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Former Acting CIA Director Doubts Trump-Russia Collusion

"There is smoke, but there is no fire," former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell said, according to NBC News.
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Local News

  • The flash flood watch that is in effect for Athens and northeast Georgia continues into the weekend: forecasters say there is the ongoing chance of rain for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The flood watch is in place through at least noon Saturday. From Zachery Hansen, AJC… The rainy, muggy holiday weekend is fast approaching, but Atlanta should mostly avoid heavy amounts of rain Friday. The morning commute should be pretty dry, with only a few scattered sprinkles around the metro area, Channel 2 Action News Chief meteorologist Glenn Burns said. The afternoon and evening should also only see scattered showers around Atlanta, but the same can’t be said for eastern Georgia. Athens and Gainesville should get drenched most of the day starting at lunchtime, Burns said.  “(Friday) evening, we’re looking at heavy rains in eastern Georgia,” Burns said. “That’s the primary area that we’re going to focus on for flooding potential.” There’s a lot of water already soaked up in the ground in North and Middle Georgia from the past few days of storms. A flash flood watch is in effect for dozens of North and Middle Georgia counties through Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service. “Additional rounds of very heavy rainfall are likely as a trough of low pressure to the west feeds very high amounts of moisture into the area,” the Weather Service said. “Total rainfall amounts through Friday night could range from 2 to 4 inches with isolated amounts up to 8 inches.” The flash flood watch includes most metro Atlanta counties.
  • The Board of the University of Georgia Athletic Association continues its meeting this morning at the Georgia Center. Thursday’s session included reports from UGA president Jere Morehead and athletic director Greg McGarity and an update on ongoing and future facilities projects. UGA has raised more than $70 million for work on Sanford Stadium and other athletic facilities at the University of Georgia. From Chip Towers, AJC DawgNation… Georgia brought back much more from Notre Dame than a 1-point football victory last fall. Josh Brooks, the Bulldogs’ deputy athletic director for operations, gave the UGA Athletic Association a slide-show presentation of additional improvements beyond the multi-million dollar West End enhancements coming to Sanford Stadium this fall. And Brooks credited Georgia’s experience playing the Fighting Irish in South Bend for several of the concepts being implemented.  One has been the advent of the Silver Dawgs, a group UGA-associated retirees who will serve as home-game weekend hosts this fall. Based on Notre Dame’s “Usher Corps” that demonstrated tremendous hospitality for visiting Bulldogs fans last fall, the group had a “very successful” trial run at the G-Day Game in April. The latest idea, though, will manifest itself in aesthetic improvements at the Sanford Stadium this season. In an effort celebrate Georgia’s rich history in football, the Bulldogs will utilize new paint and cutting-edge graphics to bring life to areas of the stadium previously adorned only in “drab battleship gray.” “We witnessed a lot of things at Notre Dame last fall about how they celebrate their history,” Brooks told the board. “That got us to thinking about how we could celebrate our history and also warm up the stadium at the same time. So we’re going to try to dress up some of those concrete, gray areas we have.” Brooks showed a huge graphic of Herschel Walker running the football with an inscription of Larry Munson’s famous words “My God He’s a Freshman.” That artwork will be placed on one wall on the corner of the South side concourse. There also will be painted likenesses of players in full uniforms representative of their respective decades on support posts in the Gate 6 entrance area off East Campus Road. The covers of team programs for the corresponding year of every Georgia team in history will be painted on support columns on Reed Plaza. That’s just one small project among numerous substantial projects on which Brooks updated the board. Another was the $63 million construction project at Sanford Stadium, which will add a new locker room and recruiting lounge behind the West End grandstands. Another is a proposed $23 million renovation and construction project that would add six indoor courts to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. There also are recently completed expansion projects for the Boyd Center for men’s and women’s golf, the equestrian center and Stegeman Coliseum. UGA President Jere Morehead and athletic director Greg McGarity lauded the Georgia people for stepping up with donations to fund these projects. McGarity said the Bulldogs already have received $71 million in pledges — mostly coming from members of the relatively new Magill Society — toward the $93 million in football projects. “There’s a strong commitment by our supporters of the football program, but winning helps,” Morehead said after the first of two days of meetings with the board. “… But keep in mind, we’ve still got to collect on all of those pledges. We need people to pay up.” Of all the projects discussed Thursday, none included the expansion of Georgia’s weight room for football. In meetings all over the South since the end of Georgia’s SEC Championship football season, coach Kirby Smart has been telling donors of the Bulldogs’ facility improvement needs in that area. McGarity acknowledged that it was on Smart’s wish list, but said UGA is taking a prioritized approach to projects. “We have to finish the West End first,” McGarity said. “We feel good about what we’re doing. These things take time. We want to plan it the right way.” Added Morehead: “I think it’s important to keep things in context. Look where we were just five years ago. We’re in an extraordinarily competitive position at this point. I think our No. 1-ranked recruiting class demonstrates that it’s working.” Another improvement that UGA fans will notice at Sanford Stadium this fall will be the addition of 12 suites on field level of the East End. That’s where the Bulldogs used to enter the field from their game-day locker room underneath the grandstands. The marble statue of the Uga mascot will be moved to the northwest corner of the stadium to accommodate the change. All and all, there will be a brighter, more colorful and historic feel to Sanford Stadium in the fall. “You’re always trying to learn from what others do, and I think we learned a lot from Notre Dame,” Morehead said. “We took a victory away and I think that really propelled last year’s season of success. But we appreciated their warm hospitality before the game and during the game and after the game.”
