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College

  • College football locker rooms are for more than just putting on a uniform. Some have the feel of a spa. Others are more like playgrounds. Now Georgia has joined the craze by adding a new dimension -- music lounge. The Bulldogs have added a D.J. booth to their player’s area. Coach Kirby Smart praised running back Sony Michel on his skills in a video Tweet:
  • University of Georgia police confirmed Tuesday morning they are actively investigating a case in which prescription drugs are alleged to have been stolen and/or mishandled by persons associated with Georgia’s nationally-renown tennis programs. No names were included in a preliminary incident report, which was released to DawgNation.com in response to an open records request for information about the recent suspensions of two assistant tennis coaches. Bo Hodge, associate head coach of the men’s tennis team, and Drake Bernstein, associate head coach for the women’s team, are each under suspension while their respective teams compete in the NCAA tennis tournament. Both teams won their first two rounds of matches this past weekend and advanced to the NCAA Championships, which will be hosted by UGA at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex and conducted over a 10-day period starting Thursday. The report released Tuesday provided few details beyond the nature of the investigation and when it started. “On May 5 at approximately 1700 hours the UGA Police Department received a complaint related to the possible theft and mishandling of prescription involving a number of individuals within the tennis program,” police said in the incident report released Tuesday. Diaz, the men’s tennis coach, is listed as the reporting party and the UGA Athletic Association is listed as the victim. The alleged crimes are listed as “theft by taking” of no more than $1,500 and possession of a schedule I and/or schedule II substance.” Georgia’s No. 12-ranked men’s team (20-7) faces No. 4 seeded Southern Cal (27-5) on Thursday at 4 p.m. in the NCAA quarterfinals. The fifth-ranked women (19-5) play 12th-seeded Pepperdine on Friday at 4 p.m.
  • ATHENS — Seeking to revive one of its most visible teams, UGA has taken a bold move: Courtney Kupets, one of the best gymnasts in UGA and NCAA history, is returning as head coach despite very limited coaching experience. And Kupets first act was to bring back Suzanne Yoculan, who built the program into a national power before retiring in 2009. Yoculan was named to be a volunteer coach. “Georgia gymnastics will win championships again,” Kupets said. UGA won 10 national championships under Yoculan, including in her last five years. Since then it has struggled to reach its past glory, going through two coaches who were fired. Now it turns to Kupets, who at 30 years old is believed to be UGA’s youngest head coach in any sport, and since last year has been a coach at a local club. But Yoculan said she’s confident it will work and that this was the best hire for Georgia. “I don’t know that anyone that’s at another school who’s a really great head coach wants to come to Georgia, where there’s a dynasty here. They want to create their own,” Yoculan said. “Courtney can create her own, but it’s part of her own.” Kupets was named the “best-ever” women’s gymnasts in NCAA history last month, by the NCAA. Georgia won four national championships during Kupets’ time on the team, and Kupets won nine individual NCAA championships. An Olympian in 2004, Kupets won the bronze medal in the uneven bars at the Athens Olympics. “She’s the most qualified person there is,” Yoculan said, also saying that Kupets through her Olympic and national team experience has contacts all over the country in the gymnastics world. “There’s no one in the country that doesn’t respect Courtney Kupets and what she’s accomplished and the kind of person that she is. And from a recruiting standpoint she has that access.” Yoculan said there was also no talk of returning herself as head coach and making Kupets the coach-in-waiting. “There was conversation of that. I would never do that,” Yoculan said. “I am a grandmother first and a