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College Football

    Bob Stoops will retire as head football coach of the University of Oklahoma Sooners after 18 years, according a release from the university on Wednesday. The university said Stoops is 'the winningest coach in Oklahoma history' and has an overall record of 190-48. >> Read more trending news He led the Sooners to the national championship in 2000. Stoops will remain as special assistant to the athletics director. University officials said Stoops is the only coach to win the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and national championship. They said he accumulated more wins in his first 18 seasons than any coach in the game's history. According to a statement from the University President David L. Boren, he will be succeeded by current offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. The statement said Stoops, 56, believed it was the appropriate time to conclude his time coaching in Norman, Oklahoma. Below is an excerpt of a statement from Stoops, obtained by the Associated Press and provided by OU: “After 18 years at the University of Oklahoma, I've decided to step down as the head football coach. I understand there has been some speculation about my health. My health was not the deciding factor in this decision and I've had no incidents that would prevent me from coaching. I feel the timing is perfect to hand over the reins. The program is in tremendous shape. We have outstanding players and coaches and are poised to make another run at a Big 12 and national championship. We have new state-of-the-art facilities and a great start on next year's recruiting class. The time is now because Lincoln Riley will provide a seamless transition as the new head coach, capitalizing on an excellent staff that is already in place and providing familiarity and confidence for our players. Now is simply the ideal time for me and our program to make this transition. ... “I'm especially thankful for being able to coach so many talented young men over my 18 years here. It has been so rewarding to see these players come to OU and mature over a four- or five-year career, and not just on the field. To play a small part in their growth is what I will always cherish the most. None of my success would have happened without the best fans in the country. I can't tell you how much I appreciated the 110 consecutive home sellouts. The passion of our fan base is unmatched, and their support has played a huge role in not only home games, but road games and all 18 of our bowl games, as well. ... “The coaching life is like a relay race and I'm thankful for my turn and am confident as I pass the baton. Carol and I intend on staying in Norman - it is our home. I will be available to Coach Riley and the athletic department in any manner. Thank you all for a lifetime of memories we shared together of 10 conference championships, the 2000 national championship, strong relationships with players and coaches, and the great Oklahoma football fans. Boomer!”
  • Brice Ramsey’s decision to transfer this spring left the Georgia football team with a void, and now it’s been filled – by Brice Ramsey. The senior quarterback has changed his mind and will return for his final season at Georgia. His mother confirmed the news to Dawgs247.com on Thursday. “Brice has committed to finishing out his time at the University of Georgia,” Yolanda Ramsey told Dawgs247. “After visiting and talking with other schools, he could not get past the part of where he is heart was and that is at UGA at the end of the day.” The news is big for the Bulldogs, even with sophomore Jacob Eason in place as the starter. After Ramsey’s decision to leave, that left the Bulldogs with only two scholarship quarterbacks, Eason and true freshman Jake Fromm, who was highly-touted but also inexperienced. But even after Ramsey announced his intention to leave, there were signs that both sides were keeping the door open to a return. Ramsey, still attending classes during the spring semester, helped the team out by throwing during spring practices, filling the need for an extra arm during drills. Earlier this week Kirby Smart, speaking with reporters at SEC meetings in Destin, said Ramsey would be welcomed back on the team. The parting was amicable, so why not? “I thought there was a chance out there (for him to return),” Smart said on Tuesday. “I’ve always told Brice: You have done a great job here. You’ve done everything we’ve asked you do, on and off the field. He’s a great kid. He competed really hard, I thought he did a really great job, was involved in the competition. When he came and told me he wanted to shop elsewhere, I told him I completely agreed and understood that. “I do think at the quarterback position that it’s a unique position. That there’s only one on the field, unless you’re a really weird offense, there’s only one guy on the field, so it’s a unique position to him. If you can’t play there, you want to go play. But if you don’t have anywhere you’re sold on playing – and we’ve done a good job of actively talking to him, keeping communication.” Ramsey joined the team in 2013 as an early enrollee, and many considered him the heir apparent to eventually be the starter. But circumstances changed, with Mike Bobo, the QB coach and offensive coordinator who had recruited Ramsey, leaving to become Colorado State’s head coach. And when Greyson Lambert transferred in the summer of 2015, he became the starter that season. Ramsey served as the backup, appearing in 11 games and throwing 35 passes. Eason arrived last year, and Ramsey was relegated to third-string. He did not throw a pass last season. But Ramsey did finish each of the last two seasons as the starting punter, averaging 38.7 yards on 45 punts. Potentially, Ramsey could compete again for that role, though sophomore Marshall Long is returning to health after breaking his kneecap, and graduate transfer Cameron Nizialek also punted well during spring practice. As for quarterback, Ramsey at minimum gives Georgia more depth and security. But his return could also scramble the picture behind Eason, if Ramsey is the main backup and that allows the team to bring Fromm along more slowly. The plan remains to be seen, but now Ramsey is back in the picture, and that can only be good news for the team. “It’s really a great thing to graduate from Georgia, be a part of a great program,” Smart said earlier this week. “And hey, we’ve got two quarterbacks. He’s a guy who could come in and compete, first, second or third and he’s got great experience.”
