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Travel Headlines

    If you love heights, this is one tourist attraction you won't want to miss. >> Read more trending news  According to CNN, the country's longest pedestrian suspension bridge opens May 17 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. >> Watch a video of the attraction here The 680-foot-long SkyBridge is part of the newly renovated SkyLift Park at the top of Crockett Mountain.  >> See a photo of the bridge here 'Guests will be able to walk across at their own pace, taking in the views and enjoying the spectacular setting before walking back when they're ready,' the SkyBridge website says. 'With a height of 140 feet at its midpoint, the SkyBridge is an absolutely spectacular but easily attainable experience you'll remember for a lifetime – especially as you cross the glass-floor panels in the middle of the span.' >> See the glass panels here In recent years, only one part of the attraction has been open for business: the SkyLift, a chairlift that takes visitors from downtown Gatlinburg to the the mountaintop and back. Since deadly wildfires ravaged the area in November 2016, operators haven't allowed passengers to get off the lift at the top of the mountain, WBIR-TV reported. But that's about to change. In addition to the bridge, the updated park will have an observation deck, a gift shop, and a snack shop and bar, WVLT-TV reported. >> Check out the view here No reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased at the base of the SkyLift. Adult tickets are $19.95 per person, with seniors 65-plus paying $17.95 per person. Tickets for children ages 4-11 are $14.95 per child and children ages 3 and under enjoy free admission.   Read more here.
  • Now, this is flying first class.  >> Read more trending news  A Lithuanian man who boarded a Boeing 737-800 plane bound for a northern Italian resort city discovered he was the only passenger on the two-hour flight, according to The Associated Press. Skirmantas Strimaitis, who was flying to Bergamo, Italy, from Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius for a skiing holiday March 16, was outnumbered on the plane by the two pilots and five crew members, according to the AP. Strimaitis did not have to worry about noisy passengers, waiting for use of the bathroom or getting the attention of the flight attendants. He called the trip on the empty plane -- which normally seats up to 188 passengers -- “a once in the lifetime experience.”  The Novaturas travel agency told the AP it chartered the plane from Vilnius to fly a group home from Italy, and to avoid flying empty, one-way tickets from Vilnius to Bergamo were sold. Only Strimaitis bought one. It turned into a very pleasant flight.
  • A Seattle-bound Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago was diverted to Minneapolis-St. Paul after the crew reported odor in the cabin on Wednesday evening.  As a precaution, Flight 51 landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at 7:17 p.m. local time.  >> Read more trending news  Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan told The Associated Press on Thursday that the smell was similar to that of burnt plastic. The source had not been identified. Six crew members received medical evaluation at the airport and four were transported to the hospital for further evaluation. Two of the 144 passengers were evaluated at the airport. Some people reported having trouble breathing, Hogan said. The flight was canceled and passengers were re-booked on a different flight to Seattle.  The cause of the odor is being investigated and the plane has been removed from service pending an inspection.
  • Southwest Airlines completed its first flight to Hawaii Tuesday, the first step in the carrier’s process to have planes for travel to the islands. According to a news release, the flight is part of the airlines’s Extended-range, Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards certification process with the Federal Aviation Administration. >> Read more trending news  USA Today reported that, according to Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish, no passengers were on the two-engine Boeing 737 jet, which departed from Oakland, California. FAA representatives and Southwest employees, including pilots, were on board as part of the certification process. The flight returned to the contiguous United States Wednesday, arriving at Dallas Love Field Airport in Texas that afternoon. Parrish told USA Today that the airline will announce details on when flights will be available at a later date. “Once we pass all phases of the ETOPS application process to the satisfaction of the FAA and receive our ETOPS authorization, we will announce further details of timing for selling and operating flights,” he said.  Once the service begins, Southwest flights to Hawaii will be from California, and inter-island flights will follow.
  • Law student Katie Gould recently found herself stuck at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after missing her flight to Milwaukee. >> Read more trending news  “I actually missed my flight because security was so long,” Gould told Travel + Leisure. “I’m used to Hartsfield-Jackson security being busy, but this was more than usual for the time of day. They had less TSA agents than they normally do, so I assumed the shutdown had something to do with it.” >> On AJC.com: Airport worker dances to cheer up traveling child With four hours to kill until the next flight, she decided to “put my phone in random places and film myself doing little dances.” This is the result. >> Watch the video here She put together almost 2 1/2 minutes of her dancing to “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates. By Monday morning, her video had more than 56,000 retweets and 357,000 likes. The official Twitter account for Hall & Oates replied, saying, “Impressive you can dance that long!” >> See the tweet here “They’re so going to use this against you when you’re a freshman congresswoman in the future 😂,” one Twitter user joked, referencing the time a Twitter user tried to embarrass new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by posting a video of her dancing. “If anything I hope it helps my case,” Gould replied. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  Gould told Travel + Leisure that she was happy the video cheered people up. “I was pretty frustrated that whole day with missing my flight, but doing something fun and silly really helped remind me not to take life too seriously,” she said.
