GT hosting ACC softball and swimming and diving championships
thanks for the
Alexander Memorial Coliseum has provided a lifetime of thrills
DISTINGUISHED DOUBLES DUO focused on 2011
Yellow Jackets ready for spring drills
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spring 2011 • Volume 4, Number 3 EDITOR
David Johnson, Sam Morgan and Barry Williams
DESIGN & LAYOUT
Simit Shah Jack Wilkinson Adam Van Brimmer Matt Winkeljohn Coley Harvey Wayne Hogan
Summit Athletic Media www.summitathletics.com
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In This Issue 4
thanks for the memories
focused on 2011
a jacket for life
Something to Prove
Please send all address changes to the attention of Amanda Hobbs at the address noted above.
Alexander Memorial Coliseum has provided a lifetime of thrills.
Yellow Jackets ready for spring drills to begin in late March.
Freshman Tyaunna Marshall is one big reason Tech is in the thick of the ACC race. Tech’s baseball roster is filled with new faces, but expectations are always high under Danny Hall.
DISTINGUISHED DOUBLES DUO
King and Spir grew up 2,000 miles apart, but now combine to form one of the nation’s best doubles teams. Georgia Tech will be busy this spring hosting ACC softball, swimming and diving championships.
At 75, Ledbetter shows zero signs of slowing down.
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Thanks for the Memories Alexander Memorial Coliseum will be replaced, but like the domed roof, the thrilling memories will remain By Adam Van Brimmer
The cheers sound like murmurs at first, lost in the cavernous space beneath the 270-foot round ceiling of Alexander Memorial Coliseum. But as the claps and the shouts and screams build they circle upwards until they finally hit that big subwoofer in the sky: The 55-year-old dome. Once the 9,000-plus fans in the building reach full-throat, the coliseum becomes the Thrillerdome. “Whoever built it knew what they were doing,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “The sound bounces around in that place better than any building I’ve ever been in. It starts to get loud and then you make one big play and it’s deafening.” Loud enough to awaken the ghosts of moments past, others say. Like Roger Kaiser’s jumper to beat Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky team in 1961. And Brook Steppe’s free throws to knock off Ralph Sampson and Virginia in 1980. And John Salley’s three-point play in double overtime to defeat Maryland in 1984. And freshman Dennis Scott’s 28-footer at the buzzer to beat DePaul in 1988. And Stephon Marbury’s turnaround jumper in the lane to upset Duke in 1996. And Jarrett Jack’s clutch free throws versus Wake Forest in 2005. And freshman Iman Shumpert’s pull-up jumper to
upset the sixth-ranked Demon Deacons in 2009. “Whenever a big shot comes down the line, the ghost of Dennis Scott gets channeled. Free throws? Mark Price. Three-point plays? John Salley,” said Wes Durham, Georgia Tech’s radio voice since 1995. “When it comes to that building, no matter how many people are there or how big the game is, there are moments that remind you of another. That’s how many big moments there have been in that building.” The potential for more is waning. Alexander Memorial Coliseum will close in March, more than likely with the Yellow Jackets’ season finale against Miami on March 6. The facility will be gutted in what can only loosely be considered a renovation: Everything under the domed roof will be replaced. The new building will open in 2012 and be christened the Hank McCamish Pavilion in honor of the lead donor on the project. Plans call for a modern arena, but one with a nod to the coliseum’s past. The character will change, say those who have played or coached in the Thrillerdome, but the noise and the ghosts will remain. “The building itself is fine, but what made it so nice for me was the people inside it,” said Roger Kaiser, Georgia Tech’s first All-American
TOP 20 BASKETBALL MOMENTS IN AMC HISTORY
Georgia Tech 62, Virginia 61 Feb. 9, 1980
Georgia Tech, playing its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, earned its first ACC win over the 18thranked Cavaliers, who had 29 points from All-America center Ralph Sampson and a combined 22 from its vaunted guards Lee Raker and Jeff Lamp. Tech’s first All-ACC player, Brook Steppe, led the Yellow Jackets with 21 points, converting a pair of free throws with less than 10 seconds left to lift the Jackets to victory.
Georgia Tech 68, Wake Forest 66 Jan. 7, 1984
Georgia Tech 62, Kentucky 60 Jan. 30, 1961
All-America guard Roger Kaiser nailed a baseline jumper as time expired to give Georgia Tech a 62-60 upset over Kentucky at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. After Kentucky’s Carroll Burchett tied the score at 60-60 with a tip-in with 30 seconds left, Kaiser took the ball and dribbled most of the clock away. With time running out, he drove to the baseline, shook off two defenders, and fired from the left corner as the buzzer sounded. Despite playing with a broken thumb on his shooting hand, Kaiser connected on 7-of-15 from the field and 15-of-19 from the free throw line for a game-high 29 points, leading Tech to its third victory in four games over Kentucky.
Georgia Tech 76, Kentucky 67 Jan. 4, 1964
and a star from 1958-1961. “They can change the name and change the look, but they can’t take the memories away. It will still be the coliseum to me.” Uniquely Unique Alexander Memorial Coliseum was once an engineering marvel befitting an engineering school. Completed in 1956 at a cost of $1.6 million, the building featured 32 steel ribs supporting an 862-ton roof that covered 71,500 square feet. Where other schools played in band boxes or barn-like structures, Georgia Tech played in a sunken amphitheater with a domed ceiling. As unique as the general public found the facility, its behind-thescenes nuances made it special – or notorious – with players. The original floor was laid over bedrock and was hard on knees and ankles. “We joked the floor was really concrete painted to look like wood,” said Rich Yunkus, the program’s alltime leading scorer.
