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New All-Star game invites lots of Canes -- to be coached by Howard Schnellenberger. Other team gets Bobby Bowden.

There's a new All-Star football game in South Florida for college seniors and those expected to enter the upcoming NFL Draft, and so far, three Hurricanes and one former Hurricane have accepted invitations.
The Battle of Florida all-star collegiate football game will be played at 8 p.m. on Jan. 21 at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton. And though the game was announced in September, many people still don't know about it. Nor do many know that retiring FAU coach (and beloved former UM coach) Howard Schnellenberger will coach the South team, while retired FSU coach Bobby Bowden will coach the North team.
Players must have been either born, played high school football or college football in the state of Florida. The game will be televised nationally by Fox College Sports.
UM offensive lineman Joel Figueroa, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, tight end Chase Ford and former Hurricanes receiver Aldarius Johnson will compete in the game for Schnellenberger's South team.
The other senior Canes who were invited and haven't yet responded: receiver Travis Benjamin, quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence, defensive end Andrew Smith, guard Harland Gunn, center Tyler Horn, defensive back JoJo Nicolas and cornerback Mike Williams.
I had a chance to chat with The Battle of Florida personnel director Jaden McNeely, who believes his game has a chance to thrive right alongside of the other long-time collegiate all-star games -- the Senior Bowl (Jan. 28) and the East-West Shrine Game (also on Jan. 21).
"We don't see ourselves as a competition to the other games,'' McNeely said. "We did this game because we felt like Florida was being underserved. When you look at it, between the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game, you might end up with 12 to 15 players from the state of Florida in both of those games combined. They’re recruiting the entire nation so they have to have a balance. They typically go after the top guys in every state. Some come, some don't.
"We truly believe there are 100 NFL prospects in the state of Florida. Our approach is, why not take guys who would normally fall in between the cracks and let them play in front of NFL scouts and give them a chance? A lot of these guys don’t have the opportunity once their season is over. Maybe they had an injury or had a bad season, so they lost their opportunity to be seen."
Senior Bowl spokesman Kevin McDermond told me today that their invitations are in the middle of being sent out -- some already have gone out and many more will be sent in the next couple weeks. McDermond said the Senior Bowl has "not invited the Miami guys yet, but I anticipate we certainly will.''
The Senior Bowl is shown on the NFL Network and is played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
The East-West Shrine Tame also is televised on the NFL Network and will be played for the first time at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
East-West Shrine Game executive director Harold Richardson told me today that the game sends out 65 invitations "to those everybody on the planet knows you'd invite -- the rest go out on a personal basis. We sent out that first batch about two weeks ago, and you really don’t count on getting a great response because guys who still have a bowl game, sometimes their coaches don’t even give them the invitation until after the season is over.''
Richardson does not publicize the invitation list. He said he'll distribute the acceptance list in early January. He said Miami players will be among those invited.
For fans interested in going to the newest game, go to www.TheBattleOfFlorida.com for ticket and other information.
ADDENDUM ON SATURDAY: I know about a couple other guys who go to school in South Florida and are in this game. FAU's Alfred Morris, who went to Pensacola Pine Forest High, wants to play on the North team with guys he knows from high school. FIU quarterback Wesley Carroll has committed to play for the South team. T.Y. Hilton of FIU was invited to play, but I was told by local organizer he got a Senior Bowl invitation and not sure where he's playing.

Here are a few other guys playing in The Battle of Florida: Appalachian State running back Travaris Cadet (who played at Miami Central) and Appalachian State cornerback (he was a quarterback before he switched) DeAndre Presley.
Also playing is Quenton Washington, a corner for USF who went to North Fort Myers High and Louisville wide receiver Josh Bellamy from St. Petersburg.

They did not have the complete list to give me. Hope this helps. And yes, in some cases, the organizer said if a player went to high school in one part of the state but plays ball in the other part, that player can choose his team.

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The NCAA announced that former UM basketball player Will Allen -- known as Willie when he played for the Hurricanes -- "will be honored with the NCAA's Theodore Roosevelt Award, the [NCAA's] highest honor, at the 2012 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis."
Allen already earned a $500,000 genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and was named last year by TIME magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people in the category designated for heroes.
Named after President Teddy Roosevelt, who was instrumental in the formation of the NCAA in 1906, the award is given annually to a person "for whom competitive athletics in college and attention to physical well-being thereafter have been important factors in a distinguished career of national significance and achievement.''
Allen, a 6-7 former center who could leap 44 inches high in his prime and trails only Rick Barry in UM history with 916 career rebounds, played hoops for UM from 1967 to 1971. He is the cofounder and director of Growing Power. The nonprofit organization is an integrated food system that grows, cultivates and delivers fresh fruit and vegetables year-round from 11 small, inner-city farms in Milwaukee, Chicago and Madison, Wis., and feeds about 10,000 underprivileged people annually.
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Kudos to UM for being one of 17 institutions recognized for "an outstanding NCAA Graduation Success Rate of over 90 percent for their football student-athletes in the latest six-year window,'' as announced by the American Football Coaches Association.
Here are the other 16 institutions: Air Force, Army, Boise State, Boston College, Central Florida, Duke, Florida, Iowa, Miami (Ohio), Navy, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rice, Stanford.
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

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