voluntary coach second.” Kupets succeeds Danna Durante, who was fired two weeks ago after five years on the job. Durante had succeeded Jay Clark, now an assistant at LSU, who was fired after three seasons on the job. After winning five straight national championships before Yoculan retired, the Gym Dogs have failed to finish higher than fifth at the NCAA meet, and finished 12th this season. “We all have seen, it’s not been what it was. It’s not been what it was in my time,” said Kupets, who also addressed her lack of coaching experience. “First of all, I know I have the knowledge about gymnastics. I have the college experience. I have the passion and the drive … More than anything else, those factors will help motivate, bring out the best in your athletes on the floor.” Kupets was introduced at a press conference on Tuesday, also attended by Yoculan, UGA president Jere Morehead, board of regents member Don Leeburn, and Chris Carter, Kupets’ husband. Head football coach Kirby Smart was also among those who was seen in the room. “It is our goal to return our program to an elite level,” athletics director Greg McGarity said as he introduced Kupets. “And it will take all pulling in the same direction.” Kupets was a student assistant at UGA during the 2009-10 season, the first under Clark. And since last year she has been working as a coach at Oconee Gymnastics, along with her husband. McGarity compared the hiring with when Yoculan was hired in 1983, when Yoculan was a local club gymnastics coach. “Today in many ways history is repeating itself,” McGarity said. This story first appeared at Dawgnation.com
  • A most unlikely play felled Georgia Tech a third time this season to rival Georgia on Tuesday night. In the top of the ninth, Georgia’s Mitchell Webb scored from first on a single to center to give the Bulldogs the winning run in an 8-7 victory in the teams’ first meeting at SunTrust Park. Georgia earned a season sweep of the Yellow Jackets, its first over Tech in a season series of three or more games since 1984. The score was tied at 7-7 in the top of the ninth with two out and the bases empty when Webb foul tipped a 3-2 pitch from Micah Carpenter. Catcher Kyle McCann appeared to catch it for the third strike, but home-plate umpire Craig Barron ruled that McCann did not make a clean catch, extending Webb’s at-bat. After Tech coach Danny Hall emerged from the dugout to fiercely argue the call, Webb proceeded to walk Carpenter. “From my angle, it looked like it went right in the catcher’s mitt,” Hall said. “They said it hit the dirt before he caught it.” 5 observations from Georgia Tech’s loss to Georgia The next batter, Keegan McGovern, singled to shallow center, where center fielder Ryan Peurifoy bobbled the ball and casually tossed it back into the infield to second baseman Wade Bailey. With a great jump, that was all the margin that Webb needed. Never slowing down, Webb was waved home and slid home safe, well ahead of Bailey’s relay to the plate. It spoiled an otherwise sparkling night for Peurifoy, who was 3-for-4 and hit a bases-loaded double in the fifth for Tech’s first three runs of the game. “I saw it was down, and I was going first to third, trying to get into scoring position, and I saw coach (Scott) Daeley wave me home and I just kept running,” Webb said. “Luckily, he bobbled it and we got the score. It was pretty cool.” In the bottom of the ninth, the Jackets put runners on first and second with one out, but could do nothing with it. The two Jackets left on base were the last of the 11 that Tech stranded in the game. Georgia (20-29) can claim the title of state’s best (although the Bulldogs were 0-2 against Mercer) for the second year in a row. Tech (24-22) came back from deficits of 3-0 and 7-4 to tie the game at 7 in the bottom of the eighth before falling. Relief pitcher Tim Elliott (1-0) got the win for Georgia while Carpenter (0-1) took the loss. “Disappointing loss, quite honestly,” Hall said. “I don’t think we played really well.” Attendance was announced at 23,737, the largest in the annual game to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta since 2009 and the third largest in its 15-game history.