Kentucky native R.D. Craddock scored 25 points as Georgia Tech shocked the top-ranked Wildcats, 76-67, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Charlie Spooner added 16 points and Mick Stenftenagel 15 for the Jackets as Tech head coach Whack Hyder recorded his ninth victory over Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats, including three wins over No. 1-ranked Kentucky teams. Craddock, who was 5-for-8 from the field and 15-for-17 from the foul line, scored 19 points in the second half as Tech rallied from a 32-30 halftime deficit to lead by as many as 13 points. Leading 48-43, Tech scored seven straight points on field goals by Craddock and Jim Caldwell and three free throws by Bill Edison, to go up 55-43 with 10:35 to play and then held off the Wildcats with free throw shooting, hitting 17 in a row in one stretch.
Georgia Tech 88, Furman 61 Jan. 15, 1970
With 10 minutes to play in this game, All-American Rich Yunkus had actually outscored the Paladins by himself, 41-35, when coach Whack Hyder sat him down. Yunkus returned three minutes later, couldn’t defend his lead, but nonetheless finished with 47 points to establish the single-game scoring record at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, which still stands. Yunkus went on to finish his career with 2,232 points, in just three seasons, a record which still stands at Tech. His single-game mark would fall 20 years later when Kenny Anderson poured in 50 against Pittsburgh at the Omni.
Junior Scott Petway capped a game-long comeback with a 15-foot jump shot with just three seconds remaining in the game to give Georgia Tech a 68-66 victory over 8th-ranked Wake Forest at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Petway’s shot gave the Jackets their first lead since the red-haired forward had scored the game’s first points. After Wake’s Anthony Young missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:05 left, Salley grabbed the rebound. Tech ran the clock down to 11 seconds before calling a timeout. Petway was supposed to get the ball to either Mark Price, who had 19 points and six assists, or Yvon Joseph, but when both were covered, Petway dribbled to the left baseline and drilled the shot. Tech trailed 52-42 with 14:42 remaining but fought back to within two, 62-60, on Mark Price’s 19-footer at 6:07, and baskets by Joseph tied the score at 64 with 2:50 left and then at 66 with 1:11 on the clock.
Georgia Tech 72, Virginia 71 (3 OT) Jan. 23, 1984
Georgia Tech’s John Salley hit a pair of free throws for a four-point lead with 59 seconds left in the third overtime and then the Yellow Jackets survived a threepoint play by Rick Carlisle and a last-second missed shot by Othell Wilson for a 72-71 victory over 19thranked Virginia at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Tech scored eight straight points in the second half to take an eight-point lead with 12:37 left in regulation, but the Cavaliers responded with a 13-2 run to take a 46-45 lead with 6:36 to play. From there, the lead changed hands almost every possession until Tech, with the score tied at 51-51, held the ball for more than four minutes for the last shot. But Carlisle fouled Scott Petway with 10 seconds left and Petway missed the front end of the one-and-one. At the other end, Wilson and Jim Miller missed shots as time expired. After the two teams failed to score in the first overtime, Tech fell behind by five in the second session, trailing 60-55 with 1:28 left. But the Jackets called timeout and then scored the next four times down the floor, including two free throws by Yvon Joseph with 10 seconds left to force the third overtime. Bruce Dalrymple scored Tech’s first basket of the third overtime, and his only field goal of the night, for a 6563 lead the Jackets would not relinquish. After Petway fouled out, Anthony Byrd came off the bench to make four straight free throws, but his charging foul with 36 seconds left led to Wilson’s final shot, which bounced off the back of the rim at the buzzer. www.ramblinwreck.com
The slow-pace of lighting technology gave the coliseum a dungeon-like feel for decades, but then “if you’re a good shooter, you can shoot anywhere,” Kaiser said. The roof leaked – and still might, as Georgia Tech learned in 2008 when a driving thunderstorm led to the postponement of a game against Virginia. The building lacked air-conditioning until the mid1990s.
Among the many notable commencement speakers at the Coliseum since 1970 was All-America basketball player John Salley.
Among the many other events to be held in the building, the Coliseum was the boxing venue for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
“And then there are those ramps,” legendary coach Bobby Cremins said. “Those ramps” provide access to the playing floor from the locker rooms. The dressing areas are located at the top of the facility in an adjacent building. A series of graded ramps and steps zig-zag the path down to the floor. “That could be a long walk,” Yunkus said. “It was one of those deals where if you were back on one of the ramps at halftime and hadn’t seen any of the game, you could tell if we were having a good game or not based on whether we were running or walking up that tunnel.” “After a win, the ramp wasn’t too steep at all,” Kaiser said. “But after a loss that was a looonnngg walk.” The ramps have played a vital role in Georgia Tech’s home court advantage, especially since the school installed a small elevator for the home team’s use in 1996. Visitors still use the ramps, and opposing coaches are known to gripe about it. North Carolina’s Roy Williams once quipped he didn’t need to hit the hotel gym when the Tar Heels come to Atlanta as he got all the exercise he needed going to and from the floor. In an effort to save both his and his players’ strength, Williams now has his student managers put a dry-erase board near the bottom of the ramp for halftime meetings. “I remember coming there as a visitor in December 1990 and taking the ramps,” Hewitt said. “I was an assistant at Fordham and remember thinking ‘How much farther to the locker room?’ It can get in your head.”
Welcome to the Thrillerdome Alexander Memorial Coliseum entered college basketball lore in the 1980s, when Georgia Tech joined the league notorious for intimidating buildings, the Atlantic Coast Conference. North Carolina played at Carmichael Auditorium. Maryland had Cole Field House. NC State hosted visitors at Reynolds Coliseum. And Duke, of course, harassed opponents in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Alexander Memorial Coliseum didn’t scare anybody at first. Tech joined the ACC in basketball in the 1979-80 season and won just six conference games at home in the next four years. A 1981 poll of ACC players revealed they found the coliseum the least intimidating place to play in the league.
