Charlie McCarthy FOX Sports Florida The Miami Heat repeated as NBA champions in 2013, but it wasn't easy. Miami coasted to a 66-16 regular-season record to earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, something that proved pivotal. After defeating Milwaukee (4-0) and Derrick Rose-less Chicago (4-1) in the playoffs' first two rounds, the Heat were pushed to seven-games by both Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals and by San Antonio in the NBA Finals. The Heat appeared destined to fall short of their goal to win a second straight title in Game 6 against the Spurs. Miami trailed by 10 points entering the fourth quarter and officials at AmericanAirlines Arena were preparing for a championship celebration with San Antonio ahead by five and 28 seconds left in regulation. But LeBron James scored 18 of his 32 points in the fourth, and Ray Allen's corner 3-pointer tied the score with five seconds remaining in regulation. Miami proceeded to win that game in overtime and a competitive Game 7 to set up a three-peat try in 2013-14. Miami's Big Three again led the way, and James again led the Big Three. LeBron averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists en route to winning a second consecutive (and fourth overall) league Most Valuable Player Award. He also was named NBA Finals MVP for the second consecutive year.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Heat roll off 27 straight wins
Charlie McCarthy FOX Sports Florida The Miami Heat were in Toronto on Super Bowl Sunday, when they defeated the Raptors before heading to a local sports bar to watch the big game. To this day, that postgame excursion is credited with helping to build the team's camaraderie. And that Feb. 3 victory began what became the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. Miami won 27 games in a row, second only to the 33 consecutive victories by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Although they won by an average of 11.9 points during the streak, the Heat escaped and rallied various times. There was a 97-96 victory -- the only 1-point decision during the streak -- against Orlando on March 6. LeBron James drove the lane to score the game-winning basket with four seconds left for Miami's 16th straight triumph. On March 18, the Heat rallied from a 17-point deficit at Boston to defeat the Celtics 105-103. The win clinched the Southeast Division for a third straight year and extended Miami's winning streak to 23 games, the second longest in league history. Two nights later in Cleveland, the Heat overcame a 27-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Cavs 98-95. The winning streak ended with a 101-97 loss at Chicago on March 27.
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Jose Fernandez's marvelous season
Christina De Nicola FOX Sports Florida Jose Fernandez had already been given his Double-A Jacksonville rooming assignment when his coach called him into his office to deliver the news. Fernandez, a first-round pick in 2011, was headed to the big leagues with right-handers Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi on the disabled list leading up to Opening Day. The 21-year-old, who had never pitched above A ball, would turn in one of the best single-season pitching performances in franchise and baseball history, earning National League Rookie of the Year honors along the way. He was also a finalist for the Cy Young. In 28 starts, Fernandez finished 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA (second-lowest in the majors). His team went 18-10 in his outings during a 62-100 season. Fernandez bested all NL rookies in ERA, strikeouts (187), batting average against (.182) and WHIP (0.98). After the All-Star game, which he attended as the lone Miami representative, Fernandez went 7-1 with a 1.32 ERA, solidifying his mark as the rotation's ace. He posted a 9-0 record and 1.19 ERA at Marlins Park, tops in franchise history. Miami placed an innings limit on Fernandez before the season. During his last outing on Sept. 11 against the Braves, he tossed seven one-run innings and hit a home run in his final at-bat.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Dunk City invades the Big Dance
Andrew Astleford FOX Sports Florida The 2013 NCAA tournament was the time "Dunk City" entered America's sports lexicon. A loose, likable, high-flying bunch from Florida Gulf Coast, an Atlantic Sun Conference program based in Ft. Myers, Fla., transformed into the story of March Madness by becoming the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. Coach Andy Enfield's team, by topping Georgetown and San Diego State, made history with their made-for-TV style that captured viewers' attention and placed the southwest Florida campus in the nation's conscience. There's something about Cinderella that makes March magical. FGCU became the month's feel-good story by showing this run was no fluke. Guards Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson combined for 47 points in the victory over the Hoyas, and the pair combined for 40 in the victory over the Aztecs. The Eagles lost to Florida in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium. But Enfield, with his supermodel wife Amanda parlayed the attention into a $1.5 million-a-year move to USC. After all the change, after all the heightened profiles, that March will be remembered for FGCU soaring onto the national scene, making no apologies and showing the country it can play. Truly, this month was a time when anything seemed possible. The Eagles showed it's fine for underdogs to believe.