  • Georgia tailback Elijah Holyfield’s arrest for marijuana possession happened after UGA police were called to his dorm because a resident assistant smelled the odor of marijuana. Holyfield is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield. Police found small amounts of marijuana after obtaining a search warrant. Holyfield denied to police that he had been smoking marijuana, and initially declined a search, according to a police report released on Monday.  Elijah Holyfield arrested on drug charges The incident occurred was at Vandiver Hall on River Road, just before midnight on Sunday. A resident assistant called UGA police after smelling the odor of marijuana from a dorm room, a suite that Holyfield shared with two teammates. When police officer Jacob Herndon arrived outside the room, he wrote that he could “immediately smell” the marijuana. He knocked and Holyfield answer the door, his eyes appearing bloodshot, Herndon wrote.   “I advised Holyfield that I could smell the odor of burning marijuana coming from his room and asked if they had been smoking. He stated that he had not and did know what I was talking about,” officer Herndon wrote. “Holyfield stated that he was sitting on the couch watching TV while his roommates were asleep.” Holyfield, 19, declined the officer’s request to search the room. At that point the officer asked Holyfield and his roommates (Mecole Hardman and Deagnelo Gibbs) to step outside, and two other officers arrived as backup, while Herndon went to obtain a search warrant. The warrant was issued at 1:01 a.m. and 24 minutes later it was executed.  There was no contraband, to use the report’s term, found in Hardman and Gibbs’ rooms. In Holyfield’s room, an officer found a glass pipe located inside an iPhone box that contained what she thought was marijuana residue. The officer also found a plastic box that contained a “small loose suspected bud of marijuana.” Because officers also noticed that a window was open, they checked below on the ground and found a cigarillo bag containing seven buds of “suspected unburned marijuana.” “After gathering what we found, I asked Holyfield if the suspected marijuana that we found belonged to him,” officer Herndon wrote. “He stated that he had no idea how the marijuana got in his room. He also stated that he knew nothing about the marijuana thrown outside the window.” Holyfield was placed under arrest and taken to jail. He was bonded out about an hour later. There has been no official comment yet from the team, other than Kirby Smart saying through a spokesman that he was aware of the incident. Normally, a first violation of UGA’s marijuana policy calls for a one-game suspension for football players. Holyfield signed on to play at Georgia over Auburn in the 2016 recruiting class. Holyfield, who will be a sophomore this year, played sparingly last year but was hoping for a larger role this year, even with stars Nick Chubb and Sony Michel back, as well as fellow rising sophomore Brian Herrien. During Georgia’s spring game last month at Sanford Stadium, Holyfield carried the ball 15 times for 49 yards and a touchdown.  Another UGA rising sophomore, receiver Riley Ridley, was arrested on a marijuana charge earlier this year. Suggested video:
  • These have not been heady days for Georgia athletics, and two days ago athletics director Greg McGarity fired one of his key coaching hires. So with that as a backdrop, and with McGarity watching, UGA president Jere Morehead was asked a two-pronged question on Wednesday: What does he say to the many fans who are concerned about the state of the athletics program? And what is his confidence in McGarity? Morehead began by listing the accomplishments of several Georgia teams, mainly in spring sports, and also expressed confidence in the future for Bulldog football, men’s and women’s basketball. While he did not directly address the question about McGarity, the president stated his confidence in the direction of the overall program. “I still have confidence in our athletic program,” Morehead said. I think our prospects for the future are bright and I don’t have any reason to think that we’ve got any systemic problems that have to be addressed at this point.” The question came at a regularly scheduled media briefing with Morehead, which followed a cabinet meeting. McGarity was among about a couple dozen officials who was sitting nearby as Morehead spoke. McGarity fired gymnastics coach Danna Durante on Monday, five seasons after hiring her. She was the second coach who McGarity hired who ended up being fired, the first being volleyball coach Lizzy Stemke. Baseball coach Scott Stricklin, who McGarity hired four years ago, is also under fire from fans, in danger of a fourth straight losing seasons. UGA ranks 25th nationally in the most recently updated NCAA Director’s Cup Standings (April 20), which measures teams in all sports. That’s still relatively good, but a far cry from the 1990s and 2000s, when UGA routinely finished in the top 10. All told, it has led to a seeming state