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Spurrier supports Gaffney

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000


GAINESVILLE -- Jabar Gaffney has caught more passes than any freshman receiver in Florida history, but not enough, apparently, to make people forget.

Gaffney continues to pay the price for a nearly year-old indiscretion, stealing jewelry and cash from the UF locker room in December while it was being used for the state high school championships.

The latest was a cheap shot.

Radio talk-show host David Lamm of WNZS in Jacksonville, Gaffney's hometown, recently said: "No. 10 is a thief who can play." Looking to boost ratings, the station used that line in an advertisement in the Florida Times-Union.

Gaffney, whose 37 catches are a UF freshman record, has not seen the ad.

"I don't pay any attention to that," he said.

Gaffney was kicked off the team because of the theft incident, which resulted in his pleading to petty theft. He had to beg coach Steve Spurrier to let him come back as a walk-on, no scholarship, and has worked diligently to rebuild his reputation.

"We all make mistakes in life," Spurrier said. "If a person gets drunk one time in his life is he considered a drunkard the rest of his life? If a person smokes pot one time in his life when he's 18, is he a pothead the rest of his life?

"Everyone who makes a mistake, hopefully, will have an opportunity to change and earn their reputation back. Jabar has certainly done extremely well and he did everything he needed to put himself in a position to be admitted back to the team."

Spurrier said Gaffney is first in line to receive a scholarship when one becomes available, perhaps as soon as January. But will he ever live down his mistake?

Spurrier believes he will.

"It takes time to earn back your reputation if you make a bad mistake in life," he said. "You've just got to give him time."

PARTY POOPERS?: The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party soon could be facing last call. The Florida-Georgia game has been played in neutral-site Jacksonville all but twice in the past 67 years, but could move to campus sites when the contract to play at Alltel Stadium expires after 2002.

Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley said he will seek the opinions of everyone involved, including season-ticket holders, lettermen, coach Jim Donnan and the players, before negotiations for a new contract begin. Right now, he said, opinions are split.

Overall, Georgia holds a 38-28-1 advantage over Florida in games played in Jacksonville, but the Gators have won seven of the past eight. Donnan cited his team's travel plans -- a bus ride to Atlanta, a flight to Jacksonville and another hour to the hotel -- as a disadvantage compared with the Gators' 90-minute ride.

PARALYMPICS: Senior Rob Evans won two gold medals this week at the Paralympics in Sydney, setting world records in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters. Evans ran the 1,500 in 3 minutes, 58.20 seconds and the 5,000 in 14:39.00.

Evans, whose right arm did not develop past the elbow, is a senior on the cross-country team. He gave up competing in two meets for UF, including the Southeastern Conference championship on Monday, to go to Sydney.

SOCCER: Sophomore keeper Jordan Kellgren was named SEC Player of the Week after the Gators posted back-to-back 6-0 wins against Alabama and Auburn. Kellgren leads the SEC with a 0.518 goals-against average against league opponents.

The Gators, ranked No. 17 by the National Soccer Coaches Association, clinched the SEC title with the victory against Auburn. Florida (12-6) closes out the regular season this weekend at No. 5 Clemson on Saturday and South Carolina on Sunday.

- Contact Gators beat writer Joanne Korth at (800) 333-7505, ext. 7306, or by e-mail at Korth@sptimes.com

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