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Is the Hall of Fame overlooking former Buc Simeon Rice?

John Lynch, who has missed as a finalist for four straight seasons, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Ronde Barber, who becomes eligible this year, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Simeon Rice?

I’m not so sure.

Oh, Rice — the former Tampa Bay Buc who is currently banging his own drum for Hall entry, was a marvelous talent. He would turn the corner in a rush, and he would reach out with those incredibly long arms of his — I used to call him Inspector Gadget — and down would go another quarterback. At times, Rice could take over a football game, constantly embarrassing an offensive tackle, constantly harassing a quarterback. On those afternoons, Rice certainly looked like a Hall of Famer.

And, while he was in Tampa Bay Bay, Rice played the run better than most people suspect. That’s been a knock on him over the years, that he was a one-trick pony who didn’t care about the run, but it isn’t really accurate. Not while he was a member of the Bucs, anyway.

But the problem with Rice is that he worked so hard to give off the impression that he wasn’t working hard. Can you name another player who was sent home from the Pro Bowl? I can’t. And it can’t sit well when the voters gather, not when there are more deserving players on his own team.

Rice was also shipped home from San Francisco on a Bucs’ trip to the West Coast. I remember writing that day that Rice needed to be contrite, that he had let down his team and he needed to stand up and assure them that he cared as much about winning as any of them.

Instead, Rice came out with a huge smile, and he talked about how nice the flight was, and how comfy first class was, and how he had a men’s magazine just like the one he was flipping through at the moment. In other words, he wasn’t exactly repentant that he missed the game. He was Mr. Cool, and he let everyone know that.

For some reason, that’s a hard image to shake when you’re talking about the Hall of Fame.

Granted, Rice has some numbers. He had 122 sacks in his career with 28 forced fumbles. But his claim that he was the fastest to 100 sacks — he wasn’t; he was ninth — can’t help him when voters repeat his statistics. He’s 19th on the all-time sack list.

Rice was a very good football player, to be sure. He was a player that opponents had to game plan against.

Was he a Hall of Famer?

You decide.

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Tampa Bay Bucs increase ticket prices for the second straight season

The Tampa Bay Bucs played better football in 2016.

In 2017, fans will pay for it.

The Bucs have announced a rise in ticket prices for the second straight season, even though they again failed to make the playoffs. This year, the Bucs will play against New England and Atlanta at home, the two Super Bowl teams from a year ago. Carolina, who made it two years ago, will also come to town.

Other teams include New Orleans, the Giants, the Jets, the Lions and the Bears.  The Bucs have a strong nucleus with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans.

“Feeding off the tremendous energy and excitement of the recently completed 2016 season, we know that our fans are already looking forward to what should be one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory,” said Bucs’ COO Brian Ford. “The upcoming 2017 season marks only the second time in the past nine years that we have had to increase (ticket prices). Our focus is always on providing our fans with a world-class atmosphere when they visit Raymond James Stadium and we are proud that we have been able to continue enhancing the game day experience while still maintaining one of the most affordable ticket prices in the NFL.”

The Bucs say that two-thirds of their increased seats will bre five dollars or less a game. The Bucs are still expected to be among the lowest third of the league.

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Gators up to 13th, FSU down to 19th in AP Top 25 poll

Both Florida and Florida State remained in the top 20 in this week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll. But they are heading in opposite directions.

The Gators (22-5) won their seventh and eighth consecutive games during the week to climb into the 13th position in the poll. They were 15th a week ago. Both of Florida’s wins against Auburn and Mississippi State during the past week were on the road.

The Seminoles, on the other hand played only one game last week and that was a double-digit loss at Pittsburgh. Despite losing their last five road games by at least 10 points, FSU (21-6) managed to claim the 19th position in the poll. They were 17th a week ago.

Florida again demonstrated mental toughness over the past week. Auburn gave them a strong effort, but the Gators wound up scoring the most points ever in an SEC game, posting a 114-95 victory.

After senior center John Egbunu went down with a season-ending injury in the Auburn game, Florida was ripe for an upset on Saturday. They shot only 38 percent against Mississippi State, but the Gator defense rallied together to pull out a 57-52 win.

“We’ve been able to find different ways to win different games,” said Florida Coach Mike White. “It’s been different guys night in and night out and (Saturday) is just another example.”

While White is pushing buttons to compensate for the loss of Egbunu, FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton has a different problem. His team is healthy, but they fail to show up on the road. They have two road games remaining, including a rematch at No. 10 Duke on Feb. 28.

