By ROGER MILLS and ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000
WINTER HAVEN -- Florida coach Steve Spurrier said he wants to see better play at the quarterback position. And he seems ready to give everyone a shot.
Speaking at the annual sports writers' media day Sunday at Cypress Gardens, Spurrier said he would give incumbent Jesse Palmer every chance to keep his job, but also will look closely at freshmen Rex Grossman and Brock Berlin.
"Jesse will get the first opportunity to be our quarterback," Spurrier said. "Rex and Brock are the next two in line. We'll try to find out who the best player is at quarterback and try to go the distance. If they are all sort of in there together, we'll have to go with more than one."
Palmer, who split time with Doug Johnson last season, had an up-and-down season. He was 44-for-95 for 565 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
"Preseason practice will probably be a little more intense," Spurrier said. "We'll need to scrimmage against each other, put them out there and let them play. If Jesse is clearly our best quarterback, he'll have a chance to go the distance. We'll do the same with Rex and Brock."
WANNA PLAY?: Considering the two programs are about an hour's drive apart, why hasn't South Florida played Central Florida in football?
"I think that the interest is obviously already created," UCF coach Mike Kruczek said. "I would love to see the game."
Kruczek said UCF athletic director Steve Sloan has pursued a possible game with USF since the Bulls started playing three years ago.
Bulls coach Jim Leavitt said there should be a natural rivalry between the schools but added the Bulls have other priorities, namely getting settled in Conference USA.
"If the two of us play each other, it'll be a sellout probably because it's Orlando and Tampa," Leavitt said. "When the (Arena Football League) teams play each other, it's a sellout. But, we need to establish our conference opponents. We can still have UCF on the schedule and have a great game."
COLOR BARRIER: Going into this season, Bethune-Cookman has eight white players on the roster, four of them starters. Coach Alvin Wyatt said the numbers are large for a football team at a historically black school.
"There are a lot of white athletes on our team," Wyatt said. "I'm proud of that. They can get the job done for us for what we're doing. They are kids that FSU, UF and Miami looked over, and we were able to grab them. I just try to get the best people available. It does not matter to me whether you're white, black, blue, green, red or purple."
BITS AND PIECES: Jacksonville is joining the Pioneer League as part of the conference's new four-team South Division. Davidson, Austin Peay and Morehead State are the other three teams. ... Spurrier said he has indications former receiver John Capel, a Brooksville native who will represent the United States in the 200 meters sprint at the Olympics in Sydney, could return to the Gators next year. Spurrier said should Capel return, he likely would be moved to running back.
DIFFERENT ERA: Florida A&M coach Billy Joe is 54-20-0 heading into his seventh season with the Rattlers but admitted he'd have an even better record if he had the advantage legendary FAMU coach Jake Gaither had.
Gaither coached during segregation, when the state's black athletes couldn't go to Florida, Florida State or Miami.
"If you take all the great black athletes off of Miami, Florida and Florida State and put them on FAMU's campus, that's what you had back in the '40s, '50s and '60s," Joe said.
"When you look at Florida, Florida State and Miami, all three of them have all blacks starting on defense -- every last guy. That lets you know that if all those great ones were at FAMU ... "
Asked how many he would have if all those players were playing for him, Joe replied: "Oh, my. Not zero. A lot."