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Jameis Winston and the Seminoles
Bob Ferrante FOX Sports Florida Going into the 2013 season, there were plenty of questions about Florida State. The Seminoles would feature seven new starters on defense, six first-year assistant coaches and a new quarterback would be taking over. But Jimbo Fisher made the right decisions, hiring defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (a two-time national champion as an assistant at Alabama) and surrounding him with experienced assistants. He also chose freshman Jameis Winston as his starting QB. Winston delivered with a 356 yards, four touchdown passes and a touchdown run in his debut at Pittsburgh on Labor Day. It was the first of a season filled with Heisman-worthy performances, which included shaking off would-be sackers, a Hail Mary at Boston College and a 444-yard effort at Clemson. Winston was also linked to a sexual assault investigation in mid-November. After a three-week investigation by the State Attorney's Office into a police report from December 2012, Winston was cleared and no arrest or charge was made. Winston set an FSU and ACC record with 38 touchdown passes and the No. 1 Seminoles scored 37 or more points in every game. On Dec. 14, Winston won the Heisman Trophy by one of the widest margins in the award's history. The Seminoles went unbeaten for the first time since 1999 (the last time Florida State won a national title). They'll face No. 2 Auburn on JHan. 6 for the national championship in Pasadena, Calif.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsAdam Hunger
Dolphins face controversy
Charlie McCarthy FOX Sports Florida In one of the most unusual, controversial stories to affect any sports team, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin accused teammate and fellow lineman Richie Incognito of bullying. Martin left the team on Oct. 30 after a dining hall incident in which other players got up from a table when Martin arrived. What seemed like a relatively harmless prank set off a national story. The Dolphins suspended Incognito on Nov. 4. The NFL designated an independent investigator to look into the situation. Martin and Incognito, by all accounts, were friends. Race became an issue after Incognito texts and voicemails became public, yet most Dolphins players supported the guard as a great teammate. Martin was placed on Miami's non-football illness list and very possibly has played his last game for the Dolphins. Incognito, set to become a free agent after the season, spent the rest of the season serving a team suspension.
NASCAR history made at Daytona, Homestead
Brian De Los Santos FOX Sports Florida It was a year of history at Florida's two NASCAR tracks. In February, Danica Patrick became the first woman to win the pole for a NASCAR Cup race. The best previous starting position in a NASCAR Cup race by a woman was ninth by Janet Guthrie, who did it twice in 1977. Guthrie also held the best starting position by a woman in the 500, 18th. Patrick's history-making Daytona 500 didn't end with the pole. She became the first woman to lead a green-flag lap in the 500 (she led a total of five laps) and the first woman to finish in the top 10 at Daytona (she finished eighth). Jimmie Johnson earned the victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 to claim the Harley J. Earl Trophy for the second time in his career, but another trophy would await him at Homestead in November. Finishing ninth at Homestead, Johnson clinched the Sprint Cup championship for the sixth time, one away from the record held by NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Johnson is one of only four drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Cup championship in the same season. He's actually now done it twice, accomplishing the feat in 2006 as well.
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Hurricanes have best basketball season ever
Christina De Nicola FOX Sports Florida When the University of Miami joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, the expectation was the Hurricanes would compete for the football title every season. Though the championship game continues to be elusive on the gridiron, the men's basketball team put together its best season in school history. Miami won both the ACC regular-season and tournament hardware and reached the Sweet 16 for the second time with a record 29 wins. Miami became the first school outside of the state of North Carolina to win both the ACC regular season and tournament championships in the same season. The Hurricanes took down powerhouses North Carolina and Duke by more than 25 points, becoming the first team to do so since the start of ACC play in 1953. They beat three teams in the top 20 for the first time since 1999-00. Miami cruised during a 14-game win streak, racing to a 13-0 start in conference play after managing no more than nine league victories in a season. It would climb as high as No. 2, and earned a second seed in the NCAA Tournament. In the process, sophomore point guard Shane Larkin and Jim Larrañaga earned ACC Player and Coach of the Year honors, respectively. Larkin was selected 18th overall in the NBA Draft.
