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US News Headlines

    President Donald Trump says China's economy is feeling the pressure of his tariffs, and he thinks a 'big and very comprehensive deal' could happen. Trump asserts in a tweet that China's economy is 'growing much slower than anticipated because of our Trade War.' China on Friday reported underwhelming gains in monthly retail sales and industrial production, which could be a possible consequence of the Trump administration's import taxes against China. But China also is engaged in a broader slowdown, after a decades-long boom, in hopes of boosting consumer demand and fostering a sustainable level of continued growth. Also Friday, China announced a 90-day suspension of tariff increases on $126 billion of U.S. cars, trucks and auto parts following its trade truce with Washington.
  • An effort to put the New Hampshire Republican Party in President Donald Trump's corner ahead of the state's leadoff presidential primary is facing both private and public pushback. The state party has a long tradition of not taking sides during primaries, but some Trump supporters want to drop the neutrality clause from the organization's bylaws. Bruce Breton, a town selectman in Windham who plans to propose a change in January, says it's only logical that the party supports the incumbent president. But at least one prominent Trump endorser is working quietly to discourage the change, arguing that it's unnecessary, would make the president appear weak and could jeopardize the state's first-in-the-nation status. Outgoing party chairman Wayne MacDonald and several predecessors oppose the idea, as does Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, rumored to be President Donald Trump’s top pick to fill the chief of staff role once John Kelly exits later this year, said Friday that he’s asked Trump not to consider him for the post. >> Read more trending news 'It's an honor to have the President consider me as he looks to choose a new White House chief-of-staff,' Christie said Friday in a statement first obtained by The New York Times. 'However, I've told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment. As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post.' Christie’s comments came one day after he met with Trump to discuss the position, CNN reported, citing a pair of sources familiar with the discussion. No job offer was made Thursday, according to CNN. Trump announced Dec. 8 that Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general who served as Trump's Homeland Security secretary before becoming his chief of staff in July 2017, will leave at the end of the year.  >> Trump: John Kelly to leave by end of year Christie is one of several people to reportedly discuss the imminent chief of staff vacancy with Trump in recent days. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, was no longer in the running for the position, Politico reported. “Congressman Mark Meadows is a great friend to President Trump and is doing an incredible job in Congress,” Huckabee Sanders said in a statement obtained by Politico. “The President told him we need him in Congress, so he can continue the great work he is doing there.” Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, had long been rumored to be Trump’s top pick for the job, but he declined to fill the role earlier this month. Ayers, 36, and Trump were unable to agree on a time frame for the job, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, with Ayers unwilling to commit to the role deep into next year. >> Mike Pence’s top aid Nick Ayers won’t replace John Kelly as Trump’s Chief of Staff White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters Friday that, while Kelly is slated to leave at the end of the year, “if the president and the chief of staff make another deal and extend it, they can do that,” the New York Post reported. “It’s their prerogative to do so,” Gidley said. “Right now, currently, John Kelly is expected to leave at the first of the year.”
  • The winning numbers in Friday afternoon's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's 'All or Nothing Day' game were: 03-04-06-08-10-11-14-16-20-21-22-23 (three, four, six, eight, ten, eleven, fourteen, sixteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three)
  • Turkey's president says he has heard an audio recording in which a suspected killer of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi allegedly says: 'I know how to cut well.' Speaking Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added that the man heard in the recording was a high-level soldier and 'morgue employee' who 'openly' said he could dissect a body. Turkey has shared the audio recording with Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany and others. Turkey says a 15-person hit squad killed Khashoggi on Oct. 2 in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate. His remains have not been found. Erdogan also criticized the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman for saying the journalist had left the consulate, a claim he later reversed. 'This nation is not dumb, it knows how to hold (people) accountable,' said Erdogan.
  • Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating the finances of President Donald Trump's inaugural committee and whether foreigners contributed to its events using straw donors. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that prosecutors in New York are investigating whether some of the committee's donors made contributions in exchange for political favors and access to the Trump administration— a potential violation of federal corruption laws. The inquiry, which the newspaper said is in its early stages, is also focused on whether the inauguration committee misspent some of the $107 million it raised to stage events celebrating Trump's inauguration. The New York Times reported that prosecutors are examining whether people from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries made illegal payments to the committee and a pro-Trump super political action committee in a bid to influence American policy. Foreign contributions to inaugural funds and PACs are prohibited under federal law. Both newspapers cited anonymous sources familiar with the inquiry. The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan did not respond to a request for comment Friday. The inaugural committee said it has not been contacted by federal prosecutors and is not aware of any investigations. The committee 'staged a celebration of our democratic processes and did so in full compliance with all applicable laws and disclosure obligations,' it said Friday in a statement to The Associated Press. 'The inauguration's accounting was provided both to the Federal Election Commission and the IRS in compliance with all laws and regulations,' it said. 'These were funds raised from private individuals and were then spent in accordance with the law and the expectations of the donors.' It added that the names of donors were given to the election commission and have been public for nearly two years. It said the donors were vetted and no improprieties were found. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley was asked by reporters Friday if there were any 'improprieties' with the inauguration funding. 'The president of the United States has one job at the inauguration. It's to show up, to thank everyone for the service to get him elected, and then also dance with the first lady,' Gidley said in response. 'He did all of those things. This charge has nothing to do with the president of the United States, and it has nothing to do with this administration.' The investigation marks the latest potential threat to the president and people in his inner circle. The Times and Wall Street Journal reported that it stemmed in part from materials the FBI seized earlier this year while probing the business dealings of Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime fixer and personal attorney. Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison this week for tax evasion and campaign-finance violations. The newspapers reported that an FBI search of Cohen's office and home last spring uncovered a recorded conversation between the lawyer and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump who ran companies that were paid $26 million by the inaugural committee. On the recording, Winston Wolkoff reportedly criticized the president of the inaugural fund, Tom Barrack, over its management. Spokesman Owen Blicksilver told The Times that Barrack 'has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to either the campaign, the inauguration or any such political activity.' Winston Wolkoff did not immediately return a voicemail left at her Manhattan home. Prosecutors also are probing the finances of Rebuilding America Now, a pro-Trump super PAC that raised $23 million, according to The Times. The newspaper reported that federal prosecutors in New York and from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller have questioned witnesses over whether anyone from Middle Eastern countries contributed to the committee. The Journal also reported that prosecutors have requested documents from a Tennessee developer relating to a $1 million contribution he made to the inaugural committee in December 2016. The developer, Franklin Haney, hired Cohen to help secure a $5 billion loan from the Energy Department for a nuclear-power project, the newspaper reported. Attorneys for Haney and Cohen declined to comment. The inquiry is not the first time prosecutors have scrutinized Trump's inauguration. Earlier this year, Sam Patten, a well-known Republican lobbyist, pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent for a Ukrainian political party and admitted to lining up a straw purchaser to pay $50,000 for four tickets to the inauguration. Patten is a business associate and co-defendant of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. ___ Information from: The Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com
  • Venezuela's last nationally circulated, anti-government newspaper has published its final print edition. The front page of El Nacional on Friday led with an article quoting the paper's president and CEO Miguel Otero. Otero said the paper was 'a warrior and will continue to fight.' He also said journalists would work 'for independent journalism in Venezuela.' Executives said El Nacional was becoming an exclusively online publication due to unrelenting government pressure and paper shortages. The paper has been printed for 75 years and has a reputation for taking on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela is a once-wealthy oil nation that has been plunged into economic turmoil under two decades of socialist rule.
  • Bill Fralic, the burly, bruising and athletic offensive lineman who starred for the Atlanta Falcons and was a three-time All-American at Pittsburgh, has died. He was 56. The school said Fralic had cancer and died Thursday at his home in suburban Atlanta. Fralic was the first offensive lineman to finish in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy balloting — finishing eighth in 1983 and sixth in 1984. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998. The school retired his No. 79 at halftime of his final home game in 1984. 'Bill Fralic is the best,' Joe Moore, who worked as Pitt's offensive line coach during Fralic's career, once said. 'If you can find somebody better, bring him to me. I've been privileged to coach some good ones here, but none better than Bill Fralic. Those kind only pass through once.' The Falcons selected Fralic with the second overall pick in the 1985 draft. He spent nine seasons in the league, including eight as a fixture with the Falcons. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and earned All-Pro honors in 1986 and 1987. The NFL placed him on its All-Decade Team for the 1980s. 