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Post Inside the selection of Uga VII

Monday June 30, 2008

Uga VI will be laid to rest inside Sanford Stadium this afternoon. It says something about Georgia fans that the Athletic Department has had to make it clear that this is a private ceremony. Still, given that they have made the time and the date of the interment public information, I really hope that a crowd doesn’t gather on the bridge. There’s a fine line between paying your respects to Uga and becoming one of those Barbaro freaks.

After Uga is buried, the process of naming a successor will begin. This is no small job. It’s not just about looks. The ideal Uga must also have the personality and the temperment to handle the job week in and week out in front of SEC crowds. Just any white bulldog won’t do.

The last transition was public and smooth. Uga VI of course was selected and introduced while Uga V was still alive, and Uga V had a chance to retire before passing away. But now we face the scenario of an active Uga passing while in office, and an interregnum is a new experience for many Georgia fans. It’s been a while since we’ve gone through this process, so I’m here this morning with a look inside the process.

The process begins this week after the burial of Uga VI. Living members of the University’s Circle of Honor and football players with retired numbers will arrive in Athens beginning this afternoon, and they will sequester themselves on several floors of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education (Uga’s Athens residence during a home game). They will take several days to become familiar with the candidates and deliberate. Most of the day will be spent in seclusion in their Georgia Center rooms reflecting on the qualities of Uga while consulting "Best of Munson" DVDs and the 2008 Phil Steele.

During this time the Circle of Honor must decide what kind of mascot they want. Uga VI was large and playful with a sense for when it was time to play ball. The Circle might decide that they want a more hard-line, no-nonsense mascot to keep the team on task during this difficult season ahead. They might want a young, smaller pup who has a little more animation than his father. Less-conservative members of the Circle might even support a mascot with some carefully-hidden brown patches as a sign of inclusiveness and an appeal to widen the growing Georgia bandwagon.

Then they will vote. Each day the members of the Circle of Honor will cast a ballot with a single name. Damon Evans, whose duties as Athletic Director include administrative oversight of this process, will read aloud the result of each ballot. If no candidate receives two-thirds of the votes, the Circle of Honor will retire for the evening, and the ballots will be shredded and used to line the cages of the various candidates.

Once a candidate gets at least two-thirds of the votes, members of the Seiler family will remove the other candidates from the room. The Uga-elect will be presented with a dummy of an Auburn player (an actual Auburn player may be substituted) and a television cable. If the Uga-elect correctly lunges at both items, Sonny Seiler will immediately place the bulldog on a bag of ice and speak the name of the new mascot while proclaiming him Defender of the End Zone and Protector of That Big Air-Conditioned Dog House. Seiler may choose any appropriate name; there is some speculation that Uga IV was nearly named Herschel I. But it’s expected that this year’s new mascot will be named Uga VII.

Seiler will then place a custom-made red sweater on the new mascot. The Chapel Bell will ring. Finally, Seiler will emerge from the lobby of the Georgia Center and announce, "Habemus canum y’all" (we have a dawg). The new mascot will emerge and make his public debut as he is taken for a walk around the Georgia Center grounds, possibly stopping to anoint the vegetation along Carlton Street.

The Seilers and the new mascot will return to Uga’s summer residence in Savannah to prepare the mascot for his first public appearances. His first big foray into the public world will be at Picture Day in August, and he’s only two months away from his first game when he will lead the Bulldogs into action against Georgia Southern.

Georgia fans wait on North Campus

Eager Georgia fans wait outside the Main Library for news of the next Bulldog mascot.

Post They’re just not that into you

Monday June 30, 2008

A big hint that you’re not that far up on the ol’ recruiting board: all of the coaches – even your position coach – are on vacation during your recruiting visit.

Justin Jones will commit to Kentucky following a disappointing recruiting visit to South Carolina. “Justin went to South Carolina on Wednesday and everybody was gone,” Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. “They had a [graduate assistant] showing him around campus. That’s what sealed it for him.”

Post Uga VI in action

Saturday June 28, 2008

Like his father, Uga VI had plenty of fire.

