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FSU has tough schedule to contend with in 2017 football season

If FSU is indeed going back to the college football playoffs this season, it will have to walk across broken glass to get there.

According to Bleacherreport.com, the Seminoles will play the fifth-toughest schedule in America in 2017, including an opening game against Alabama in Atlanta.

Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles also play Miami, at Clemson, Florida and Louisville (with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.) Even with 16 returning starters and quarterback Deondre Francois, that’s tough duty.

Florida isn’t far behind. The Gators play the 7th-hardest schedule, starting with a neutral site game against Michigan. They play Tennessee, LSU and Georgia.

According the report, Michigan will play the toughest schedule in America, followed by Alabama, Ohio State and Rutgers.

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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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House panel to discuss changing how nursing homes that accept Medicaid are paid

Nursing homes that accept Medicaid could see changes in how they are paid in the coming fiscal year, but exactly what those changes will look like remain to be seen.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to begin discussions about new payment plans Wednesday, when Agency for Health Care Administration officials give members a presentation detailing the Navigant recommendations for a new payment method.

The Navigant proposal would move the state away from its current cost-based model and into a prospective payment system. While some industry officials appear supportive of a move to a prospective payment system, there are varying degree of concern about whether the Navigant proposal is right for Florida.

“We think the Navigant proposal is a good starting point,” said Tom Parker, the director of reimbursement for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents 82 percent of the state’s nursing centers. “It gets us 90 percent of the way we’d like to see it.”

Parker said a prospective payment system is “good for the industry and good for the state” since facilities have a good understanding of what the rates will be year-over-year. Still, Parker said his organization has several changes it would like to see made before a plan is adopted.

One such change would be to tweak the “Fair Rental Value System” outlined in the Navigant proposal so that providers are incentivized to do renovations or make replacements. That could be done by bumping up the minimum square footage per bed used in the FRVS parameters to 350 square feet, up from the 100 square feet per bed current recommended in the report.

Parker also said the FHCA would like to see changes as it relates to the Quality Incentive Payment Program. According to a Dec. 29 report, Navigant came up with an incentive program after “significant discussion with the Agency and considerable stakeholder input.”

That incentive program, according to the Dec. 29 report, would calculate scores based on several process and outcome measure, and each facility would be able to receive a maximum of 40 points.

The Navigant proposal recommends awarding quality incentive payments to facilities “scoring above the 30th percentile in total quality points,” but Parker said FCHA would like to see that changed to the 20th percentile. That change, he said, would allow “as many providers as possible” to take part in the quality incentive payment plan.

While the Florida Health Care Association sees the Navigant plan as a good starting point, LeadingAge Florida would would like lawmakers to scrap the model and consider an alternative. The association represents a wide variety of communities serving the state’s seniors, including nursing homes and retirement communities.

According to prepared comments posted on ACHA’s website, LeadingAge officials on Dec. 8 said “despite improvements made in an effort to adequately recognize and reward high quality care care and redistribute available funds equitably, we are convinced that the basic structure of the proposed models is fatally flawed and stated objectives for the new payment plan … cannot be obtained without a complete model redesign.”

Among other things, LeadingAge asked that the Navigant proposal include Palm Beach County in the South Region. Under the Navigant proposal, the South region is defined as Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

In December, the organization also asked that the 30th percentile threshold “exclude points awarded for year-to-year improvements,” and asked that the American Health Care Association Quality Silver and Gold Awards be removed from the Quality Matrix.

Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, said in an interview last week, the Navigant proposal “shifts $109 million in Medicaid funding from the highest quality nursing homes to the lowest quality nursing homes.”

LeadingAge officials contend the shift in funding threatens the quality of care delivered by the state’s nursing home and would “devastate many of the state’s 5-star and Gold Seal providers.” According to the organization, 143 nursing homes with a 4- or 5-star rating would lose funding; while 86 facilities with a 1- or 2-star rating would gain funding.

“We don’t oppose a prospective payment plan,” said Bahmer. “We just oppose the model.”

