HYAMS: Notes from around the SEC

Fighting, abusive language and rowdy fan behavior have become all too common at University of Georgia football games. <br><br> With the help of alcohol, sports fans are a growing problem at athletic events nation wide, not just at Georgia. But at least Georgia is taking pro-active steps to curb the littering and riots.

``I've had calls for guys that were standing at the top of the stadium, in the 300- and 400-level seats, urinating over the top of the (seating area) to the gate at people entering the stadium,'' said UGA police chief Chuck Horton. ``I don't know that I'd bring a small child in there.''

Horton said one way to stop fans from rushing a playing field is to force the home team to forfeit.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said he has long opposed teams allowing fans to storm the field or court after a game.

The UGA Athletic Association and the Athens-Clarke County government have teamed up with a new Fan Behavior Committee to look at ways of changing fan behavior during home games. They are considering sending letters to fans and airing radio public service announcements.

Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel said they will try to identify intoxicated fans and keep them out of the stadium. But often people don't show signs of being intoxicated until some time after they are inside the stadium, Horton said.

The county is also dealing with large amounts of trash along city and residential streets discarded by fans en route to the stadium.

``I would never go to someone's community and trash it like that,'' said Athens-Clarke Major Heidi Davison.


 *Cornerback David Irons has taken a circuitous route to Auburn University.

Irons signed with Auburn out of high school, didn't qualify, went to a junior college in Kansas, a juco in Alabama, back to the Kansas juco, then finally landed on the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

``Sometimes when I walk around, I can't believe I'm here,'' said Irons, who hopes is academic problems are behind him. ``This is how dedicated I am: I left practice early and went to see my tutor. They're staying on me about my grade situation.''

Irons was in just about every Auburn recruiting class in the 2000s.

``I'd come to Auburn and guys were like, `I remember you. You were supposed to be here in 2001.' I was like, `Aw man,''' Irons said. ``Then a little kid said, `You're David Irons. You're supposed to be here this year.'''

Irons comes from a football family. He is the son of former Detroit Lions running back David Irons and his grandfather is former Oakland Raiders linebacker Gerald Irons. And his brother is Tiger tailback Kenny Irons, the South Carolina transfer who recently rushed for over 100 yards in a scrimmage.

``He's the little smart kid,'' David said of Kenny. ``He's the one who stayed in the books and made 1,100 on the SATs.''


* Former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning made a strong case for being the first overall pick in the NFL draft based on a recent workout in New Orleans.

Manning threw about 65 to 75 passes during a 35-minute workout before about a dozen NFL teams. It is doubtful that San Diego, which has the first pick, will again pass on a Manning. In 1998, the Chargers declined to trade up from the No. 2 spot to No. 1 to get Peyton Manning, thinking Ryan Leaf was just as good or better. Mistake.

Who knows if Eli Manning will be as good in the pros as his older brother. But he has tools. And he displayed them very well earlier this month.

``Peyton said I did well,'' Eli said. ``I'd give myself an A, maybe a B+. Obviously I didn't hit every throw, but under the circumstances and not having guys that you've been throwing to a long time, it went fine. I watched Peyton's (pro day) workout on film that he did at Tennessee. He missed a bunch of balls, so I wasn't too nervous coming in.''

Was that a shot older brother?

``Eli showed why he's worthy of being the No. 1 pick,'' said Larry Keenan, executive director of the NFL coaches Association. ``He's shown he can handle the pressure of being Archie's son and Peyton's little brother and still be himself.''

Said Sam Wyche of the Buffalo Bills: ``He's got a tight, consistent throwing motion, which is important. That means he lets the ball go at the same release point every time. He threw the ball as well in the intermediate range as he did the long range, which is the mark of a real pro.''


* Two years ago, Georgia coach Mark Richt promised his son that if the Bulldogs won the SEC, he would put an escalator in the house.

A few months later, Georgia won its first SEC title in 20 years, but an escalator hasn't been installed yet. And it won't be.

After all, Richt was just kidding. And it cost over $100,000 to install an escalator.

Now, Richt has made another promise -- and this time, he's serious.

If Georgia wins the SEC, Richt has promised to heat the family's swimming pool. That is doable. It's also less expensive.


* Alabama might have found a replacement for 1,000-yard rusher Shaud Williams.