Uga VI goes after the flag

Uga VI goes after cameraman vs. Auburn

Post Uga VI in pictures

Saturday June 28, 2008

Some of my favorite pictures that I’ve taken of UgaVI…

Uga VI 2001 vs. Houston

Uga VI playing in the grass

Uga VI resting pregame

Uga VI watching warmups

Uga VI and I at the 2002 sUGAr Bowl

Post Uga VI has died

Saturday June 28, 2008

According to the Savannah Morning News and Josh Kendall, Georgia’s mascot Uga VI died last night. He would have turned 10 in June, and that’s pushing the life expectancy for a bulldog. There was some speculation last summer about his retirement, but Uga VI remained in place for the entire 2007 and went out a winner. He presided over 114 Georgia football games and 87 wins – records for both wins and longevity for a Georgia mascot.

Georgia under Uga VI

  • 87-27 (76.3%) career record
  • Made a bowl in each of his nine seasons, winning seven
  • Three sUGAr Bowl appearances, winning two
  • Two SEC titles
  • Three SEC East titles
  • Five AP Top 10 finishes

Post It’s official – Humphrey is done

Friday June 27, 2008

Dennis Felton will now be replacing both of his starting backcourt players after Billy Humphrey was dismissed from the team on Friday.

Humphrey’s dismissal stems from a Tuesday night arrest for DUI on top of two previous incidents. Coach Felton said,

“I am disappointed in Billy,” Felton said. “We’ve worked really hard with him in the past to see that he succeeds, but I feel that it’s now best for our program to move forward without him.”

Initial reports stated that Humphrey blew a .02 (still trouble for an underage drinker), but additional details from the ABH correct that error and paint a much more serious picture:

When Humphrey was stopped on Georgia Highway 316 early Tuesday morning, his blood-alcohol content tested at .082 on the road and .129 later at the county jail, where he was booked on DUI and other charges, according to the officer’s report. The Banner-Herald previously reported in error that Humphrey blew .02.

Police found a half-full bottle of Bacardi rum on his back seat, and jailers tested Humphrey’s blood alcohol level at more than one and a half times the legal limit.

With that new information and with his earlier (though minor) incidents in mind, Felton really had no choice here.

Jeremy Price and Terrence Woodbury are now the only returning starters. Coach Felton got a new lease on life with the SEC Tournament title, but he’ll have to identify a new shooting guard to avoid slipping backwards. Obviously this is bad news for the program and Felton (not to mention Humphrey).

Post Comings and goings

Friday June 27, 2008

I mentioned the incoming freshmen in the last post, and there’s also news on those who have left the program.

First, the ABH confirms that TE NaDerris Ward has officially enrolled at Oregon. He’ll have to sit out this season of course.

Next, Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com mentioned that walk-on cornerback Malloy Van Gorder has left the program. No word on his future plans, but could he be headed to Georgia Southern…and then South Carolina?

Post Freshman class holding together

Friday June 27, 2008

June brings the beginning of summer, the end of the college baseball season, and academic news about the incoming football recruiting class. Fortunately the news is almost as good as it could be for Georgia. Here’s a summary of what’s going on with the recruiting class:

  • Most of the qualified freshmen are already on campus, enrolled in summer classes, and participating in summer workouts.
  • An exception was Fork Union LB Marcus Dowtin. Dowtin is a good student but had some transcript issues which delayed his enrollment. UGASports.com reported this week that those issues are cleared up, and Dowtin’s father says that "Marcus will be moving to Georgia July 1."
  • Tavarres King, Richard Samuel, Dontavius Jackson, and Ben Jones enrolled for spring semester.
  • As expected, Xavier Avery chose professional baseball over college football.
  • DE Toby Jackson remains the lone academic concern. Cordy Glenn and A.J. Green were considered academic risks at one point or another, but both of them are already in Athens and good to go. Jackson isn’t sunk yet; he took the ACT only a couple of weeks ago and is waiting on those results.

All in all, it looks as if the class will be more or less intact. That’s good news because several could see playing time this year. Walsh, Jones, Samuel, and Green are almost certain to get a look in preseason, and fall camp will offer several others the opportunity to play as true freshmen. Tripp Chandler reminds us though that two-a-days can be quick to humble even the highest-profile newcomer. "Things change when you go from running a route when people can’t hit you to when people can hit you."

