Archive for May, 2009

Geno Atkins among Dogs in action

  – Can UGA’s baseball team make another NCAA postseason run, perhaps to the College World Series?  You might not think so, based on recent results. But it’s a funny game, as you know, and first baseman Rich Poythress made the point Thursday that the Dogs weren’t exactly swinging the bats great entering the postseason last year, either.  And then they broke out and went on a tear in which they scored 9, 14, 8, 18, 11, 6 and 17 runs in consecutive games to reach Omaha. So we’ll see. (Here’s a story on Georgia’s bid for an encore.)

  –  More of what Poythress had to say: “Our goal is to play our game and put it all together. . . . We’ve got to get the middle of the order going again. We need to step up and swing the bats a little better. We can rely on our postseason experience, the postseason at-bats we have had. . . . We’ve talked about our young guys a lot, but the middle of the order and the heart of the pitching staff have been there before.  . . . Our main goal was to …

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More from Mark Fox . . .

  OK, where were we before the long weekend?

   Oh yes, Mark Fox was speaking to the UGA Athletic Association board of directors, and there were a few things other than what was in Saturday’s story that I wanted to pass along:

  – Georgia’s new basketball coach sounded a lot like another Mark — Richt — when talking about his desire to find The Right Job, settle in for the long term and not hop from school to school as so many coaches do.

  “My wife and I knew that we would ultimately probably leave Nevada, even though it was very good to us and a place we’d been for nine years,” he said.  ”And we had . . . decided that when we moved, we were going to move one time. We have two young children, a son who’s 8 and a daughter who’s 6, and we thought we’re going to move one time so our kids have a place that ultimately they can call home.

   “There are a lot of coaches in my sport who, if you ask their children where they grew up, they really couldn’t tell you because they spent …

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Athletic board buzzing about Georgia-Florida, too

    Greensboro — As it does everywhere else in Bulldog Nation these days, the site of the Georgia-Florida game came up in Thursday’s  meeting of the executive committee of the UGA Athletic Association board of directors at Lake Oconee.

    UGA President Michael Adams and athletics director Damon Evans said, basically, that they are open-minded about  what happens with the game after 2010 and that they’d like to make a decision by, say, late summer.

   The best comment on the issue, though, came from board member Bob Bishop.

   “I have very strong feelings about that,  but the problem is I change my mind about once a week,” he said.

   Adams indicated that comment crystallized a delicate decision.

   “It’s not one of those [decisions] that is 90-10,” Adams said.

   Another board member suggested Bulldog Nation might be divided 50-50 on the issue, to which Evans replied: “It changes a little bit [depending on] how we compete down there. The year in which we do well, I don’t …

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Talking budgets and Butts-Mehre expansion . . .

   Greensboro — Good morning from Lake Oconee, where the UGA Athletics Association board of directors convenes today for its spring meeting.

   Among the expected items of business: the 2009-10 athletics budget and the long-discussed major expansion of the football facilities at the Butts-Mehre building.

    The Butts-Mehre project has been been on the drawing board for more than a year, with plans calling for expansion of the training facilities and weight room and construction of new offices and a large multi-purpose area.

   “That is something that will be contemplated at the board meeting,” athletics director Damon Evans said.

   The spring meeting also is the point at which the next fiscal year’s budget is submitted for board approval. While many college athletics programs are making significant cuts amid the recession, Evans said Georgia has held up relatively well.

   “I would say this: If people want to use that term ‘profit,’ we’re not going to have as much ‘profit’ …

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Can Bulldogs make another postseason run?

   Dating myself here, but I once covered a Braves team that won 13 games in a row and later lost 19 out of 21. Same team. Same season. Truth, of course, was that those long-ago Braves weren’t nearly as good as they looked during the 13-0 streak and not nearly as bad as they looked during the 2-19 slump.

    Which brings us to this season’s Georgia baseball team, which limps into the SEC tournament today

   The team that won 33 of its first 42 games has won just two of its past 13. The team that won 14 of its first 19 SEC games has won just one of its past 11. The team that was atop the SEC and ranked No. 1 in the nation has fallen to the No. 6 seed in the SEC tournament and the No. 21 spot in the coaches’ poll.

   Look at these statistical splits, comparing UGA’s first 42 games vs. its past 13:

   Rich Poythress: .422 batting average, 20 home runs and 69 RBIs in the first 42 games vs. .245, 1 HR and 8 RBI in the past 13.

   Colby May: .369 BA vs. .265.

   Bryce Massanari:

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2010-11 football schedules less taxing than this year’s?

  Athens – Aside from its eight SEC games and annual game vs. Georgia Tech, Georgia will play two opponents from BCS leagues this year – the Sept. 5 opener at Oklahoma State and the Sept. 26 home game vs. Arizona State.

