Georgia-Houston to be played Saturday as planned

ATHENS, Ga. — Following what Georgia athletics director <b>Vince Dooley</b> said was a unanimous decision by the Southeastern Conference members, Georgia will play host to Houston Saturday as originally planned.

Wednesday's decision to play the SEC games four days after the terroristic attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., came after a series of discussions among the league's athletics directors and presidents.

The Big East, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast Conference decided to postpone games planned for the weekend.

"Instead of waiting around until the decisions were made by other (conferences), we felt it was important that we express ourselves and be proactive,'' Dooley said of the SEC's decision.

Among the other conferences which have announced plans to play Saturday are the Big Ten, Big 12, Mid-American, Conference USA and WAC.

Dooley told Georgia coach Mark Richt of the decision before Wednesday's practice, and University of Georgia president Michael Adams passed along the news to the players on the practice field. The players responded with applause.

"I felt the terrorists would have more success with us trying to hide from our daily lives than with us getting on with our daily activity,'' said Georgia offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb.

Said Richt: "That helped everybody's spirits to know they were preparing for something. ... I think that's what President Bush wanted us to do, to try to return to normal as soon as possible ... to show the world we're going to continue to be a free nation.''

The SEC has pledged $1 million from gate receipts and television revenue to assist the victims of Tuesday's attacks. Boxes will be set up at Sanford Stadium to allow fans to donate to the funds.

Dooley said the game will provide "a meaningful opportunity to bring our people together in a common expression of sympathy and mourning. There will be an appropriate ceremony to express that prior to the game, with both teams on the field.''

Dooley also said that by playing the scheduled games, the SEC will "join the president of the United States and other leaders by not allowing this tragedy to change our way or life or restrict our freedom.''

Still, Dooley said he respected the decisions of others to postpone games, and he said he agreed with decisions to postpone Thursday games.

"That would have been too close,'' he said.

Houston associate athletics director Chris Burkhalter said his school would have supported any decision by Georgia and the SEC.

"We never planned that we weren't going to play,'' Burkhalter said Wednesday. "We were going about our business as if we were going to play. It's their home game. Our position now is if anything changes, just let us know. Otherwise, we will leave Friday.''

Houston will take a charter flight to Atlanta. The SEC's decision was delayed by plans for a national day of mourning, which is planned for Friday. If that day had been set for Saturday, the SEC's games would have been postponed or cancelled.

Dooley expressed confidence in security at Sanford Stadium, noting that "as a matter of norm a sweep is made through the stadium with sniff dogs.''

"We've got good security in the first place, and there probably will be, because of what has happened, some measures of reinforcing the security.'' A women's soccer match scheduled for Friday between Massachusetts and Georgia was cancelled when UMass decided not to make the trip to Athens. Also, a home soccer match against Fresno State set for Sunday was cancelled.

The Georgia volleyball team is scheduled to make a bus trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., for a weekend tournament.

NOTE: Richt announced game captains for the Houston game: fullback Verron Haynes, offense; cornerback Tim Wansley, defense; linebacker Will Witherspoon, special teams.

Charles Odum can be reached via e-mail at CEOdum@aol.com.


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