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY SportsJim Cowsert
Gators have first losing season since 1979
Ken Hornack FOX Sports Florida When Florida got off to a 4-1 start, there was no reason to think the Gators wouldn't eventually be headed back to a bowl of some sort. A 21-16 loss at Miami exposed some weaknesses on offense, but that was followed by three consecutive victories that suggested things were right again in Gainesville. And then the bottom fell out. By the time they were trounced 37-7 at home by Florida State, the Gators had gone from a team that began the year playing in the Sugar Bowl to one that plummeted to depths which hadn't been reached since 1979. Not since Charley Pell's first year as coach after leaving Clemson had Florida finished a season below .500. It ended a streak of 22 consecutive bowl appearances. For the first time since 1945, the Gators were beaten at home by perennial Southeastern Conference patsy Vanderbilt. If that wasn't humiliating enough, they suffered a 26-20 defeat two weeks later to Georgia Southern, an FCS school. When the season came to a merciful conclusion, it took less than 24 hours for offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis to lose their jobs. In the three weeks that followed, seven players from that offense have announced their intentions to transfer, including redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Diana Nyad completes Cuba-Florida swim
Bob Ferrante FOX Sports Florida Swimming the 110 miles from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Fla., is challenging enough for a 24- or 34-year old. But Diana Nyad -- at 64 -- became the first endurance swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without a cage in September. Nearly 54 hours after leaving Cuba, she arrived -- exhausted -- in the United States' southernmost city. "With all the experience I have, especially in this ocean, I never knew I would suffer the way I did," she told reporters in September when she arrived in Key West. "For 49 hours the wind just blew like heck, and it was rough." Nyad had gone 0 for 4 in her previous attempts over the decades to achieve the feat. Those attempts ended because of strong currents, lightning or jellyfish stings. Because Nyad is 64 there were immediately doubts and questions that she achieved the feat without the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But Nyad strongly disputed any of those claims, which have gone unfounded. "We did it squeaky clean," Nyad said. "It's all authentic. I took a vision that was deep in my imagination and I never gave up until I finally saw those palm trees on the shore."
Action Images / ReutersAndrew Innerarity
'Canes finally go bowling again
Christina De Nicola FOX Sports Florida For 28 months dark clouds loomed over the University of Miami's tropical campus. That's how long it took the NCAA to rule on sanctions for the athletics program after investigating impermissible benefits from a rogue booster spanning a decade. On Oct. 23, the NCAA decided "unprecedented" self-imposed sanctions -- two bowl berths, a spot in the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference championship game and minimized scholarships over the past year -- were enough. Miami will not face any additional bowl bans and will lose nine scholarships over the next three years. In addition, the men's basketball program will lose three. The Hurricanes (9-3), meanwhile, started their season 7-0 as one of just eight unbeaten teams left in the country. They reached as high as No. 7 in the polls -- their highest ranking since 2005. But Miami would drop three in a row to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke to eliminate the team from its first trip to the ACC title game. After a two-year absence, Miami travels to Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 to face No. 18 Louisville. The Hurricanes will try to win their first postseason game since 2006 when they beat Nevada 21-20 in the MPC Computers Bowl.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
Rays, Wil Myers make a splash
Andrew Astleford FOX Sports Florida Wil Myers' call-up in 2013 was always a matter of "when," not "if." He became the jewel of a seven-player trade between the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals, and his arrival to his new franchise was met with a tantalizing mix of promise, anticipation and curiosity for how his hype would translate to the major leagues. At 6-foor-3, 190 pounds, the former Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year had promising potential as a power hitter and outfielder, something the Rays valued when they parted ways with ace right-hander James Shields in the trade. Myers' impact didn't take long to be noticed. He made his Rays debut June 18 against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, and he went on to hit safely in all but two of his 13 starts that month. He hit .293 for the season with 13 home runs and 53 RBI, and aside from a few rookie gaffes, he was a dependable glove in right field. The Baseball Writers' Association of America named Myers the American League Rookie of the Year, meaning he followed Evan Longoria (2008) and Jeremy Hellickson (2011) as a Tampa Bay recipient of the award. Myers' addition provided an offensive spark that led to the Rays clinching an AL wild-card berth, their fourth playoff appearance in six seasons.