'Bill Fralic was not only an all-time player at the University of Pittsburgh, but also an all-time human being,' Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. 'His generosity, support and concern for others was unmatched. For as hulking a figure as he was, Billy was even larger in his kindness and passion for others.' Fralic's playing career ended after the 1993 season with the Detroit Lions. He was a radio analyst for Pitt and the Falcons following his retirement. Fralic grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, starring at Penn Hill High School before joining the hometown Panthers. He never forgot his roots, footing the hotel bill for the Penn Hills football team last week when the Indians traveled to Hershey, Pennsylvania, to play in the Class 5 A state title game, which they won. ___ More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • Colorado police investigating the disappearance of a woman last seen on Thanksgiving Day searched her fiancé's property on Friday morning. Police did not immediately disclose any information about the purpose of the search at the property in the tiny community of Florissant, south of Denver. Police announced that they would hold a news conference Friday afternoon to provide updated information about the disappearance of 29-year-old Kelsey Berreth. Her disappearance has mystified her family and investigators. She was last seen on Thanksgiving Day entering a grocery store with what appears to be her 1-year-old daughter in a baby carrier, in images captured on surveillance video. Patrick Frazee, her fiance, told police the couple met sometime that afternoon so he could pick up the child from her. They did not live together. Police said the only sign of Berreth after that were text messages from her cellphone. Location data later suggested that by Nov. 25 the phone was in Idaho, 800 miles (1,290 kilometers) from Berreth's home in the Colorado city of Woodland Park, about a 20-minute drive from Florissant. Frazee has not been named as a suspect in the disappearance of Berreth, a pilot who works as a flight instructor for an aviation company. Public records show that property associated with Frazee's name in Florissant covers 35 acres (14 hectares). Teller County Sheriff spokesman Commander Greg Couch said Frazee was on the property when investigators arrived Friday morning to conduct the search. Couch said Frazee was not arrested. Frazee's attorney, Jeremy Loew, said in a statement that his client is continuing to cooperate with the investigation. Loew said Frazee was not asked to participate in the property search. 'We encourage law enforcement to take whatever steps it deems necessary to find Kelsey Berreth and to be able to exclude Patrick Frazee as a possible suspect in this missing person investigation,' Loew said. Loew had previously said that Frazee provided police with DNA samples and gave investigators access to his cell phone. The couple's daughter has remained with her father. Frazee told police Berreth last texted him on Nov. 25, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Her employer received a text message from her cellphone that day saying she planned to take the following week off. A police investigation was opened Dec. 2 after Berreth's mother asked for a welfare check of her daughter. Police said they found both of Berreth's cars outside her Woodland Park home. Police also said Doss Aviation, Berreth's employer, has accounted for all their planes and police have no reason to believe she used someone else's plane for a flight.
  • Johnson & Johnson is forcefully denying a media report that it knew for decades about the existence of trace amounts of asbestos in its baby powder. The report Friday by the Reuters news service sent company shares into a tailspin, suffering their worst sell-off in 16 years. Reuters is citing documents released as part of a lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming that the product can be linked to ovarian cancer. The New Jersey company has battled in court against such claims and on Friday called the Reuters report, 'one-sided, false and inflammatory.' Shares are down more than 9 percent, the most severe decline since 2002.

Local News

  • ATHENS, Ga. --- Twenty-nine University of Georgia student-athletes will receive undergraduate or graduate degrees Friday morning during the fall commencement exercises at Stegeman Coliseum.   Among the 29 UGA student-athlete graduates are nine from football; seven from track and field; three from baseball; two each from men’s golf and swimming; and one each from gymnastics, soccer, softball, volleyball and women’s basketball. In addition, three sports communications student assistants and one compliance student assistant will be receiving their degrees.   Baseball (3): Chase Adkins, General Business; Blake Cairnes, Consumer Economics; Mitchell Webb, Sport Management.   Football (10): Kendall Baker, Sociology; Michael Barnett, Communication Studies; Rodrigo Blankenship, Journalism; Lamont Gaillard, Sociology; J.R. Reed, Communication Studies; Keyon Richardson, Sociology; DeAngelo Tyson, Housing Management and Policy; Steven Van Tiflin, Real Estate and Finance; Nick Williams, Communication Studies; and Shakenneth Williams, Sociology.   Gymnastics (1): Gigi Marino, Human Development and Family Science.   Men’s golf (2): Zach Healy, Sport Management; Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Kinesiology.   Soccer (1): Delaney Fechalos, Finance.   Softball (1): Lindsey Miles, Early Childhood Education.   Swimming (2): Gunnar Bentz, Management; Stephanie Peters, Sport Management.   Track and field (7): Sarah Gardner, Kinesiology; Cejhae Greene, Consumer Economics; Addy Lippitt, Management; Anna Machovec, Computer Science; Chanice Porter, Kinesiology; Karl Saluri, Food Industry Marketing Administration; Kendal Williams, Communication Studies.   Volleyball (1): Sarah Lagler-Clark, Psychology.   Women’s basketball (1): Simone Costa, Communication Studies.
  • Jonathan Herbert gets 30 days in jail: the former teacher was arrested after biting the buttocks of a 14 year-old girl who was swimming in Lake Lanier this past July 4. Herbert, who lost his job as a Gwinnett County school teacher after the incident, was charged with sexual battery, child cruelty, and public drunkenness.  Gwinnett County School officials say Herbert was teacher at Snellville Middle School for two years. It's not the first time he's been accused of having too much to drink while out in a public place. Johnson found Gwinnett County jail records that show police arrested Herbert in May of 2016 on DUI and drug charges. Police said he was speeding and was in possession of marijuana.