Post Bulldogs win College World Series

Thursday June 26, 2008
Monument to Steve Detwiler

Earlier this morning, Steve Detwiler’s thumb was removed by surgeons in Omaha and replaced with a prosthetic. The thumb is currently en route to Lubbock, Texas where it will be featured next to the monument already in place at the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

We’ve seen individuals break Georgia’s heart before. Dan Marino. Mark Prior. Ronnie Daniels is still running. And of course there’s John Wallace.

But few have had such a dominant individual performance against a Georgia team with so much on the line as Fresno State’s right fielder Steve Detwiler. Fresno posted six runs against Georgia, and every single one of them was knocked in by Detwiler. His performance was so incredible and so unlikely that it overshadows a clutch pitching job by Justin Wilson. Under any other circumstances, the ability of Wilson to come off of three days’ rest and contain a Georgia offense that had scored 17 runs in two previous games would have been the story of the night.

Congratulations to Fresno State. A team that beat Long Beach, San Diego, Arizona State, Rice, North Carolina, and Georgia to get to this point is as legitimate as a champion gets.

There’s no use breaking down the game. The season is over, and the second-best season in Georgia baseball history deserves the focus now. This team rebounded from a rough early stretch to win the SEC, end Georgia Tech’s season, take the season series over Tech yet again, and roll to the program’s best postseason finish since 1990. There was individual excellence and key role players. There were dominant performances and clutch comebacks.

If history is any indication, the good news was that this title run probably won’t be a one-shot deal. Georgia baseball is competitive nationally and has been that way for most of this decade. The personnel losses will be significant just as they have been after each of Georgia’s three previous trips to Omaha since 2001. Recruiting is strong, and coaching is solid, so the safe bet is for Georgia to be back in this position sooner than later.

The immediate challenge for Coach Perno is to smooth out the valleys. A return trip to the NCAA Tournament, even as a lower at-large seed, is what we’re talking about here. With guys like Poythress, Cerione, Allen, McRee, and Weaver due to come back, a strong an experienced core is there. Georgia must replace not only gloves and bats but leaders also, and finding the guys who will challenge their teammates to demand better of themselves as Ryan Peisel did earlier this season will be as important as finding a new leadoff man or closer.

If there’s any kind of silver lining in the constant attention to the "Cinderella" storyline this week, it’s this realization: Georgia teams are expected to play for titles. Georgia being in Omaha is dog-bites-man. Situations where we are the great underdog story are rare (see: men’s basketball), but that’s what happens when you have one of the nation’s strongest athletic programs. After Hawaii and Fresno you might be getting a bit tired of being the foil to the media darling, but remember that the story of the underdog is great because it is the exception. This loss stings, but Georgia teams will be back competing for titles in just a few months.

Post Just when you thought Georgia hoops had turned the corner

Wednesday June 25, 2008

Senior guard Billy Humphrey was arrested in Gwinnett County and was charged with, among other things, DUI because he is underage and a breathalyzer showed a trace amount of alcohol (0.02).

Note that this is Humphrey’s second alcohol-related incident within the past year. He avoided suspension after that incident and an earlier weapons charge, but the University’s alcohol policy will now come down hard on Humphrey.

It’s very likely that Humphrey will miss fall semester, and who knows what that would do to his status with the Georgia basketball program. With the status of the starting shooting guard now up in the air, Dennis Felton’s chances of building on the SEC Tournament championship have been dealt a significant blow.

Post That was fun

Wednesday June 25, 2008

What can you say about a 19-10 loss? Georgia had the momentum, the pitching matchup they wanted, and even a 5-0 lead, and it vanished in an inning. Within the span of three innings, Fresno State scored 15 runs and made Georgia fans put away the champagne and start biting fingernails.

Georgia’s been in this position before during this tournament. They won the first game of the Super Regional, but N.C. State struck back against Georgia pitching to take Game 2 going away. Georgia bounced right back in Sunday’s game with a 9-run first inning. They’ll need that kind of resiliency against a Fresno State team that has proved to be no fluke and every bit the team that sent some very good clubs packing earlier in the tournament.

Simply put, the championship comes down to Georgia’s pitching. Georgia has plated 17 runs in two games against Fresno. Though Fresno will be able to start a regular starter in tonight’s game, so will Georgia. The Dawgs have hit Fresno’s better pitchers during this round, and there’s no reason to doubt their ability to score a fair amount of runs.