  • Flight attendants on Frontier Airlines will no longer have to pool their tips, meaning any additional income they get is subject to individual passengers. Bloomberg reported Monday that the low-cost airline used to split tips on each flight, but as of Jan. 1, gratuities won’t be pooled. The airline introduced tipping in 2016. Passengers have the option of leaving a gratuity through digital tablets after placing orders for food and drinks. >> Read more trending news  “We appreciate the great work of our flight attendants and know that our customers do as well, so (the payment tablet) gives passengers the option to tip,” Frontier spokesman Jonathan Freed told Bloomberg Friday. “It’s entirely at the customer’s discretion, and many do it.” The Los Angeles Times reported that, according to Freed, the change at the Denver-based airline was made at flight attendants’ request. “We view tips as additional compensation over and above flight attendants’ contractual wages.” One fight attendants union isn’t a fan of the policy, however. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants with 20 airlines -- including Frontier -- opposes tipping and objected to the introduction of doing so three years ago. “Management moved forward with a tipping option for passengers in hopes it would dissuade flight attendants from standing together for a fair contract — and in an effort to shift additional costs to passengers,” union President Sara Nelson told Bloomberg. “Regardless of the tip issue, Frontier Airlines needs to step up and pay aviation’s first responders a wage that recognizes their critical safety role onboard,” Nelson told the LA Times.
  • Officials at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport have shut off several water fountains after passengers on a Frontier Airlines flight got sick. CNN reported that officials said at least six passengers on Frontier Flight 1397 to Tampa, Florida, fell ill once the plane took off Tuesday. >> Read more trending news  Janet Scherberger, a Tampa International Airport spokeswoman, told CNN the passengers were not travelling as a group and were vomiting by the time the plane landed in Florida. Health officials have not confirmed that water fountains at the Cleveland airport are to blame. Cleveland airport spokeswoman Michele Dynia said passengers who did get sick said they drank from the fountains at the airport.   Airport officials are looking into whether the fountains contributed to so many illnesses.  WFLA reported that the flight landed in Tampa around 3:30 p.m. and the six passengers who were ill were removed and held for medical evaluation. None were taken to the hospital, according to Scherberger, but the other 220 passengers had to wait an hour to deplane. Frontier issued the following statement to WOIO: “During Frontier Flight 1397 from Cleveland to Tampa this afternoon, six passengers became ill. The aircraft was met by local emergency medical services upon arrival in Tampa. Those passengers displaying symptoms were evaluated by medical staff before being released. All other passengers were released after a brief holding period. The cause of the illness remains under investigation. Passenger safety is Frontier’s number one priority.”
  • Carnival Cruise Line announced plans Thursday to launch the first cruise ship with an on-board roller coaster. The BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster will circle the top of a new ship, Mardi Gras, when it sets sail in 2020.  >> Read more trending news  The cruise line boasts that BOLT will provide 'an unforgettable and unique open-air thrill ride on the line’s newest and most innovative ship.' BOLT promises a heart-pounding rush of adrenaline, offering nearly 800 feet of exhilarating twists, turns and drops with riders reaching speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour, the company said. The all-electric roller coaster will allow two riders in a motorcycle-like vehicle to race along a track 187 feet above sea level, enabling guests to experience the sea with breathtaking 360-degree views, a news release said. BOLT is being built by Munich-based Maurer Rides. “Mardi Gras will be our most innovative ship ever with some truly special features and attractions, highlighted by BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea,” president of Carnival Cruise Line Christine Duffy said. “We are so thrilled to introduce this one-of-a-kind, game-changing, exhilarating attraction – our guests are going to love it.” Carnival said Mardi Gras will be based in a new state-of-the-art terminal at Port Canaveral. It will be the first ship in the new XL-class, the largest ever built for Carnival.
  • Delta Air Lines said it will ban service and support animals under 4 months old, and will also ban emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours. The change, effective Dec. 18, is the latest tightening of policies on service animals and emotional support animals by the airline.  >> Read more trending news  The company said in a Monday announcement that it has seen an 84 percent increase in incidents reported involving service and support animals in 2016 and 2017, “including urination/defecation, biting” and a mauling by a 50-pound dog. Delta said its new policy aligns with the CDC vaccination policy, and the limit on emotional support animals on long flights lines up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act. “These updates support Delta’s commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs -- such as veterans with disabilities -- to travel with trained service and support animals,” John Laughter, Delta senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance, said in a statement. Some of the airline’s policy changes earlier in the year have prompted criticism from groups representing people who use service animals, including those who use pit bulls.  The new policy takes effect for tickets booked Dec. 18 or later. Regardless of booking date, it will also take effect for flights Feb. 1 or later. Delta said it will contact customers to adjust reservations if the policy affects them. More information on the airline’s service and support animal policy is at Delta.com. 
  • Delta Air Lines has rolled out facial recognition for international travel at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for what it calls the first biometric terminal in the United States. It’s now making plans to expand the technology in Detroit. >> Read more trending news  In September, the airline announced plans to make the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson into a biometric terminal, including facial recognition at check-in, at the security checkpoint, at gates and at Customs. Passengers essentially show their faces to a camera instead of showing identification or a boarding pass. During boarding, the use of facial recognition saves an average of two seconds per passenger, or a total of nine minutes for boarding of a wide-body plane, according to Delta. The Detroit News reported that the airline plans to expand facial recognition to the international terminal in the Detroit Metropolitan Airport by mid-December. It will then roll out facial recognition throughout that airport in 2019.