  • The Discovery Channel says it will air a documentary on a December 2016 shooting in Franklin County: two Lavonia Police officers were shot and wounded after a traffic stop. The officers have since recovered; the suspect—wanted out of South Carolina—was arrested shortly after the shooting. The TV special on the shooting will air next Tuesday night at 10.  The two officers, Captain Michael Shulman and Officer Jeffrey Martin, were shot while conducting a traffic stop in a fast-food restaurant parking lot off I-85 in Lavonia. Shulman spent several days in the hospital as a result of the shooting. Both Shulman and Martin reovered from their injuries, and have since left the department. 
  • We go into the weekend with still no certification of the December 4 special election in Georgia House District 28, a contest that appears to have been won by former Banks County School Superintendent Chris Erwin by a mere two votes out of more than seven thousand ballots cast. If the results hold, Erwin will unseat incumbent Republican Dan Gasaway in the district that covers parts of Banks, Stephens, and Habersham counties. Representative Gasaway, who is from Homer, continues to talk about a legal challenge to the election. Either he or Erwin will represent the district in the legislative session that begins one month from today. 
  • Athens-Clarke County Police say the loaded gun found on a student at Cedar Shoals High School could be the same gun used in this week’s drive-by shootings, in which shots were fired into a home on Martin Court in Athens. The 15 year-old is being held at the Youth Detention Center in Gainesville.    Athens-Clarke County police spokesman Geof Gilland tells news outlets the teenager was arrested Wednesday after he was found with the gun authorities have linked to the two shootings. Police say a school resource officer found the gun in his backpack. Police did not identify the student. Authoriites say he was taken into custody at Cedar Shoals High on a charge of possessing a gun on school grounds and two aggravated assault counts.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — It’s nearly Christmas, I haven’t a gift under the tree, Georgia is about to resume football practice, I’m selling one house, building another, hauling things to storage and, lo and behold, there’s this relatively new thing called the early national signing period rumbling like a long, loud freight train about to pop out of a dark tunnel. Welcome to the winter holiday, folks, also known as College Football Never Stops. And, I know, you love it. I do, too. As I’m struggling to manage all these converging priorities in my life, I’m overwhelmed by all the subject matter that deserves to be weighed in on. Owing you and our beloved sponsors a Towers’ Take, I was left to reason I just need to touch on them all before plunging into a weekend that will include attending to all the aforementioned tasks, plus a little Georgia hoops action with the Bulldogs’ hosting their best opponent so far. Let’s start with the most popular subject — Georgia football recruiting. ‘The Closer’ There was the time I was The Atlanta Journal-Constutition‘s primary recruiting reporter. I know, I’m also glad that’s not the case anymore. As most surely know, DawgNation now employs one of the finest full-time “Recruitniks” in the business in Jeff Sentell to track the Bulldogs’ business. And nobody does a better job of keeping up not only with all the big developments — and there always seem to be big developments where Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are concerned — but all the minutiae as well. I’m in position to get Sentell on the phone or exchange texts any time a thought or question enters my mind. It’s about this of year I realize what a blessing that is. So while I don’t write about recruiting a lot until the calendar turns to those significant signing dates or those blue-chippers are about to hea to campus, I keep up through Jeff and needle him for details every now and then. I have two thoughts on the Bulldogs’ recruiting as we head into this final weekend of what is really he most intense competition of all: One, it’s truly incredible the heights to which Smart and his staff have raised recruiting at Georgia in such short order. I hear people say he has the Bulldogs “closing in” on Nick Saban and Alabama in terms of the overall talent base of the program. Well, I say based on their last two on-field meetings, Georgia is already eye-to-eye with the Crimson Tide in terms of the pedigree of football players that are on the roster and the level of coaching and development they’re getting. Never mind, those last two results. When you’ve led or been tied with the team arguably the most dominant program in the history of the sport for 119 of 120 regulation minutes, you’re not overachieving with inferior products. You’re there, dude. And don’t start quibbling with me, Bama fans, over the number of No. 1 classes or national championship trophies your spoiled enterprise has harvested over the years. The fact is, you’re batting .500 at best with the Bulldogs over prospects you both want. And it’s clear Smart and his staff knows what to do with them when he gets them on campus. This new rivalry is not about to disappear like a morning fog. Smart is on your bumper and in your rearview like Dale Earnhardt in his NASCAR heyday, and it’s only