LeadingAge is supportive of legislation by Sen. Aaron Bean. Filed last week, Bahmer said the proposal (SB 712) “creates a better way to pay for care without devastating the highest quality” facilities.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss the recommendations during its meeting at 1 p.m. in 404 House Office Building.

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Activists: Charities must move galas from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Since President Donald Trump opened the gold-infused ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago resort almost 12 years ago, it has been a popular rental for the American Red Cross, hospitals, medical researchers and other charities for fundraising galas where the wealthiest donors are wined and dined, often netting $1 million or more.

But Trump’s election puts charities in an awkward position over choosing the resort — recently dubbed the president’s Winter White House — for events they may have planned more than a year in advance.

With Trump placing a moratorium on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and his promises to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, activists are pressuring charities such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic to move or cancel their galas this month.

As the International Red Cross held a gala fundraiser Saturday at Mar-a-Lago, about three thousand demonstrators marched nearby to protest Trump’s now-blocked executive order temporarily limiting immigration. The event ended peacefully, and there were no arrests.

So far, no known Mar-a-Lago charity events have been moved or canceled.

More than 2,000 people, including faculty and students from Harvard Medical School, have signed an online petition demanding that Boston-based Dana-Farber move or cancel its Feb. 18 “Discovery Celebration,” featuring a performance by Grammy Award winner David Foster. The cheapest ticket is $1,250.

Petition organizer George Karandinos, a 30-year-old Harvard medical student from Houston, said he understands that canceling or moving the Dana-Farber event would be difficult, “but they can make a public moral stand that is in line with their stated values” of diversity and supporting scientific exchanges across borders. Plus, he said, a cancellation might attract additional donors.

A similar open letter, signed by more than 1,100 including doctors and medical students, demands that Cleveland Clinic move its Feb. 25 “Reflections of Versailles: A Night in the Hall of Mirrors” gala. Its cheapest ticket also is $1,250.

Both Dana-Farber and the Cleveland Clinic said they won’t move or cancel their events, but added that it doesn’t mean they support the president’s policies. Applications filed with the town of Palm Beach show Dana-Farber expects to raise $1.25 million after paying expenses of $250,000. The Red Cross says it will make $950,000 after spending $400,000. A portion of those expenses would go to Mar-a-Lago. The town did not immediately release Cleveland Clinic’s application.

Dana-Farber President Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher issued a statement saying she shares the protesters’ concerns about the immigration moratorium and what it will mean for doctors, scientists, students and patients from the affected countries, but that the protesters are unrealistic.

“The forthcoming fundraiser in Palm Beach is planned many months in advance, and raises critical funds to support this lifesaving work. Contracts have been signed, and a large number of people have committed to attend. Canceling the event outright would only deny much-needed resources for research and care,” she said.

The Cleveland Clinic issued a similar statement.

“The sole purpose of our event in Florida is to raise funds for important research to advance cardiovascular medicine that improves patient care,” spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said. “In no way is this connected to anything else but helping patients. The event has been held there for years, well before the election.”

Mar-a-Lago director Bernd Lembcke didn’t return a call seeking comment. The Trump Organization didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Photos of the ballroom complex, including the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom, show large open spaces lighted by chandeliers and surrounded by massive archways and columns. Bathroom fixtures are gold-plated. The walls, ceiling and columns have intricate decorations gilded with gold leaf. Many organizations have been using the venue for years to host their wealthiest donors.

Trump opened the 20,000 square-foot ballroom complex in late 2005 — the inaugural event was the reception for his wedding to Melania Trump. He told reporters the complex cost $35 million, but Palm Beach building records indicate the cost was lower, likely no more than $15 million.

Mary Simboski, who teaches in Boston University’s fundraising management program, said that while she could not speak to any specific event, major galas like the ones the Cleveland Clinic, Red Cross and Dana-Farber are throwing take a year to plan and are a major part of an organization’s fundraising operation.

Picking a site like Mar-a-Lago often comes down to location, size, cost and availability, she said, and has nothing to do with politics. Projecting that the groups could perhaps garner more financial support by canceling the event is wishful thinking, she said.

“Hope is not a strategy,” Simboski said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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The five recruits who could help the state’s three football powers

The freshman year is no longer for a football player to learn his way around campus.