Local News

  • President Jimmy Carter will not teach Sunday school in Plains as he originally planned.  The Carter Center released a statement Saturday saying that the former president 'underestimated the time he would need to recover' from his recent hip replacement surgery.  Carter, the oldest living president at 94, broke his hip Monday when he fell at his home in Plains. The surgery took place at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus. He was released from the hospital Thursday. We'll be LIVE in Plains where the former president is recovering. We'll have the latest on Carter's recovery, on Channel 2 Action News Sunday AM. TRENDING STORIES: Celebrity chef offers to hire lunch lady fired after giving lunch to student who couldn't pay Woman poses as sheriff, releases boyfriend from jail Plumbing fails hours before Preakness Stakes Carter still teaches Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church when he is able and planned to teach this weekend. 'He and his wife, Rosalynn, appreciate everyone's support and prayers and apologize for any inconvenience to those who traveled to hear his lesson,' The Carter Center wrote.  Carter's niece, Kim Fuller, will teach the lesson instead. 
  • Country music star Travis Tritt was “really shaken” after witnessing a head-on fatal crash on Highway 22 early Saturday morning.  Tritt and his crew were leaving Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when the accident happened. “Thank God we are all okay,” he wrote. “I feel so bad for those who died needlessly tonight. I’m really shaken up by what I witnessed. God bless those who died.” Tritt, a Georgia native who lives in Hiram, said he was told the accident was caused by a wrong-way driver who “was obviously driving drunk or impaired.”  » These are the most famous folks from Cobb County He said his tour bus was sideswiped and sustained minor damage “as we tried to avoid the crash site in front of us.” Horry County emergency crews responded to the wreck around 3 a.m. A Jeep traveling in the wrong direction crashed into a Chevrolet truck head-on, said Cpl. Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the Charlotte Observer reported. The driver of the Jeep and a passenger in the truck were killed in the crash, Collins said. The driver of the truck went to the hospital. “I beg everyone to please, please, please drive sober,” Tritt tweeted. “Know when to admit that your are too impaired to drive.” Tritt and The Cadillac Three are scheduled to perform tonight at Anderson Music Hall in Hiawassee. 
  •  Athens wins a national water quality contest. From the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office... Athens-Clarke County was named one of five national winners in the 8th Annual Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. As part of the challenge, residents pledged to reduce their water use by 73.2 million gallons of water over the next year and to undertake behaviors ranging from fixing home leaks to reducing harmful runoff into local rivers and streams. The annual month-long public awareness campaign to improve drought resiliency and water quality was promoted by the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office and ended on April 30 with mayors from 35 states vying to see whose city could be the nation’s most 'water wise.' 'The challenge is about reminding people across the country that we all need to work together to manage our water resources,' said marine life artist Wyland, who founded the Wyland Foundation in 1993. 'The campaign shows that there are many ways to do that, but it all starts with simple actions that most of us can do every day that make a big difference over time.' Residents from winning cities will now be entered into a drawing for thousands of dollars in water-saving or eco-friendly prizes, including $3,000 toward their annual home utility bill, 'Greening Your Home' cleaning kits from Earth Friendly Products (ECOS), home irrigation equipment from The Toro Company, and a water fixture makeover for a local school from Ecosystems LLC. A $500 home improvement store shopping spree will also be chosen from among the entire pool of U.S. participants. Additionally, participating residents were asked to nominate a deserving charity in their community to receive a 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Residents from Athens-Clarke County also pledged to reduce their use of 202,756 single-use plastic water bottles and eliminate 4,340 pounds of hazardous waste from entering watersheds. By altering daily lifestyle choices, residents pledged to send 1.9 million fewer pounds of waste to area landfills. Potential savings of 550,000 gallons of oil, 315 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 4.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity, and $941,655 in consumer cost savings rounded out the final pledge results. In addition to reducing water use, Athens-Clarke County collected more pledges than Gainesville, FL to win a friendly wager between the two cities, thus ensuring ACC Mayor Kelly Girtz would not have to don orange and blue while doing the 'Gator Chomp' during a future Mayor and Commission meeting. Instead, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe will wear red and black while 'Calling the Dawgs' at an upcoming Gainsville City Commission meeting. Athens-Clarke County won in the population category of 100,000 to 299,999. Other winners were Rexburg, ID (5,000-29,999); Palm Coast, FL (30,000-99,999); Tucson, AZ (300,000-599,999); and Columbus, OH (600,000+). For more information on the challenge, visit www.mywaterpledge.com. The challenge, presented by the Wyland Foundation and Toyota, with support from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, National League of Cities, The Toro Company, Earth Friendly Products – maker of ECOS, Ecosystems, LLC, and Conserva Irrigation, addresses the growing importance of educating consumers about the many ways they use water.
