ATHENS — It’s a crazy time of year at UGA, like it is probably most everywhere, too. The Bulldogs are in the throes of spring football practice, but there’s also a bunch going on in all the other sports. Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to head out of town on Easter Sunday for a spring break respite.
So in today’s Take, I figured I’d just make sure everybody was up to date on a lot of the various goings-on in Dawg World, and give you my thoughts on them where warranted. Let’s resurrect the tried-and-true special feature I like to call, “Cleaning out the Notebook.”
Major injury news in football
The Bulldogs suffered a major injury last week that seems to have escaped the notice of most Georgia football observers. Kevin Butler, student assistant kicking specialist coach, is out for the spring.
Well, Butler didn’t actually get injured, but he is hurting. Badly.
The National Collegiate Hall of Fame place-kicker recently underwent hip-replacement surgery on his right hip. This is actually the second hip-replacement surgery. He had his left done a while back.
In any case, Butler tells me this one was a lot more painful than the last one. But he’s maintaining a good sense of humor about it.
“Well, they do cut your leg off,” Butler said of the hip-replacement surgical procedure.
As for Georgia’s specialists, we trust that they’re faring OK under the full-time care of newly minted 10th assistant and special teams coordinator Scott Fountain. But Butler, who continues to be enrolled at UGA as a student, had been working with the kickers in the offseason and through the first week of spring football practice. Coach Kirby Smart brought in Butler to oversee the kickers and punters last season while Butler worked toward his degree. He never finished college after the Chicago Bears drafted him in 1985 — a season in which he helping them win a Super Bowl to jump start a long NFL career.
Butler’s long-term future with the Bulldogs at this point is uncertain. Though his term as a student assistant is nearing an end, Butler has expressed an interest in continuing to serve his alma mater in some capacity. What that is and if it comes to pass remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, if you know Butler or follow him on social media, please reach out to him with some warm thoughts. It appears he may be down for a while.
Unanswered questions remain
It looks like Georgia did some quick and decisive work with respect to the former equipment manager who allegedly hid cameras in the Bulldogs’ locker room shower.
Kevin Purvis, who had been with the Bulldogs since 2006, was fired less than two weeks into an investigation that resulted in four felony charges and one misdemeanor on Friday. And incident reports and warrants in the case apparently validate the Bulldogs’ claim that no student-athletes were victimized. The victim was, according to those reports, another full-time football staffer.
But that’s not likely the end of it. There remain many questions that the athletic association is either unable or unwilling to answer at this point. For example, are they certain that there were no other victims? If so, how so? Was the football team informed of what happened? Were student-athletes in other sports informed? Does staff support personnel generally have access to and use the football team’s showers? And what about those “un-prescribed” fentanyl patches that were allegedly found in Purvis’ home during the investigation? Did they come from UGA?
I posed those questions to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity in the wake of Purvis’ arrest. All McGarity would say is that the “police investigation was very thorough” and “we would not comment beyond what is included in the police report.”
For the moment, though, it appears to have been handled swiftly and decisively.
Sparkling on the diamond
Scott Stricklin’s baseball team isn’t the only UGA team getting it done on the diamond this year. Coach Lu Harris-Champer’s softball squad is on a major roll, too, and appears poised to make some national noise again. The Bulldogs improved to 30-3 Wednesday with a 4-1 win against Kennesaw State. They also sport a pitcher in senior right-hander Britany Gray who is 15-0 with a 0.61 ERA.
But the matchup that’s really on Georgia’s mind is the one it will encounter this weekend up on Rocky Top, where the No. 6-ranked Bulldogs will take on No. 7 Tennessee.
As for the baseball team, the No. 23 Bulldogs (20-6) sit atop the SEC with a 6-1 conference record. But the schedule heats up considerably, starting this weekend with a three-game series with Texas A&M. The 15th-ranked Aggies are in Athens for a three-game set that opened Thursday, and Georgia faces Vanderbilt and Kentucky — they’re really good in baseball — in subsequent weekends, with mid-weekers with Clemson and Georgia Tech in between.
The Bulldogs defeated A&M 11-5 Thursday night, their eighth victory in a row.
Football competition intensifies
The football team is starting to get into the nitty-gritty of spring football about now. The acclimation period ended with a full-contact workout last Saturday, highlighted by some spirited Oklahoma drills to get the young pups indoctrinated.
And this week, the competition aspect of the camp has been ratcheted up, and that will continue until the Bulldogs unveil their progress at G-Day on April 21 at 4 p.m. Georgia has some intense position battles waging, particularly at nickel back (and in the secondary in general), at linebacker and at right tackle, among others. The Bulldogs will need to establish a hierarchy before the intrasquad game, and the next couple of weeks is when those determinations will be made.
Speaking of G-Day, the new video board that had to be installed as a resulted of the West End construction project is now up and running and undergoing some fine-tuning for the spring intrasquad game. The state-of-the-art electronic monstrosity from Daktronics is 30-percent larger than the previous video board and will feature a sound system that will put the previous one to shame.
G-Day should be interesting because of the ongoing construction of the $63 million building that will house a new locker room and recruiting lounge that’s going up between Sanford Bridge and the West End stands. That area won’t be available for seating, meaning a smaller-than-usual capacity for the game. Smart has asked for Georgia fans to “pack out” the stadium again.
In hopes of avoiding the crush and confusion of fans overwhelming Georgia’s game-day operations as they did for “93K Day” in 2016, the Bulldogs are planning on issuing tickets for fans as they enter the gates to ensure that too many don’t come in and to help with the seating flow.
If you’re planning on coming — and based on Smart’s ability to motivate the masses I assume you are — best plan to come to Sanford Stadium as early as possible on April 21.
Wallace surpasses Magill
Georgia women’s tennis coach Jeff Wallace surpassed the incomparable Dan Magill when the Bulldogs bested Alabama 4-0 on Thursday. It was the 707th career victory for Wallace, one more more than the late Magill, who won 706 as the men’s coach before retiring after 34 years in 1988. Wallace played for Magill.
“Dan Magill is just the greatest Bulldog that’s ever lived and ever will,” Wallace said Thursday. “It’s an honor for me to be able to stay here and coach this long at the University of Georgia. It’s such a great place, such a special place. We’ve got so many wonderful student-athletes that have come through this program that have been a huge part of that, so thank you.”
The No. 8 Bulldogs improved to 11-4 overall and 6-2 in Southeastern Conference play in the first installment of two home league matches this weekend.