There is no more time for growth, no more time for learning. There is no more apprenticeship.

These days, the best players play as freshmen, or redshirt freshman. They start as sophomores, and they star as juniors. These days, a player learns how to say hello.

Given that, who are each team’s five players most likely to make a first-year impression. According to 247sports.com, FSU finished sixth in recruiting, Florida 10th and Miami 13th.

FSU

1. Cam Akers, running back: Akers could conceivably step in for the departing Dalvin Cook. He was the nation’s No. 2 prospect. As a senior, Akers rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns. As a quarterback, he threw for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns. For his career, he had more than 13,000 yards and 149 touchdowns. Akers might be one of the backs by committee next year, but he should run to the head of the pack early.

2. Marvin Wilson, defensive tackle: Wilson was FSU’s final coup of the recruiting season. If you want to know how quickly a defensive tackle can help, just look at Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, who made an impact for the national champs right off of the bus. Wilson should do the same.

3. Joshua Kaindoh, defensive end: Is Kaindoh physically able to play with veteran linemen? We’ll see. Look for him to get into a rotation with Josh Sweat and Brian Burns. By the time he’s a senior, Kaindoh should be a force.

4. D.J. Matthews, wide receiver: Matthews could be taller, but he’s quick enough to see playing time in the team’s rotation already.

5. Stanford Samuels, cornerback: Some of the best quarterbacks in college football victimized the Noles last year. Samuels is expected to help stop that. His playing time will increase as the season goes along.

Florida

1. James Robinson, wide receiver: Robinson was a surprise signee with the Gators after being arrested for marijuana. Robinson, 6-4 and 205, represents a problem for smaller defensive backs. He missed two games but still caught 46 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.

2. Tedarrell Slaton, defensive tackle: Slaton was the Gators’ top ranked recruit. He should be able to get some playing time as a freshman.

3. Christopher Henderson, cornerback: With the Gators facing heavy losses in their secondary, Henderson could step in quickly.

4. Dequon Green, wide receiver: No matter who the quarterback turns out to be, he’ll need targets. Green averaged 19.6 yards per catch at Tampa Bay Tech.

5. Zach Carter, defensive end: Another product from Tampa, Carter could be a force off the edge early in his career.

Miami

1. N’Kosi Perry, quarterback: Quarterbacks usually wait a year, but Perry might be different. He’ll compete with Cade Wilson, but he’s a two-way player who could help. Coach Mark Richt hasn’t been shy about playing freshmen in the past.

2. Jeff Thomas, wide receiver: Thomas caught 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was elusive enough so the Hurricanes dipped into St. Louis to get him on board.

3. Navaughn Donaldson, offensive tackle: Not many offensive linemen are able to play as freshmen, but Donaldson might be different. He’s big, and he has good feet.

4. Mike Harley, wide receiver: With Thomas and Harley, the Hurricanes are adding to their speed and their depth. Harley was a star in nearby Fort Lauderdale.

5. De’Andre Wilder, linebacker: The Hurricanes featured young linebackers a year ago in their improved defense. Now, Wilder could work into the mix in a hurry.

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Florida State sign pair of running backs in recruiting class

With Dalvin Cook leaving Florida State early for the NFL draft, coach Jimbo Fisher signed two guys that could be his replacement.

Cam Akers and Khalan Laborn are both five-star recruits that both could see playing time next season.

Akers, an early enrollee, is regarded as the nation’s top running back prospect and Laborn is more of an all-purpose back. Fisher thinks there will be plenty of room for both.

“Backs realize that if there are different roles you can play two at a time,” Fisher said on Wednesday. “If you’re in a split-back formation, guys can split out and be receivers and catch bubble screens and routes downfield. All of those guys have those kind of qualities. We always had a large rotation of backs.”

Fisher also said the biggest thing that stands out from the 21 players he signed on Wednesday is that it might be one of his more athletic groups due to the size and speed.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Gators hope signee Jake Allen can join the quarterback scramble

Add another name to the quarterback derby of the University of Florida Gators.