  • Georgia softball will make its 18th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this week as the Bulldogs travel to Minneapolis for regional action. #14 Georgia will open tournament play Friday against #25 Drake at 7 p.m., ET.    National seed #7 Minnesota hosts the regional that also features North Dakota State. The Minneapolis Regional is the only regional in the field that features three teams ranked in the most recent USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and all four teams to have 40 or more wins.   Follow the Bulldogs » The Minneapolis Regional will air nationally on the networks of ESPN. Courtney Lyle and Amanda Scarborough will be on the call from Minneapolis.  » All games will be streamed live via Watch ESPN and the ESPN app.  » Live stats will be available for the Minneapolis Regional. Live stat links can be found on the softball schedule at GeorgiaDogs.com. » Live Twitter updates will be available at the official Twitter page of Georgia softball, @UGAsoftball.   BULLDOGS BULLETIN Series Histories Minnesota » Georgia leads the all-time series 4-2 » The Bulldogs and Gophers first met in North Carolina in 1998. The teams have met five times since, all in Athens (2010, 2012, 2016) » Minnesota won the first-ever meeting as well as the most recent  » The Bulldogs and Gophers have never met in the postseason  Drake  » Georgia leads the all-time series 2-0  » The only meetings came back on Mar. 25, 1998 in Athens; Georgia won 2-0, 1-0 North Dakota State » Georgia leads the all-time series 2-1 » All three meetings have been in Athens, first in 2011 then twice in 2013 » North Dakota State won the last meeting, 3-0   NCAA Tournament Tidbits » Georgia softball will make its 18th-consecutive NCAA Regional appearance this weekend  » Georgia is 67-37 all-time in NCAA Tournament action, advancing to 10 Super Regionals and four Women's College World Series. The 2009 and 2010 seasons saw the Bulldogs advance to the Final Four » In regional action alone, Georgia is 48-17 » In regionals away from Athens, Georgia is 21-11 all-time. Georgia has swept regionals on the road twice, 2008 and 2009  » Georgia will appear in Minneapolis for the NCAA Tournament for the first time » In 17 Regional appearances, Georgia has been on the road eight times. Three of those eight saw the Bulldogs emerge to go on and play in a Super Regional (2008, 09, 14). Only once has Georgia opened on the road in regional play and advance to a Women's College World Series (2009)    A Look Back Georgia trekked to College Station, Texas for the SEC Tournament last week. The Bulldogs opened play against Arkansas on Thursday. Georgia defeated the Razorbacks 4-1 for its first SEC Tournament win since 2015. The Bulldogs had to turn around to play that evening against top-seeded Alabama. The eight-inning game saw the Tide walk off, 2-1, ending Georgia's six-game winning streak.    Georgia in the Polls The Bulldogs dropped a spot to #14 in the week 14 USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll while jumping a spot to #16 in the USA Softball/ESPN.com Poll.    DiCarlo a Top 10 Finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Senior Alyssa DiCarlo has been named a top-10 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. She becomes only the second Bulldog to earn a top-10 finalist spot. The 2019 season is the seventh season Georgia has placed a student-athlete in the top 25. Alisa Goler (2009) is Georgia's only other top-10 finalist in the history of the award. DiCarlo is one of four from the Southeastern Conference to appear on the list. The Top 3 Finalists will be announced on May 22. The 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed May 28.    Three Bulldogs Earn All-SEC Honors Senior Alyssa DiCarlo was chosen by the league's head coaches as a First Team All-SEC performer. Junior Ciara Bryan earned Second Team All-SEC accolades while rookie Lacey Fincher gained a spot on the Freshman All-SEC Team. DiCarlo, a native of Glendale, Arizona, concludes her career as a four-time All-SEC performer, this is her third time on the First Team, earning Second Team as a sophomore in 2017. Bryan makes her debut on an all-conference team in 2019. A native of Covington, Georgia, Bryan has been Georgia's top hitter in league play, hitting a team-best .310 while slugging .521 against conference opponents. In the field, Fincher began the season starting as the designated player before taking over duties at first base in early March. She's made appearances at short, behind the plate, and in the outfield throughout the season.   Avant Lands on SEC Community Service Team Junior Mary Wilson Avant was named to the 2019 SEC Softball Community Service Team. Avant, a pitcher from Macon, Georgia, has participated in such community service events such as the Special Olympics of Northeast Georgia including the Hometown Rivals baseball game, UGA HEROs where she has fundraised and served as a committee member with the purpose of improving the quality of life for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and Shop With A Bulldog where she has served as a mentor and raised funds to assist in providing clothing and personal supplies for underprivileged children.   Congrats, Grads!  Four Georgia softball student-athletes including Kylie Bass (Human Development and Family Science), Kendall Burton (Communication Studies), Cortni Emanuel (Masters in Sport Management), and Brittany Gray (Communication Studies) all earned their degrees at Commencement services Friday, May 10.    Thank you, Seniors!  Georgia honored the careers of two seniors who played their finals regular season games at Jack Turner Stadium: Kylie Bass and Alyssa DiCarlo. The two will go down among the best to wear the Red & Black. Bass will finish among career top-10 performers in ERA, wins, appearances, opponent batting average, and strikeouts. In her senior campaign, DiCarlo has broken Georgia's career records for home runs, RBI, extra-base hits, and total bases while raking among the top-10 in batting average, hits, at bats, runs, doubles, slugging, on-base percentage, walks, sacrifice flies, and assists. 
  • LaKeisha Gantt has been chosen as the president of the Clarke County Board of Education. The Board met in a special called session Thursday to vote on a replacement for departing School Board president Jared Bybee, who is leaving Athens for a job in California. Gantt won her seat on the Clarke County School Board in last year’s elections, defeating former incumbent Carol Williams to claim the District 7 seat. She has worked as a behavioral specialist in school districts and is now a counselor at the University of Georgia. 