  • From UGA Sports Communications ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. ----- A $4.451 million increase in the fiscal year 2018 budget, athletic director’s overview of the athletic program, and a detailed review and explanation of the reserve funds highlighted the annual spring meeting of the University of Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors Thursday. The total Athletic Association budget for 2018 was approved at $127,590,041. J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity’s report included an assessment of the overall athletic program. (full transcript of his report is included below). ‘’The responsibility to enhance our strengths and address our weaknesses lands on my desk’’ said McGarity. ‘’I know our program is not reaching its full potential. Our staff spends every day committed to moving our program forward, both collectively and sport by sport, and when we fall short of expectations, we are there to provide support, and when we win, we celebrate alongside each sport.’’ McGarity said the Athletic Association’s goal is for every one of the Bulldog sports to compete in its national championship.   ‘’This year, 16 of our 21 sports did just that,’’ he said. ‘’As with every year, some teams met or exceeded their expectations while some experienced uncharacteristic results. We still have teams competing in their NCAA Championships, so we still have work to do. Eight of our 21 teams have finished among the nation’s Top 10, with men’s and women’s outdoor track and field to be held in Oregon in early June. Both of our teams are projected to finish in the Top 10. I feel confident that we will see marked improvement in numerous sports in the near, if not immediate, future.’’ The 2018 budget marked the first portion of a lengthy report by treasurer Ryan Nesbit, UGA Vice President for Finance and Administration. Nesbit also detailed the Athletic Association reserve funds and outlined spending restrictions. He said the total operating reserve funds amounted to $68.1 million; however, only $36.9 million of that amount are available to support credit ratings, future projects, and maintain a standard operating reserve to provide funding for unforeseen events. (A condensed summation of Nesbit’s report follows below and accompanies the attached slides.) Among the highlights of the many reports came from Faculty Athletics Representative David Shipley, who announced that UGA’s 511 student-athletes posted a best-ever 3.13 grade point average in the recently completed Spring Semester.   Other highlights of the Athletics Board meeting included the following: • A presentation by Executive Associate AD Josh Brooks on the following current facilities construction projects: Phase 2 of Stegeman Coliseum upgrades that include all new seating, center court-hung scoreboard, as well as lighting and sound systems; the resurfacing of Spec Towns Track, scheduled for an Aug. 1 completion; reconstruction of the soccer stadium grandstand at the Jack Turner Soccer/Softball Complex; expansion and renovation of the Boyd Golf Center; upgrading of the restrooms on the 100, 200 and 300 levels at Sanford Stadium; beginning of the West End Zone project at Sanford Stadium. • A presentation by Executive Associate AD Matt Borman on his observations since beginning his position in Development in January of this year, and also on the progress of athletic fundraising efforts over the short and long terms. • A presentation from Shipley, representing the Student Wellness Committee, on the development of UGA’s Career Development program. Less than a year old, this program strives to counsel student-athletes on all aspects of career building and enhancement. • The announcement of the two student-athletes who will serve the 2017-18 year as representatives on the Board: distance runner Jonathan Pelham, a redshirt freshman from LaGrange, and soccer player Summer Burnett, a senior from Makakilo, Hawaii. • The introduction of Dr. Timothy Gray of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences as the newest member of the Athletics Board. Gray replaces Dr. Jennifer Samp as an elected faculty member of the Board. • The announcement of Kessel Stelling, 1978 UGA alumnus and Chairman/CEO of Synovus, will join the Athletics Board in 2017-18, replacing new emeritus member Don Leebern III. • A glowing academic report from Shipley, the text of which follows: Spring semester Grade Point Average (GPA) for all 511 Student-Athletes (SAs) is a best ever at 3.13. It surpassed the previous high of 3.06, representing a significant increase. Over 