NCAA Men’s Champs — Florida Defies All Predictions

The Florida team chomp photo has become a familiar sight. Mike Holloway’s Gators have now won 3 NCAAs in a row and 5 since 2016. (MIKE SCOTT)

EUGENE, OREGON, June 05-07 — Underestimate coach Mike Holloway’s Gators at your own peril. That’s the lesson many of the pundits learned after “Papa Mouse” guided the University of Florida to its third-straight NCAA title, something that no other school has done in the last 13 years.

A month before the great battle near the banks of the Willamette, the Gators dropped out of the No. 1 position in the USTFCCCA Ratings, and held only the third spot on the eve of the championships.

And yeah, we got it wrong too. The numbers on our formchart, once everything was computed, spit out a forecast that the Gators would end up in 7th. What on earth happened out there? Of course, the usual. A lot can go wrong in a championship meet, and one team’s misfortune can be another team’s windfall.

Even so, a team has to be ideally positioned to take advantage of that windfall and has to believe that they can win.Therein lies the genius of Holloway.

He said in the pre-meet press conference, “It’s not like a football or basketball game where you can change the course of the game by making some kind of change. I think the biggest thing is if you come in here and do what you’ve been doing all year, you’ll be fine. It’s the people that come in here and change things, people come in here and try to be something, they’re going to get themselves in trouble.”

Day 1 brought Florida some disappointment, as 1500 runner Parvej Khan did not advance. On Day 2, Kai Chang got things rolling in the right direction with a better-than-expected 5th in the discus. A 4th in the 4×1 helped. Then Sean Dixon-Bodie got just 1 point in the triple jump.

The big shift in Gator fortunes started when a predicted zero in the 400 turned into 8 points, with JeVaughn Powell 3rd and Reheem Hayles 7th. Then Robert Gregory turned 0 into 8 in the 200 with his runner-up finish. That put the Gators into 2nd, 5 points away from Auburn, before the 4 x 400. Suddenly, the Gators were the team to beat.

Said Holloway, “Every time something went wrong, somebody stepped up and got it done. Very proud of everybody who put the uniform on today.

“I’m going to call this one a measure of our ability to overcome adversity. We start off with 39.40 in the 4 x 100, then we get to 38.34. JeVaughn Powell has been a little nicked up this year and he gets it together. Robert Gregory has a pretty serious tendon thing behind his knee and he’s just starting to get back in form. For him to go out and finish 2nd in the country was big.”

This marks the seventh men’s title in Holloway’s 22-year career in Gainesville. He recently said on a podcast, “Sometimes I question my own sanity… There’s something though that for me at least is not just inspirational but energizing about being around that group. It’s what I do. It’s what drives me. I love watching young people figure things out.”

Still wet from the celebratory dousing, he noted, “We built this program with a lot of pride and a lot of passion. When we talk about a standard that we fight to, that’s what you saw today.”

Teamwork. Make that capital-T TEAM. Florida won the trophy with no event wins. The Gators’ 41-point total is the lowest ever to put a team on top in the current format — 21 events, 8-place scoring. The lowest-scoring winner previously was LSU with 44 in ’90. The 1-point margin over Auburn is the closest since Florida and Texas A&M tied for the title in ’13.

That’s no diss on this win. Quite the contrary. Just look at the quality of performance across the board at this NCAA Champs. A game of inches, and Holloway’s Gators played it best.


1. Florida 41;

2. Auburn 40;

3. USC 33;

4. Alabama 32;

5. Texas A&M 31;

6. Houston 30½;

7. Arkansas 30;

8. Virginia 26;

9. Georgia 25;

10. tie, Kansas & Miami 22;

12. Texas 20; 13. tie, Nebraska & Texas Tech 19; 15. Washington 18.2; 16. tie, LSU & Harvard 17; 18. Iowa State 16; 19. Florida State 15; 20. tie, Kentucky, Mississippi & Wisconsin 14; 23. tie, New Mexico & Northern Arizona 13; 25. Cal 12½; 26. South Florida 12; 27. tie, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Oregon & Baylor 11;

31. South Alabama 10.2; 32. tie, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Penn State, Fairleigh Dickinson & Georgetown 10; 37. tie, Minnesota, Tennessee & Clemson 9; 40. tie, South Carolina & BYU 7; 42. tie, Stanford, Arizona State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff & Illinois 6; 46. Duke 5½; 47. Virginia Tech 5.2; 48. tie, Missouri, San José State, Eastern Kentucky & Grand Canyon 5;

52. tie, Notre Dame, UT-Arlington, Villanova & Iona 4; 56. tie, Louisville, Portland, Purdue, Cal State Northridge & Howard 3; 61. Penn 2½; 62. tie, Northern Colorado, Washington State, Alabama State & Iowa 2; 66. tie, Northeastern, Northwestern Louisiana, Southeast Missouri, Wichita State & Butler 1; 71. South Dakota 0.4.