The Gators landed Jake Allen, who will join Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask as coach Jim McElwain continues to search for just the right quarterback. Allen, of course, will be a year behind in the derby and might need time to adjust, but he has potential. He was the 23rd ranked pro-style quarterback.

Florida moved up to No. 18 in 247sports.com’s rankings.

The Gators boosted their class Thursday when Virginia defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe announced he was going to join Florida. He is the third defensive tackle to sign with Florida, joining juco transfer Javier Edwards out of Blinn (Texas) Community College and Kyree Campbell, another Virginia product from Woodbridge.

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FSU poised to add even more stars to impressive recruiting class

One day before national signing day, and the FSU Seminoles remain solidly in fifth place in the 247sports.com’s rankings.

The Seminoles have 21 recruits, with five slots left open. FSU is hoping to add another receiver, a defensive end, a defensive tackle, a linebacker and a safety. The Seminoles already have seven recruits enrolled, including much discussed running back Cam Akers.

In all, it looks like another solid class for coach Jimbo Fisher.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the Seminoles’ best chances are with five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and four-star linebacker Levi Jones.

Elsewhere in the state, 247sports.com doesn’t like USF’s recruiting at all. It has the school ranked No. 118. That means new coach Charlie Strong will have to finish, well, strong.

Other state schools include Miami (No. 16), Florida (21), UCF (66), FIU (79) and FAU (79).

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Another penalty in overtime dooms the Lightning in loss to Panthers

The hollow feeling was familiar. Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning had let an opportunity slip away.

Once again, the game went into overtime. Once again, Tyler Johnson – the hero of the upset of the Chicago Blackhawks – was called for a penalty. Once again, the opponent quickly scored to win a 2-1 game. It was, in other words, just like the team’s loss on Jan. 17 to Anaheim.

This time, the loss was to the Florida Panthers, who got a goal 1:49 into overtime from former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault for the win.

“Obviously, we’re extremely frustrated right now,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Let’s be honest, that was a long road trip. It was so long we sat through two presidents. But for us to point, we pointed in four of the six games, it’s just a little bit frustrating because you sit here and say, ‘It could have been an unreal trip, but it turns into a mediocre trip just because we got six points out of it.’

“Ultimately, we defended extremely well for most of the game. It’s tough when you’re only scoring one a game. Some of the Grade-A’s we have, we’re not finding a way to bury them. We’ve got to bear down and put these in the back of the net. When you get to overtime and take penalties, you’re pretty much almost giving the game away, and we’ve done that twice now and it’s hurt us.”

The Bolts gave up a shorthanded goal to Jussi Jokinen, another former member of the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov tied the game at one on a power play goal, his 19th goal of the year, but the Lightning couldn’t score again.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.

“I haven’t been in this spot before,” Cooper said, “but, ultimately, I’m sure every team that hasn’t made the playoffs at the end of the year looks back and says, ‘We left points here, we left points here, we left points here.’ That’s ultimately how it adds up. Now in saying that, we’ve played fairly well here. We’ve just got to find a way to push ourselves over and get the two points that we feel a lot of these games we’ve deserved. But there’s no moral victories here. We ended up losing. We can’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back and say ‘good effort.’ We need to find a way to win games. But going into the break, pick up three out of four points and hopefully a little bit of momentum for Boston in a few days.”

The Lightning is now 2-17-5 this year when scoring two goals or fewer.

The Bolts have the weekend off for the all-star game (except for Victor Hedman and Kucherov, who are playing) before returning to play Tuesday night against Boston.

Earlier Thursday, the Lightning traded Nikita Nesterov to Montreal for defenseman Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round draft pick.

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Both FSU, Florida football teams will be represented in Super Bowl

There will be at least a bit of the Sunshine State in the upcoming Super Bowl.

Former FSU running back Devonta Freeman, who had his second straight 1,000-yard season this year, will lead the Atlanta Falcons. Former FSU guard Tre’ Jackson is on the Patriots’ physically unable to perform list.

The Florida Gators have been represented in 15 straight Super Bowls, since the Tampa Bay Bucs won. This year, both Keanu Neal and Brian Poole play for the Atlanta Falcons.

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