Florida starts title defense in Madness

Published October 14, 2006

GAINESVILLE - Their national championship rings are stashed away, some in safes, others in drawers, a few back home with family members. Their commemorative hats and T-shirts are long gone, too.

The Florida Gators are ready to move on.

A new season. A new team. A new task.

The Gators returned to the court Friday night for Midnight Madness, tipping off practice for the 2006-07 season, celebrating their first national title again and beginning their pursuit to become the first team to repeat in 15 years.

"We all want our rings and it means a lot to get them, but right now it's a new year and a new season and we're trying to get new ones," forward Corey Brewer said.

Midnight Madness marked the official beginning of practice, but the Gators got a head start last month with 10 days of work before playing two exhibitions in Canada, part of an international tour that schools are allowed to schedule once every four years.

Coach Billy Donovan held a nearly two-hour practice before Midnight Madness, which included a highlight video of last season, the unveiling of a championship banner, a slam dunk contest and a scrimmage.

Not surprisingly, Joakim Noah was the center of attention. He was cheered every time he touched the ball and even won the 3-point shooting contest while teamed with guard Sha Brooks of the women's team.

The Gators also unveiled a new court, the same one on which they won it all in Indianapolis. Officials purchased the floor from the NCAA for $70,000.

LOUISVILLE: Freshman forward Derrick Caracter will sit out the first three games for taking money $2,146 in travel-related expenses from a family friend in 2005. Caracter repaid the loan.


The NCAA has officially begun an investigation into reported violations by former Oklahoma quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn that led to the players' dismissal from the team. It said it hopes to complete its work by Nov. 1. Coach Bob Stoops has said the players knowingly broke NCAA rules. The university has said the players "received extra compensation above that to which they were entitled related to their employment at a private business."

pittsburgh 52, UCF 7: LaRod Stephens-Howling ran for 135 yards and three TDs to help Pittsburgh (6-1) rout Central Florida (2-4). Four of UCF's six first-half possessions ended in turnovers.

Other sports

VOLLEYBALL: Florida State (13-4, 7-1 ACC) matched its win total from of last season, beating host Virginia Tech 3-1. ... Florida (15-2, 8-1 SEC) swept visiting Arkansas.

WOMEN'S SOCCER: Ameera Abdullah scored in overtime, giving Florida (9-4-2, 5-1-1) a 1-0 win over Mississippi in front of 1,907, a Gator record crowd. ... USF (6-7-1, 3-5 Big East) lost to Louisville 1-0 when a free kick in the final minute of the first overtime deflected off of a Bulls defender and into the net. ... Tampa (12-2, 5-1 Sunshine State Conference) lost to visiting Barry 1-0.

MEN'S SOCCER: Asmir Pervan scored in the 55th minute to give host Saint Leo (10-4-1, 4-1-1 SSC) a 1-0 win over visiting Eckerd (5-6-1, 2-4).