TOP 20 BASKETBALL MOMENTS IN AMC HISTORY continued Georgia Tech 71, Maryland 70 (2 OT) Feb. 4, 1984
John Salley completed a three-point play with eight seconds left in the second overtime to give Georgia Tech a three-point lead as the 18th-ranked Yellow Jackets knocked off No. 9 Maryland, 71-70, in double overtime at the Thrillerdome. After Maryland’s Jeff Adkins tied the score at 68-68 with a pair of free throws with 1:23 left in the second overtime, Tech ran the clock down until Mark Price drove to the basket with about 14 seconds left. He found Salley alone under the basket, and Tech’s 7-0 center put the ball off the glass and drew a foul from Herman Veal. After two Maryland timeouts, Salley hit the free throw, rendering meaningless a field goal by the Terps’ Keith Gatlin with four seconds left. Tech fell behind by as many as 11 points in the second half and trailed 62-55 after Veal’s jumper with 6:01 left, but the Jackets held Maryland scoreless for the remainder of regulation and Anthony Byrd hit the tying basket with a foul line jumper with 1:57 left. Byrd again tied the score with a jumper with 1:06 left in the first overtime to force the second extra session.
scored just four points in the game but passed out 17 assists. Tech snapped a three-game losing streak, outrebounded the Tar Heels 52-34 and launched themselves on a seven-game winning streak. The Yellow Jackets would lose just three more times that season, win the ACC Championship and make its first appearance in the NCAA Final Four.
Georgia Tech 80, Duke 79 Jan. 10, 1993
Freshman Drew Barry came off the bench to record 11 points, five assists and four steals, as No. 10 Georgia Tech knocked off No. 1-ranked Duke, 80-79, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, ending a 23-game winning streak for the defending national champions. Barry and freshman Martice Moore combined for 15 of Tech’s 19 points during a second half stretch in which the Jackets took a 76-74 lead with 1:04 to go. Tech began the game with a 12-0 run and led by as many as 14 in the first half before Duke pulled within 44-37 at the half. The Blue Devils led 60-59 when Moore’s three-pointer put Tech ahead 62-60 with 8:47 left. Duke tied the score three times after that but never led.
Georgia Tech 71, DePaul 70
Georgia Tech 89, North Carolina 69
Freshman Dennis Scott stunned a national television audience and a capacity Thrillerdome crowd with a dramatic three-point field goal at the buzzer to give the Jackets another miracle, 71-70, victory over nationallyranked DePaul. Scott, who was just 3-for-13 prior to his 28-foot game-winner, had just missed a similar shot seconds before. But a DePaul player missed two free throw attempts, and when given a second opportunity, Scott’s shot was true, giving Tech the win as the fans stormed the court.
Travis Best had 27 points, nine assists and only one turnover and James Forrest added 22 points as Georgia Tech downed its third straight No. 1-ranked team with an 89-69 upset over North Carolina at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. After leading by as many as 13 in the first half, Tech held a 38-35 advantage at the intermission. The score was tied at 44-44 with 16 minutes to play when Fred Vinson came off the bench to hit three three-pointers and another long jumper, helping Tech build a 66-56 lead with 8:03 remaining.
Feb. 6, 1988
Georgia Tech 76, North Carolina 74 Rich Yunkus scored 47 points against Furman in 1970, still a Coliseum record.
That feeling changed in 1983. Cremins had been on the job two years. He’d struggled on the court but had scored on the recruiting trail. The starting lineup for the 1983-84 season included John Salley, Mark Price, Scott Petway, Bruce Dalrymple and Yvon Joseph. The Jackets opened the season with eight wins in their first nine games, and by the time Wake Forest came to Atlanta for the conference opener in January, students had basketball fever. More than an hour before tipoff, the line at the student gate stretched two blocks. Tech nipped Wake Forest on a Petway jumper with three seconds left. The Yellow Jackets won four
Jan. 12, 1994
Georgia Tech 62, Georgia 61
Mar. 1, 1989
Dec. 3, 1996
Sophomore Dennis Scott’s reputation as a clutch shooter was crystallized as his three-point field goal with just two seconds remaining gave Georgia Tech a stunning, 76-74 upset of North Carolina at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
A three-pointer by Matt Harpring, followed by two more treys by Michael Maddox ignited a 14-point spurt as Georgia Tech rallied from 11 points down in the final four minutes for a 62-61 victory over Georgia in the Bulldogs’ first visit to Alexander Memorial Coliseum since 1980.
The game looked out of reach with Tech’s Karl Brown at the line for two free throws and the Jackets trailing by three points. But Brown made both charity tosses and when UNC’s Kevin Madden attempted to inbound the ball, Scott stole the pass from North Carolina’s Scott Williams. Scott, who had a game-high 28 points, then turned and fired up a 23-foot three pointer which hit nothing but net for a 76-74 Tech victory.