65 percent of our student-athletes were at B or above; 29.4% were between 3.50 and 3.99; and 24 (4.7% of the total) were at 4.00. This was the eighth consecutive semester and 10th in the last 12 in which the overall student-athlete GPA was above 3.00. Cross Country recorded the highest GPA among the men's teams with 3.43, while the top women’s team was Tennis with a 3.49. All UGA women’s teams had GPA’s above 3.00. The NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) for all UGA our teams was solid with Women’s Cross Country, Volleyball and Men’s Tennis having perfect scores of 1000. The APR provides a real-time look at a team’s academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete on scholarship. The APR accounts for eligibility and retention and provides a measure of each team’s academic performance. 97 student-athletes graduated on May 5. Their graduation speaker was Ernie Johnson, our own 2016 Hartman Award recipient and a former baseball student-athlete at UGA. Full Text from J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity: May 24, P.M. AD Report Narrative Thank you President Morehead Good morning. This is the seventh annual report I have had the privilege to deliver to members of our Athletic Board. I want to thank each of you, current and past board members, for the time you devote to our athletic program --- whether it’s spreading the word about UGA athletics, serving on a committee, being a sounding board, or lending an ear. People ask me frequently, how can I help? My response --- be “there”, be “present” and tell me what you really think. So I thank all of you for your offers of help and assistance. In my role as Athletic Director, I get to see the outstanding work our staff does on a daily basis to serve our student-athletes and the entire Bulldog Nation. Many positions in our department are very visible. However, the bulk of our work goes on beneath the surface and out of the limelight within departments such as compliance, maintenance, communications, marketing, promotions, student services and business operations. I want to express my appreciation to our entire staff and the scores of others who work hard every day on and off our campus for the betterment of our athletic association. We are truly blessed to have people who really care about the University of Georgia in our department. I have asked two of our senior staff members to make presentations today. Josh Brooks will talk about our facilities and Matt Borman will brief everyone on our Bulldog Club efforts. I’m confident you will find refreshing their insight as new staff members, who have joined, or in Josh’s case rejoined, our program after serving other institutions over the years. We look forward to these presentations. I would like to take a few moments and talk about the overall status of our program as it stands now, and as we look forward.  Much has been written about the status of our program from a competitive standpoint. Our stated goal is the extremely ambitious task of having every one of our sports competing in their national championship. This year, 16 of our 21 sports did just that. As with every year, some teams met or exceeded their expectations, some experienced uncharacteristic results. We still have teams competing in their NCAA Championship, so we still have work to do. Eight of our 21 teams have finished among the nation’s Top 10, with men’s and women’s outdoor track and field to be held in Oregon in early June. Both of our teams are projected to finish in the Top 10. I feel confident that we will see marked improvement in numerous sports in the near, if not immediate, future. Administratively, we continue to be committed to providing the resources necessary to make it happen. And the FY18 budget will reflect those commitments. The responsibility to enhance our strengths and address our weaknesses lands on my desk. I know our program is not reaching its full potential. Our staff spends every day committed to moving our program forward, both collectively and sport by sport, and when we fall short of expectations, we are there to provide support, and when we win, we celebrate alongside each sport. Regardless of the outcome, we remain loyal and dedicated to fully supporting our student-athletes and our coaches.  