As expected, Florida announced Wednesday that spring practices would be closed to everyone, but, not as expected, the Gators' Pro Day (March 15) will be closed to the public and open to the media. (Ha! Take that suckers! I get to watch Will Hill run windsprints in person and you don't!)
I'd imagine you're far more bummed about not being able to see practices, given the massive changes in store for Florida this year and the lack of starpower among the NFL hopefuls, but the Pro Day thing caught me off guard. Lots of other schools keep them closed, and this is either Florida following suit or responding to a direct request from its players.
UF released two statements on the decisions today:
Head coach Will Muschamp on spring practices:
"With a new coaching staff here teaching our system, we feel like minimizing our distractions is important. We realize that there is high interest from the fans, and we are extremely appreciative of the support that The Gator Nation gives us. We hope they understand that this decision has been made in the interest of helping our program be successful on Saturdays this fall by allowing our team to learn and develop together in this type of environment. We also respect that the media have a job to do and understand that this creates a challenge for them, so we ask for their patience with us as we work through our first spring practice here at Florida.”
Spokesman Steve McClain on Pro Day:
"Pro Day is an extremely important day for the career hopes of these players, and they’ve spent an enormous amount of time and energy preparing for it. We feel that creating a more private environment and minimizing potential distractions will help give them the best chance to perform up to their potential. We also feel like it’s become more important than ever for us to monitor who is around our team and student-athletes, and taking this step provides us an even greater ability to manage that."
I think Muschamp's comments are pretty standard and very agreeable, and McClain's make sense as well. The most interesting part to me is the last sentence, which screams "WE'RE SHOOTING AGENTS ON SIGHT FROM NOW ON!"
Not much to say about all this. Pro Day isn't a big deal since this is the least-anticipated one in quite a while, and I'll have a lot more on spring practice early next week, when a press conference is scheduled with Muschamp and Charlie Weis in advance of the first workout on March 16. But the red flag, at least for me and other reporters, is that this could be the dawn of a new day as far as media access with the Gators. Weis has never been a fan of reporters, and Muschamp came up under Nick Saban, who's also closely guarded. I'll spare you the soapbox rant, but if the program does become less accesible to reporters, it affects fans too.
You all cool with practices and Pro Day being closed? It essentially means no one will know anything about the formation of a new offense and defense, but it should make life a bit easier for the players and coaches. And with Pro Day, I promise to recount all the drama from every last epic drill.