David Richard-USA TODAY SportsDavid Richard
Lightning say good-bye to Vinny Lecavalier
Andrew Astleford FOX Sports Florida How do you say goodbye to a local legend? Vincent Lecavalier became beloved for his contributions on and off the ice since the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted him first overall in 1998. He was a four-time All-Star, a Stanley Cup champion, a humanitarian. The NHL's business realities, however, ended his time in the only home he had known since entering the league. In June, the Lightning announced that they planned to buy out the remaining seven years of Lecavalier's 11-year, $85 million deal. The decision allowed them to eliminate a $7.73 million cap hit, and the respected center was allowed to sign with any team. Lecavalier, as expected, wasn't without a destination for long. In July, he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for $22.5 million over five years. He made an emotional return to Tampa on Nov. 27, and he scored a goal in the third period that was greeted with cheers by the Tampa Bay Times Forum crowd. That night was a reunion as much as a game between Eastern Conference foes. There were video tributes. There were signs of thanks. The Lightning honored him for his admirable charity work through his foundation. How do you say good-bye to a local legend? By recalling all the good he made possible.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Henderson Alvarez tosses a no-no
Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez didn't get off to the best of starts after being acquired in the blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays. In fact, Alvarez began the season on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation that surfaced the weekend before Opening Day. Yet on the final day of the regular season, Alvarez matched former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander pitch-for-pitch. Alvarez tossed nine no-hit innings with four strikeouts and one walk on 99 pitches, facing just three batters over the minimum. But the Marlins failed to score a run heading into the bottom half. That would change when Miami loaded the bases with two outs. Luke Putkonen threw a wild pitch to pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs with Alvarez on deck, allowing Giancarlo Stanton to come home as the winning run. The 23-year-old notched the franchise's fifth no-no, joining Al Leiter (1996), Kevin Brown (1997), A.J. Burnett (2001) and Anibal Sanchez (2006). In a forgettable 62-100 season, Alvarez and the young Marlins made baseball history.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Bucs deal with Freeman, MRSA
Andrew Astleford FOX Sports Florida What can go wrong next? That became a popular question at One Buc Place early in coach Greg Schiano's second season, a time when the weird, wacky and unpredictable turned into the norm for one of the NFL's most troubled franchises. In August, guard Carl Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes were diagnosed with MRSA, a serious staph infection resistant to some antibiotics. In October, cornerback Johnthan Banks reportedly became the third player diagnosed with the condition. The Bucs cleansed their facility twice after the outbreak, but they became a face of dysfunction with a massive health scare that went beyond football. Quarterback Josh Freeman also became an issue, adding to the Bucs' headache. The five-year veteran entered the season coming off a year in which he threw for a career-high 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns. However, undertones of tension between him and Schiano began in the offseason and continued through his first three starts, before he was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. Mercifully, after drama that included a leak of Freeman's placement in Stage 1 of the league's substance-abuse program, the Bucs released the troubled signal-caller in October. The move happened in an understated, two-sentence statement by general manager Mark Dominik, a sad ending to an unfortunate divorce. Freeman later signed with the Minnesota Vikings but only played in one game.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
Revis Island shifts south
Andrew Astleford FOX Sports Florida Darrelle Revis' signing was a large coup for Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik. The four-time Pro Bowl cornerback was traded from the New York Jets in March for a buyer-friendly price: The No. 13 pick in the draft and a conditional fourth-round selection in 2014. A marriage of convenience joined the Bucs and Revis. The Bucs needed a high-profile name to help improve a porous pass defense from 2012, which ranked last in the league (297 yards per game). Revis needed a new home after Jets owner Woody Johnson balked at giving him another long-term deal. So a six-year, $96 million commitment was made for Revis to wear pewter and red. The Bucs gained favor throughout the league with No. 24's addition. There was buzz. There was anticipation. There was hope for recovery after the franchise had produced losing seasons in three of its last four campaigns. Still, returns on Revis' first season are less clear. He played more zone coverage than expected, especially early, because his left knee wasn't 100 percent after rehab from tearing his ACL. He was effective, yes, but he also had moments of vulnerability. Has he been as good as he was in his prime? That's a stretch. But teams have avoided him at times, and he was named to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time his career.
USA TODAY SportsKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
UCF reaches its first BCS bowl
Brian De Los Santos FOX Sports Florida Gators, Seminoles, Hurricanes... and Knights? Perhaps instead of the Big Three there's now a Big Four in the state of Florida when it comes to major college football programs. The UCF Knights earned their first BCS bowl bid in 2013, going 11-1 and 8-0 in their first season in the American Athletic Conference, previously known as the Big East. UCF will play Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2014. The Knights reached new heights in 2013, climbing to 15th in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, the highest ranking ever for UCF. Among the Knights' 11 wins was a 34-31 victory at Penn State, the first time in school history it had beaten a Big Ten program in football. However, it was a victory at Louisville, ranked eighth at the time and with championship aspirations, that made pollsters take notice. Trailing 28-7 midway through the third quarter, UCF stormed back to stun the Cardinals 38-35. It was the school's second win over ranked team in 27 tries and first against one ranked in the top 10.