Gonzaga, Villanova and Kansas claimed the top three spots for another week. The ACC and Pac 12 showed their strength with each conference having three schools in the top 10.

Arizona, UCLA and Oregon claimed positions 4-6 while Louisville, North Carolina and Duke were ranked seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively.

Virginia and Notre Dame joined FSU to make it six ACC teams in the top 25. Kentucky and Florida were the only two SEC schools to be ranked.

 

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This time, Lightning rallies after blowing two-goal lead and wins in OT

Forget that the opponent was in last-place. Forget that the Tampa Bay Lightning blew a two-goal lead for the second straight night. Forget that it took until overtime to complete the task.

The Lightning won.

What else matters?

The Lightning, getting points in its sixth straight game, is starting to show signs of life in the Eastern Conference Wild-card race. Sunday night, Tampa Bay launched 40 shots at Colorado, and came away with a 3-2 overtime victory.

The winning goal was scored when Jonathan Drouin stole the puck, then scored with at 2:27 of the overtime period.

“That’s what he does,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “He’s a gifted, gifted player. You get him that close to the net with the puck and a little bit of time and space and he can do some magical things.”

For the second straight night, the Lightning seemed to be in good shape after Braydon Point and Vladislav Namestikov scored. But the Avs came back to force overtime when Matt Duchene scored the tying goal with 41.9 seconds to play on a shot that deflected off two players.

“Give Colorado credit for not quitting down 2-0 going into the third,” Cooper said, “but we needed to win one of those. Regardless of how this game’s going to turn out or how we’re going to get to 3-2, we needed it.”

The Lightning could have iced the game when Tyler Johnson scored in the third period, but the goal was disallowed. It spoiled a good night for the Triplets.

“Yeah, they were our best line tonight.” Cooper said. “They were a factor every time they hit the ice. Like I said, you feel for those guys. They get that one goal called back as well as they had played. There was a little contact. The ref saw it one way. We see it the other. That’s how it goes.”

Tampa Bay now returns home for four straight games, including Tuesday against Edmonton.

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Leonard Hamilton has some work to do to save FSU’s season

The Florida State men’s basketball team reached new heights in January. That is why February has brought about a long fall.

What happened on Saturday, an 80-66 embarrassment at Pittsburgh, demonstrates some of the reasons why a once highly promising season could continue to go further south. It involves the two most talented Seminoles, Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac.

It also, of course, involves Head Coach Leonard Hamilton.

Bacon, a sophomore, was held scoreless for the first time in his Florida State career. In the first half, he took the grand total of zero shots. That’s zero with a “z.”

For those who have seen the future NBA first-round pick, that does not happen. Bacon can get his shots almost at will. Pitt, who was 3-10 coming into Saturday’s game, is not to be confused with a defensive juggernaut.

No one questions the defense played by ACC foes like Virginia and North Carolina, but Bacon personally destroyed the Cavaliers on the road on New Year’s Day. He also led the team in scoring at North Carolina on January 14 in a 96-83 loss.

Bacon got a bit more aggressive after intermission, getting off four misfires in the early part of the second half. After his turnover led to a transition three-pointer, Hamilton took a timeout with 16:24 remaining.

Bacon got off another futile three-pointer less than two minutes later, after which he was removed by Hamilton. Bacon remained on the bench for the remainder of the game.

Is there a problem with this team’s go-to guy?

“Every one of our guys will go through one of those nights when they don’t play particularly well,” said Hamilton. “This just happened to be his night.”

He’s the coach, but those watching the game did not see the Dwayne Bacon that we are used to seeing. Did I mention Pitt was 3-10 coming into the game?

Later in the second half, Xavier Rathan-Mayes could be seen in a “conversation” with the freshman Isaac during a timeout. Isaac’s reaction showed he had little interest in what the more experienced XRM had to say.

These are unmistakable signs that Hamilton needs to perform some basketball triage quickly. Comments coming via Twitter world talk about the Seminoles having lots of talent and zero heart.

While those are understandable, it is wise to remember we are dealing with teenagers. In basketball and life itself, “heart” is developed through experience.

This is where Hamilton can help them get through an important learning curve. Perhaps he was doing just that by sitting Bacon on the bench for most of the second half.

To be sure, the entire team is not handling adversity very well. To be kind, over the past few weeks they are simply not showing up for road games. To be fair, their opponents are playing their guts out against them.

As the double-digit defeats away from Tallahassee continue to mount (now at five in a row), Hamilton needs to step up himself. He needs to be the guy that youngsters like Bacon and Isaac will fondly remember once they are playing in the NBA.