  • When Danny Sniff first arrived on UGA’s campus more than 30 years ago, he drove up D.W. Brooks Drive shaking his head. “That shouldn’t be a road,” he thought. “It should be a green space.” Over the next several decades, he set to work as the campus architect, overseeing around 250 major capital projects and renovations that added about 8 million square feet in facilities and more than 50 acres of green space to the UGA campus. Although his last day as campus architect will be June 30, Sniff is not done yet. He sat down with Columns to discuss his proudest accomplishments at UGA and what he has planned for his second act. Columns: What were your favorite projects at UGA?Sniff: The projects I’m most tied to are returning Herty Field and D.W. Brooks Drive into green spaces. A campus is basically a set of buildings and a park. The space between becomes extremely important. When I first came here, campus was dominated by parking and parking lots, so I developed a master plan where we pushed the parking to the perimeter and tried to create a park-like center. One of the very first projects I worked on was the Ramsey Student Center and the Performing and Visual Arts Complex, and I also worked on the Miller Learning Center. I think they’re exemplary buildings to this day. Columns: Why are you so passionate about green spaces?Sniff: One thing American architects have given the world of architecture is the American college campus, where buildings are parallel and perpendicular to open spaces. The archetype of a college campus is like no other place. Students get out of class, meet their friends and study. They have these little gardens that are places of repose. It’s very special in the world of architecture, and I have been very fortunate to be a restorer of one of the best campuses in the country. Over the past few years, we’ve had dozens and dozens of visitors from around the world who come here and are blown away by this campus. I think we’re arguably one of the top universities for architecture and grounds in the country. We developed a master plan back in the 1990s to restore what was the quintessential American college campus, which was that green, or open, place between the buildings. Returning 50 acres of the original 600-acre campus to green space was really important for us to do. Columns: Why is historic preservation important in planning a campus layout?Sniff: First of all, preservation is important because of the legacy that we inherit: a 200-plus year history of the buildings and the grounds. We’re still using buildings that were built in 1806. So that’s an important task, to make sure that we’re respectful and honorable of what’s there. There are a lot of memories of this place that you have to respect as well. We started the preservation program on North Campus. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve renovated almost every single building, and almost every single building we worked on, we’ve received awards or accolades from preservation societies. You have to respect what came before you; that’s what makes preservation very important. Columns: How about sustainability?Sniff: To me, architects need to be smart with the buildings they design. These buildings, as we just said, have been here for more than 200 years, so to continue to use your buildings for years to come is very important. It’s not smart or economical to tear things down and rebuild. When you approach the design of a building on campus that you know is going to be there for over 100 years, making it as flexible, as usable and as energy efficient as possible and making it something that will be survive for the next200 years makes a lot of sense. Columns: What’s next for you?Sniff: I’ve started a little consulting company. I’ve very much planned this retirement, and I’m not afraid of the challenges of changing what I’ve been doing for so long. The university’s been fantastic to me. I went back and got the qualifications and degrees to teach, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years. And it’s just been wonderful, fantastic. I’m going to continue teaching as an adjunct for as long as they’ll have me around. I look forward to stretching my brain in different directions.