On the facility front, we have, or will have, invested over $95 million in our facilities over the past seven years. That total includes seven-figure projects at Sanford Stadium, Stegeman Coliseum, Foley Field, the Spec Towns Track, the Jack Turner Soccer Complex and the David Boyd Golf Center—and it doesn’t count the west end zone improvements in Sanford Stadium. That’s a million-dollar – and in most cases multi-million-dollar – investment in the competition facilities for 15 programs. Our board members have approved every one of these expenditures and each of you should feel a great deal of satisfaction about your efforts to make our physical plant exceptional. Believe me when I say that we have more than adequately invested in our TOTAL athletic program. That investment should be applauded.  I agree facilities are a vital part of an athletic program, and our plan of action over the years, and over the coming years, will provide the environment to thrive and compete at the highest levels in each sport. It has become commonplace to refer to facilities from school to school as an “arms race.” The game of comparing one school to another will always be a popular exercise for many. We will do what we think is best on a sport-by-sport basis for our teams in order to achieve all of our objectives on the field, in the classroom and in the community.  At this time, I would like to ask Josh Brooks to come forward and talk about his return to UGA, and his view of our facilities, both presently and in the future. Moving to the world of development, I’m proud to report the Georgia Bulldog Club – which has been the backbone of our fundraising efforts since it was founded decades ago – has set records once again. All of the credit for reaching these remarkable heights is a result of the leadership of our development staff, both past and present, along with 16,000 donors who provide support to our program.  The Magill Society initiative, launched in the Fall of 2015, is a remarkable story in itself. But it is not just the Magill Society alone --- it’s also scholarship endowments, sports-specific educational funds, naming opportunities --- it’s been a great year! And Ryan’s presentation demonstrated how our financial resources are essential to our annual operation. I would like to ask Matt Borman to come on up, and talk about the accomplishments of the Bulldog Club staff and share his thoughts with you at this time. I would like to thank Professor Shipley for earlier reviewing the academic report of our student-athletes for the past semester, and the past year. Ted White and his staff at the Rankin Smith Center are the very best in college athletics and the work they do every day to enrich the lives of our student-athletes is a wonderful story. Those efforts are validated often, most often at the end of each semester and none more so than on May 5th, during our graduation reception in Sanford Stadium prior to Commencement.  This special time is when the life of a student-athlete comes full circle. We saw these youngsters enter our program as wide-eyed teenagers. During orientation, we educate them on what’s ahead, what to look out for, how to prepare. We also let them know we are here to help, to help create an environment that allows them to excel in the classroom, in athletics and in life.  To have parents approach you to on that special day, to hear their appreciation for our staff helping their child in their journey to earn a degree, and to single out a staff member for good deeds done --- well, that’s priceless! In closing, I want to thank the President’s Office --- we are encircled by the persistent support we receive from President Morehead’s staff --- we appreciate your help . We are constantly amazed and appreciative of the depth, passion and concern our President affords the University of Georgia community on a daily basis. You are laser-focused on making UGA better every day, and that rubs off on all of us. Thanks for leading our school into the future --- we are in good hands. Our institution is the very birthplace of public higher education in our country. We have a legacy unlike any other. We have a college town unlike any other. So many have “committed to the G” --- and we are now asking everyone who believes in all of the “good” the University of Georgia does not only throughout our state, but around the country – to “commit to GEORGIA”. Let us not be distracted by those who attempt to divide us --- we must be united and stronger than ever before to help move our athletic program forward in the future. That concludes my report. Summary of Treasurer Ryan Nesbit’s Presentation In addition to the operating reserves summary that is customarily reviewed with the Board, additional information about these reserves, as well as endowed funds held and managed by the UGA Foundation for the benefit of the Athletic Association was