    That’s one more BCS-league opponent than Georgia typically plans to schedule, athletics director Damon Evans says.

   “I’ll say this: We’ve got a very, very tough schedule this coming year,” Evans said. “Typically, what we would like to do [in addition to the SEC and Tech games] with a 12-game schedule is add another school from a BCS conference we can have a home-and-home with, then play maybe a I-AA and a mid-major at home.

   “This year, we have doubled up with two BCS institutions [on top of the SEC and Tech games]. You are not going to typically see that. The thought was to add one.”

    So the 2010 and 2011 schedules will be more typical than the 2009 schedule.

    In 2010, Georgia plays at the Big 12’s Colorado, but the Bulldogs’ other …

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A busy, mostly good, weekend for the Dogs

    Hope everyone had a great weekend.

    Well, once again, the Georgia baseball team didn’t, getting swept at South Carolina to continue a late-season collapse that has reached 11 losses in 13 games.

    And the men’s tennis team didn’t have a great weekend, either, losing to Texas in the rain-interrupted quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships to end the Bulldogs’ quest of a third consecutive national title.

   But elsewhere, the weekend was good to UGA:

   Men’s basketball: Tennessee State’s top scorer announced plans to transfer to Georgia. Guard Gerald Robinson Jr., who averaged 17.8 points per game as a sophomore last season and 15.2 as a freshman, will have to sit out the 2009-10 season under NCAA transfer rules. The 6-foot-1 Robinson, from Nashville, then will have two years of eligibility remaining. ”I sat down and evaluated everything, put together a checklist, and Georgia offered all the things I was looking for,” Robinson told The Tennessean. “. . . I’m going …

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Inside Trey Thompkins’ decision to stay . . .

  AthensTrey Thompkins, the University of Georgia’s best basketball player, told me on Wednesday what he told coach Mark Fox a few days before: He’s staying.

    Since the January firing of the coach who recruited him, Dennis Felton, Thompkins had left open the possibility that he would transfer to another school this summer.

    He considered it, but in the end decided not to do it.

   “To be honest with you, I didn’t know what to think when that first happened,” Thompkins said Wednesday of Felton’s firing. “It wasn’t a shock [because of the rumors], but it was a wow.  I didn’t think they’d fire a coach in the middle of  the season.”

    Thompkins tried to put his future out of his mind as the Bulldogs finished the season under interim coach Pete Herrmann.  When Fox, a complete unknown to Georgia’s players, was hired from Nevada in early April, Thompkins adopted an open mind about whether to go or stay.

    As he got to know the new coach, he said, he decided to stay.

    …

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Why isn’t Erk Russell in the Hall of Fame, too?

   Within minutes of posting the story yesterday about Jim Donnan’s election to the College Football Hall of Fame, I got e-mails from a couple of readers pointing out who’s not in the Hall:

  Erk Russell!

  How could that be, you ask, given Russell’s legendary career as defensive coordinator at Georgia and amazing accomplishments in resurrecting the football program at Georgia Southern?

   Seems the Hall of Fame has a rule requiring that one be a head coach for at least 10 years to be eligible for election.

   Russell, who died in 2006, was Georgia Southern’s head coach for eight seasons (1982-89).

   In that time, he compiled an  83-22-1 record and won three Division I-AA national titles.

   All of that at a school that hadn’t fielded a football team in 40 years.

   All of that after 17 inspiring years of coaching Georgia’s “Junkyard Dawgs” defense.

   And Erk Russell is not in the Hall of Fame because he wasn’t a head coach long enough?

   As one of my e-mails said …

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Talking baseball with Perno . . .

  Georgia’s baseball team has had an up-and-down season, from a No. 1 ranking to an eight-losses-in-nine-games tailspin.  I chatted with coach David Perno in an otherwise empty dugout before practice one day last week and, although I should have posted this sooner,  wanted to share some of what he had to say:

   On this season’s attendance, which set a school record Sunday: “Yeah, it is [gratifying]. We’ve come a long way. Even a good year like ’01, even that year, the place wasn’t sold out until the [NCAA] Regional. So it’s been fun to watch. And I don’t think obviously you can just give this team the credit. It started with the ’04 team; they created a lot of interest. And the ’06 team and the ’08 team. . . . I didn’t want people to come for the promotions or the marketing;  I wanted them to come because we’ve got a good product and are fun to watch. I’ve always been a big believer in that.”

   On this topsy-turvy season: “[On balance], we’re where we should be. We …

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Richt on travel, Jax, Cox, and more

   Columbus -– Caught up with Mark Richt’s speaking tour Thursday night.  His visit with the Columbus Bulldog Club was interesting and lively.