  • The Georgia Bulldog baseball team awaits its post-season fate: the Diamond Dogs were eliminated from the SEC tournament in Hoover Alabama with Thursday’s loss to Ole Miss. The Dogs will learn over the weekend who and where they play in an NCAA Regional. From UGA Sports Communications… Fourth-ranked Ole Miss eliminated eighth-ranked Georgia 5-4 in 10 innings at the SEC Tournament Thursday at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.   Sophomore Grae Kessinger led off the bottom of the first with his seventh home run to give the Rebels a 1-0 advantage. In the fourth inning, an RBI-single by Chase Cockrell scored Will Golsan who was on after a leadoff double. Bulldog senior right-hander Chase Adkins started and provided five innings and allowing two runs on seven hits with two strikeouts.   Heading to the seventh, Georgia had just three baserunners on the day, a single by Adam Sasser in the second, a two-out double by L.J. Talley in the fifth and a one-out walk to C.J. Smith in the sixth. Then, senior Keegan McGovern smashed a leadoff double, his 14th of the year. After Michael Curry moved him to third with a groundout, Sasser followed with a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 2-1. The run snapped a stretch of 33 scoreless innings by the Bulldogs at the SEC Tournament.    With Cam Shepherd at the plate in the seventh, the game was halted for one hour and 54 minutes due to rain and lightning. When play resumed, Ole Miss closer Parker Caracci took the mound and finished the frame. Georgia turned to freshman Ryan Webb. Kessinger struck again in the seventh with a leadoff double and later scored on a fielder’s choice by Thomas Dillard for a 3-1 lead.   In the eighth with two Bulldogs in scoring position and two outs, Aaron Schunk hit a chopper back to Caracci who opted to throw it home and it was wide of the catcher and went to the backstop, allowing two runs to score and tie the contest. Talley had led off the inning with a double and pinch-hitter Tucker Bradley followed with a single. Pinch-runner Ivan Johnson stole second before Caracci came back to strike out pinch-hitter Mason Meadows and C.J. Smith to bring up Schunk who ended up at third on the bizarre play. Schunk, who also serves as the closer, came in to pitch in the bottom of the inning.   In the 10th, Talley blasted his sixth home run of the year to put Georgia in front 4-3. However in the bottom of the inning, the Rebels (43-15) answered with a pair of runs capped by an RBI-single by Tim Rowe for the walk-off victory to end a contest that lasted 3:10. Caracci improved to 4-2 while Schunk dropped to 2-2.    “It was a tough way to lose after a back-and-forth game, and we tied it in crazy fashion and then took a lead, and baseball can be a cruel game,” said Georgia’s Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. “It’s a disappointing way to end the game, and you have to credit Ole Miss for coming back too. They’re a very good team, a top five team, and I think what we’ve done over the course of the season, we’ll be a national seed. I think the SEC will have four national seeds and we’ll get back home and get some rest and get ready for an NCAA Regional. “   The Bulldogs (37-19) now wait until Sunday evening when the 16 NCAA Regional hosts are announced, and then on Monday at noon on ESPNU, the field of 64 including the top 16 seeds for the NCAA Baseball Championship will be revealed.
  • A note from City Hall for candidates in Tuesday’s Athens elections, the winners and the losers: they’re encouraged to round up their campaign signs and turn them for recycling at the Athens-Clarke County recycling division.  The post-election formalities continue, with candidates collecting campaign signs from roadways and the Secretary of State’s office putting the finishing touches on vote counting, with certification of Tuesday’s results soon to come. A half-dozen Republicans and two Democrats are still on the campaign trail, aiming now for July 24 runoffs. Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp are seeking the Republican nomination for Governor; David Shafer and Geoff Duncan are Republicans running for Lieutenant Governor; Brad Raffensperger and David Bell Isle are candidates for Secretary of State. The only Democratic runoff pits Otha Thornton against Sid Chapman, two candidates who want to be state School Superintendent.

