Posted: 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
Gator Country's Franz Beard posts in a subscribers-only forum today that Florida's Casey Prather, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Damontre Harris are all facing three-game suspensions for violations of team rules.
Two sources have confirmed that three University of Florida basketball players will face 3-game suspensions for violations of team rules at the start of the 2013-14 season. Suspensions have been handed down for Casey Prather, Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith which means the Gators could be down to as few as seven scholarship players for games against North Florida, Wisconsin and Arkansas-Little Rock to start the season.
This is an iffy report on its face: It's from a forum, and paywalled, and uses two different phrases ("will face" and "have been handed down") to describe the reported suspensions, and though Beard has years on the Florida beat, he hasn't been one of the more active reporters.
But reached by reporters, a Florida spokesman gave what amounts to a "no comment":
Of course, announcing suspensions the day after academics prevented Chris Walker's enrollment for the fall semester would be an odd choice. It's more likely that Florida has a plan for announcing these suspensions, if Gator Country's report is accurate, down the road.
If this had no basis in fact, though, why not just dismiss it?
Three-game suspensions would be consistent with the 10 percent of a season a Florida student-athlete must miss for a second positive test for marijuana above the 15 nanogram/milliliter threshold. From Florida's 2012-13 Student Athlete Handbook, boldface ours:
PHASE II RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES (Second positive for Marijuana at the 15 ng/mL level or higher or synthetic marijuana at any level)
A. The student-athlete meets with the Substance Abuse Committee, and if the positive test is upheld, the student-athlete is to be suspended immediately from competition.
1. The length of the suspension is equal to 10% of the team’s season competition schedule where the student-athlete represents the University of Florida. The suspended events will be the next consecutive events in the schedule. Post-season events are also included in the suspension (e.g., SEC Championships, NCAA Championships, Bowl Games, and Post-Season Invitational events). Additional sanctions may be applied by the coach. These may include but are not limited to, not allowing a student-athlete to dress for a game, be in the team area, and/or attend a pregame meal.
That would also be consistent with the punishment served by Scottie Wilbekin last year. Wilbekin played in Florida's exhibition opener against Nebraska-Kearney before being held out of Florida's season opener against Georgetown on the U.S.S. Bataan and the Gators' first two complete games of 2012-13 against Alabama State and Wisconsin. Wilbekin was reinstated before Florida's fourth game, leading me to conclude that the suspension was not related to Florida's substance abuse policy.
In retrospect, I was pretty clearly just wrong about that, especially given Wilbekin's current indefinite suspension, which is reportedly a six-game suspension (Beard also reports today that Wilbekin faces a six-game suspension), and likely related to another failed drug test, given that a third failed test for marijuana costs a Florida student-athlete 20 percent of the team's competition schedule. (For what it's worth, Wilbekin tweeted "Made some much needed changes in my life in the last 2 months..." on Sunday — his first tweet since the first week of June.)
A three-game suspension wouldn't actually cover a full 10 percent of this season, as Florida plays 32 regular season games, including its exhibition opener against Florida Southern, but three games is close enough to 10 percent that it likely barely matters. If Prather, Finney-Smith, and Harris, all frontcourt players, play in the exhibition and then sit for three games, they will have served the same punishment as Wilbekin did last year.
But if these suspensions are accurate, Florida's going to be incredibly thin to begin November. Without those four players, Florida will have seven scholarship players available in its first three games, which include a road trip to play Wisconsin. If Rutgers transfer Eli Carter doesn't get an NCAA waiver allowing him to play for Florida in 2013-14, or still isn't at full strength after fracturing his fibula on a grotesque play in February, the Gators could be down to six scholarship players.
And if all of the above is true, and Will Yeguete and Patric Young, who both had offseason surgery, aren't 100 percent, there's a chance, though slight, that Florida may begin the 2013-14 basketball season with less than a full starting five of healthy, eligible players. (At least one of those players is Kasey Hill?) And even if Yeguete and Young are healthy, if Prather, Finney-Smith, and Harris are out, they're going to be Florida's only eligible players taller than 6'6". Wisconsin has seven.
If Florida basketball's going to have a fantastic start to the 2013-14 season, the Gators are likely going to need to get a lot more from fewer players than previously anticipated.