Archive for March, 2011

NCAA’s long nap led to Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State scandals

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Jim Tressel: He covered up NCAA infractions.

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John Junker: Illegal political contributions, etc.

The story goes that the seeds of the NCAA began in 1905 when a Harvard football player named Ted Roosevelt broke his nose and told his father, who happened to be the U.S. president. What followed was the formation of an association to “protect young people from the dangerous and exploitive athletics practices of the time.”

At the time, “dangerous and exploitive” practices referred to annoyances like gang tackling. Nobody had yet considered the concept of coaches covering up rules violations (and their own backsides); bowl officials violating election laws and skimming from the till; university presidents approving expanded football seasons and selling their souls to television executives while paying lip service to academics; recruits being romanced by bags of money or a line of coeds (or if they’re really good, both).

Danger and exploitation now define the landscape.

The NCAA has …

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Braves suddenly getting some national love over Phillies

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are two reasons some are predicting the Braves will upset Philadelphia in the National League East. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are two of the reasons why many believe the Braves will upset Philadelphia and win the National League East Division this season. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Chipper Jones made an interesting point the other day when asked about the possibility of the Braves winning the National League East over Philadelphia this season: “We’re going to have to play more consistently against teams not named Philly. Philly beats up on teams they should beat up on.”

The Braves don’t. At least they didn’t last season. They went 19-17 against Washington and Florida last season (teams that finished a combined 149-175). The Phillies were 25-11 against the Nationals and Marlins.

What will be the Braves’ high-water mark?

  • Win the World Series.
  • Win the N.L. pennant.
  • Win N.L. East.
  • Win N.L. wild card.
  • Miss the playoffs.

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That’s a difference of six games. The difference in the standings last season: six games.

The Braves open the …

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Georgia is wisely spending to keep Mark Fox in fold

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Mark Fox wants to stay at Georgia, and he'll get paid to do.

Two weeks ago, it was rumored that North Carolina State was targeting Georgia’s Mark Fox as a candidate to be its next basketball coach. I wrote then that I doubted Fox would leave, and he followed that up with the expected generic denial: “I’m not a candidate for any job. All of my focus is on the Georgia team.”

Not surprisingly, that door to Raleigh is pretty much closed now.

Fox today reaffirmed to our Tim Tucker that he is “not interested” in any other job, and he and Georgia are working on a new or amended contract.

Fox makes $1.3 million, and he is about to get a healthy raise. His salary is already $300,000 more than Georgia Tech just gave to new coach Brian Gregory, whose hiring has been met with a cool response.

Such is the financial state of the two athletic departments.

Credit goes to former Georgia athletic director Damon Evans for hiring Fox and his replacement, Greg McGarity, for trying to keep him.

Fox …

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Braves, not Phillies, may be the best team in N.L. East

Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones and Frank Wren may look up at division pennant after this year.

Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones and Frank Wren may be looking at division title this year.

When they were hanging banners for 14 straight seasons, the Braves had more than merely great parts. A team that wins so often and for so long develops a confidence and a belief that can’t be taught, it has to be experienced.

“You want to get back to that point where you walk onto the field every day and you just expect to win,” Chipper Jones said Tuesday. “That was something we had back in the 1990s and early 2000s. That mentality of, no matter what happens, things will fall right.”

The Braves may be at that point again.

Two years ago, they were hovering barely above .500 in early  September. Then they rose, as Don King once put it, “from the media pallet of death.” They went 15-2 and pulled to within two games of the wild card lead, only to eventually start dropping parts on the highway. Last year, we watched a perfect blend of imperfect players get back to the postseason despite a blur …

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Strange but justified? Braves hang wild card banner

The Braves' banners are color coded by accomplishment. The new entry: white for wild card.

The Braves' banners are color coded by accomplishment. The new entry: white for wild card.

For the first time in franchise history, the Braves made it into the playoffs last season via the National League wild card berth. After a four-year postseason absence, the celebration was understandable. But here’s the question of the day: Was it worth hanging a pennant?

The Braves returned to Turner Field Tuesday night. The most obvious stadium addition was on the second deck facing in left field: a pennant with “2010″ on it, the number painted in white. It’s the 17th pennant in the line and they’re color coded. The pennant for the Braves’ lone World Series win (1995) is red.

All others are yellow with numbers in blue (division champions) or red (National League champions). Or white.

Gotta tell you: It looks a little strange. I’m not knocking the Braves’ decision. Fact is, when I first heard a couple of months back that they were consider it, I thought it was unusual, but now I’m …

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Countdown: Surrogate Uga, Serena (wowsa), pom-pom mom

The Count isn't spooked by Uga. Or Blue.

The Count isn't spooked by Uga. Or Blue.