a matter of time before he spins you out and takes the checkered flag. Of this I’m absolutely certain. Two, if this recruiting year finishes like it’s shaping to, Smart might go down as one of the greatest closers in recruiting history. They certainly won’t get them all (will they?), but the Bulldogs once again are in the hunt for some mighty big game right down to the 11th hour of this December signing period. And that’s the real difference nowadays. Georgia has always recruited well, as it should as the state school in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in America. But the difference now is where the Bulldogs would regularly find themselves left at the altar on a major flip, it’s Georgia doing the flipping nowadays, and landing some major prospects in the process. That’s the case again this year as the Bulldogs sit with four 5-stars already committed and in the hunt on players that could drive that number again into the seven or eight range. That would, in turn, stock Georgia’s roster with as many 30 5-star prospects, or more than a third. Now a 5-star does not automatically a great football player make, but suffice it to say, you’ll take your chances on a prospect everybody in the country wanted over a diamond in the rough any day. Based on what I’m hearing, Georgia has a great shot at a lot of these final major targets. Wide receiver Jadon Haselwood was long committed to UGA and, other than the distant outpost of Oklahoma, his other finalists aren’t competing on the arc that the Bulldogs currently are. No team could have a greater need at inside linebacker than does Georgia, which is in it to win it on Mississippi 5-star Nakobe Dean. And with rumblings of comings and goings in the backfield, where else would any ambitious running back — such as IMG’s Trey Sanders — want to go besides UGA, which presently has three NFL starters within four years of their matriculation through Athens? And that’s to say nothing of Smart’s annual Transfer Treasure Trove. There are many others recruiting storylines that Sentell is tracking like an astronomer from a mountaintop observatory, so be sure follow him on Twitter and keep your DawgNation app notifications activated. And say this for Smart: He keeps us all intriqued to the last possible minute, and left wanting more. Next stop: Attrition Of course, the flipside to signing every 5-star within site of Hubble telescope is there’s not enough room in the orbit for everyone in the galaxy. So attrition is inevitable, and it seems as though that might be the case again this year. Now attrition takes place naturally in college football as it is. Some players can’t cut it academically, others realize on their own their getting buried on the depth chart, and medical DQs are as common as redshirts nowadays. Suffice it to say, there will need to be some movement for Georgia to make room for everybody it wants to join the “Burned Out on Bama” initiative. Some of that will sure come in the form of early NFL departures. The Bulldogs don’t have many (if any) sure things in terms of can’t-pass-on-such-money, underclassman draft prospects. But they do have several who, for varying reasons, might consider making the leap now. Running back Elijah Holyfield, receivers Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley, tight end Isaac Nauta and safety J.R. Reed are among the Georgia underclassmen said to have asked the NFL for a draft evaluation. And sometimes what’s on that assessment is not the determining factor. Sometimes it’s just time to move on. And what’s to stop some of these degree-holding juniors from deciding to move on or transfer for a chance to play more or just to get on with their post-football lives? It’s the ever-turning life cycle of college football. And the way Smart works Georgia’s numbers, there’s rarely any wiggle-room. The Great 8 Debate There’s always what should be done, and what will done, isn’t there? Those of you who read me regularly or tune into my Marco’s Pizza Towers’ Take Live podcasts know I am and have always been a proponent of the 8-team playoff. It has always made the most sense to me, and apparently some member of the current College Football Playoff system feel the same way. Not surprisingly, big wigs from the Big 12 and Big Ten are losing patience with the exclusionary practices including only four teams in the playoff, and the selection committee’s penchant for playing fast and loose with their directive of choosing “the four best teams.” Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby have provided some volume to the chorus of cries for expanding the field to eight teams. Too many worthy participants are getting left out, they say, even giving a nod to the American Athletic Conference’s undefeated darling of Central Florida. But their solution — eliminating conference championship games — is a bad one. And it’s unwinnable to boot. The SEC, as Commissioner Greg Sankey made plain, is never going to relinquish its wildly successful title match, as well it shouldn’t. I have long proposed a simpler solution, but it’s one that surely wouldn’t fly as it might actually take money off the table of Power 5 fat-cats. That is, eliminate one game from these ridiculous 12-game, regular-season schedules. I mean, really, must alums and donors not only pay to see Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee, but ALSO UMass in