   He expressed some serious reservations about long road trips, such as Georgia’s to Arizona State last fall.  He scoffed at the notion that Jacksonville is a neutral site for the Georgia-Florida game. And he quantified the extent to which the Georgia players see Joe Cox as the team’s leader.

    Here’s Richt, responding to questions from the gathering:

   On Cox’s leadership:  “We had exit meetings where one of the things we asked the players on their exit-meeting sheet, I guess, was: Who do you think are the leaders of this football team? I think it was 110 guys who wrote down different names. And 107 times, Joe got his name mentioned. . . . So here’s a guy voted the No. 1 leader on the team who really hasn’t started a game in three years and only started one in his whole career.”

   On how the team is recovering from last year’s …

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Getting some answers about the Dogs in the Dome

  There has been a lot of debate recently about the possibility of the Georgia Bulldogs playing a high-profile, non-conference football game in the Georgia Dome, perhaps as soon as 2010. I touched base yesterday with Atlanta Sports Council president Gary Stokan to find out what is happening on that front.

  Yes, the Sports Council and its television partner ESPN/ABC are looking for teams to play in a nationally televised early-season event at the Dome in 2010 and beyond.

  “We’re talking to a lot of people,” Stokan said. “We’ve reached out to everyone — from Southern Cal to UCLA to Texas to pretty much everybody in the ACC and SEC. We’re just trying to see what makes sense.”

  Yes, Georgia is one of those schools the Sports Council and ESPN/ABC have approached.

   “We’d like to think there’s an opportunity [with Georgia] for 2010 or ‘11 or ‘12 or ‘13,” Stokan said. “We’d like to have Georgia when it makes sense for Georgia. We don’t know when that’ll be, but we hope it’s one …

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A young recruit . . . a slumping team

  Not much happening on the UGA sports front for a few days, in deference to spring-semester final exams. But a couple of things caught my attention Monday:

  A YOUNG RECRUIT: Wow, Andy Landers must really be impressed with Erika Ford, the Chattahoochee High sophomore — sophomore! – whom Georgia’s women’s basketball program has offered a scholarship and who has verbally committed to accept it when she finishes high school. Apparently she’ll be a Lady Bulldog starting in the 2011-12 season — after two more years at Chattahoochee.

   Best I can tell, she is the first high school sophomore commit in the history of Georgia’s women’s hoops program.

   “She’s always wanted to be a Bulldog, so for her it was an easy choice,” Chattahoochee coach Eric Herrick said Monday.

   Ford, a 16-year-old 5-foot-9 shooting guard, echoed her coach’s words and said “there was no reason to wait” on committing to the Lady Bulldogs. She said she knew the first time she stepped on the UGA campus that …

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Fox looking for games — and players

  Good morning. Hope you had a good weekend.

  Georgia’s baseball team certainly didn’t, getting swept at home by Florida.

  The Bulldogs, No. 1 two weeks ago and No. 6 last week in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, figure to plummet when the new rankings come out today.

  One person who had a nice weekend: Mark Fox.

  His family was in Athens —  the first time he had seen them in 26 days.

  “That’s been hard,” Georgia’s new men’s basketball coach said. “My daughter came up the escalator, and I thought, ‘Wow, she looks taller. Her hair looks longer.’”

   Fox’s family —  his wife Cindy, 6-year-old daughter Olivia and 8-year-old son Parker –  will move to Athens this summer after finishing the school year in Nevada. Meanwhile, Fox is staying in the Georgia Center hotel, a short stroll from Stegeman Coliseum.

  Hope you saw Saturday’s Q&A, in which Fox touched on topics ranging from Daniel Miller to Trey Thompkins to Vincent Williams to Travis Leslie. If you missed it, here’s a …

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Chatting with Corvey Irvin: ‘It is kind of hard to believe’

 

   Corvey Irvin was drafted 92 spots behind Matthew Stafford.

   And I’m not sure Stafford, even with $41.7 million guaranteed, could be any happier or prouder than Irvin.

   While Stafford had been hailed as a future No. 1 NFL draft pick ever since high school — and you’ve got to hand it to Mel Kiper Jr. for making that prediction when Stafford was still at Highland Park High in Dallas — Irvin came from obscurity to be a third-round pick.

    He wasn’t recruited by any major colleges out of high school. (”I was an OK high school player,” he maintains.) He transferred to Georgia after two years at Georgia Military College but didn’t start any games his first year in Athens. And he probably wouldn’t have started any in his second and final season, either, if not for his friend and fellow defensive tackle Jeff Owens blowing out a knee in the season opener.

   That thrust Irvin into the Bulldogs’ starting lineup, and next thing you know, he’s at the Carolina Panthers’ rookie …

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