Archive for July, 2009

The Hot Button: Will UGA win a BCS title under Mark Richt?

What once seemed inevitable remains an unanswered question. In 2002 or 2004 or even 2008, Mark Richt was primed to guide his program to a national championship. But he’s about to enter his ninth season as Georgia’s coach and the Bulldogs haven’t gotten there yet, and only once in 11 years has the BCS title been taken by a coach who’d been in place that long — Bobby Bowden of Florida State in 1999.

That Richt is a good coach is beyond dispute. He has won at least 10 games in six of the past seven seasons. He has led Georgia to three SEC East titles and two conference championships. He recruits at the highest level and just saw two Bulldogs taken among the top dozen in the NFL draft. Georgia has finished in the top 10 of at least one major poll five times and in top five twice. But it hasn’t won, or even played for, the BCS title.

Last season was supposed to be the breakthrough. Georgia had finished No. 2 in the AP poll after the 2007 season and was ranked No. 1 last August. It …

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Report: Marvin to stay a Hawk, and that’s more good news

Marvin Williams will remain a Hawk, according to a report by Marc Spears on Yahoo! Sports. Hawks general manager Rick Sund would not confirm a deal had been reached Wednesday night, but the sides seem very close to a signed contract.

(Indeed, that’s the word Williams used in a text message to AJC colleague Sekou Smith on Wednesday — “close.” And Williams told Sekou via text he’s hopeful something works out.)

The proposed contract, Spears reported, is for “about $40 million over five seasons,” although that $40 million is believed to include incentives. As a restricted free agent, Williams could have accepted the Hawks’ qualifying offer of $7.5 million and become an unrestricted free agent in July 2010. A long-term agreement would mean the Hawks have locked up a 23-year-old who averaged 13.9 points last season and is still regarded as a developing talent — and have done for essentially the qualifying offer times five.

If Williams does stay, the Hawks will have retained three …

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Normal service will be interrupted due to brainstorms

As some of you already know, I’ve been invited to participate in a three-day brainstorming session at the ol’ AJC, and today is Day 2. I managed to squeeze off two posts during Monday afternoon’s proceedings, but that was just me being my juvenile-delinquent self. I’m thinking I shouldn’t press my luck from here on.

For one thing, Monday was mostly a review. Today we get serious, cogitation-wise. And that brings us to the other thing: Wednesday and Thursday we’ll be at Cox’s palatial corporate HQ, as opposed to the AJC building downtown. When you visit corporate, you tread softly and follow the rules.

So I, barring that long-simmering Braves trade — Greg Norton for Albert Pujols — will endeavor to stop posting and commenting long enough to do two more days’ worth of brainstorming. The trouble with that is, as bad as I am at posting and commenting, I’m worse at brainstorming.

I still haven’t been able to fathom why the Jethro Bodine of sports writing was picked for anything …

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Vick to the Vikes? If the Vikes have any sense, absolutely

The Minnesota Vikings were willing to wait all summer on a 39-year-old prima donna who has nothing left. So yeah, they could do worse than a 29-year-old who has a point to prove. Yeah, I’m thinking Michael Dwayne Vick would look just dandy in purple.

The Vikings have no quarterback unless you count Tarvaris Jackson, which even the Vikings don’t. If they had a quarterback, they wouldn’t have prostrated themselves before the latest whims of Brett Favre. Michael Vick needs a job and is free to look for NFL work. (Perhaps you’d heard something about this.) So if you’re the Vikes, here’s what you do:

You tell your fans, “We know Vick comes with more baggage than Louis Vuitton, but we’ve got no choice. We’ve got a decent team that’s lacking at the most important position. We know some of you might have some reservations about his character, but would you rather us hire the nearest Eagle scout and do a Detroit? (Meaning: Go 0-16?) Or would you want us to take a chance on a guy who we …

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Killer loss for the Bravos, wasn’t it? Er, not exactly

JJ pitched great, as per usual. That man Prado had another RBI. Chipper hit a homer. Esky made a heads-up play afield. Glidin’ Garret looked to have won it. Then Soriano entered and it all fell to pieces, and now the Braves are not just way behind the Phillies but also a game in arrears of the Fish.

Killer loss. Wasn’t it?

Nah. It’s baseball. This stuff happens. Even Mariano Rivera blows the occasional save. (He blew one in Game 7 of a World Series on a weird night when it rained in the desert.) The Braves are playing well. More to the point, they’re pitching beautifully. Keep doing that and they’ll have a realistic chance to win the wild card, which is all they can ask at this late date.

Back to Rivera and that blown save. It came in a World Series the Arizona Diamondbacks looked to have blown. Two nights in a row they’d carried a lead into the ninth inning in Yankee Stadium, and both times Byung-Hyun Kim yielded two-out tying home runs. (The first to Tino, the second to …

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Think Frank Wren’s maladroit? Check out Omar Minaya

We know Frank Wren can be tin-eared in matters of public relations. But it’s like Dr. Bradley always says: Better tin-eared than ham-handed. And here the doc offers a case study:

Omar Minaya, general manager of the Mets.