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Magic draft Victor Oladipo
Ken Hornack FOX Sports Florida In a year with no clearcut franchise player available, the Orlando Magic picked the right time to finish second in the NBA draft lottery. After seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers baffle all the experts by taking forward Anthony Bennett at No. 1, the Magic selected guard Victor Oladipo out of Indiana. Oladipo had led the Hoosiers to their first outright Big Ten regular-season championship since 1993, and the fact that he was coached by Tom Crean prompted inevitable comparisons to Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, who played for Crean at Marquette. Pat Williams, who has been part of the Magic since the franchise's inception, is fond of saying that choosing Oladipo was just as much a case of them winning the draft lottery as when they took Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway and Dwight Howard. Only Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers is averaging more points and minutes per game among rookies this season than Oladipo, who came off the bench for the Magic's first 10 games before making his first start Nov. 20 against the Heat. He posted the first triple-double of his career with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a double-overtime loss to the Sixers. Barring injury, Oladipo should see a steady increase in his playing time in the year ahead for a team mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, where a dozen teams are currently at or below the .500 mark.
USA TODAY SportsJerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Warren Sapp inducted into HOF
Andrew Astleford FOX Sports Florida Warren Sapp is many things to people throughout Tampa Bay: loud, passionate, controversial. But in August, he became something new: a Hall of Famer. Sapp, who helped give life to a moribund franchise, was named a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His enshrinement offered a chance to relive the great Bucs teams of the early 2000s, ones that transformed Tampa from a place from where dreams go to die into a desirable destination. Sapp's induction in Canton, Ohio, represented the end of an unlikely journey from his boyhood citrus groves in Plymouth, Fla., to professional football's most hallowed halls. The former defensive tackle's stats speak for themselves: 96 1/2 sacks, seven Pro Bowls, the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He wasn't without controversy -- for every tale about his dominating play, there's another about his bombastic treatment of some fans, media members and former teammates -- but his impact while helping build one of the NFL's most feared defenses must be recognized. He was a force. Much of the year felt like a victory lap for No. 99. In addition to his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction, he was enshrined in Raymond James Stadium's Ring of Honor in October. The Bucs haven't produced much to remember in recent years -- their last postseason appearance was after the 2007 season. But Sapp's recognition was an excuse to revisit more desirable times.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Jaguars hire Gus Bradley
Ken Hornack FOX Sports Florida After firing Mike Mularkey with enthusiasm following the worst season in franchise history, the Jacksonville Jaguars brought in a head coach fired with enthusiasm in Gus Bradley. Bradley, who was hired Jan. 17 after spending the previous four seasons as defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, and new general manager Dave Caldwell have overseen a near-total makeover of a team that came off a 2-14 finish under Mularkey. An 0-8 start prompted speculation in some quarters about whether the Jaguars were headed for the same place in NFL infamy as the 2008 Detroit Lions. That all ended with a 29-27 victory at Tennessee. Going into their final game of the season, the Jaguars stand at 4-11 and will likely wind up with one of the top five picks in next year's draft. For the second year in a row, their record at home was only 1-7. One of those home games took place not in Jacksonville but London, and the commitment by Jaguars owner Shad Khan to continue playing once a year there has raised concerns about whether the franchise might relocate at some point. Bradley had wide receiver Justin Blackmon, their top draft pick in 2012, available for only four regular-season games because of two separate suspensions for violating of the league's substance abuse policy. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who was their first-round selection the year before, hasn't played since losing his starting job in October to journeyman Chad Henne and is unlikely to be around for Bradley's second season.