Bulldog News

  • CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The symmetry appears uncanny on the surface, but Lawrence Cager’s football journey has been filled with twists and turns. Ultimately, Cager believes, fate has brought him to where he belongs and needs to be. Cager  hosted Georgia receiver J.J. Holloman when Holloman visited Miami as a prospect in November of 2016. A little more than two years later, Holloman was Cager’s host in Athens, Ga., for the Hurricane receiver’s visit last February. The two hit it off so well that they’re going to be roommates when Cager arrives in Athens on May 28 with business degree in hand and a national championship on his mind. “J.J. is like family to me,” Cager told DawgNation last weekend. “Out of high school, I wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog from the jump.” Cager has impact player written all over him, ready for a break-out season after a career-high 21 catches for 374 yards last season. Smart said more than once he’s concerned about the Georgia receiver position after four of the top five pass catchers from last season moved on. Cager is already on NFL radar, his 6-foot-5, 218-pound frame and impressive jumping ability leading to a team-high six TDs in 2018 at Miami. RELATED: Cager among four UGA players on Senior Bowl early radar It’s fair to assume Cager will be in the Red Zone mix at Georgia. Cager was recruited to Miami by current Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley, choosing the Hurricanes over Alabama and playing the 2015 season with Coley as his coordinator. “God works in mysterious ways,” Cager said. “I’m here now with the coach I loved at Miami (Coley), and the coach I loved at Alabama (Kirby Smart), so I couldn’t ask to be in a better position.”   Play ball! Growing up in baseball-crazy Baltimore, Cager fancied himself a future major leaguer and didn’t take football serious entering into his freshman year at Calvert Hall College High School in Maryland. Former five-time all-star Tori Hunter came to watch Cager hit when he was in eighth grade, and Lawrence’s high school coach was a regional scout for the Detroit Tigers. All signs pointed to baseball. Until they didn’t. Cager played football as a freshman “just to have fun” when coach Devin Redd, the CEO and co-founder of Baltimore’s Next Level Nation, altered Cager’s life with his observation. “Devin Redd said I could play on Sundays,” Cager said. “He told me ’you have something people don’t have; you move like a 5-foot-11 guy but you’re 6-5.” Cager scored 15 touchdowns and had more than 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman before moving up to varsity as a sophomore, a three-sport athlete also playing basketball and baseball. “Lawrence’s ascent began when he came into high school,” Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. “He wasn’t sure what direction he would go in; he dabbled in baseball, at one point thought about soccer, and he was a very good at baseball.” Then Cager decided to go out for track his junior year, and he ended up at the Penn Relays and Nationals, clearing 6-foot-11. By then, however, Cager had decided on football. “I knew football would take me where I needed to go,” Cager said, “when I got my first offers from Oregon State and Toledo my sophomore year.” Silent commit A strong showing at a Nike Camp in New Jersey led Cager to receive an invite to The Opening in 2014. Future Georgia receiver Terry Godwin was also there. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer invited Cager to the Buckeyes’ famed “Friday Night Lights” recruiting event, and Cager and his family were so impressed that he made a silent commitment on July 25, 2014. Cager already had an Alabama offer in hand, and then Michigan State offered, along with Notre Dame, Miami, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Nebraska. Cager found himself intrigued and wanted to take visits, particularly to the Top 5 Mississippi State-Alabama matchup in 2014. “The fact I wanted to visit there told me I didn’t need to be committed,” Cager said. “I wanted to see other schools before I could know.” Cager’s parents were pushing for Wake Forest because of the academics there, so the Deacons got the first official visit followed by Virginia Tech, and then Cager’s visit to the Michigan-Ohio State game. Cager headed to the U.S. Army All-American Game thinking he wanted to go to Alabama, while his parents were still encouraging him to go to Wake Forest. Shower commit Cager told the CBS team at the U.S. Army All-American Game he was going to commit to Alabama, live at halftime, during the Jan. 3 broadcast. But behind the scenes Cager’s parents were telling hm to re-think it; there was uncertainty over whether offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would be returning to the staff the next season. “It was a tough phone call to Nick Saban,” Cager said of the days leading up to the game. Once game day arrived, Cager had an issue on his hands: A spot on CBS to commit before a live national audience, but uncertainty as to which school that would be. “During warm-ups before the game, I was trying to figure out which school I’m going to commit to,” Cager said. “So while everyone else is on the field getting ready to play, I was in the shower room calling schools … some were answering, but they said they’d already had a commitment or were full at the position.” That included Georgia when Cager reached out to Mark Richt. “They told me they were full, because Jayson Stanley had committed,” Cager said. “Coach Coley was the only one at a school I liked who would take my commit. “He said, ‘Change the game!’’ “ Cager’s coach told then-Miami head coach AL Golden that it was a TV commit. Cager was scheduled to visit Alabama the following Saturday, and then he’d visit Miami. “So I committed on TV to Miami without ever being in Miami in my life,” Cager said, laughing at the naivety of his youth. “It’s funny how God works, because that’s how he put Coach Coley in my life.” Until he wasn’t. Lawrence Cager’s upside has him on NFL radar. Rob Floyd/ Getty Images The Richt Years The score was 58-0 on Oct. 25, 2015, Clemson handing Miami the worst loss in the Hurricanes’ 90-year football history. “I know it isn’t far from outhouse to penthouse,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, according ESPN. “I don’t celebrate anything from Miami’s bad day. I feel for him. I hate it, man.  