He received much favorable publicity in his early years on the job. Barely two years ago Sports Illustrated splashed him on its cover and gave him the gushing Gary Smith treatment inside, hailing Minaya as “Mix Master.” But the Master’s team, since coming within a Game 7 against St. Louis of the 2006 World Series, has blown two NL East titles in succession and today finds itself 10 1/2 games out of first place.

Yes, injuries have left an imprint. The Mets have lost Jose Reyes and the Carloses — Beltran and Delgado — for extended periods. But this is a roster on which Minaya has spent roughly $140 million, the second-most of any baseball team, and it wouldn’t have suffered as much from the big names’ absences if there were minor-leaguers capable of …

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For Bulldog Nation, 2009 promises to be a holding action

Mark Richt seeks to exhort Bulldog Nation, which needs a bit of prodding. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Mark Richt seeks to exhort the masses by going to Fist City. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The mood was as sedate as is possible in a ballroom containing 1,000 or so barking human beings. There was anticipation, yes, but the annual meeting of the Greater Atlanta Bulldog Club always brings anticipation. What was lacking at the Cobb Galleria this July was the sense that Georgia’s time is at hand.

Because, to be blunt, it probably isn’t. The Bulldogs will play football this fall in a division that houses the reigning national champion, which is also the prohibitive choice to retain its title. A year ago the Bulldogs sat preseason No. 1 for the first time in school history, but the 2009 team seems properly slotted somewhere in the second 10.

This won’t be a bad team. (Mark Richt has never had anything close to a bad team.) Neither does it seem a champion-in-waiting. It has a new quarterback and a new tailback and the same defensive coordinator, though Willie Martinez has gotten a …

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Meet Jonathan Dwyer, unannounced Heisman candidate

Pretty good college football right here. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Pretty good ballplayer right here. As good as C.J. Spiller. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Theoretically, every collegiate football player in the land is “a Heisman Trophy candidate.” But we tend to attach that label to a player only when the player’s school first attaches it. And Georgia Tech, being practiced in the lost art of understatement, hasn’t gone wild over Jonathan Dwyer just yet.

He’s billed on the cover of Tech’s media guide not as an “HTC” but as something a tad more tangible — the ACC player of the year. Which he was in 2008, and which he was just voted by the league’s media, assembled in Greensboro, N.C., to be again this season. And that if that doesn’t make someone an HTC … well, my name’s not George P. Burdell.

In Sporting News Today, Matt Crossman noted that Dwyer met the media in Greensboro from the seat “previously occupied by C.J. Spiller, the blazing-fast Clemson running back. Clemson brought with it life-sized posters of Spiller to hype his Heisman …

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Live from the Bulldog Club: Jean shorts not allowed!

Kevin Butler, a kicker of some note, speaks with Vance Leavy, publisher of Bulldawg Illustrated. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Kevin Butler speaks with Vance Leavy, publisher of Bulldawg Illustrated. (Photo by M. Bradley)

I’m here at the Cobb Galleria Centre, site of the Bulldog Club of Greater Atlanta’s annual meeting that essentially starts the countdown to Georgia’s kickoff. This convocation used to be held in Midtown at the Sheraton Colony Square but has moved to my neck of the woods — as you know, I’m a pillar of the Smyrna/Mableton/Vinings community — in recent years. And I’m sitting in a ballroom recalling the last time I sat in this ballroom.

Actually, the next-to-last time. (The most recent occasion was a celebration of Furman Bisher’s 90th birthday. Sam Huff was here. And Sonny Perdue. And esteemed colleague Tim Tucker, who’s sitting two seats to my right as I type.) But in June 2006 I came here on a Sunday afternoon to interview the Florida football coach, who was addressing a postponed meeting of the Atlanta Gator Club, the original April date having been rendered inoperative because the …

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Michael Vick’s “conditional reinstatement”: I don’t get it

The NFL has finally ruled. Michael Vick can practice, but he can’t play until the final two preseason games. (This assumes he can find a team that will hire him, which I believe he will.) Once the regular season commences, he can do everything except play in games.

That’s in September and the first half of October. Once October passes its midpoint, he can play in real games, too.

I don’t get it.

Maybe there’s a Solomonic compromise embedded in Roger Goodell’s ruling, but for the life of me I can’t find it. What I see is a commissioner who felt pressured to do something even if he wasn’t quite sure doing anything more is warranted. So he half-stepped. He also overstepped.

This is, to use a football term, piling on. Vick has been suspended by the NFL for 23 months and three days. If the league wanted to disassociate itself with him completely, it could have just said, “Suspension stands. Sorry, Mike.” But clearly it doesn’t want to disassociate itself with Vick. Clearly it …

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