The question then lies with some experienced Georgia pitchers. Moreau. Weaver. McRee. Fields. Georgia doesn’t exactly have to piece together a staff tonight if the guys they send out there can give a decent performance.

You’ll hear all day that Fresno has taken momentum, and the Cinderella talk will be in overdrive (do we need to come up with a drinking game for this?). Forget that. Georgia is throwing Moreau, an experienced Sunday starter. The same toughness that has been with this team from Arkansas through the regional and Super Regional and in three comeback wins already in Omaha is still there. Georgia has come too far to let one setback sink them, and I think we’ll see a fired up and focused Georgia team ready to bring a title home.

Post Watch the skies

Tuesday June 24, 2008

Some rough weather around Omaha today. Still officially only a 30% chance of rain this evening, but it’s pretty soggy just outside of town this afternoon.

Post We have all been here before

Tuesday June 24, 2008

You can’t really blame ESPN for dwelling on Fresno’s underdog status (though we know they were preseason top-20, won their conference and made the NCAA Tournament three years in a row, etc., etc.). They would be the lowest-seeded NCAA champion (had you heard that?), and it’s a compelling story. ESPN has to sell the game to impartial viewers who don’t give a damn about Georgia or Fresno State. Offering the opportunity to watch history sells. Fresno may or may not rank up there with 1985 Villanova or the 1980 U.S. hockey team, but you have to push a story if you want someone other than Fresno and Georgia fans to watch the game.

That said, those of us who have watched more than a few games of this CWS can probably recite word-for-word what we’ll hear from the booth tonight:

  • Did you know Gordon Beckham made the final out for Georgia in the 2006 CWS? Me neither.
  • Hey – how about that Fresno player with the busted ligament. He’s playing anyway! And what’s with that guy’s wierd batting grip?
  • The ball leaves the pitcher’s hand in the light, but it arrives at the batter in the shadows. That’s just wacky.
  • One more shot of the Massinari cheering section, please.
  • Brainwashed by endless Coke Zero ads, Georgia will be suing for "dawg infringement." And driving away in a VW.
  • Here’s an obscure referece to a pro player from 15 years ago. That kid really reminds Orel of Kevin Seitzer. I was just going to say the same thing.
  • Fresno’s tough. Like their coach. Like a steak at Ryan’s. Like facing Josh Fields.
  • The last couple of champions haven’t been a national seed. And whaddayouknow…here we have an unseeded team.
  • No, seriously…back to the Massinaris. I hear the kid looks like Miss Nevada or something.
  • Georgia is apparently the third team Matt Cerione has played for during this CWS.
  • I mean Fresno’s just a bunch of gamers. A team of utility players. It would be like having a football team of Jacob Hesters.
  • David Perno – who played for the 1990 national champion, by the way – got his team’s attention in the offseason by making them haul rocks from a local quarry to build the new Vince Dooley statue on campus.
  • We’ll now have someone who spent the first week talking about ice cream interview the most brilliant financial manager in the world.
  • Is comparing Fresno to the Bad News Bears really telling the story? Don’t we really have to ask if this compares with David facing the Philistine?

…and most of them are going pro in something other than sports.

UPDATE: And who can forget all-important updates about photos of Big Brown’s loose horseshoe (quick! get Zapruder on the case!) or Shaq’s scathing freestyle rap?

Post 8:10: Wife comes home

Tuesday June 24, 2008
Lyle Allen CWS catch

You’ll notice that the live blog stops abuptly during the 4th inning. I was reminded that the championship is no time to start screwing around with the routine that had taken us this far.

So, anyway, what a game. What a comeback. It’s what we’re used to from this team – Georgia had to come from behind against Miami and Stanford – but it’s still amazing every time they get back off the mat. In Monday’s game, they broke through against the best pitcher they had seen all evening after struggling to scratch out runs against guys with ERAs north of 6.75.