Georgia Tech 102, North Carolina 75 Feb. 1, 1990
Before an Alexander memorial Coliseum record crowd of 9,806, Georgia Tech handed North Carolina its worst loss since 1964 behind 37 points from Dennis Scott and 34 from Brian Oliver. The third member of Tech’s famed Lethal Weapon 3 combo, Kenny Anderson,
Trailing 59-48, Tech began its run with a steal by Jon Babul and a hard foul on Kevin Morris by Georgia’s Derrick Dukes on the ensuing fast break, inciting the crowd. Morris hit both free throws to pull Tech within eight with four minutes to go. Harpring nailed his trey at 3:41. Back-to-back threepointers by Maddox followed, the second of which put Tech ahead, 60-59, with 2:27 to play. Maddox, who had a career high 18 points, knocked away a pass by Georgia’s Jon Nordin, leading to a pair of Harpring free throws and a three-point lead with 2:05 left. Georgia’s G.G. Smith hit two free throws to cut the Jackets’ advantage to one, and after a Tech turnover, the Bulldogs had the ball back with just over a minute to play but never managed to get a shot off. www.ramblinwreck.com
TOP 20 continued more ACC home games in the final seconds, three on the last play of the game. Midway through that run, Georgia Tech color analyst Brad Nessler, now with ESPN, dubbed the coliseum the Thrillerdome. Play-by-play man Al Ciraldo liked the nickname and incorporated it into his calls. The least intimidating building in the ACC had morphed into the Roman Colosseum. NC State coach “Jim Valvano came up to me after we beat them there that season and said, ‘You’ve now got an ACC atmosphere in this gym,’” Cremins said. “That meant a lot.” Georgia Tech would win an ACC championship one year later and the Thrillerdome would get its first makeover since it opened in 1986. The renovation expanded the seating capacity to more than 9,000, but Cremins’ teams continued to fill the building nonetheless. The Yellow Jackets made the first of two Final Four runs in 1990 with the “Lethal Weapon 3” backcourt of Kenny Anderson, Brian Oliver and Scott.
Georgia Tech 84, Georgia 79 (OT) Dec. 13, 1998
Jason Collier had 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Yellow Jackets rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit for an 84-79 overtime victory over arch-rival Georgia at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Georgia built a 65-50 advantage with 10:33 left in the second half, but would not score another field goal in regulation. Tech still trailed 72-65 when Collier hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to four points with 1:40 to play. Then Tony Akins stole the ball and fed Collier for a layup that made the score 72-70. On Tech’s next possession, Akins pounced on a loose ball and was fouled, and his free throws tied the game with 34.6 seconds left. Georgia had a shot to tie, but G.G. Smith’s final shot was blocked by Collier. Collier scored the first basket of overtime to give the Jackets their first lead since 9-7. Akins added a field goal and four free throws to help seal the win. Tech hit 12 of its last 14 shots from the field, including all four in overtime.
Georgia Tech 62, Wisconsin 61 Nov. 28, 2001
Hosting its first game in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Georgia Tech forged the biggest comeback in the Paul Hewitt era. The Yellow Jackets trailed by 20 with 16 minutes remaining, and were still down 61-50 with 4:18 left, but the Badgers didn’t score again. Tony Akins scored seven points in that span, and Halston Lane made two free throws with 14 seconds left to seal the victory.
Georgia Tech 90, Maryland 84 Feb. 9, 2003
It would be hard to top Dennis Scott’s steal and three to beat the buzzer and North Carolina on March 1, 1989.
Change Inevitable The Cremins’ era success led to the first mention of replacing the coliseum. Atlanta won the bid for the 1996 Olympics in 1990, and Georgia Tech was chosen as a host venue for swimming and boxing, which meant money for venues. Cremins liked the idea of converting the planned Olympic aquatic center into a new arena following the Summer Games, but the costs were prohibitive. The school also considered partnering with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks on an arena, to be built across 10th street on the Turner Broadcasting property or across the interstate on land owned by Coca-Cola. Rice, the athletic director, researched the notion and discovered the cost of building and maintaining a large arena was “overbearing.” The school chose instead to do a large-scale renovation of the coliseum that transformed it into a more modern and functional facility, and at a quarter of the cost of a new arena. The renovation planned for this summer will finally give Georgia Tech a new arena. The McCamish Pavilion will be a showpiece without sacrificing the Thrillerdome intimidation factor. The new layout will bring the fans closer to the floor and add a second deck that overhangs the court. The students will continue to sit behind the baskets where they can distract the opposition. Still, there’s a sense of sadness over the coliseum’s pending pseudopassing. “It’s home,” Yunkus said. “There’s something about walking into an old building and smelling the popcorn and the varnish on the floor. There just aren’t too many gyms like Alexander Memorial Coliseum left.”
Freshman point guard Jarrett Jack scored a career-high 20 points, banking in a crucial three-point basket with 39 seconds left after 8th-ranked Maryland had crept to within two points. Tech never trailed after going on a 14-0 tear in the first half, leading by as many as 13 points in the game. But the Terrapins chipped away and closed to 82-80 on a three-pointer by Drew Nicholas with 1:12 remaining in the game. With the shot clock running down on Tech’s ensuing possession, Jack banked in his three from straightaway to give the Jackets breathing room, then added three free throws to seal the victory.
Georgia Tech 102, Wake Forest 101 (OT) Jan. 27, 2005
Jarrett Jack came through with two free throws with 4.4 seconds left in overtime to lead the Yellow Jackets over fifth-ranked Wake Forest. Jack had earlier missed two free throws in overtime and had a critical turnover that allowed the Deacons to tie the game in regulation. Wake Forest got the last shot, but Chris Paul missed at the buzzer. Paul had a similar chance at the end of regulation, but that attempt also fell short. Will Bynum scored a career-high 30 points, making five three-point field goals and 11 of 12 free throws.
Georgia Tech 76, Wake Forest 74 Jan. 31, 2009
Freshman Iman Shumpert hit a pull-up jumper with one second remaining to lift Georgia Tech to its first Atlantic Coast Conference win, a 76-74 upset of No. 6 Wake Forest. Shumpert had only five points before tying the game on a basket with 20 seconds remaining and then faking a drive to the basket before stopping to hit his winning shot. Wake Forest committed two turnovers in the final 35 seconds to give the Jackets a chance. Georgia Tech senior Alade Aminu had 10 points, 13 rebounds and career-high six blocks while younger brother Al-Farouq Aminu led Wake Forest with 17 points, 11 rebounds and five steals. The last-second drama stole the spotlight from only the second matchup of brothers on opposing teams in ACC history.