presented. This presentation covered the endowments that are in place to provide scholarship funds for our student-athletes, endowed funds that provide general support for athletics, and the operating reserve funds. SLIDE 1 - In terms of the major objectives of maintaining adequate operating reserves, first and foremost, an adequate operating reserve is absolutely essential to sound financial planning and fiscal management. In addition, adequate reserves are a very important component of enabling the Athletic Association to stay in compliance with bond-related covenants as well as enabling it to achieve and maintain a Aa3 credit rating from Moody's Investors Service. SLIDE 2 - The most recent balances for the scholarship endowments, the general fund endowment and the operating reserve total just over $140 million. But more importantly, of that $140 million, only about $36.9 million of the operating reserve funds are unrestricted or uncommitted. Best practices suggest that nonprofits should maintain an operating reserve equal to 3 to 6 months of an organizations average recurring expenses with 3 months being the minimum amount of an operating reserve. With about $110 million of operating expenses and recurring interest expense included in the Athletic Association’s FY 2017 budget, this uncommitted balance should be somewhere between $27.5 million and $55 million. While we do believe that we are maintaining a healthy operating reserve, these figures underscore why it is very important for the Athletic Association to remain committed to identifying opportunities for additional revenue growth and capital fundraising because without additional revenue or fundraising, the Athletic Association’s capacity to invest in additional capital projects is limited. This statement is supported by the Credit Opinion that Moody’s issued in September 2016 which described the Athletic Association’s unrestricted liquidity as healthy and a strength that is counterbalancing its relatively high financial leverage.  SLIDE 3 - The first black slice of this summary chart represents the scholarship endowments and shows that this $37.7 million is restricted, by donor intent, to be used for scholarships and provides about $1.2 million a year for scholarships for our student-athletes. The red slice represents the general fund endowment and shows that this fund, which by Board policy is being managed as an endowment, will provide about $1.4 million annually to support the Athletic Association’s annual budget. The larger gray slice represents the $21.2 million that is committed from the current reserve balance to current capital projects. This figure does not include the $56.4 million of reserve and operating funds allocated for facilities projects over the past 10 years. The smaller gray slice represents $10 million from the operating reserve committed to the West End Zone project; this does not include an additional $4.5 million in estimated financing costs associated with the line of credit for this project that will be funded from the operating budget. Because a line of credit is being utilized for the West End Zone project, the amount of the reserve funds currently invested in the UGA Foundation’s long-term investment portfolio will not be reduced to help fund this project.  The final green slice represents the $36.9 million of unrestricted or uncommitted funds that remain available to enable the Athletic Association to: 1. stay compliant with bond-related covenants,  2. maintain a Aa3 credit rating,  3. maintain a standard operating reserve to provide the financial capacity to respond to unforeseen events that may go beyond the $1.7 million of contingency funds included in the FY 2018 budget, and 4. provide support for future capital projects.
  • Athens, GA – While kickoff is still 100 days away, you no longer have to wait to find out what time UGA and Appalachian State will kick off in Sanford Stadium to start the 2017 college football season in Athens on September 2nd.    6:15 p.m., meaning the game will begin under the sun, but should be completely under the lights by the start of the second half. The time is a bit of a change from the usual, and almost expected noon kickoff the Bulldogs are used to being assigned for early-season home games against non-power five opponents.    The game will be aired on ESPN.    Georgia has played Appalachian State one time in its history, beating the Mountaineers 45-6 on Homecoming in 2013. Week two sees the Bulldogs traveling to Notre Dame, also a night game, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. on NBC.     