When The Count and I came to contractual terms on another season, we had to insert a clause that stated: “No items about dogs.” Here’s why: Otherworldly creatures have a thing about dogs. It’s true. I used to do the Ouija board a lot as a kid, I think because I was trying to look for another planet or another dimension or something in the space-time continuum that was more conducive to, well, me. But every time the family dog ran into the room, the spirit left the building. The spook was spooked. I think I asked a spirit about it once and he spelled out something about dogs being soul-less. Or maybe it was the flatulence. I forgot. Anyway, The Count and I agreed to the clause with one notable exception: All items relating to Uga were allowed. Which is why we are here this week. Until the next Uga comes along, we have a surrogate for all Bulldogs fans. Or is this a concern? We count down . . .

10. While Georgia waits for Uga, a new …

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Tech vs. Georgia: Has balance of power shifted in hoops?

Brian Gregory: Can he wake up Tech?

Brian Gregory: Can he wake up Tech?

Mark Fox: Got Dogs to tourney quickly.

Mark Fox: Got Dogs to tourney quickly.

Because of obvious allegiances, it’s nearly impossible for fans/readers in these parts to debate the merits of Georgia and Georgia Tech — or to be fair: Georgia Tech and Georgia — and remain objective. But here goes:

Which school has the better basketball program today?

  • Georgia.
  • Georgia Tech.
  • They’re even.

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Has the balance of power in college basketball between Georgia and Tech officially shifted to Athens?

I touched on this subject two weeks ago, though it was more from a conference perspective after the SEC earned more spots in the NCAA tournament than the ACC.

I’ll concede these two points on Georgia and Georgia Tech: 1) Mark Fox has coached only two seasons and next year the Bulldogs almost certainly will have to do without Trey Thompkins (who’s expected to turn pro) and possibly without Travis Leslie (who may follow him); 2) As much as the Georgia …

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Brian Gregory will have to create own excitement for Tech

Brian Gregory coached at Dayton eight years, going 1-2 in NCAA tournament.

Brian Gregory coached at Dayton for eight seasons. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 8:56 a.m.)

Sometimes you don’t get the buzz hire (and in this case we don’t mean Buzz Williams). Sometimes you don’t sell tickets or get anybody to run through a wall at the news conference. But sometimes all of that is overrated.

Georgia Tech has hired Brian Gregory of Dayton as its next basketball coach, and we’ll find out soon enough if it was the right decision.

Does he get a lot of people excited? Judging by the reaction when his name leaked out on Twitter a few days ago, no. But that really doesn’t mean anything, unless athletic director Dan Radakovich was hoping to sell season tickets this week.

Georgia didn’t get buzz with Mark Fox. The Falcons didn’t get buzz with Mike Smith.

Excitement from coach hiring last only until the open tipoff or kickoff. After that, you have to win. Gregory has done that. He was 172-94 in eight seasons at Dayton, including 97-46 in the last four. He went to the NCAA …

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Georgia Tech’s whiff at Chris Mooney doesn’t look good

Georgia Tech apparently couldnt show Mooney the money. (AP photo)

Georgia Tech apparently couldnt show Mooney the money.

This doesn’t mean Georgia Tech is not going to get a good basketball coach when this is all over, and it certainly doesn’t mean the program is doomed for all eternity.

But what happened Sunday doesn’t look good.

Georgia Tech couldn’t hire away the Richmond coach. A program that should be top five annually in the ACC couldn’t hire away a coach from the Atlantic 10. The biggest reason most likely is financial. What does that bode for the future?

Richmond coach Chris Mooney, believed to be the Jackets’ top choice to replace Paul Hewitt, decided to remain at Richmond for a 10-year contract extension. This comes after Buzz Williams, another potential Tech

Dan Radakovich shouldn't have problems selling Tech.

Dan Radakovich shouldn't have problems selling Tech.

candidate, decided to stay at Marquette for a new contract. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin, who was interviewed by the Jackets, was hired at Tennessee (although it’s not known if he would have received an offer from …

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Johnson: Georgia Tech players were complacent in 2010

Paul Johnson's Jackets went 1-5 down the stretch, including a loss to Georgia. (Brant Sanderlin)

Paul Johnson's Jackets went 1-5 down the stretch, including a loss to Georgia. (Brant Sanderlin)

After 20 wins in two seasons, an ACC title and igniting a fan base that at times seemed to sit quietly at football games while waiting for basketball season to start – I know, it seems like a long time ago – Georgia Tech was cast in an unfamiliar role last season.

The Yellow Jackets were the hunted. They didn’t handle it well.

They went 6-7. They lost as many games in year three under Paul Johnson as they had in the first two (20-7). They went from ending the season in the Orange Bowl to ending it in the Independence Bowl. The cover of the Jackets’ 2010 media guide showed two hands clinched together, one wearing a jeweled conference championship ring. The caption warned, “Brace for Impact.” But what followed were 20 fumbles, the most in Division I, and an alarming lack of focus.

So much for being braced.

“I think there was a sense of complacency to a degree,” Johnson said. “Not …

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