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Focused on 2011
Yellow Jackets ready for spring drills to begin in late March
By Matt Winkeljohn
Another recruiting cycle has passed, Georgia Tech won’t begin spring practice for a few more weeks, and there will be dozens of training sessions between now and the season opener September 1 vs. Western Carolina. Yet perhaps the most important part of the re-construction process is ongoing, behind the scenes, and it has nothing to do with size, speed, strength, technique, depth of personnel or lack thereof. The Yellow Jackets are cleansing their souls, re-purposing themselves and trying to mend the ties that came unbound -- call it a gray matter makeover. The point here is not to dwell on the past but rather the future, yet that starts with acknowledgement of what contributed mightily to a 6-7 record last fall – the first losing season on the Flats in 15 years. Beyond personnel matters, Tech was askew on the inside. There was something of a disconnect between players who tried to lead, and those who would not be led. The Jackets did not have a singular agenda; they had several that were under-pinned by delusions of grandeur and the pox of entitlement that can breed.
These are meaty incriminations for a team that was ACC champion in 2009. They’re real, though, and if the Jackets are to run again, or at least compete consistently, they must re-callous their feet. First comes a walk through the hot coals of critical self-analysis. “The best way to fix what was wrong with the season is to address the problem,” said rising senior wide receiver Tyler Melton. “This past season, I can tell you that we kind of rode on the coattails of our ACC championship. We came with a sense of entitlement rather than working for it as we had before. “We kind of cruised through spring and whatnot . . . as if it was just ours to be had, rather than working day in and day out for it. We have to get back to square one, working hard every day and being humble.” A view from the other side of the ball, in the words of rising senior linebacker Steven Sylvester: “I think we were kind of riding the coattails of what we did before. We walked in expecting a lot, like [opponents] were just going to lay down their helmets. But a lot of people had something to prove against us this past season . . . and I think we’re the team that has to
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have a chip on our shoulders.” There are limits to what a head coach and his staff can do to address the fleeting concept of chemistry in a team, yet Paul Johnson is trying. Frustrated as never before in his 14-year career as a head coach (his only other losing season as a head coach, in his first year at Navy, was far more predictable in light of what the Midshipmen had failed to accomplish over the previous three seasons), Johnson is on guard. “I think you’re constantly trying to build leaders, but you can’t pick leaders. [Players are] going to pick leaders,” he said. “I can’t go in the locker room and say these guys are going to be your leaders. There are naturals, kids who become leaders. We can explain what leadership is . . . but you’ve got to have guys who want to be led. “That was part of my frustration. I’ve done this a long time, but chemistry and commitment are as important as running fast. We were coming off an ACC championship, and I didn’t pay enough attention at the time, but Joshua [Nesbitt] had a great statement after the Kansas loss. He said well
maybe winning one ACC championship is enough for some of these guys. It didn’t ring to me until later on.” When four juniors left early for the NFL last January, the Jackets lost more than serious talent. They lost their vibe. Several leaders were gone ahead of schedule, before a connection was fully formed between Tech’s next wave of leaders and the rest of the team. Melton and Sylvester hope not to see that happen again. They’re part of a playermonitored breakfast check where players who have classes before a certain time each morning are expected to show up and be accounted for at breakfast – to increase the chances, obviously, that those players will also go to class. “It’s pretty simple, but a lot of people just don’t want to wake up,” Melton said. “What it comes down to is people being lazy and selfish. You’re here to go to school. You can’t possibly play football without going to class. Without you being on the field, you’re no good to us. It comes down to accountability.” Even if peer-to-peer account-
The Brock Family Indoor Practice Facility is under construction and should be ready in August.
ability is improved in the 2011 Yellow Jackets, Tech will face questions. The Jackets have to settle on a quarterback, A-back Anthony Allen is off to try his hand in the NFL, the entire starting secondary is gone, so are a couple linebackers, All-ACC center Sean Bedford, senior tackle Austin Barrick, and kicker Scott Blair.
Sophomore Tevin Washington finished the season at quarterback after Nesbitt broke his arm, and he’ll begin spring practice No. 1. Johnson, though, said that’s by no means a guarantee that he’ll be in that spot Sept. 1. Rising redshirt freshman Synjyn Days and incoming freshmen Vad Lee and Demontevious Smith will get shots. “Oh yeah, no question, I think
that will be a battle,” Johnson said. “In my mind, they’re all open. Kids are smart. There are a lot of positions where there will be good competition.” Johnson said quarterback David Sims will move into competition at B-back, B-back Daniel Drummond will move to linebacker, and reserve defensive linemen J.C. Lanier will move to the offensive line where numbers-wise, “we’re still trying to catch up,” Johnson said. All starting defensive linemen are back, but the Jackets hope to deploy more depth up front this season. Johnson knows that the passing game must become more efficient, and returning A-backs Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith lead a large group of competitors. To summarize quickly, Johnson said he is concerned about his offensive line: “We’re plenty deep at B-back with Preston Lyons, Richard Watson, Charles Perkins and Sims. On the defensive line, I think we’ve got better numbers. All the starters are coming back. We’re light at receiver, and probably the linebackers. We lost the secondary, but we have guys there who have played.”
