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Backroom Briefing: Declaring UCF Dominance

January 4, 2018 - 12:00pm

Tallahassee public-relations guru Kevin Cate has pushed Florida lawmakers the past couple years to acknowledge the existence of his alma mater, Alabama's Auburn University, through a specialty license plate.

Now he is trying to round up legislators to proclaim the University of Central Florida as college football national champions after the Knights beat Auburn on Monday to complete an undefeated season.

“I think a resolution by the Florida Legislature declaring @UCF Football national champions is in order this #flsession.” Cate tweeted after UCF's 34-27 win in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

Rep. Amber Mariano, a Hudson Republican and 2017 UCF grad, replied “Let's do it!!”

Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, along with Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, and Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, have also offered to back the proposal --- although, McGhee added a caveat to his support.

“If Alabama wins the Championship, we will begin the debate that @UCF_Football is our National Champ!” McGhee tweeted, referring to next week's championship game between SEC rivals Alabama and Georgia.

Undefeated and unacknowledged is apparently something Auburn fans know all too well, having twice finished with perfect records --- in 1993 and in 2004 --- without landing a No. 1 national ranking.

“I'm normally an apologist for the #SEC, but my last football season at @AuburnU, we were undefeated and denied a shot at the national title,” Cate tweeted. “Not fun.”

But this love for the Knights could also be a ploy, as Cate hasn't given up on the Auburn specialty license-plate dream he shares with Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican and fellow Auburn alum.

“Late filed amendment: require @CFBPlayoff to include 10 teams, plus we still get our @AuburnU license plate,” Cate tweeted.


National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer offered Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala some advice as he clears out his Senate office and leaves the Legislature on Friday.

Hammer suggested that Latvala donate $1 million in unspent campaign cash to help cover tuition at the Dyslexia Research Institute, Inc. and its laboratory school, Woodland Hall Academy for children with learning disabilities. Latvala amassed cash through a political committee and a campaign fund for what had been expected to be 2018 gubernatorial race.

“In view of the massive amount of campaign funds in your possession, which can be disbursed for qualified charitable purposes at your discretion, I ask for your consideration on behalf of children with learning disabilities,” Hammer wrote in an open letter to Latvala. “Financial contributions to improve educational opportunities for children with learning disabilities, specifically dyslexia, is critically important to families of these children.”

Hammer is best known for defending the Second Amendment. But she also has secured state funding for what are known as McKay scholarships for children with disabilities --- such as her grandson --- and for speed-limit signs outside private schools like the one he attended. She has also lobbied to allow dyslexic children to use talking computers during standardized tests.

“I am not asking for money for bicycles, Nintendo Switch or PS4 game consoles. Nor am I asking for iPhones, dolls, clothes or gift cards,” Hammer continued. “I'm asking for money to buy the gift of reading, the gift of writing, and the gift of math --- those lasting and enduring gifts that can only be given through the generosity of those who care.”

Latvala, 66, announced his resignation Dec. 20, less than a day after Special Master Ronald Swanson, a former judge, issued a report stemming from sexual-harassment allegations. In part, Swanson recommended a criminal probe into allegations that Latvala had promised legislative favors for sex.

Latvala has vehemently denied wrongdoing. His resignation is effective Friday, four days before the start of the 2018 legislative session.


Visit Florida Racing, which received state sponsorship that drew the ire of House leaders, is no more.

The Troy Flis-owned IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team, which this past summer had its $2.875 million sponsorship canceled by Florida's embattled tourism-marketing agency, is now the Spirit of Daytona Racing.

"Last season was so difficult, but even though we were on the back foot for a lot of the year, I think we learned a lot as an organization and improved as a team," Flis told California-based Racer magazine in December as the name change was announced.

The Spirit of Daytona, based out of an 8,000-square-foot shop in Daytona Beach, will first roll at the three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 this weekend at the Daytona International Speedway. Commercial partnerships are expected to be announced by the team before the event.

Visit Florida spokesman Stephen Lawson noted Tuesday that Visit Florida “is completely out of the racing business.”

TWEET OF THE WEEK: “so if it's really going to snow in Tallahassee, I think it should be a week from today. and if we are wishing, make it a blizzard” --- Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout (@fineout) on Tuesday, a week before the start of the 2018 legislative session.


"College football",..ho humm.... Colleges and universities would do better for themselves, and their student bodies (both economically and academically), by eliminating "football" from their campuses and removing themselves from being "first stage entry level promoters" of "Colin Kapernak style" America bashing thoughts and demonstrations.

typical non-athletic, idiot response from the clown from NY...

Hi "Fart",... Are you a "muscle moron", or just a "plain moron"?!? (I think I already know the answer... Bet you have a strong grip on the TV remote though... and bet I can tell where your practiced "strong grip" came from too).

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