Bulldog News

  • GREENSBORO — The Georgia Athletic Association board of directors approved a record $143.3 million budget on Friday. And it’s a good thing, because costs are going through the roof, particularly when it comes to football. Among the line items in the 2019 budget, approved by unanimous vote at the spring meeting here at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee, was a football compensation expenditure of $9,418,877. That’s the cost of paying head coach Kirby Smart his new $6.6 million salary plus the salaries of all of the members of the ever-growing football support staff. The figure is almost twice what UGA paid in football salaries the previous year ($4.985 million). “It’s all relative to college athletics now,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said after the meeting. Georgia’s football operations budget for 2019 is $35.2 million, up $7.8 million from 2018. That includes a $2.265 million outlay for recruiting travel. There also is a new line-item buried within. It’s $1.8 million, which is the new federal excise tax that is being assessed on nonprofits that pay employees more than $1 million in salary. So Georgia is now being assessed a 21 percent tax rate on anything over that amount that it pays coaches. Currently that is on three individuals: Smart, basketball coach Tom Crean ($3.2 million) and football defensive coordinator  Mel Tucker ($1.5 million). The federal excise tax was part of a legislative package passed last year that also will eliminate donations to athletic departments to buy tickets. “I understand the theory behind passing the legislation [to discourage excessive salaries] but I’m not sure in the current marketplace that it’s going to achieve its goal,” UGA President Jere Morehead said. “So far it has not.” So while college athletics has more money than ever coming in, it has more than ever going out as well. Georgia is spending more money than ever to take care of student-athletes, including cost-of-attendance supplements, training table and other services. “Fortunately we’re able to do so much more for our student-athletes than we used to do,” McGarity said. “I’d say other than salaries and support services that we need to keep the engine running, what we’re spending on our student-athletes has been truly transformative. That’s not really being talked about. There are certain things we’re able to do that they’re not able to do on a lot of other campuses.” Case in point would be what UGA is doing in the area of behavorial health. Ron Courson, Georgia’s director of sports medicine, and his staff gave a 40-minute presentation on the health services they’re providing student-athletes in the area of behavorial assessment and treatment. The Bulldogs now employ a doctor of psychiatry, two clinical psychologists and a social worker. They’re seeking to add at least one more professional to the team. Last year, that team had “895 encounters” not counting group meetings and treated 130 individuals, according to Courson. “It’s something we’ve been trying to put a great deal of emphasis on,” Courson said. “We’re hoping to add another licensed social worker and other professionals. We’re excited about what we’ve done so far, but we’re really excited about what else we can do to get better.” In addition to coaching compensation and student-athlete services, the Bulldogs have stepped up their pace considerably in terms of facility improvements. Football is at the end of a three-year period in which it has spent $93 million on construction projects with the Payne Indoor Athletic Facility and $63 million for a locker room and recruiting lounge addition at Sanford Stadium that is due for completion at the end of June. Board treasurer Ryann Nesbitt reported that Georgia has received $50.6 million in gifts and pledges toward those projects, including $25.1 million in cash collections. Indications are that a new weight room and additional meeting rooms and coaches’ offices will added to the Butts-Mehre Football Complex over the next year. Georgia also recently did $8 million in improvements on Stegeman Coliseum, completed a $4.2 million construction project to expand the Boyd Golf Center, expanded its equestrian facilities, and completed a study that showed plans to renovate the Dan Magill Tennis Complex and build a six-court indoor facility will cost a minimum of $23 million. “So we have committed a lot of money to improvements, and will continue to,” McGarity said. The athletic association also donated $4.5 million to UGA’s general fund as it has done annually for the last several years. “It certainly has benefited the institution in supporting student scholarships in particular as well as the creation of professorships,” Morehead said. “I think it has been mutually beneficial. The escalating cost of running a top Division I athletic program certainly creates challenges, but we appreciate we’ve been able to maintain that level of consistent support.” Accordingly, Georgia’s new budget represented a $15.8 million increase over last year. Several members of the board asked McGarity if there were any concerns that the lucrative revenue stream that has been provided the SEC in recent years due to its network arrangement with ESPN might regress in the future. It has been well publicized that the television behemoth known as the “worldwide network” has been experiencing financial trouble in recent years due to decreases in cable-television subscriptions. “We think our revenue stream will continue to grow,” McGarity said. “Whether they’re consuming the products from Hulu or whatever, the content is still being distributed and ESPN is retaining the rights for that. There are so many different platforms, but ESPN is still part of the package.” The post UGA’s record $143 million athletics budget includes eye-popping expenditures appeared first on DawgNation.