Two plays before the pivotal bottom of the 8th stand out as game-changers:

  • Lyle Allen’s catch. Otis Nixon was reached for comment and said, "daaaaaaamn." Between that catch and the one at Turner Field, Allen has stepped nicely into the "did you SEE that catch?!" void left by Joey Side. Allen’s leaping catch in the 4th saved a run, and we know how important a single run proved to be.
  • Steve Susdorf getting doubled off of second. Susdorf doubled in Fresno’s first run of the 8th, but he was caught leaning towards third on a line drive hit to Gordon Beckham. Beckham won the race to the bag. It looked as if Susdorf was bailed out after Fresno tacked on two more runs, but that out had two big implications. First, the subsequent home run plated only one run instead of two. Second, the out and the batter order meant that Susdorf – with a double and triple to his credit already – was left in the on-deck circle in the 9th.

The little things got Georgia in trouble. Leadoff walks. Big hits by the bottom of Fresno’s order. Even Georgia’s offense was so close. The Dawgs hit the ball hard, but great Fresno defense kept them in the game. Those hits fell in the 8th. Olson’s bloop started it, Cerione found the right side of the foul line, and Lewis played pinball with second base to drive in the winning run.

Fresno lost a heartbreaker, but you can’t expect them to fold. They lost a game this way to UNC on Saturday and bounced back nicely. Still, the stress of another elimination game coupled with their depleted pitching staff has to weigh on them. For Georgia the win couldn’t have been better. It gave them a huge shot in the arm, but the game served notice that they can’t relax and take anything as a given against a quality opponent. Postgame comments seemed to show that Georgia was well aware that nothing was settled yet.

The first few innings could be huge tonight. If Georgia can keep the fire going and score some runs against some tired pitching, they’ll be set up very nicely with Montgomery on the mound. On the other hand, a close game will only serve to restore Fresno’s confidence.

Post CWS Game 1 Live Blog

Monday June 23, 2008

Let’s get this going. First pitch is in a few minutes, and we’ll try to be here for the duration.

6:59: First, a note from Anthony Dasher over on the DawgVent… it’s good to know that Mark Richt will be there to support the team. We’ve seen Roy Williams and Fresno’s Pat Hill.

7:01: Our cat is curled up next to me on the couch. Before you write this off as meaningless, she’s been in this position for most of the postseason games, and she first started watching games with us during the SEC basketball tournament. Yep. Things are looking good for the Dawgs.

7:06: No question how ESPN is setting the narrative for this series. Fresno’s story is a good one, but, again…they were ranked coming into the season.

7:09: Dave Perno: “We’re in great shape with our pitching and just need to execute.” Fresno coach: “We had a handful of (pitchers) who just can’t go today.”

7:12: And we’re off. Bulova first pitch time, 7:12. GO DAWGS!!!!

7:20: A leadoff walk doesn’t cost the Dawgs; Holder strikes out two to strand a Fresno runner at third. Close call at first on the second out. Was Poythress off the bag?

7:30: Dawgs draw first blood! A hustle play on a leadoff hit by Peisel pays off as he scores from second on a Poythress single. Georgia was a strike away from wasting the leadoff double, but Poythress continues his clutch hitting from Saturday. Georgia 1 – Fresno 0 after 1.

7:37: Another leadoff runner stranded in scoring position by Fresno. Holder gets through the second with far fewer pitches.

7:42: Fresno’s defense showed up tonight. Heck of a play by the 3B. Cerione hit one to the fence…missed by a few feet. Georgia 1 – Fresno 0 after 2.

7:45: Fresno #9 batter hitting under .200 launches one to tie the game. Holder’s weakness against NC State and Miami was homers off of pitches left up, and hopefully that’s the last one of those tonight. Holder bounces back with a tough play to throw out the next batter. The ball hit off Holder’s right foot, and he’s trying to work it out. Dodson is stretching in the pen.

7:54: Holder stays in the game and retires the rest of the side including his second K of Fresno’s #2 hitter.

7:57: Fresno is a bunch of “gamers”. They’re talking about Fresno as if they were a white running back. Really heady, gritty guys. I haven’t heard them called “throwbacks” yet, but it’s coming.

7:59: Three solid defensive plays retire Georgia in order. The Dawgs are hitting the ball hard, but Fresno is bringing the defense. Holder will remain out there for Georgia. Georgia 1 – Fresno 1 after 3.

8:02: Lyle Allen might have stolen a HR. What a catch up high against the fence.

8:05: Holder retires the side in order after the leadoff scare. Georgia needs to start making the Fresno pitcher work and make them burn a few pitchers. Beckham’s leading off, and this is a great chance to make his impact on the CWS.