Hopefully they will recall him as being a significant influence in building their character. Tough love builds mental toughness.

FSU (21-6) does not have long to regroup from Saturday’s fiasco. Boston College comes to the Tucker Center on Monday, before FSU hits the road again next weekend.

This team’s earlier 12-game winning streak seems so long ago.

 

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Tampa Bay Lightning blows two leads in falling to Stars in overtime

The Tampa Bay Lighting came back from a five-day break Saturday night, but failed to get off to the re-start it wanted.

The Lightning let two leads slip away, and it turned into a 4-3 overtime win for the Dallas Stars Saturday night. Tampa Bay had leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the game but couldn’t hold off the Stars, especially Antone Roussel, a grinder who had his first career hat trick.

Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman had two goals and an assist in the loss.

The Bolts took a 2-0 lead, but still struggled in the opening period, which ended 2-2 after Roussel’s first two goals.

“I’m going to sit here and not dwell on whether we should have won that game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I think if people were watching the game, they know what happened. We’ve pointed in five straight. At some point here, we’ve got to start being two instead of just one, but I can’t sit here and say the guys didn’t leave it all out there. You look at all these teams that are coming out of the break and not winning, and I thought we gave ourselves every chance to win the game. And, unfortunately, we didn’t.”

The Lightning played better in the last two periods and ended up outshooting the Stars 37-28. They had four shots in overtime, including one by Alex Killorn which was stopped on a nice save by Kari Lehtonen. Jamie Benn, with 1:13 left to play in the extra period, scored the goal.

“We had our chances,” Cooper said. “And we couldn’t put it behind their guy. When they got their chances, they scored. That’s how it went.”

“The first period, I think the game was a little bit fast, and, ultimately when you take five days off — and I’m sure it’s the same for all the teams — the other team’s buzzing around, they’re in game mode, and we were probably a little bit in vacation mode. But give them a lot of credit, second, third period, we had 30 shots from the second period on. You get the lead, you’ve got to hold onto it and, unfortunately, a pretty tough turnover there. It’s a game of inches, we couldn’t get it out and they end up capitalizing. In the end, we just did everything we could in overtime, and they got the one chance. It’s obviously got to be on one of the best players in the league’s stick, and he knows what to do with it and he scores. But, you know what, can’t go back now, just got to look ahead. Now it’s Colorado, and that’s where our focus is.”

 

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Rowdies fall 1-0 on Union’s late goal in exhibition opener

The Tampa Bay Rowdies started play in their Suncoast Invitational – part of their preseason – in good fashion Saturday night.

The Rowdies lost, 1-0, to the Philadelphia Union of the MLS. The Union scored its only goal after coach Stuart Campbell pulled many of his starters, leaving the team exposed for a breakaway goal by Derrick Jones in the 73rd minute.

Tampa Bay came within inches of tying the score in the 90th minute when Alex Morrell got a shot on goal, but keeper Andre Blake saved the shot just before time ran out.

“We played very well,” Campbell said. “After the first half, I was pretty happy. I thought it was a pretty even game. It’s a great testament to our players playing against an MLS team. The second half was pretty even as well, until that crazy goal.”

The Rowdies are in their first season of USL play, but in the Suncoast Invitational, the competition is against teams from the MLS, a league the Rowdies intend to join.

The Union starts its season in two weeks, so it is ahead of the Rowdies. But Campbell saw promise in the defeat.

“I liked quite a lot,” Campbell said. “It was our first game against a team that’s a couple of weeks ahead of us. I think they’ve played a couple of games already. I thought the more games we get, the more they’ll improve. We’ll develop relationships. We’ll be a threat going forward. With the speed we have out wide, it’s going to cause problems.

“I’d be more happy if we got the result, which we should have done.”

The Rowdies pulled Joe Cole at the 57-minute mark and pulled five other players in the 63rd. That led to a breakaway by Jones, who beat goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Tampa Bay plays another game in the Suncoast Invitational when it faces Montreal Saturday night.

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FSU’s Mike Martin seeking wins record and elusive baseball title

The numbers have a way of running together for Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin — at least when it comes to counting victories.

Martin is two wins shy of becoming the second coach in NCAA baseball history to reach 1,900. He could get the milestone this weekend during the Seminoles’ three-game series against VCU.

“The numbers now in my career I can honestly say are just that,” he said. “Right now, I am focused on this team and our goal, and that is to get to Omaha.”

And winning. Getting to Omaha, Nebraska, hasn’t been the issue, but Martin is in his 38th season and the Seminoles are still chasing their first College World Series championship.