  • GREENSBORO, Ga. — An interesting side discussion developed in the minutes following the first day of the UGA Athletic Association’s board of directors meeting Thursday at the Ritz Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee. UGA President Jere Morehead was asked if he felt that athletic director Greg McGarity, standing six inches to his left, was deserving of a contract extension and/or raise. It made for a somewhat awkward exchange and resulted in considerable blushing from the already rosey-faced McGarity. “We’re not talking about anything but the current situation,” Morehead said of his AD, who has one year remaining on a contract that pays him $675,000 a year. “But, yes, I have great confidence in Greg. He’s doing a tremendous job, but we’re good where we are.” Asked if “yes” meant UGA is indeed contemplating an extension for McGarity, Morehead clarified: “No. I’m saying to you we haven’t had any of those kinds of conversations.” It was at this point that McGarity somewhat sheepishly piped in. “There’s no urgency,” said McGarity, Georgia’s AD since September 2010. “We’re in great shape. Today is about all these teams and everything they’ve done. There’s just no urgency about [the contract].” An increase in compensation would appear justified. In a recent survey of SEC athletic director salaries, the database SportsInfo.pro revealed that McGarity’s salary ranks 13th — or next to last. Only Auburn’s Allen Greene makes less ($625,000). Alabama’s Greg Byrne makes the most at $1.225 million, followed by Florida’s Scott Stricklin ($1.08M). Even Tennessee’s newly appointed, first-time AD Phillip Fulmer will earn $1.04 million this year. In all, four of the conference’s athletic directors earn at least $1 million a year and 10 earn $800,000 or more. “When Greg has issues about things like that, he’ll come to me and talk about them,” Morehead said. Said McGarity, who is not represented by an agent: “I have no issues. I don’t compare myself against others. I’m extremely well-compensated regardless of what others make. The only time I ever pay attention to it is when somebody brings it up. I’m in great shape, I have a great boss and work for a great institution. I don’t get involved in that and it really doesn’t bother me at all.” McGarity, 63, came to Georgia from Florida in 2010 to succeed Damon Evans and said then that he expected to be in the position at least 10 years or “as long as Georgia will have me.” Asked Thursday if that were still the case, McGarity said, “I just think it’s an unforeseeable future. We’ll just see what happens. And, trust me, we haven’t even talked about it. It’s not urgent; it’s not important. But for the foreseeable future, I feel like I’m in great shape.” It bears pointing out that everybody was singing McGarity’s praises on Thursday, Morehead included. The Bulldogs won the SEC Championship and finished No. 2 in the nation in football. UGA currently is 13th in the Learfield all-sports national rankings, won a national championship in track, won the SEC’s all-sports trophy for women and is No. 2 in that ranking. “Looking across all 21 sports — fall and spring — I cannot recall in recent memory a stronger year for Georgia athletics,” Morehead said. “And the year is far from over. Teams are still competing with championship aspirations. The tremendous success we are witnessing this year is a testament to our commitment to excellence in all of our sports.” Meanwhile, UGA athletics just last week received recognition from the NCAA for its top-10 placement in Academic Progress Rate (APR) for all its sports. Four of Georgia’s sports — including men’s basketball — were ranked in the top 10. It has been a good year McGarity, for sure. That hasn’t always been the case. He has been criticized in the past for his handling of coaches, including former football coach Mark Richt, men’s basketball coach Mark Fox and current baseball coach Scott Stricklin. But since then he has hired Kirby Smart, who has turned around the football program; Stricklin’s Diamond Dogs are likely going to host an NCAA Regional this year; and Tom Crean so far at least has energized the fan base with his hyperbolic promotion of the basketball program. I ask you, DawgNation, does McGarity deserve a contract extension? A raise? Nothing? The post Might be time to talk new contract for Georgia AD Greg McGarity appeared first on DawgNation.