  • From UGA Sports Communications Athens, Ga.--Former University of Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran will soon fulfill a promise he made to his mother seven years ago when he decided to leave UGA for the NFL -- to graduate college. When Curran left UGA after his junior season, his mother made him sign a contract that he would eventually come back and finish the three semesters he had left to complete his business degree.   Curran made an invaluable impact during his three seasons at UGA. Curran was named defensive captain his junior year and recorded 245 tackles total during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. During the 2010 NFL Draft, Curran was the first Bulldog selected when the Tennessee Titans picked him in the third round. After time with the Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he played in the Canadian Football League until 2015.   “We all have the dream of playing at the University of Georgia when we come here as student athletes, but ultimately you realize education is what matters most,” said Curran. “That’s the one thing after your body is depleted, and after you leave the field -- whether you go high or go low in your endeavors athletically -- no one can ever take that degree away from you. Once you get it, the sky is the limit.”   Curran describes the past years as having “one foot in and one foot out with school.” Since 2013, Curran has been coming back to UGA during the off-season in the spring to take two to three classes at a time. Curran was also engaged in motivational public speaking and wrote his first book, “Free Agent.”   Curran said he hopes that coming back to college and achieving his dream of earning a college degree will “inspire the next generation” to do the same.   “The guys that come through look at me as a role model,” said Curran. “Hey you can be a football player and make it to the highest level. You can also get the degree as well. Even if it’s not the conventional route of finishing in four years, you can still go and achieve your dreams and finish however long it takes, as long as you get it done.”   Looking back on his road to graduation, Curran described earning his degree as challenging, especially when it came to business classes with a lot of math such as accounting. To overcome the challenging courses, Curran said he put “focus on finding solutions” instead of “focus on (his) weaknesses.” Curran described himself as “relentless” and “persistent” in his academic work ethic and sought help when needed with professors, academic advisors and tutors.   “It wasn’t pretty but at the end of the day I got the win,” Curran said about earning his degree.   Curran said he took the perseverance and discipline lessons learned in football and applied them to his academics.   “It’s similar to playing linebacker,” said Curran. “You are going to get knocked down. You are going to make some good plays. Sometimes you are going to get some bumps and bruises. It’s about getting back up and pushing forward.”   After graduation, Curran plans to continue public speaking. The former UGA linebacker is also in the process of writing more books. In addition, Curran would like to resume taking the leadership skills learned in football and applying them to life and business coaching. 
  • Former Gainesville Red Elephant football and Clemson Tiger quarterback Deshaun Watson had his name called on the biggest of football stages last night in Philadelphia. With the 12th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected the once local high school legend and College Football Playoff champion. Watson was an AJC Super 11 selection in 2013 and left the Red Elephants as the Georgia record-holder for career passing yards in high school. In three seasons at Clemson, Watson  led the Tigers to two College Football Playoff appearances, winning a National Championship in 2017 when he beat the Alabama Crimson Tide,  and has twice been named a Heisman Trophy finalist. Earlier this year, the road that runs by the Gainesville High football stadium was named ‘Deshaun Watson Way’ in his honor. 
  • The University of Georgia has released incoming freshman D’Antne Demery from his national letter of intent following his arrest in Downtown Athens Saturday night. Demery was booked into the Clarke County jail 10:52pm Saturday night on a domestic violence charge. He was released after posting bond on Sunday afternoon.  Demery, a 6-foot-5 319 lb offensive lineman is a four star recruit from Brunswick, Ga, and was part of the Bulldogs’ No. 3 rated class nationally for 2017. He was set to arrive on campus this summer, and was in Athens this weekend as part of G-Day festivities.  The release from UGA:   “University of Georgia football signee D’Antne Demery has been released from his National Letter of Intent according to an announcement by UGA head coach Kirby Smart. The release follows Demery’s arrest Saturday night on charges of simple battery, criminal trespass-damaged property in downtown Athens. “The Brunswick, Ga., native signed with UGA in February and was scheduled to report to the University in June to begin classes.” Details of the arrest can be found in the following police report:  “On 04/22/17 at approximately 2115 hours, Downtown officers were dispatched to the area of the Waffle House, in reference to a black male choking (strangling) a female. Upon arrival, both individuals had left the area. Moments later, the victim called 911; advising that she wished to press charges against D’Antne Demery for hitting her. Contact was made with the victim in front of Boars Head. “She stated that she and Demery got into an argument; he began to get loud, she started to walk off, he told her ‘walk off again, and Imma show you.’ She began to walk away again, at which point, Demery came from behind her; grabbing her on the back of her neck; pushing her against the wall, and also grabbing her by the hair. They were eventually separated by friends. Demery was eventually able to reconnect with the victim, in which he threw her; causing her glasses to fall off, and her phone fell out of her hand; causing it to hit the ground which resulted in a crack to the screen. “The victim and Demery are dating and have a one month old child together. They came to Athens to attend the G-Day game. Contact was eventually made with Demery who admitted to having physical contact with the victim. There was also an independent witness who saw the incident take place. The victim advised that Demery has been physically violent with her in the past. They are from Brunswick, Georgia. Demery was placed under arrest for the above charges; placed inside the Transport Van, and transported to the Clarke County Jail without incident.”