Hurricanes’ coach Al Golden hated it even more when he was fired the next day, making way for Larry Scott to assume interim duties. Miami won the remained of the regular season games, but the Hurricanes elected to go with suddenly available Richt, a school alum who had parted ways with Georgia. RELATED: Mark Richt praised by rivals Saban, Fulmer, Spurrier Cager couldn’t wait to build off his freshman season, but then things took a turn for the worst — specifically, his knee. “I tore my ACL on the last play, on the last day of the last week of 7on -7 drills before camp, back in July of 2016 going into my sophomore season,” Cager said. “I was determined to come back quicker than they projected, so I was in the training room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until I could walk.” Cager was running in two weeks and running in three months, ready for spring drills, but Richt held him out as a precaution. The 2017 season, however, was at best “up and down” Cager said. “You think you won’t think about it (surgically repaired knee), but it’s in the back of your head, that what if I do this, or I do that, and I might hurt it again,” Cager said. Finally recovered, Cager was ready for a big redshirt junior season in 2018, but the Hurricanes’ offense struggled. The quarterback position was a revolving door, and the lack of consistency under center translated to a hot-and-cold passing game. Richt stepped down after the season, and Cager decided to exercise his eligibility as a graduate transfer. Georgia, with Coley recently promoted to offensive coordinator, was the first to call. “Kirby was like, ‘I’m not going to lose you this time, right?’ “ Cager said. “ ‘You’re going to come home now.’ “My mind went to Athens as soon as I made a decision to be a Bulldog, I felt right at home.” DawgNation in South Florida Kenny McIntosh draws comparisons to Sony Michel, Jordan Scarlett Lawrence Cager eager for Georgia touch down ’The Blueprint,’ championship plans for South Florida star Lawrence Cager with DawgNation   The post The fascinating story of how Lawrence Cager ended up at Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Kirby Smart has no intentions of leaving his post as Georgia football coach any time in the near future — or ever, for that matter. “Why would I leave home?” Smart said Thursday night in his hometown of Bainbridge, Ga., during a question and answer session,  according The Post Searchlight. “I have more passion and energy in my heart for the University of Georgia than you’ll ever realize,” Smart said. “Because it did more for me than anything I’ve been to in my life.” Smart was an All-SEC safety at Georgia and four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll (1995-98), graduating from UGA’s celebrated Terry College of Business. Smart began his coaching career with the Bulldogs as an administrative assistant on Jim Donnan’s staff in 1999. He returned in 2005 to serve as an assistant to former coach Mark Richt. RELATED: Brandon Adams podcast discusses Kirby Smart as Georgia ‘coach for life’ Smart’s 32-10 record as Georgia’s head coach marks the highest winning percentage (.762) in UGA history. The Bulldogs recently had seven players selected in the 2019 NFL draft and are poised to break the program record next year as Smart enters his fourth season at the helm. RELATED: Kirby Smart’s 2020 draft class will set record Only 43 years old, Smart has already delivered an SEC Championship. UGA was seconds away from the College Football Playoff Championship in 2017 and narrowly missed a second College Football Playoff appearance in 2018. Smart has been paid appropriately for his success. He draws a $7 million per year salary as part of the seven-year, $49 million contract extension he signed last year. Still, there has been speculation that the NFL or Alabama might one day lure Smart away from his alma mater, as it has many other great coaches. Florida’s Steve Spurrier is a prime example. Spurrier was a Heisman Trophy winner for the Gators who came back to coach his alma mater for 12 years (1990-2001) before leaving for the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Spurrier ultimately returned to college coaching, but he did so at South Carolina, where he coached another 11 years. Smart could be different in the sense that he grew up and played his high school football in Georgia, whereas Spurrier was raised in Tennessee. RELATED: AJC columnist Mark Bradley asks, could Smart coach UGA for life? Smart’s appearance at the Bainbridge football fundraiser at the Bainbridge Country Club on Thursday night served as evidence of his loyal nature. “I get asked to speak a lot, but I asked to speak at this event,” Smart said, according to his hometown newspaper. “You got me now because you put Bainbridge back on the map, put it where it’s supposed to be.” Bainbridge, where Smart starred before choosing Georgia, beat Warner Robins 47-41 in triple overtime of the Class AAAAA State Championship Game last season. Smart shared how Bainbridge is what led him to the national level of success he’s enjoying at Georgia. “I had the great fortune of going (to Georgia),” Smart said. “Probably would have never gotten there without some of the great people in this room. “I assure you, it was what drove me to success.” Smart has been proactive designing future success for Georgia as well. It is Smart who is spearheading UGA’s aggressive scheduling model and seeking a facilities blueprint aimed at keeping the Bulldogs an annual title contender. RELATED: Smart shares visionary side of Georgia scheduling plan The Bulldogs recently scheduled a future home-and-home series with Oklahoma in 2023 (away) and 2031 (Athens). Smart’s comments this week make it clear he plans to be on the sideline for both, in Norman, and between the hedges in his “home.” More Kirby Smart DawgNation coverage • Kirby Smart takes playful jab at Florida • WATCH: Kirby Smart shares two most meaningful Georgia wins, bucket list • MORE: Kirby Smart ‘no regrets’ on Justin Fields’ situation • Kirby Smart says ‘We want to talk with our helmets’ • Kirby Smart makes key point defending Jake Fromm The post Kirby Smart plans to coach Georgia infinitely: ‘Why would I leave home’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Having