part of his contract, obtained by the Times, Zook got a signing bonus of $125,000 and will receive an additional $125,000 on Feb. 1.
Zook earned $1,012,500 in 2002, and the first-year coach will receive $37,500 for the Gators' Outback Bowl appearance as part of the incentives in his contract. If the Gators climb into the Top 10 in the final poll, Zook would receive an additional $50,000. Currently ranked 22nd, that climb is unlikely.
SOLID LEFT: The left side of the offensive line will remain intact next season. One day after offensive guard Shannon Snell told the Times he would return for his senior season, junior tackle Max Starks reaffirmed Sunday he will be back.
"It's definitely been something I've been very adamant about," Starks said. "Like I said the first time, I'm staying. I want my degree before I leave here. I've got a year left."
Zook said: "It makes me feel good that, hey, they feel good enough about what's going on here."
SUNSHINE STANDOUT: Freshman center Mike Degory has been named to the Sporting News' freshman All-America team. He is the only player honored from the state of Florida.
EARLY ARRIVALS: Four of the Gators' five junior college early signees will be with the team this week.
Center Billy Griffin practiced Saturday, and Tavares Washington was with the Gators for Sunday's practice. Zook said Anthony Guerrero was expected to arrive Sunday night and David Kenner is scheduled to be here today. Eric Holcomb is a new father and will not join the team in Tampa, but he will be in Gainesville when the semester begins.
STRONG SIGHTING?: Florida's new defensive coordinator, Charlie Strong, is scheduled to be in Tampa this week to watch practice.
UNDER PRESSURE: Senior quarterback John Navarre may have his detractors, but Michigan coach Lloyd Carr is firmly in his corner.
Navarre is 227-for-412 for 2,586 yards this season, completing 55.1 percent while throwing 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But with No.12 Michigan bringing a 9-3 record and a third-place finish in the Big Ten into the Outback Bowl, that hasn't been good enough for some.
"I think to be the quarterback at a program like Florida or Michigan, you either handle (the pressure) or it will destroy you," Carr said. "It is not fun and in many instances it isn't fair, but that comes with being a quarterback at a high-profile program.
"I think John has done an excellent job. I've seen John throughout all those circumstances, and I've never seen him react in a negative way toward anything that has been written or said about him, and that takes a special guy. He's just concerned with trying to become as good as we can be."
YOU BETTER WATCH OUT: It wouldn't be the Outback Bowl without law enforcement's annual warning to visiting teams to avoid Tampa Bay's strip clubs.
"The law enforcement agencies absolutely told them about the places they shouldn't go," Carr said. "They told them because of the problems they, law enforcement, have with some of those areas and some of those places."
Did Carr recall any specific establishments about which his players were warned?
"I don't want to get sued," he said, joking.
INJURY REPORT: Michigan junior tight end Jim Fisher's status is uncertain. The 6-foot-5, 249-pound special-teams contributor was hurt when he got his foot stuck in the University of Tampa turf at practice recently.