  • From UGA Sports Communications ATHENS ----- University of Georgia football fans will get their first glimpse of the 2017 edition of the Bulldogs this Saturday, when the Red team faces the Black team at the annual G-Day intrasquad game in Sanford Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. and admission to the game is free. Stadium gates will open at 11:00 a.m. and festivities will begin at 11:30, when more than 60 Bulldog lettermen convene on the field for their annual alumni flag football game. At 1:00 the 2017 Bulldogs will continue the Dawg Walk tradition when they enter Sanford Stadium from outside the Tate Student Center. G-Day has traditionally included a canned food drive in behalf of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. This year, in lieu of bringing canned goods to the game, fans are asked to consider making monetary donations to the Food Bank at the United Healthcare display from 11:00 a.m. until kickoff. Donations will be accepted at Gates 6 and 7 and outside at Gate 10 underneath the bridge.  Additionally, fans will also be encouraged to help continue UGA’s drive to build a handicapped-accessible home for former Southern University football player Devon Gales, who suffered a career-ending spinal injury at Sanford Stadium in 2015. Donations can be made by texting “Devon” to the following number – (706) 204-1707 – or by writing a personal check, made payable to the Devon Gales House Construction Fund, and mailing to the following address: UGAAA 1 Selig Circle Butts-Mehre Hall, Room 402 Athens, GA 30603 Attn: Bryant Gantt At halftime, fans attending G-Day can expect to be introduced to UGA’s incoming class of 2017 signees. Additional activities during a packed, 12-minute intermission include: the Region’s Bank Cash Catch, where two lucky fans will compete for cash and prizes by attempting to catch passes from Bulldog alumni QBs D.J. Shockley and David Greene; and the Academy Punt, Pass or Kick promotion, when one lucky fan will win up to a $500 gift card to Academy Sports & Outdoors, and additional fans could win $50 gift cards to Academy. For the first time ever, Georgia’s coaching staff will present the annual Spring Awards on the field immediately after the G-Day game’s conclusion. The G-Day game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network, with Dave Neal and UGA alumni Matt Stinchcomb (in the booth) and Maria Taylor (sideline) calling the action. G-Day will also be carried on much of the Georgia Bulldogs Sports Network from IMG. Scott Howard and Eric Zeier will call the action, with Chuck Dowdle providing commentary from the sideline. UGA will use G-Day to implement the SEC’s Clear Bag Policy, which will go into effect at all SEC venues beginning this fall. The policy will also be in effect, beginning in the 2017-18 competition year, at all of UGA’s ticketed sports venues: Sanford Stadium, Stegeman Coliseum (men and women’s basketball, gymnastics) and Foley Field (baseball). More information on the SEC Clear Bag Policy can be found at: http://georgiadogs.com/clear-bag-policy. A schedule of events for this Saturday follows: • 11:00 – Sanford Stadium gates open • 11:30 – Lettermen’s Flag Football Game kicks off • 1:00 – Dawg Walk commences outside Tate Student Center • 2:00 – G-Day intrasquad game kicks off • 6:00 – UGA baseball vs. Vanderbilt at Foley Field
  • ATHENS – For years, Georgia’s head football and basketball coaches used to go on an extensive spring speaking tour, answering questions and shaking hands with fans who paid a small fee at the door. Those days of extensive touring around Georgia appear to be over. At least for now. The university has planned five events this spring featuring Kirby Smart, but they will be private donor events – and for now only one will be in the state of Georgia. The school will host events in Nashville, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Houston, with the lone in-state event being in Atlanta in July. These events will be closed to the public and the media, open only to donors. But there will also be two additional in-state events featuring Smart, athletics director Greg McGarity said Monday afternoon. Those events will just be branded differently. “We’re still working through two in-state events that would be branded under the Georgia Bulldog Club, or under UGA athletics,” McGarity said. In the past, Georgia football and basketball coach did as many as 12 spring tour stops, almost all in the state, from Columbus to Macon to Augusta and even smaller stops. But those tours have gradually dissipated: In Mark Richt’s final year, he only went to seven stops. Last year Smart went to five stops, though four of the were in-state, the exception being a donor event in Dallas. This year it’s