  • GREENSBORO, N.C. — Georgia brought back much more from Notre Dame than a 1-point football victory last fall. Josh Brooks, the Bulldogs’ deputy athletic director for operations, gave the UGA Athletic Association a slide-show presentation of additional improvements beyond the multi-million dollar West End enhancements coming to Sanford Stadium this fall. And Brooks credited Georgia’s experience playing the Fighting Irish in South Bend for several of the concepts being implemented. One has been the advent of the Silver Dawgs, a group UGA-associated retirees who will serve as home-game weekend hosts this fall. Based on Notre Dame’s “Usher Corps” that demonstrated tremendous hospitality for visiting Bulldogs fans last fall, the group had a “very successful” trial run at the G-Day Game in April. The latest idea, though, will manifest itself in aesthetic improvements at the Sanford Stadium this season. In an effort celebrate Georgia’s rich history in football, the Bulldogs will utilize new paint and cutting-edge graphics to bring life to areas of the stadium previously adorned only in “drab battleship gray.” “We witnessed a lot of things at Notre Dame last fall about how they celebrate their history,” Brooks told the board. “That got us to thinking about how we could celebrate our history and also warm up the stadium at the same time. So we’re going to try to dress up some of those concrete, gray areas we have.” Brooks showed a huge graphic of Herschel Walker running the football with an inscription of Larry Munson’s famous words “My God He’s a Freshman.” That artwork will be placed on one wall on the corner of the South side concourse. There also will be painted likenesses of players in full uniforms representative of their respective decades on support posts in the Gate 6 entrance area off East Campus Road. The covers of team programs for the corresponding year of every Georgia team in history will be painted on support columns on Reed Plaza. That’s just one small project among numerous substantial projects on which Brooks updated the board. Another was the $63 million construction project at Sanford Stadium, which will add a new locker room and recruiting lounge behind the West End grandstands. Another is a proposed $23 million renovation and construction project that would add six indoor courts to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. There also are recently completed expansion projects for the Boyd Center for men’s and women’s golf, the equestrian center and Stegeman Coliseum. UGA President Jere Morehead and athletic director Greg McGarity lauded the Georgia people for stepping up with donations to fund these projects. McGarity said the Bulldogs already have received $71 million in pledges — mostly coming from members of the relatively new Magill Society — toward the $93 million in football projects. “There’s a strong commitment by our supporters of the football program, but winning helps,” Morehead said after the first of two days of meetings with the board. “… But keep in mind, we’ve still got to collect on all of those pledges. We need people to pay up.” Of all the projects discussed Thursday, none included the expansion of Georgia’s weight room for football. In meetings all over the South since the end of Georgia’s SEC Championship football season, coach Kirby Smart has been telling donors of the Bulldogs’ facility improvement needs in that area. McGarity acknowledged that it was on Smart’s wish list, but said UGA is taking a prioritized approach to projects. “We have to finish the West End first,” McGarity said. “We feel good about what we’re doing. These things take time. We want to plan it the right way.” Added Morehead: “I think it’s important to keep things in context. Look where we were just five years ago. We’re in an extraordinarily competitive position at this point. I think our No. 1-ranked recruiting class demonstrates that it’s working.” Another improvement that UGA fans will notice at Sanford Stadium this fall will be the addition of 12 suites on field level of the East End. That’s where the Bulldogs used to enter the field from their game-day locker room underneath the grandstands. The marble statue of the Uga mascot will be moved to the northwest corner of the stadium to accommodate the change. All and all, there will be a brighter, more colorful and historic feel to Sanford Stadium in the fall. “You’re always trying to learn from what others do, and I think we learned a lot from Notre Dame,” Morehead said. “We took a victory away and I think that really propelled last year’s season of success. But we appreciated their warm hospitality before the game and during the game and after the game.” The post Notre Dame experience catalyst for more improvements at Sanford Stadium appeared first on DawgNation.
  • GREENSBORO, Ga. — Greetings from the Ritz-Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee, my home away from home. That’s a joke. The only time I ever get to enjoy this posh resort an hour south of Athens is every other year when the University of Georgia Athletic Association board of the directors holds its end-of-year meeting here. That’s happening over the next two days. There’s a meeting of the executive committee this morning, followed by a meeting of the full board until lunch.  The group will adjourn for golf and personal time on the expansive resort, which includes a full spa and golf course, then reconvene Friday morning to conduct more business. Among the items expected to be discussed at this year’s meeting: The approval of a record $143 million budget; An update on several construction projects, including the $63 million west end zone addition at Sanford Stadium and the new men’s and women’s golf headquarters; An update on fundraising to pay for recent projects, including the $30 million indoor athletic facility, thought to be in the range of $90 million; A proposal to build a new $18 million six-court, indoor tennis facility in the South Campus area where the current Lindsey Hopkins four-court facility exists; Election and reappointment of board members and proposal to amend board bylaws; A new student ticket distribution plan; An academic report, which will include details about UGA’s recent recognition by the NCAA for scoring in the top 10 percent of all teams across the country in each sport. As always, there will likely be some unexpected developments. We’ll be here to provide updates the next two days. The post UGA athletic board expected to approve record budget, more construction projects appeared first on DawgNation.