the same season? Heck, I could even justify cutting back to 10 games in favor of an expanded playoff, which would only increase by one week, if they’re truly concerned about the number of games these “student-athletes” are playing, which they’re not (see college basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, track, you name it). No, they won’t do it because, in Georgia’s case, it’d be losing $3.5 million annually from one-game’s revenue. I’m of the mind that could easily be recouped from the TV money generated by an expanded playoff (a la the NCAA Basketball Tournament). But that’s the hangup you’re going to hear from administrators, the Bulldogs’ included. That, and you’re not going to be able to help out these poor middling football programs anymore, which we all know is the ultimate end-game. No, I think they should make conference champions a requirement of the five “Group of Five” (they prefer that name) participants, and then take three at-larges. Those could be somebody like this year’s Bulldogs, who everybody believes were among the country’s best four teams at the end of the season, and/or an undefeated mid-major like UCF. Yes, there will still be arguments about the ninth and 10th teams being deserving, but that will always be the case, just like it is with all those bubble teams for the 65-team basketball tournament. And so what if an occasional four-loss team upsets its way into the playoff. It made for a pretty good story for Bainbridge High School in Georgia this year, don’t you think? And while I’m fixing things, go ahead and put UCF and Notre Dame into the 10-team Big 12 Conference. Or put the Irish in the Big Ten or ACC where they belong and add USF to the Big 12. Do something with Notre Dame, or just leave them being subjected to the yearly scrutiny required for the at-large group. It’s really simple when you think about it, but only if money isn’t central to the equation. OK, that’s it for me. I’ve got to do some shopping and packing.   The post Your holiday 3-pack: Kirby the Closer, running down Bama and solving the Great 8 Debate appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Nine months after being named Georgia’s basketball coach, Tom Crean is still campaigning hard for his new program. The Bulldogs (5-3) are getting ready to play host to Arizona State at Stegeman Coliseum, the first of a set of four tough games for the remainder of December. He knows his fledgling, young team is going to need all the help it can get against the No. 20-ranked Sun Devils (7-1), and Crean is a big believer in big crowds being a big help.           The trouble is, UGA just broke for the holiday. Fall semester exams wrapped up on Wednesday and most of the school’s 30,000 students have abandoned campus.           But that hasn’t deterred Crean. Ever the optimistic salesman, he’s stumping for a packed house for Saturday evening’s 6 p.m. tilt. “It’s important we get a sellout crowd; that’s real important to help energize us,” Crean said before the Bulldogs practiced Thursday morning. “If you beat Arizona State you’re doing something, because they’re good. They’re going to win a ton of games. They’re a legit team, if not the front-runner to win that league (Pac-12). … It’s extremely important, no doubt about it. We’re playing an outstanding team.”           That they are. The Sun Devils, who are expected to contend for the Pac-12 title this season, just lost for the first time all season and were impressive even in defeat. They led No. 6-ranked Nevada by 15 points in the first half and by 12 at halftime before finally succumbing to the Wolf Pack 72-66 in a game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. As has been the case in nearly every game this season, Arizona State was led by dynamic freshman Lugunentz Dort. The 6-foot-4 freshman guard, who averages 22 a game, had 24 against Nevada, a team many are expecting to play deep into March.           Georgia doesn’t harbor such expectations right at this minute. The Bulldogs have wilted in the face of their most intense challenges to date. They offered little resistance to 16th-ranked Clemson (64-49) and Georgia State (91-67) in the final two rounds of the Cayman Islands Classic and got down by a bunch quickly before rallying to put a scare in Temple on the road (81-77).           But those games all took place out of town. The Bulldogs are home for four of the next six, starting with the Sun Devils, and home is where the W’s reside.           While it always is and will be about the team that takes the floor, Crean believes a great atmosphere can help good teams play great.           “It’s something we’ve been addressing since March 15th,” said Crean, who is 4-0 at The Steg so far. “We’ve got to have a tremendous crowd. If we’re going to build this program to where everybody wants it to be and recruit the way everybody wants us to recruit and the way we want to recruit, the atmosphere of games has to be phenomenal. It’s not just how great the music is and how wonderful the band and the cheerleaders and the dance squads are — they are. We’ve got to have people there. We’ve got to have it loud.”           So Crean is not above creating any sort of promotion to get butts in the seats. Saturday is no exception. It’s “Tacky Christmas Sweater” Night. Fans are welcomed to wear their own tacky Christmas sweaters to the game, but the first 1,000 spectators to show up will get a free tacky Christmas sweater T-shirt.           