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Thursday, February 02, 2023
<p>UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan watches from outside the dugout during the Gators' 9-7 loss to Southern Miss. in game one of NCAA Super Regional play in McKethan stadium Saturday, June 6, 2009. O'Sullivan and the Gators were eliminated from the 2014 NCAA Tournament in the regional round on Saturday.</p>

UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan watches from outside the dugout during the Gators' 9-7 loss to Southern Miss. in game one of NCAA Super Regional play in McKethan stadium Saturday, June 6, 2009. O'Sullivan and the Gators were eliminated from the 2014 NCAA Tournament in the regional round on Saturday.

I thought this wasn’t the standard for Florida baseball.

After the Gators limped out of last year’s playoffs with nothing to show but a pair of losses, coach Kevin O’Sullivan assured Florida’s faithful that a 29-30 record and a NCAA Regional exit were not acceptable under his management.

“To be honest with you, this season is not the standard we want at Florida and there’s no rebuilding at Florida,” O’Sullivan said following UF’s 5-4 elimination loss to Valparaiso on June 1, 2013. “I keep hearing that all year long. We’ve got young players but it’s time to grow up. They are not freshmen anymore. The game comes down to pitching, defense and hitting.”

Well, the players on the squad matured enough this year to tease the Gator Nation with a possible national championship run. Florida’s 11-win improvement from last season’s team was the best turnaround the program has seen this century.

Under O’Sullivan, the Gators earned a Southeastern Conference title despite having the country’s toughest schedule. A 40-21 regular season gave Florida the second-overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and a chance to play the regional round in Gainesville as well.

So how does this season end after a short, two-game stint in the NCAA Regional just like it did in 2013? It just doesn’t add up.

O’Sullivan has shown he can lead UF to success within the SEC. During his seven years as Florida’s skipper, the Gators have finished at least third in the Eastern Division every year, first in the division four times and first in the league three times.

However, has he proved that he can be the man to bring Florida its first national championship in program history?

No, no he hasn’t. And O’Sullivan’s statements Saturday didn’t do anything to encourage me about the future of UF baseball.

“Obviously we did not play up to our capabilities the last two games,” O’Sullivan said Saturday. “There’s a lot to be proud of. I’m pleased to have had these guys as our team this year, they worked really hard. I don’t want these last two games to be a reflection of what they’ve accomplished this year.”

The problem is that every team and every coach is judged on what happens during the playoffs. One can’t ignore the failures of the postseason just because the regular season was surprisingly successful.

The 2007 New England Patriots aren’t remembered for winning their first 18 games. They are remembered for collapsing in the final one.

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The 2003 Chicago Cubs didn’t want their last few games to define their season either. But after my first-place Cubbies lost three straight games to the Florida Marlins to lose the NLCS, they deserved to be judged by their playoff exit.

And the same goes with the Gators. I know the regular season was unexpectedly pleasant, and I know how hard it is to capture a league title. But Florida’s standard should be national championships in every sport.

If I had been cheering on O’Sullivan and the Gators throughout the year, I don’t want to hear this from the coach:

“To be honest with you, I didn’t see it coming. I felt very good going into the weekend. It was a weird weekend all together.”

I would want to see answers. I would want to see a breakdown on how to avoid heartbreak in the future. I would want to see that this truly is not the standard of Florida baseball.

Throughout these past two years, I haven’t seen any answers coming from O’Sullivan. Jeremy Foley didn’t see answers from Pat McMahon and Andy Lopez, the Gators’ last two coaches, and neither lasted more than seven seasons.

What makes O’Sullivan so special?

Follow Jonathan Czupryn on Twitter @jczupryn

UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan watches from outside the dugout during the Gators' 9-7 loss to Southern Miss. in game one of NCAA Super Regional play in McKethan stadium Saturday, June 6, 2009. O'Sullivan and the Gators were eliminated from the 2014 NCAA Tournament in the regional round on Saturday.

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