  • SAVANNAH – In the words of the late, great Paul Harvey (ask your parents, kids), “now for the rest of the story.” I was in Columbus on Monday for UGA’s Coaches Caravan stop there. Today I am in Savannah for Stop 2 on this coach speaking mini-tour for Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Tom Crean. So I drove from Columbus to Savannah last night. If you haven’t looked at a map, I’ll just tell you that’s a long way, 4-plus hours by car, which is how I made it. Fortunately for Smart and Crean, they didn’t come here the same way. They flew back to Athens last night via UGA’s plane, kissed their loved ones good night, slept in their own beds, then flew down here to the “Hostess City of the South. Tuesday night, Georgia’s coaches flew back home to Athens. I asked Smart for a ride-along after I walked out to my garage Monday and found my car’s left front tire flat, but he insisted all the seats were occupied. So I rented. Kirby Smart (far right) stands at the front of a long line of fans waiting to get his autograph at Savannah Station on Tuesday. (Chip Towers/DawgNation) Anyway, it seems that my collection of observances from the Columbus proceedings touched a nerve with some UGA folks, particularly those who plan and organize these undertakings. I noted in my column Monday night that the event at the Convention & Trade Center in Columbus seemed lightly attended and somewhat compressed in overall length and depth of program. That was indeed the case. But, while there were a few more no-shows than expected, I’m told that it was intimate by design. That’s according to Matt Borman, Georgia’s executive associate athletic director for development (aka, chief fundraiser). Borman and his staff organize these events, which aren’t to be confused with your father’s and grandfather’s Bulldog Club meetings. These functions aren’t advertised or marketed anywhere, Borman told me. They’re free and open to anyone to attend, but they’re essentially invitation-only events. The people who show up are UGA alumni and/or season-ticket holders — and their friends or children — who received an email telling them that the Top Dawgs are going to be in the area and they should come out and hang out for an evening. This is not to be confused with the “all-calls” of the past, where thousands of Georgia fans from all around were summoned some massive venue to bark and whoop it up for their Bulldogs. This is what you’d call a “targeted audience.” “We’re not trying to be more exclusive,” Borman told me Tuesday, “But we are trying to create a more intimate atmosphere for a group of alumni and fans to spend with our coaches.” Case in point, the 10-minute speech that Smart delivered Monday night to about 290 fans in Columbus was just a small part of his evening there. Before that, he and Crean signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans who stood in line for that opportunity. After their speeches, Crean and Smart were jettisoned across town in Columbus to the Chattahoochee River Club, where they attended a dinner with – well, let’s just say – a very, very special group of donors. In all, the coaches spent nearly six hours in Columbus, according to Borman. That’s why these get-togethers start at 4:30 in the afternoon. It’s more of a happy-hour before the main event. The Bulldogs followed exactly the same format in Savannah on Tuesday. This time, the UGA entourage hustled 3.2 miles down the road to The Savannah Golf Club for a dinner with friends. Georgia held three events similar to these earlier this year in Dallas, Charlotte and Tampa, then there’s going to be a dinner-only function in Atlanta in July. And that’s going to be it for the year. So it’s a change in times and philosophy for sure, but one that’s been gradually coming on for the last few years. And as one might imagine, they’re certainly nice affairs. In contrast to what I saw in Columbus, Tuesday night’s occasion was extremely well-attended, standing-room in the magnificent venue building known as Savannah Station (a brilliantly repurposed and privately-owned 110-year-old facility that used to serve as a stable for horses delivering freight to and from the port, I learned). Attendees weren’t disappointed. They were whipped into a lather by the Energizer Bunny otherwise known as Georgia’s new basketball coach. Crean knows both how to promote his program and pay homage to football program that pays the freight in these parts. Organizers are well advised to provide him a sturdy dais, for whatever stands in front of him will be duly fist-pounded. Then there was Smart, in stark contrast. Adored for leading the Bulldogs to their first SEC championship in 12 years last season, he doesn’t need to say much to incite applause and barking. He’s more focused in approach, hammering down on UGA’s attributes and needs and basically challenging the group come through for him. Like he is on the recruiting trail, Smart remains a man on the mission. His stated goal is to make Georgia football the biggest and the best, whether it be on the field, on the scoreboard or, yes, in total square footage of its weight room. “Every day, we’re competing for a standard at Georgia,” Smart said. “We’re trying to take this football program to a place we still haven’t gotten to.” The targeted crowd loved what both coaches had to say. And as long as those Ws keep coming, they’ll keep stroking those checks. The post Georgia focusing on key alumni, donors with ‘more intimate’ Coaches Caravan appeared first on DawgNation.