"Minor" sports winning in major way

ATHENS – The Southeastern Conference held its annual athletic directors meeting this week in Orlando, Fla., and it was good timing for Georgia's Damon Evans.

The Bulldogs' second-year AD could afford to walk around with his chest puffed out a little. It's been a good year for the program, particularly this semester.

Georgia's gymnastics program recently completed an undefeated, national championship season, and the No. 1 and undefeated men's tennis team begins its NCAA tournament run Saturday in Athens. The top-ranked men's golf team will begin the hunt for its second straight national title on June 1.

The Bulldogs women's swimming team recently finished No. 2 in the country and women's golf, women's track and softball each are ranked in the nation's top 10 entering the end of their seasons.

"We motivate each other," tennis coach Manuel Diaz said of his spring sport colleagues. "It's just great to be a part of it."

Even the left-for-dead baseball team is on a seven-game winning streak heading into Thursday night's game against Georgia Tech at Turner Field. (The game, which will be televised by CSS, was originally scheduled for tonight but moved due to the threat of rain.)

"I knew there were some special opportunities out there for us this year," Evans said. "The credit needs to go to our student athletes and all the work they have put in. Being the athletic director, I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

The Bulldogs have managed the success in their minor sports while also being the most profitable athletic department in the country. Georgia's revenue outpaced its expenditures by $23.9 million in 2005, according to figures released by U.S. Department of Education, and the Bulldogs did it without shorting their less heralded teams.

"At Georgia, you're going to get what you need to compete," said Diaz, whose team is 25-0 and plays Furman on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. "Our budgets continue to improve and (the administration) continues to give you what you need."

Evans evaluates his department on four levels, he said – athletic achievement, academic standing, financial performance and compliance. One half of that equation – athletics and finances – is going gangbusters. Walking the line between success on the court and on the budget sheets is one of Evans' proudest professional achievements.

"I think we've been able to find a happy medium, a good balance there," he said. "To show people you can have success and spend money in a prudent manner is very special."

Georgia's minor sport coaches rarely feel left out in the financial cold, golf coach Chris Haack said.

"I've always felt like they've treated us fair and tried to support us in any way they can," said Haack, who already has won two national championships at Georgia. "If we come to them and ask for something, they're always pretty receptive to doing that."

NOTE: The Bulldog football has picked up its fifth verbal commitment for the Class of 2007. Charles White, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker from Blythewood, S.C., made his commitment to Georgia last week, according to Scout.com. White also had a scholarship offer from Maryland.

Georgia Sports

Baseball – 31-16, seven-game winning streak
Basketball (men's) – 15-15, last in SEC East
Basketball (women's) – 23-9, NCAA Sweet 16
Cross Country (men's) – Didn't qualify for NCAAs
Cross Country (women) 31st at NCAAs
Equestrian – Fourth at national meet
Football – SEC Champions
Golf (men's) – No. 1 in country, NCAAs begin June 1
Golf (women's) – No. 5 in country, NCAAs begin Thursday
Gymnastics – 36-0, NCAA champions
Soccer (women's) – 6-4-1, fourth in SEC East
Softball – No. 8 in country, SECs begin Thursday in Athens
Swimming (men's) – Finished No. 9 in country
Swimming (women's) – Finished No. 2 in country
Track (men) – Unranked nationally, NCAAs begin June 7
Track (women) – No. 5 in country, NCAAs begin June 7
Volleyball (women) – 5-11, fourth in SEC East

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