presided every one of what is now 33 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for Georgia, women’s tennis coach Jeff Wallace was asked if heading to Orlando this week to compete in the championship rounds seemed like old hat for him. Without missing a beat, Wallace pointed to the wide-brimmed, black sun hat atop his head – power G on the front — and deadpanned, “this is a new hat.” Georgia’s No. 2 doubles team of Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff is undefeated this season at 16-0. (Kristin M. Bradshaw/UGA Athletics) Wallace is representative of his top-seeded and No. 2-ranked squad as it prepares for its Elite Eight matchup with Vanderbilt (19-7) on Friday. The Bulldogs (26-1) are upbeat, loose and confident as they make yet another run at a national championship. Wallace’s latest team might be his best one. It stood undefeated before finally blinking against a very good South Carolina team in the SEC Tournament finals. Since the calendar flipped to spring the Bulldogs have logged 12 4-0 victories. “Every year’s different; it’s hard to do comparisons,” Wallace said of how this group stacks up against his all-time best teams. “This has been a special year, when you win a national indoor title and you go undefeated in the regular season and win the SEC. But our goal all year has been to play our best tennis this coming weekend and that’s what we’re striving for.” Next in the pathway is Vanderbilt, a team Georgia already has beaten twice. The latest was a 4-1 drubbing in the final regular-season match. But the Commodores pushed them to 4-3 in the National Indoor semifinals back in early February in Seattle. The Bulldogs were ranked 5 to Vandy’s No. 2 at the time. “I think it’s a good thing,” junior Elena Christofi said of having to play Vandy a third time. “They know us but we also know them. We have an idea about what to expect and can share strategies with our teammates about who they face. We know what’s worked and we can do it again.” In an epic comeback, Christofi rallied from an 0-5 third-set deficit and fought off two match points to defeat Emily Smith 7-5 for Georgia to clinch that match. She is 15-2 on Court 5 this season. Christofi and sophomore Vivian Wolff are undefeated (16-0) at No. 2 doubles for the Bulldogs. Not coincidentally, Georgia has won 21 of 26 doubles points this season. From top to bottom the Bulldogs are a well-balanced squad of youthful talent and grizzled experience. No. 2-ranked Katarina Jokic leads the at No. 1 singles. Freshmen Lourdes Carle (23-6) and Meg Kowalski (23-1) have come in and dominated the competition at Nos. 3 and 6, respectively. Christofi and fellow junior Marta Gonzalez (ranked 19th in singles and playing No. 2) provide leadership. All but the two freshmen were around last year when the Bulldogs were bounced at this point. They lost to Stanford, the eventual NCAA champion. “The vibe is really, really positive,” Christofi said. “All of us are super pumped and excited to go to Orlando. Being in the Elite 8 is what we’ve worked for. Now we have an opportunity to show our work.” Just to add to the positivity, the Bulldogs added another team member this week. Head coach Drake Bernstein and his wife Cassidy had their first child Monday night, Brody, a boy. So it was with great optimism that Georgia boarded its flight for Orlando Tuesday. But this will be new territory. The Bulldogs, like many other teams, are making their first visit to the expansive USTA National Training Center in Lake Nona. The 100-court facility was thought to be a factor in the NCAA’s decision to skip over Athens as an NCAA Championship site when bids were accepted through 2022. “It’s going to be a new experience for me and for all of us,” Wallace said. “I’ll tell you what I think when I get back. I’m very, very biased. There’s no better place than ours and we’d love to get the NCAA Tournament back here and that’s our goal and hope.” The post No. 1 Georgia tennis heads to Orlando intent on returning with another NCAA championship appeared first on DawgNation.
  • University of Georgia sophomore right-hander Emerson Hancock has been named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, USA Baseball announced Wednesday. Hancock, who owns a 7-2 record and 1.31 Earned Run Average (ERA) this year is one of 25 semifinalists. The Golden Spikes Award annually goes to the top amateur baseball player in the country and USA Baseball has partnered with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to host the award since 2013. The finalists will be announced on May 29, and the winner of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award will be named on June 14 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.   A 6-4, 215-pound native of Cairo, Ga., Hancock is the fourth Bulldog in school history to be named a semifinalist, joining shortstop Gordon Beckham (a finalist in 2008), pitcher Joshua Fields (2008) and first baseman Rich Poythress (2009). Hancock leads the nation in Fewest Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings (4.4) and WHIP (0.73) {Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched} and is fifth in ERA (1.31). He has made 11 starts, tallying 75.2 innings with 81 strikeouts and only 18 walks. He has been one of the aces for the Bulldogs who are ranked No. 7 nationally with a 39-14 record including 18-9 in the SEC. Hancock is slated to pitch game three of the Alabama series at Foley Field on Saturday at 2 p.m.  “The twenty-five student-athletes honored as Golden Spikes Award semifinalists this year highlight the depth of elite amateur baseball talent in the United States,” said USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO Paul Seiler. “Each and every one of these athletes have excelled on the field this season and we are honored to continue our partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to recognize their contributions to their teams and schools.”  The list of semifinalists spans 20 different colleges and universities, one high school and nine NCAA conferences. The list also features 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Vaughn (California). Along with Vaughn, recent winners of the Golden Spikes Award include Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Buster Posey (2008). Seventh-ranked Georgia plays host to Alabama at Foley Field starting Thursday at 7 p.m. with the entire SEC series sold out.    