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY SportsRob Foldy
St. Louis, Huberdeau garner recognition
Erin Brown FOX Sports Florida Florida may take criticism for being a non-traditional hockey market, but the Sunshine State produced three of the NHL's best in 2013. Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Martin St. Louis captured the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer and the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player. Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau shared the rookie scoring title and earned the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. With three games to play in the 2012-13 season, St. Louis held a one-point margin over linemate Steven Stamkos and four points over Washington's Alexander Ovechkin for the scoring title. The Lightning winger came through with a hat trick on April 24 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Three days later, he added a goal and an assist to finish with 60 points in a lockout-limited 48-game season. It was the second Art Ross Trophy for St. Louis, who also captured the award in 2003-04, making the nine-year gap between awards the longest by any player in NHL history. St. Louis also earned second team All-Star honors and with only 14 penalty minutes to his credit, took home his third career Lady Byng Trophy. Further south in Sunrise, Huberdeau was picking up some hardware of his own. Huberdeau captured 1,141 points in the awards balloting process -- just 93 over Montreal's Brendan Gallagher -- to become the first Panthers player to win the Calder Trophy.
Panthers make some changes
Erin Brown FOX Sports Florida Days before the 2013-14 NHL season, New York businessman Vincent Viola purchased the Florida Panthers for a sum of $250 million. With the transition in ownership, change started to permeate the organization that has made the postseason just once in the past 13 years. Strung by budget limitations during the offseason, general manager Dale Tallon received the OK from Viola to sign free agent goaltender and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, former 40-goal scorer Brad Boyes and defenseman Tom Gilbert among others. When the Panthers struggled early on, going 3-9-4 to open the season, big contract players were not immune to being benched. When such acts failed shift the attitude in the locker room, further moves ensued. Peter Horachek took over as head coach for Kevin Dineen. Florida traded Kris Versteeg to the Blackhawks for younger talents Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY SportsRobert Mayer
Dolphins, Jaguars get new looks
Brian De Los Santos FOX Sports Florida Two of the state's three NFL teams underwent major makeovers in 2013. For the Dolphins, the big change was the logo, which had been tweaked over the years since the team's inception in 1966, but nothing like the drastic change it underwent in 2013. Gone was the beloved helmet-wearing, jumping dolphin in favor of a more streamlined, sans helmet dolphin as it might appear before it breaks water. Opinion on the change was mixed. In Jacksonville, it was the new threads, rather than the logo, which was tweaked, that was the talk of the town. In an NFL first, the Jaguars unveiled a two-tone colored helmet. The unique helmet design starts out matte black in the front but is metallic gold in the back half of the helmet. Like the Dolphins logo, the Jaguars helmet change was met with mixed opinion. The news duds did little to help either team on the field. The Jaguars will finish with their fifth losing season in the past six years, while the Dolphins will fail to hit the 10-win plateau for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons.
Alabama throttles Notre Dame in BCS title game
Bob Ferrante FOX Sports Florida The highly anticipated matchup between two of the nation's most storied college football programs was a one-sided affair. Alabama thrashed previously unbeaten Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS national championship game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, giving the Crimson Tide back-to-back national titles. The Tide offense overwhelmed Notre Dame in the first half, as Alabama raced to a 28-0 halftime lead. MVP Eddie Lacy had 140 yards on 20 carries, scoring touchdowns both on the ground and in the air. A.J. McCarron completed 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns. Notre Dame managed just 32 rushing yards, and after falling behind so quickly the Irish had two touchdown drives in the second half but fell well short. Alabama's title was its ninth in school history, and it was coach Nick Saban's third in four years with the Crimson Tide (and oddly enough it came at the stadium where the Dolphins play, which Saban coached for two years between his time at LSU and Alabama). Saban also won a national title at LSU in 2003. The SEC also continued its dominating run, winning the national title for the seventh straight season.
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South Florida clinic linked to PEDs
The Steroids Era reared its ugly head in early 2013, resurfacing with some of the sport's biggest names. News broke in January that both the Drug Enforcement Administration and Major League Baseball were investigating an anti-aging clinic in Miami that dispensed performance-enhancing drugs. Its founder and operator, Anthony Bosch, had previous ties to Manny Ramirez, who served a 50-game suspension for PEDs. On Aug. 5, 12 players associated with the clinic, including former National League MVP Ryan Braun, accepted lengthy suspensions for violating MLB's drug policy. The others: Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo, Mets outfielder Jordany Valdespin, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, free-agent pitcher Jordan Norberto, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Mets outfielder Cesar Puello, Astros minor league reliever Sergio Escalona, Padres minor league reliever Fautino De Los Santos and Yankees minor league outfielder Fernando Martinez. Cruz is still a free agent. Peralta returned to Detroit in time for the postseason and has since gone on to sign with the Cardinals this offseason. Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon, Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal had already served suspensions following positive tests. Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 but played the remainder of the season as he prepared an appeal. He still awaits a decision.