of malaise in Georgia athletics. “What I can say to our fans is to first, look at our teams,” Morehead said. “I think with the exception of baseball, all of our spring programs are nationally ranked at this time, some as high as No. 3 or No. 4. If I remember the women’s tennis ranking. So overall, the state of our spring sports is that except for one sport in the top 25 in the country. “When you look at the sports that have been completed, I have great confidence that our football team is on the rise. We’ve had a No. 3 class in terms of these rating services. We’re bringing in a lot of talented football players. The expectation is that football should be improving in the very near future. “Men’s basketball, you look back, six of our losses were to teams in the Elite Eight. Many of our losses occurred in the final seconds of our game. We’re returning, likely, all but one starter from the men’s basketball team. So you would expect that the prospects are very positive for that sport moving forward. Our women’s basketball team had a top-10 recruiting class. We would again expect significant improvement there next season.” McGarity, meeting with two reporters afterwards, pointed out that baseball was the only spring sport that’s not nationally ranked right now. He also addressed the track record of his coaching decisions. Whether it’s pro sports or college sports, sometimes things just don’t work out. So it’s not a perfect science,” McGarity said. “I accept full responsibilities for every hire, whether it be regardless of what the person’s rank or title is. So I understand and it’s no fun when things don’t work out. But that’s part of the business. “And I think if you look at any conference school, or any institution, there are going to be times when things just don’t work out. Then it reaches a point where you just move on and try to make sure the next hire is successful. But I’m sure in the history of our sports program and others it’s an inexact science, to where it’s very difficult, for reasons that you just can’t predict.” McGarity, an Athens native and 1976 graduate of UGA, was hired as athletics director in Aug. 2010. His current contract runs through June of 2019, and currently pays him $575,000 annually. He’s due to see his salary increase each year so that he’ll earn $650,000 after July 1, 2018. 
  • Georgia’s season has been a bit on the forgettable side, but the Bulldogs can claim the season series with Georgia Tech for the second year in a row. Georgia exploited two fruitful innings and an effective start from Kevin Smith to beat the Yellow Jackets 7-5 at Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium Tuesday night. The Bulldogs, last in the SEC in ERA (5.11 coming into Tuesday’s game), have now held Tech to six runs in their two wins. Georgia beat 5-1 on April 11 in Athens. Georgia will go for the sweep in the series finale at SunTrust Park on May 9. The Bulldogs have not swept Tech in a season series of three or more games since 1984. “This is a huge game for Georgia Tech fans and for us, so to lose it, just disappointing,” Tech coach Danny Hall said. Georgia scored all of its runs with two outs. Tech, meanwhile, had a runner thrown out at third and stranded seven runners, five in scoring position. 5 observations from Georgia Tech’s loss to Georgia “It’s clutch hitting, and something that’s not always been there for us this year,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “We’ve been up and down. There’s no secret to that, but that was a good baseball team that played (Tuesday night), and really proud of those guys to win that game.” Georgia scored its first four runs in the top of the fourth. With two out and runners on first and second, designated hitter L.J. Talley singled to right, and Keegan McGovern barely beat Tech right fielder Coleman Poje’s throw to the plate for the first run of the game. With the inning still alive, Schniederjans walked Will Proctor after starting the at-bat 0-2, his third bases on balls of the inning, and was taken out of the game. Reliever Jake Lee gave up singles to Tucker Maxwell and Tucker Bradley that scored three more runs for a 4-0 lead. “It’s kind of what I told the team: We kind of went back to our old ways of walking guys,” Hall said. After Tech countered with single runs in the fourth and fifth, Georgia catcher Michael Curry drilled a pitch from Jared Datoc deep for a two-run homer and a 6-2 lead. Down 7-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Tech loaded the bases with none out, but Drew Moody retired the next three batters to end the game. Smith went four innings, giving up five hits and walking one while giving up one run, to earn the win. Schniederjans took the loss. Georgia (17-25) had lost six of seven after beating Tech (20-20) in Athens. “This is our biggest rival,” Stricklin said. “For a lot of our players, for a lot of our fans, this is the biggest series of the year, no matter what, so it’s big to win the series. It’s important. They’re a good team, but to win the series means a lot to us.”