Students who present a valid UGA ID will still be admitted free via the 3rd base gate. Student admissions are first come, first serve until their held block has been exhausted. Game two of the series will be Friday at 7 p.m. and game three will be Saturday at 2 p.m. Georgia will honor its seniors before Saturday’s. game. The entire series will be available on SEC Network+ and broadcast on the Georgia Bulldog Sports Network.    Georgia (39-14, 18-9 SEC) closes out the regular season looking to secure a top four seed and a bye for next week’s SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs are two games behind second-ranked Vanderbilt (20-7 SEC) in the overall SEC race while fourth-ranked Arkansas leads the West with a 19-8 league mark. Georgia and fifth-ranked Mississippi State have identical 18-9 SEC marks with MSU holding the tiebreaker over Georgia. The Bulldogs need only to win one game or have Ole Miss or LSU, both 15-12 in the SEC, lose a game for Georgia to be a top four seed. Georgia is 25-3 at home this season. Also, the Bulldogs have a chance to become only the third team in school history to register 40 wins in the regular season. The two that have done it were the 2001 SEC Champions (40-16) and the 1990 National Champions (44-15).   The Bulldogs lead the nation in Fewest Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings at 6.1 and are seventh nationally in ERA at 3.21. Georgia’s record for lowest ERA in a season is 2.97 by the 1958 club and the next best is 3.26 by the 1967 squad. Opponents are hitting only .195 against the Bulldogs this year and that’s on pace to be a school record. The Bulldog rotation will feature freshman Cole Wilcox (2-1, 4.12 ERA) on Thursday, junior Tony Locey (9-1, 2.63 ERA) on Friday and sophomore Emerson Hancock (7-2, 1.31 ERA) on Saturday. Alabama has a 4.00 ERA and opponents are hitting .246 against them.   Alabama (30-23, 7-20 SEC) defeated Samford Tuesday and now are vying for the 12th and final spot in the SEC Tournament. Currently, they are tied with Kentucky and South Carolina. The Wildcats play host to the Commodores while the Gamecocks face MSU in Starkville. Alabama is 9-10 on the road this year. The all-time series with Alabama is tied 72-72-2. Last year, Georgia won a series in Tuscaloosa 2-1.   Georgia is batting .267 with a .421 slugging percentage and a .980 fielding percentage. The Bulldogs have a trio of .300 hitters in junior Aaron Schunk (.339-9-37), senior LJ Talley (.335-8-38) and redshirt sophomore Riley King (.307-7-40). Alabama is hitting .266 with a .397 slugging percentage and a .978 fielding percentage. Alabama’s leading hitters are junior Morgan McCullough (.323-3-29) and sophomore Tyler Gentry (.305-11-40).   On Senior Day Saturday, the Bulldogs will honor Talley, pitcher Adam Goodman and graduate John Cable plus managers Sam Carey and Travis Tindall. Manager Greg Bundrage graduated last week and already has begun an internship with the Arizona Diamondbacks in video operations.   GEORGIA vs. ALABAMA PITCHING MATCHUPS Thurs: Freshman RHP Cole Wilcox (2-1, 4.12 ERA) vs. Freshman RHP Tyler Ras (1-2, 3.41 ERA) Fri.: Junior RHP Tony Locey (9-1, 2.63 ERA) vs. Junior RHP Brock Love (5-4, 4.31 ERA) Sat.: Junior RHP Emerson Hancock (7-2, 1.31 ERA) vs. Senior RHP Sam Finnerty (6-7, 4.18 ERA)     Television/Radio Thurs. SECN+ Streaming Link with 1st pitch at 7:02 pm: http://www.gado.gs/2np Fri. SECN+ Streaming Link with 1st pitch at 7:02 pm: http://www.gado.gs/2nr Sat: SECN+, Streaming Link with 1st pitch at 2:02 pm Link: http://www.gado.gs/2nt   Radio (Entire series): Georgia Bulldog Sports Network from IMG College (David Johnston & Jeff Dantzler) Stations: 960 AM-WRFC and selected affiliates (check your local listings), also via the Georgia Bulldogs app and TuneIn app. Additional Coverage on Twitter: @BaseballUGA   Tickets:  -StubHub: http://www.gado.gs/2nv
  • ATHENS – The Georgia Bulldogs – and Davis Thompson in particular – picked a good time to get hot. Thompson won medalist honors to pace the No. 16-ranked Bulldogs to a dominating victory in the NCAA Athens Regional tournament. Thompson shot 8-under par over three rounds to win individual honors and Georgia shot 8-under as a team to stay ahead of No. 9 Duke (-1) and No. 4 Vanderbilt (+1) to claim the tournament victory. Davis Thompson brought a new Ping driver into play for this week’s regional and that move paid dividends. (Kristin M. Bradshaw/UGA Athletics) By finishing among the top five teams in the 13-team field, Georgia advances to the NCAA Golf Championships in Arkansas next week. To do so coming off a win makes it all the better. “Anytime you can win, it just gives you the confidence to know that you can win,” said Chris Haack, who notched his 63rd tournament victory as Georgia’s coach. “To do it on a big stage like the NCAA Regionals gives you even more confidence.” SMU (+16) and Liberty (+18) also advanced. Tennessee (+21) missed the final spot by three strokes. But the talk of the day was about Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound sophomore from St. Simons by way of Auburn, Ala. The son of former Georgia golfer Todd Thompson, Davis has been knocking on the door all year with third- and fourth-place finishes in the Bulldogs’ last two tournaments and five top 10s in his career. “It’s big,” Thompson said shortly after birdieing his final hole of the tournament at the UGA Golf Course. “I’ve been close before, so it just feels nice. A big sigh of relief.” Said Haack: “To see him finally validate his play was pretty special. These guys work so hard and get over the hump. That was his first college win, so to do it on a stage like this in front of lot of fans is pretty special. I think the best is yet to come from him.” The best news is Georgia knows it can play better. Freshman Trent Phillips was the only other Bulldog to break par Wednesday – he shot 69 to finish 10th individually — and Trevor Phillips (+13) and Will Kohlstorf (+11) carded uncharacteristically high rounds. Junior Spencer Ralston was his steady self as usual, finishing third at 4-under par after carding a 71 Wednesday. “It was good to see us jell a little bit and finish it off in style,” Haack said. The post Davis Thompson leads Georgia men’s golf to run-away win in NCAA Regional appeared first on DawgNation.