Crean brought one of the T-shirts with him to this Thursday’s press conference to discuss the Arizona State game. “I don’t think I’ll wear one, but I like it,” he said. “Very, very creative. I’ve seen some ugly Christmas sweaters before. This one’s pretty cool.”           The gimmicks are fun, but Crean knows better than anybody his squad has to play better and beat some quality opponents to keep folks coming back. Beating a team of the ilk of Arizona State would be great first step.           To do that, Georgia’s has clean up its game. Averaging nearly 17 turnovers a game, the Bulldogs can start by taking better care of the basketball. Crean also is looking for improved offensive rebounding, better free throw shooting and less fouling.           All those traits need to be present against the Sun Devils, who are averaging 14 offensive rebounds and 29 free throws a night. Controlling Dort will, of course, be a key. A Top 30 national recruit from Montreal (who spent two years playing basketball in Florida), it was Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley who beat out several basketball powerhouses for Dort’s services.           The freshman hasn’t disappointed. Equally adept at shooting 3s or driving to the basket, Dort had a 33-point game against Utah State and has scored 24 points or more in half the Sun Devils’ game. Built like a football player, he’s an equally effective on-the-ball defender.           “He’s a solid player,” said Georgia sophomore Nicolas Claxton, who is the only SEC player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. “We’ve game-planned for him. We know he’s going to come in here and play hard. They’ll be a strong test but we’ll be ready for them.”           It won’t be easy for the Bulldogs to be sharp. Saturday will be 12 days since their last game due to final exams. But Crean has been working them hard in practice, particularly this week as testing concluded midweek.           After consecutive days of what players characterized as “very intense” practices and scrimmages, the Bulldogs are ready to play somebody else. Their hope is that their fan base will also be ready on Saturday as well.           Georgia traditionally has drawn pretty good crowds to Stegeman for SEC play, which annually begins after the New Year. But due in part to the excitement of Crean’s hire and his boundless promotional presence, the Bulldogs already have established a school record by selling out three regular-season games before the season even started. They’ve since added two more sellouts to the ledger, giving UGA its most capacity crowds for men’s basketball since the 2002-03 season.           And Georgia is drawing pretty well early on this season. It has averaged 7,240 in the four games so far, including 9,018 for the season opener against Savannah State. That was most for a UGA home opener since Dominique Wilkins’ sophomore season in 1981.           The Bulldogs could use a good, strong representation on Saturday as well. Crean believes it can make a difference. “There’s no question (Stegeman) can be a tremendously tough place to play with 10½-thousand in there and the acoustics the way that they are,” Crean said. “We’ve just got to put people in there. There’s been a lot of tickets sold. … But if we want the level of program we want here, we’ve got to have great crowds.”           The post             WATCH: Tom Crean urges Georgia fans to pack The Steg on Saturday for No. 20 Arizona State appeared first on             DawgNation.          
  • ATHENS, Ga. --- Twenty-nine University of Georgia student-athletes will receive undergraduate or graduate degrees Friday morning during the fall commencement exercises at Stegeman Coliseum.   Among the 29 UGA student-athlete graduates are nine from football; seven from track and field; three from baseball; two each from men’s golf and swimming; and one each from gymnastics, soccer, softball, volleyball and women’s basketball. In addition, three sports communications student assistants and one compliance student assistant will be receiving their degrees.   Baseball (3): Chase Adkins, General Business; Blake Cairnes, Consumer Economics; Mitchell Webb, Sport Management.   Football (10): Kendall Baker, Sociology; Michael Barnett, Communication Studies; Rodrigo Blankenship, Journalism; Lamont Gaillard, Sociology; J.R. Reed, Communication Studies; Keyon Richardson, Sociology; DeAngelo Tyson, Housing Management and Policy; Steven Van Tiflin, Real Estate and Finance; Nick Williams, Communication Studies; and Shakenneth Williams, Sociology.   Gymnastics (1): Gigi Marino, Human Development and Family Science.   Men’s golf (2): Zach Healy, Sport Management; Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Kinesiology.   Soccer (1): Delaney Fechalos, Finance.   Softball (1): Lindsey Miles, Early Childhood Education.   Swimming (2): Gunnar Bentz, Management; Stephanie Peters, Sport Management.   Track and field (7): Sarah Gardner, Kinesiology; Cejhae Greene, Consumer Economics; Addy Lippitt, Management; Anna Machovec, Computer Science; Chanice Porter, Kinesiology; Karl Saluri, Food Industry Marketing Administration; Kendal Williams, Communication Studies.   Volleyball (1): Sarah Lagler-Clark, Psychology.   Women’s basketball (1): Simone Costa, Communication Studies.