Even if Tech’s personnel matters sort themselves out satisfactorily, the Jackets likely will struggle to reach their potential if they’re not more whole on the inside. The breakfast check is a step in that direction, and every step matters. “We were embarrassed last year,” Melton said. “It was a great disappointment, but it’s just fuel for our fire. We want everyone to feel like they’re part of a group, part of something bigger than themselves. This past season, we had a lot of individuals – no names – and this is the mindset I’m talking about . . . you just want to all run like one big clock. “No matter how small or large a situation is, it’s still a step forward. You’re still progressing whether it’s a little step or a big step. You need to approach every step as if it’s important to our future. The ones that are on the breakfast check list, they don’t want to be on there.” It’s early, but Johnson like what he’s seeing. “I’ve been encouraged,” he said. “I think the atmosphere is very positive.” ■
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wB womenâ€™s Basketball
Ty Ballgame Freshman Tyaunna Marshall is one big reason Tech is in the thick of the ACC race
By Adam Van Brimmer
MaChelle Joseph submitted her nomination for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason allfreshman team back in September. She suspected Tyaunna Marshall would be lucky to get a single vote. She also figured that, come March, Marshall would be on plenty of allconference ballots, and not just for the rookie team. She was right on both counts. Marshall was overlooked by every all-freshman voter. Midway through her first season, however, she has a legitimate shot at firstteam All-ACC, not to mention one of the favorites for the conference freshman of the year award and eventually she’ll be a contender for league player of the year. “I told a lot of people heading into the season,” Joseph said, “that Ty Marshall is the best player they’ve never heard of.” Those people might feel ashamed, given that Marshall scored 18 points in her college debut, 23 points in a game against top-ranked Connecticut and 24 points in her first ACC game against eighth-ranked North Carolina. But then, even Joseph only heard about Marshall by accident – the best accident of her coaching career. Joseph first saw Marshall play in the 2009 Deep South Classic, a spring AAU tournament. The coach was on hand to watch a player on another team, Dawnn Maye, but was drawn to the aggressive, ball-hawking player consistently stealing the ball before Maye’s team could get past midcourt. “She really fits what we like to do,” Joseph recalls saying to herself. “I immediately tried to find out who she was and what schools she was looking at,” Joseph said. Marshall had her eye on only one school, and it wasn’t one of the many women’s basketball powers
located within a three-point shot of her home in the Washington D.C. suburbs, like Maryland or Georgetown. James Madison was Marshall’s only serious suitor. She says she’d be playing at the small Virginia school now if not for the chance showing for Joseph at the Deep South. “After her freshman year of high school, I thought she would one day play for the U.S. National team,” said her coach at Elizabeth Seton High School, Jasmina Perazic, an All-American at Maryland in the early-1980s. “I just didn’t tell anybody that, except her.” Developing undercover Before Marshall became a diamond in the rough, she was just rough. She claims she started playing basketball at age seven. She developed the athletic grace of a basketball player in the eight years that followed. She neglected to pick up any skills, however, an anomaly that was more blessing than curse, Perazic said. “She had no skills, but that meant she had no bad habits either,” Perazic said. “Usually at the high school level you get kids with bad habits that take two years to break. She had all the athleticism without the bad habits.” Marshall developed into a player quickly, with Perazic shielding her from outside influences. Elizabeth Seton is a small, private school that had no women’s basketball tradition prior to Perazic’s arrival in 2006. As for the AAU trail, Marshall joined the travel circuit in 2007, but as part of a team comprised of her Elizabeth Seton teammates, not on an all-star team. Thus Marshall’s stardom stayed quiet. She scored over 1,500 points in her career and led her team to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title and a city cham-
Through games of Feb. 8, Marshall led all ACC freshmen in scoring.
pionship. And by then, she was a committed Yellow Jacket. “It was important that we did it that way, because people can make kids believe they are something before they are, and then they stop working,” Perazic said. “The only way you become great is to get better every time you step on the court. Ty did that, and she’s still doing it.”
Marshall’s drive was the first thing her college teammates noticed. Senior Alex Montgomery remembers sneaking into Alexander Memorial Coliseum in the days before school started last fall to play a three-on-three game. Marshall showed none of the tentativeness one would expect from a freshman playing with her new teammates for the first time. www.ramblinwreck.com
Joseph (right) knew early on that Marshall had great talent. Now, the rest of the ACC knows.
“She just killed us,” Montgomery said. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be fun.’” Following footsteps Marshall’s first season has been fun. The Yellow Jackets won a school record 13 in a row during one stretch and have cracked the top 25. The team features two of what Joseph believes are the best players in Georgia Tech women’s basketball’s three-decade history. Montgomery has been a star and a double-figure scorer since her freshman year. Marshall appears to be the “next Alex Montgomery.” “One of the things Alex did as a freshman, and this is Ty’s chal-
lenge now, is Alex was a doublefigure scorer in the ACC as a freshman,” Joseph said. “Ty hasn’t proven she can do that yet, but at the end of the year, I honestly believe Ty will be one of the best, if not the best, freshman in the league and the best freshman to play here.” Marshall credits Montgomery, who not only takes the pressure off her by attracting the opposition’s best defender every game, but also acts as a mentor. Montgomery played with a trio of veteran stars as a freshman, and Jill Ingram, Chioma Nnamaka and Janie Mitchell were quick to take Montgomery aside and teach her the nuances of the game.