going all-private, which someone with knowledge said evolved from Smart coming in with a new approach, and UGA wanting to do fundraising. There’s a feeling they don’t need the old model, where fans get a chance to hear from coaches and ask them questions, because of social media and other factors. Crowds at these events had also been going down. “The university is trying to be strategic to generate the money that everybody needs to generate right now,” McGarity said. “The purpose of these events have changed, they’ve morphed over the years.” The athletics department did seem to anticipate some fan blowback. “As for our donors, I realize there may be some sensitivity to the majority of the events being out of state this year,” associate athletics director for development Matt Borman wrote in an internal e-mail earlier this month. “If donors bring this up to you please just say that we are excited to be in Atlanta with an event in July and we wanted to take an opportunity this year to visit some of our supporters who don’t have the opportunity to make it to Athens on a regular basis. “After this year of events we will reevaluate and definitely consider bringing some of these events back into Georgia.” There are other speaking events for Smart that aren’t directly affiliated with the school. For instance, he is speaking Monday night at the Athens Touchdown Club, and spoke last month at the Macon Touchdown Club.
  • Athens, GA - The familiar sounds of coach’s whistles and stampeding linemen can be heard around the Butts-Mehre athletic complex in Five Points this afternoon. That’s because football, the lifeblood of the University of Georgia and Athens is back for 2017 Spring Practice.  Year two of head coach Kirby Smart will officially begin today with the first of a series of practices leading up to the April 22nd G-Day game to be held in Sanford Stadium, with no shortage of storylines to watch.  The progression of sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason will likely take the forefront of attention - again - as the heralded signal caller from Washington state will look to show maturity coming on the heels of a successful but otherwise not spectacular freshman season in the Southeastern Conference. And new this year comes legit competition from another five-star quarterback recruit from Houston County, Georgia, Jake Fromm. How the two will complement and push one another through the rigors of practice this spring and into fall will clearly define the success of the 2017 version of the Georgia Bulldogs.  Not to be outdone, plenty of attention will be given to the beloved pair of senior running backs who surprised many by announcing they would indeed spend their senior seasons between the hedges. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both could have declared for the NFL Draft, but instead decided they would rather wash the sour taste of an 8-5 season and a home loss to Georgia Teach in 2016 out their mouths the best way they know how, with the possibility of exacting revenge. Their return not only will cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators throughout the SEC, but will provide invaluable leadership for a young corps of running backs in line behind them preparing to be the future of a program often tabbed “Running Back U.” Smart’s defense will also be under a microscope as the boys practice under the shadows of bloomed dogwood trees these next few weeks. What was considered the weakness of the program this time last year - an ultra thin and young defensive line - proved to be one of the strongest units in 2016. How they progress and grow together will be examined closely.  And the biggest mystery of them all, the offensive line, will likely not shake out until the leaves start changing this fall, rather than under the fragrance of pollen this spring. What was clearly the most-handicapping aspect of an underwhelming offense last season is now missing a few starters, but also has a lion’s share of top recruits scheduled to arrive on campus this summer. So any observations of struggles in protecting the quarterbacks or opening up holes for the running backs may require an asterisks until we make the same observations five months from now.  It’s a happy time of year for many in this part of the world. It’s often referred to as “stress-free football,” with all the nostalgia of SEC football on the practice field, without the worry of losing to a hated rival on Saturday. And when tens of thousands file into Sanford Stadium for G-Day, there’s a guaranteed Bulldog victory to be seen. And no matter how you view it, or how you want to examine and analyze it, there’s one thing everybody will agree on: football is back. And the Classic City is simply more fun with it.