Thorp stands behind decision
The college football notebook …
CHAPEL HILL ó North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp says he believes he made the ěright decisionî firing football coach Butch Davis and says the school is mulling changes to its honor court.
Thorp sent an email to students, faculty and staff Thursday outlining his reasons for the coaching change about a week before the start of preseason practice. He says he remains committed to ěmaintaining our standing as one of the top public universities in the nation ó both in academics and athletics.î
Thorp also said several faculty members have begun discussing improvements to the schoolís student judicial system. That followed accusations of plagiarism that went undetected in a 2009 term paper from defensive end Michael McAdoo. The NCAA declared McAdoo permanently ineligible for receiving improper assistance on the paper from a tutor.
NEW DUKE FACILITY
DURHAM ó Duke is naming its new indoor football practice facility after former star running back Bob Pascal.
The school said Thursday that the Pascal Field House is scheduled to be ready for use next week and formally will be dedicated Sept. 2, the day before the Blue Devils open against Richmond.
School president Richard Brodhead calls Pascal ěa leader on the field and in the history of Dukeís football program.î
Pascal donated $6 million to the project. The 80,000 square foot building will have a 120-yard playing surface.
VA. TECH GUNMAN
BLACKSBURG, Va. ó Virginia Techís first football practice of the preseason was delayed for an hour Thursday after reports of a gunman on campus.
No gunman was found despite a massive search of the sprawling campus. A lockdown put in effect after the initial report of the possible gunman was lifted at 2:42 p.m., just more than an hour before the scheduled 4 p.m. start of practice.
Classes also were canceled after the initial alert at 9:37 a.m.
Coach Frank Beamer thought the school handled the situation well.
ěI thought everything went pretty smooth to be honest with you,î Beamer said after practice wrapped up at about 7:15 p.m. ěWe just moved things back an hour. The kids adapted to the deal. I thought everything went good.î
RICHT EAGER AT UGA
ATHENS, Ga. ó Mark Richt dusted off an old speech on the eve of Georgiaís first practice.
He hopes it works out like it did in 2002.
The Bulldogs began preseason workouts in sweltering conditions Thursday, only appropriate since their coach is definitely on the hot seat with Georgia coming off its first losing season of the Richt era.
Heading into his 11th season in Athens, the coach knows he must turn things around quickly. His players are eager to do their part.
ěWe all take it very personally,î defensive end Abry Jones said.
ěWe donít really want to be seen as the Georgia years where they had the down years. No one wants that on their record when they leave here.î
Speaking with his team the night before, Richt brought up many of the same things he said before the ë02 season. The Bulldogs went on to capture their first Southeastern Conference championship in 20 years.
Georgia won the SEC again in 2005 but has been surpassed in recent years by conference rivals such as Florida, Alabama, LSU and Auburn ó all of which have won national titles.
ěThereís some similarities,î Richt said. ěItís not been 20 years, but itís been five or six years. Thatís too long in my mind. We talked a little about the mindset of that team going into 2002. … We talked about some of the very same things.î
He doesnít want the players thinking about his future.
ěI donít think itís been an issue at all,î Richt said. ěIím not going to say the guys havenít heard it. But when theyíre in here or on the practice field or in the strength room, all that stuff, everything is geared toward this season and the excitement of it and the fact that we have a chance to have a great year.î
The SEC sure appears wide open.
Defending champion Auburn must replace Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Florida is breaking in a new coach, Will Muschamp. South Carolina has been tabbed as the favorite to repeat as champion of the East, but the Bulldogs will get a chance to make their mark when the teams meet in their traditional conference opener in Athens on Sept. 10.
ěPeople are gonna talk and say what they want to say,î cornerback Brandon Boykin said. ěThatís part of the game. Ultimately, we know that weíve got to go out there, take care of our business and win games. The rest will take care of itself.î
At least Richt isnít having to answer questions about breaking in a new quarterback. Aaron Murray excelled as a redshirt freshman, throwing for 3,049 yards with 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
Murray should be more comfortable in the offense as a sophomore but he wonít have his best receiver, A.J. Green, who gave up his senior season and was one of the top picks in the NFL draft.
While one guy drew most of the attention a year ago, Murray is counting on several receivers to fill the huge void left by Green.
ěWeíve got seven of eight guys who could start game one,î the quarterback said. ěWeíre that deep.î
Having spent a year in coordinator Todd Granthamís 3-4 scheme, the defense figures to be the teamís strong point, at least in the early going while Georgia breaks in new starters at not only receiver, but running back.
Washaun Ealey and Caleb King both left the program, and touted freshman Isaiah Crowell is expected to quickly assume the role as the main guy taking handoffs from Murray.
Richt has not ruled out Crowell being the starter when the Bulldogs open Sept. 3 against Boise State, but the coach is also quick to note that every freshman has a lot to learn.
ěI told them all, ëYour goal is to learn what to do,íî he said. ěMost of them have been here all summer. They realize weíve got some pretty good players on the team. Now, weíre going to start installing things, and weíre going at a veteran pace, not a rookie pace. Their heads are swimming already.î
The Bulldogs, like teams across the South, had to deal with a blistering afternoon for their first practice. The temperature was in the mid-90s, and the humidity made it feel like the 100s.
Jonathan Jenkins, a 340-pound nose guard and another of the teamís top signees, was helped inside during the middle of practice with what might have been a heat-related problem, though it didnít appear serious.
Georgia will need everyone on board for what it hopes to be a comeback season.
ěItís extreme motivation to hear people say coach Richt might be on the hot seat,î Jones said. ěFor us as players, to have put him in that kind of position, weíre extremely motivated to help him out and show what a great coach he actually is and show what great players we are.î