“They helped me understand the game and be a leader, even as a freshman,” Montgomery said. “That’s so important, and I’ve tried to do the same with Ty.” Marshall and Montgomery developed chemistry faster than lab students. They complement each other extremely well on the court. Both like to get out in transition and attack the basket. The two are a dangerous duo with one on each wing as Montgomery can knock down the three and Marshall will drive to the hoop. Yet rather than clash, the teammates tend to pick each other up. One or the other led Georgia Tech in scoring in 18 of the team’s first 24 games. Eight times the leader scored 20 or more
points. One of Marshall’s best games came in November against No. 1 Connecticut. She scored almost half of Georgia Tech’s points and wowed the best player in the county, the Huskies’ Maya Moore. “One of the things that I love to see is when you’re a freshman, it’s almost like you don’t know what’s going on or kind of what to expect so you just play with this reckless abandon almost,” Moore said. “Marshall, she just plays. She’s fearless.” And she just might be on her way to being the best player you have heard of. ■
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Something to Prove Tech’s baseball roster is filled with new faces, but expectations are always high under Danny Hall
By coley harvey
After an offseason of attrition marked by massive personnel departures, Danny Hall has every reason to come into work each day this spring looking like a man who had a sleepless night before. So far, he hasn’t. Nor does he plan to anytime soon. It may come as a surprise, but despite the monumental subtractions and greatly inexperienced — but very good — additions Georgia Tech’s head baseball coach has made to his roster the past seven months, he carries the persona of a man undisturbed by the prospects of immense change. He still jaunts around campus these days looking
very much the same way he has the last 17 years: confident, calm and concern-free. “My expectations never change,” he said earlier this preseason, flashing the smile of a man unbothered by what some may feel is daunting uncertainty existing before him. Since he arrived on the Flats in 1994, Hall has established and maintained a culture of excellence that is steeped in a tradition of success. On three separate occasions during his tenure, Yellow Jacket teams have gone to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series. Only
twice since his arrival have they missed an NCAA Regional appearance. Each year, he asks his players to continue that string, with the caveat being that they end the season as the last team standing in the hot Nebraska summer sun. “That never changes,” Hall said. “The group changes, but the expectations don’t. I’m very enthusiastic about this team, but we definitely have some work to do.” The 2011 group is one that, unlike the 2010 version, has a foundation of new talent as its bedrock. Last season, high-caliber, established veteran talent comprised the team.
Apparently major league franchises felt the Jackets were so good individually that 10 of them were taken in last June’s first-year player draft, including three All-Americans. Pitcher Deck McGuire was the first taken, going in the first round to the Toronto Blue Jays. But with players like McGuire, Derek Dietrich, Tony Plagman and Jeff Rowland out of the picture, now is the time for new faces to emerge. All told, 17 true freshmen are suiting up for the Jackets this spring, all part of one of the best recruiting classes to come through Tech.
Georgia Tech’ 17 freshmen come from a recruiting class ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation, and makeup exactly one-half of the 2011 roster.
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Pro prospects fill the class, with hard-throwing pitchers, multi-use speedsters and powerhitting position players among its brightest stars. The young talent was deemed so good by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper that the publication ranked the group sixthbest class in the nation. Baseball America placed them No. 7. “I’m pleased with our talent level,” Hall said. “We’re going to find some answers as to whether the young talent can compete at an experienced level. We have some work cut out for us.
“It makes you come out every game with a little chip on your shoulder and a little intensity and something to prove,” junior left-handed pitcher Jed Bradley said. “Not only to yourself, but to all the people who doubt you.” “I don’t want to make it sound like it’s not a challenge. It’s a major challenge for us to be able to stay at the level this year that we have been accustomed to.” The Jackets have grown accustomed to beginning seasons among the country’s top 5 or 10 teams, while also consistently emerging as favorites to win the ACC. This year, however, things may be a little different. During the offseason, as publications and coaches’ voting panels Junior infielder Matt Skole returns after a sophomore season in which he became just the 12th player in school history to belt at least began announcing their pre20 home runs in a season. season rankings, the Jackets found was a failed last two seasons. After streaking into postseason play both themselves placed at No. 19 in the two major baseball polls — Collegiate years, the Jackets were bounced out of the NCAA tournament with a pair Baseball and ESPN/USA Today Coaches’. They also were predicted to finof Regional losses at their home, Russ Chandler Stadium. ish second in the ACC’s Coastal Division by the 12-man coaches’ panel. “It makes you come out every game with a little chip on your shoulder Although Hall believes such predictions are commendable for what and a little intensity and something to prove,” junior left-handed pitcher some pundits would consider a down year, his players don’t necessarily Jed Bradley said. “Not only to yourself, but to all the people who doubt agree with them. you.” In two seasons at Tech, junior third baseman Matt Skole has watched The Jackets will have their doubters this season, to be sure, but the key his team begin a year ranked in the top 5 and flirt with the No. 1 spot will be to see how well they handle that adversity. often. “We know we’re a young team and, especially playing on another level, “Nothing against the writers or anything, but that kind of gives me I know we’re going to have some struggles,” freshman outfielder and some motivation,” Skole said. “But I like how we don’t have any expectarelief pitcher DeAndre Smelter said. “But we can also have some upsides, tions this year, it doesn’t put so much on the young guys since we’re going too. We’re a good team. If we just keep working hard I know we’ll have a to need so many of them to step up. That way, they can go out there and good season.” play. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people out there this year. Smelter’s role is one that likely will be defined as the season progresses. We’ve got a really good squad.” A versatile power hitter from Macon, the right-hander played shortstop, To Tech’s veterans like Skole — a group that includes just four returning center field and pitched in high school. Last fall, he mostly was playstarters — much of the motivation this season stems from what they feel
Head coach Danny Hall (left) has had a team ranked in the preseason top-25 in all 18 of his seasons at Georgia Tech.