Ray Hudson has been impressive during spring drills. He has been physical -- running over cornerback Anthony Madison -- and fast.

``Ray actually shows up once you start tackling,'' coach Mike Shula said. ``He's hard to tackle. He's one of our fastest players if not the fastest, and he's powerful. You've got to break down because he's so quick and all the sudden, he's on you.''

The 6-foot, 207-pound senior has 1,001 career yards on 186 carries. He could surpass that this season, if he's able to hold off challenges from Tim Castille and Ken Darby.

``I've been waiting for this a long time,'' Hudson said. ``I know the day before the first practice, I was so nervous I couldn't even sleep. I don't even get that nervous in a game.''


* Too many of Florida's signees from 2000-02 are playing somewhere else, and Gator coach Billy Donovan said one man is to blame: Donovan.

James White, who should be a junior at Florida, is playing for Cincinnati. Guard Orien Greene is at Louisiana-Lafayette. Center Kwane Brown is in the NBA.

Of the 11 players signed in those three recruiting classes, only six remain.

``I get a lot of credit for doing a good job of recruiting,'' Donovan said. ``I don't know if I've done a good job recruiting. Not necessarily from bringing in players talent-wise, but from being able to balance our classes. I've done a poor job there.''

He points to the fact that Florida has just one senior, forward Bonell Colas, while four freshmen are playing significant minutes.

Donovan said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith does a great job of balancing classes. The Wildcats have four seniors, three of whom start, and beat Florida by an average of 18 points in two recent games. In eight seasons at Florida, Donovan hasn't had four seniors in a class.

Donovan has lost such players as Mike Miller, Donnell Harvey, Ted Dupay, Chrstian Drejer and Brown, for various reasons. That has forced Donovan to examine how he and his staff evaluate players.


* Many purists were concerned that a federal judge allowing Maurice Clarett could turn pro immediately would have a far-reaching affect on not just college freshmen and sophomores, but high school players as well.

Lo and behold, six high school players and a junior college player applied for the NFL draft by the March 1 deadline.

Before you say, ``I told you so,'' know this: Those players aren't very good."

This isn't like Koby Bryant or Kevin Garnett entering the NBA draft. Most of these guys

didn't even play high school ball last year. Long-time recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said he'd never heard of any of them.

They include: Three players who weren't on their football team, one whose school didn't have football, one who attended a school for developmentally disabled, and one who made honorable mention All-Detroit in 2002.


* Since divisional play in the SEC, Tennessee is the only team that hasn't reached the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. That's embarrassing.

In the past 13 years, Tennessee is 6-13 in the SEC tourney, the fewest wins by any league team.

Six times, the Vols have been the No. 6 seed in the East, including this year. Three times, Tennessee got a first-round bye, meaning just one win would put them in the semifinals. But UT is 0-3 when given a first-round bye.

In Knoxville, many fans think the Vols have lost the home-court advantage by moving into spacious Thompson-Boling Arena (24,500 capacity) from 12,700-seat Stokely Athletics Center. While the atmosphere at Stokely was better, the won-loss record hasn't been much different.

In the last 10 years, the Vols were 51-29 in SEC home games and 25-55 in SEC road games.

In the last 10 years at Stokely, UT was 62-28 in SEC home games and 31-59 in SEC road games.

The difference in the winning percentages home v. road: 34 percent at Stokely, 32.5 percent at Thompson-Boling Area. In other words, one more win at TBA or one more loss at Stokely, and the percentages are the same.

That's not exactly an appreciable home-court advantage for Stokely.


* A state of South Carolina contribution of $700,000 to a proposed Palmetto Bowl is in jeopardy as legislators debate other ways to spend the money.

Some lawmakers want more money for indigent defense or to offset increases in state employee health plan or for libraries.

The Palmetto Bowl, a Division I postseason game, is to be sponsored by ESPN and played in Charleston, S.C. The $700,000 would be used to expand The Citadel stadium to 35,000.

One estimate says the bowl game would generate $48 million over a 15-year period in hotel, restaurant and other spending.

``I know we're going to make money, maybe, but it's not a question of that,'' said Rep[. Herb Kirsh. ``It's a question of the perception that we'd spend money for this in these times.''

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