  • ATHENS – Isaiah Wilson always has been a man of few words. And when it comes to his play on Georgia’s offensive line this season, he has been a man of no words. Technically, Georgia’s “no freshman interviews” policy doesn’t apply to him, being a redshirt freshman and all. Nevertheless, despite starting every game for the Bulldogs at right tackle this season, Wilson hasn’t been made available to talk, even upon request. Isaiah Wilson started every game and played more than 95 percent of the snaps at right tackle this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC) That’s probably just as well for Wilson. He has never been a big talker anyway, even when he was the biggest thing around growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. And when Wilson was finally in position to talk after the SEC Championship, he didn’t feel much like it. Understandably, Wilson didn’t have much to say during postgame interviews following the Bulldogs’ 35-28 loss to Alabama. The 6-foot-7, 345-pound offensive lineman was a big part of staking Georgia to a two-score lead late in the third quarter in that game. A half-hour after that dramatic conclusion unfolded, Wilson was still a bit dumbfounded about what had just transpired. “I just hope we get another shot at them,” Wilson said of Alabama. “If we do, I know we’ll play our hearts out and hopefully the outcome will be different.” Georgia will surely get another shot the Crimson Tide; it just won’t be this season. The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) were, of course, passed over for a spot in the College Football Playoff. They will instead face the No. 15-ranked Texas Longhorns (9-4) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in New Orleans (8:45 p.m.; TV/radio: ESPN/WSB 750-AM, 95.5 FM). Wilson didn’t know that at the time he was being queried. The Bulldogs have been off for final exams since that fateful day in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But they’ll be back on the field this weekend. Several of Georgia’s seniors will go through graduation ceremonies on Friday, and the team will return to Woodruff Practice Fields for closed practices on Friday and Saturday. UGA’s Sugar Bowl media day will be conducted on Monday, at which time we’ll hear from the players and coach Kirby Smart again. Wilson likely won’t be available on Monday either, but he has already made quite a statement with his play on the field this season. A year after being deemed incapable of helping the Bulldogs even in a bit role as a true freshman, the former top 3 national recruit not only started every game his second season, but he played more than 95 percent of the snaps at right tackle. To this, Wilson offered only a humble reply. “I just try to get better every day,” he said. “So, when it’s the next practice, I just try to get better than I was the day before. You just keep going from there.” That Wilson is an everyday starter is not a surprise. He was a consensus 5-star prospect and Top 5 nationally-ranked tackle coming out of Poly Prep Country Day School in New York. The bigger surprise was that it took some time. But it took Wilson a while to get acclimated, both to the football and to the Southern heat. Showing up in Athens at more than 350 pounds, Wilson struggled with Georgia’s humidity in preseason camp his first season and spent a lot of time on the sideline being treating for heat exhaustion. “I was gasping for air at times,” Wilson said last year before the Rose Bowl. “But I’ve adjusted to it well now.” Getting acclimated to the heat gave Wilson the chance to concentrate on the fundamentals of being a good SEC offensive lineman. And he had a long way to go in that regard. Playing prep-school ball in New York, Wilson rarely encountered an opponent who contend with his massive size. Going against Georgia’s No. 1 defense as a redshirt helped him hone those skills. “I’m better in every aspect,” he said. Georgia coach Kirby Smart agrees. “He’s grown. He’s getting better,” Smart said in November. “I thought last year he got frustrated early and just kept working, spent some time on the scout team, got better. He still is a work in progress, just like our team is.” Wilson certainly has mastered the run-blocking aspect of his job. Georgia led the SEC in rushing this past season and managed 163 yards and a touchdown against Alabama’s formidable front. Running back D’Andre Swift went over 1,000 yards this season and Elijah Holyfield needs just “I think it’s just a want-to for this offensive line,” he said of the Bulldogs’ ability to run the football. “We see our guys with the ball and we want to help them and push them further. Where Wilson is trying to get better is in the area of pass protection, and he has shown significant improvement there as well. “He plays physical. He’s a big man,” Smart said. “He’s worked hard to get better. He’s held up against some tough guys in pass pro. I think he takes pride in that. … So he’ll keep working, and hopefully he’ll keep getting better.” The progress is evident, and not just from Wilson. The Bulldogs will lose only one starter off this year’s team in senior center Lamont Gaillard. The returnees, like Wilson, were mostly highly sought-after recruits. By the end of this season, opposing coaches talked about being “swallowed up” by Georgia’s massive offensive line. “It means a lot to hear them say our offensive line swallowed them up,” Wilson said, cracking a smile for just a moment. “I love my brothers on the offensive line. I’m happy that the offense is going well and that we’re physical and we’re all succeeding and playing well.” We’ll certainly be hearing more from Wilson in the future.   The post Isaiah Wilson a block of granite in Georgia Bulldogs’ offensive line appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Georgia Bulldog football team, gearing up for the January 1 Sugar Bowl game against the Texas Longhorns, is set to start practice.  From UGA Sports Communications... Friday, Dec. 14 – Closed practice with no media availability    Saturday, Dec. 15 – Closed practice with no media availability   Sunday, Dec. 16 – players off   Monday, Dec. 17 – 11:15 am – Coach Smart press conference (team meeting room on 1st floor); 11:40 am – select players available on second floor lobby *TBA periods open for viewing; no post-practice interviews   Tuesday, Dec. 18 – Closed practice with no media availability   Wednesday, Dec. 19 – 11:45 am – Signing day press conference with Coach Smart (team meeting room on 1st floor) *TBA periods open for viewing; Coach Smart post practice   Thursday, Dec. 20 – TBA periods open for viewing; select defensive players available post practice   Friday, Dec. 21 – TBA periods open for viewing; select offensive players available post practice   Saturday, Dec. 22 – Closed practice with no media availability