Martin’s teams have been to the CWS 15 times, but have only reached the finals twice (1986 and ’99). Their last appearance was in 2012, which is only the third time in Martin’s tenure the Seminoles have had a CWS drought of four or more seasons.

“I would never minimize winning a national championship because it would mean Florida State is at the top when it is all said and done,” said Martin, who turned 73 last Sunday. “If we never win a national championship, I want to be able to look at myself in retirement and say it wasn’t for lack of effort or preparation, it was just baseball.”

Martin’s program, which has an impressive .738 winning percentage, has been among the most consistent. They have won 40 or more games each year and have not missed the NCAA Tournament.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, one of 49 players coached by Martin to reach the major leagues, said the biggest thing he learned from Martin was attention to detail.

“Once you got it right, you do it again, do it 10 more times. He was very driven to get us to play very clean, fundamentally sound baseball,” Cash said.

Many believe this is one of Martin’s best teams. The Seminoles are ranked in the top five of most major polls and Baseball America has them second. They were also the preseason pick to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Martin also continues to be someone that young coaches look up to. Clemson’s Monte Lee said Martin’s ability to develop players at the collegiate level is unmatched.

“Not only has he been able to recruit, but you know that if you go there, you are going to be a better player,” said Lee, who turned 40 on Feb. 9. “They may not always have the most talented teams, but they always overachieve. When they have talent, and they certainly do this year, it is scary to see what they can do.”

Scott Stricklin hopes to have Martin’s longevity. He took over Kent State’s program in 2005 when he was 32 before being hired by Georgia. Now in his fourth season with the Bulldogs, Stricklin knows longevity is more difficult.

“It is going to be tough to be a 30-year guy, especially in a Power Five conference, because of the grind and pressure,” Stricklin said. “Every game for most schools is televised, and recruiting never stops.”

Martin, whose contract runs through next season, might not be eyeing 1,900 but knows he needs 78 wins to become the winningest coach. Augie Garrido pushed the all-time mark to 1,975 before he stepped down at Texas last year.

“I may not be focused on 1,900 wins but for me to say I don’t care about the record I would be lying. That’s a different story,” he said.

Martin said he will discuss his future with athletic director Stan Wilcox next year. Martin has said he has no aspirations of managing his grandson in college. Tyler Martin, who is the son of FSU assistant Mike Martin Jr., is a freshman in high school.

Martin’s future has become a topic of discussion as other long-tenured coaches are retiring.

Mark Marquess, who is second in active wins with 1,585, is in his 41st and final season at Stanford. Jim Morris, a former Martin assistant, is third at 1,535 and has told Miami he is stepping down at the end of next season, which will be 37 years with the Hurricanes and Georgia Tech.

Morris, who took over Georgia Tech in 1992 when he was 32, believes it is unlikely anyone other than Martin will come close to 2,000 wins again.

“If Mike gets the record, it might never be broken,” he said. “It is harder to get hired at a young age to lead programs. It takes longer to work your way up.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Rowdies compete against MLS teams in Suncoast Invitational

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, hungry to join Major League Soccer, will get a test run over the next few days.

Today, the Rowdies start their play in the Suncoast Invitational, which features six MLS teams. The Rowdies will compete with the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union, D.C. United and Chicago Fire. Four of the five MLS clubs participating in the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational reached the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs including the Eastern Conference champions, Toronto FC, and runners-up, the Montreal Impact.

The Rowdies play against the Philadelphia Union Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The following Saturday, the Rowdies play against Montreal.

The Rowdies currently have 17 players under contract, plus several more on a tryout basis. Those players include Georgi HristovJoe Cole and Matt Pickens.

 

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Former Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis charged with assault

Former Tampa Bay Bucs’ cornerback Darrelle Revis is in trouble, and this time, it isn’t because of a blown coverage.

Revis has been charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor following a scuffle that left two men unconscious in the street.

Revis’ attorney, Blaine Jones, told ESPN that he was trying to get Revis to surrender to police. Jones said Revis was attacked by at least five men and “feared for his safety.”

Revis is a former Tampa Bay cornerback who now plays for the New York Jets. In his career, Revis has been so good in coverage that his area of the field was referred to as “Revis Island.” Last year, however, Revis showed wear and was beaten badly much of the season.

Two men told police they were punched by Revis after a verbal confrontation. Evidently, the men – ages 22 and 23 – had begun following Revis and video-taping him on a cell phone. Revis supposedly threw the phone into the street and punched the men, knocking them out for 10 minutes.

One of the men suffered a fracture of the orbital bone.

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