ing the outfield, but also took to the mound fairly often. He even started one game of the Whiteand-Gold World Series held at the conclusion of fall practices. The flamethrower topped 95 mph as a sophomore and has been developing an array of sharpbreaking off speed pitches ever since. He had pretty good tutelage in high school, too. His pitching coach at Tattnall Square Academy was former Jackets pitcher and major leaguer, Kevin Brown. Along with the uncertainty of Smelter’s exact role, Tech has been challenged this preseason with trying to figure out what it will do about its catching situation. Cole Leonida, the Jackets’ cleanup-hitting backstop last year, was one of the 10 who were drafted. He left a year early, leaving a wide open vacancy in his wake. Zane Evans, a 6-foot-3 freshman from Roswell will fill the opening as much as he can, with Skole likely doing some work as a backup. It could be one of three positions Skole plays regularly. “I’m going to have to step in and have a different role than I’ve had in the past. I’m ready for it,” Skole said. “I’ve been working hard all
offseason getting ready to play first or catch or play third, too. It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge, but I’m ready.” Hall said he also was impressed by the work of walk-on catcher Mitch Earnest, and envisioned seeing the Atlanta native get some time behind the plate, as well. Amid all the uncertainty about positioning, there is one thing the Jackets know for sure: they will be playing with different equipment. The NCAA this season is revamping the way aluminum bats are made so as to enhance player and spectator safety, and also to get players to start swinging something that will feel closer to the wood they will play with at the next level. As part of the changes, the bats’ weight distribution was changed somewhat so that the sweet spot is smaller, forcing hitters to have to connect perfectly in order to still see the long drives they’ve been accustomed to. “The days of someone blowing someone out might have gone by the wayside,” Hall said. Last season, the Jackets won 15 games by 10 runs or more. They also hit a school record 122 homers in 2010, good enough for
second-best in the country. “We can’t sit around and wait on a three-run homer like we maybe have the last couple of years,” Hall said. “We have some guys that will still hit the ball out of the ballpark, but the bats are not going to allow you to hit as many home runs. So I think you look at your team and you say, ‘What do we need to do to score?’ Whether it’s a hit-and-run, a bunt, a steal; we’re going to have to do a good job of manufacturing
some offense.” Bradley, the lone returning fullon weekend starter from last season, said he plans to pitch hitters the same way he always has. No emphasis will be added on crowding hitters more with his fastball, for example. New bats, new lineup, new faces, the Jackets begin the season Feb. 18 with a three-game series at home against Kent State. ■
Junior pitcher Jed Bradley has been tabbed as a 2011 preseason All-American by both Louisville Slugger and Baseball America.
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DISTINGUISHED DOUBLES DUO King and Spir grew up 2,000 miles apart, but now combine to form one of the nation’s best doubles teams By Simit Shah
They both hail from south of Atlanta, but one is from just 35 miles away while the other is 2,000. Kevin King and Juan Spir grew up nearly a hemisphere apart, but there’s little separating in the bond that makes them a record-setting duo for Georgia Tech tennis. Their coach calls the junior-sophomore duo “the most intimidating doubles team in the nation,” while the rankings put them in uncharted territory for Georgia Tech tennis. In the most recent ITA rankings, the pair is ranked eighth in the nation, achieving the highest doubles ranking in the history of the men’s program.
King, a highly-touted local player, earned All-ACC honors last spring.
A decorated prep player from nearby Peachtree City, King came to Georgia Tech in 2008 as the highest rated recruit the program has ever signed after he picked the Jackets over N.C. State. “I wanted to stay close to home for college,
particularly in the southeast,” he said. “I looked around, and I got to know (head coach) Kenny Thorne. That was probably the biggest reason for coming here. I just really liked his coaching style.” “We had our eye on him for a while, and during the process he reached a comfortable level with the coaches, facilities and the school,” said Thorne. “He was a great get for Georgia Tech.” Spir’s journey to Atlanta could not have been more different. Thorne first spotted him playing in a Florida tournament and started courting the Medellin, Colombia product from afar. Spir narrowed his choices to Tech and Cal before deciding to come to Georgia Tech sight unseen two years ago. “I had never been to campus until I showed up for my first day,” he recalled. “It was quite an experience. You see the pictures on the Internet, so I knew this was going to be a great place to be.” Thorne put the two together last season shortly after Spir arrived. Most of the time, doubles teams are assembled based on complimentary skills, but Thorne thought that putting two similar players together could be a winning combination. “They are both tall guys (King is 6-2, Spir is 6-4), one righty and one lefty,” he explained. “They both have big serves. You’ve got to deal with that. They both have good hands at the net, and they can both return well. With those guys, the other team doesn’t really get a break. It’s very intimidating.” “I think from the moment I got here, Kenny had it in his mind to put us together,” added Spir. “We’re both big guys with big serves. It’s been a good combination. We understand each other very well.” In their first year together, King and Spir compiled a 10-6 record, though they had some
narrow misses against top competition. “It’s been a progression,” Thorne observed. “Last year, they played a bunch of top 10 teams and had them on the ropes. At the national indoors this fall, it clicked, and they got to the semifinals, beating some impressive competition.” That competition at the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in Flushing, New York included victories over Kentucky’s Brad Cox and Eric Quigley, ranked eighth at the time, and then an upset of Duke’s top-ranked Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha. “Last season, we were a little unlucky,” said Spir. “We were playing matches against some of the top teams, and we were falling just short. We had a lot of opportunities to win, but we couldn’t pull them out. In the fall, we got the chance again, and this time we were able to win
Spir (left) and King won the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional and reached the semifinals of the National Indoor Championships in the fall.
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most of them. It was just a matter of time. We just need those wins to give us confidence.” Their confidence and chemistry on the court is enhanced by their friendship off the court. King and Spir are roommates, and King and his teammates have helped introduce Spir and the four other international players on the roster to the finer points of southern culture. “You have to play doubles with someone you know well,” noted Spir. “It has to be your friend. When you’re together, you have to communicate well. You have to understand each other and not have problems off the court. We’re very good friends.” “We’re tight, but I also think the most important time is spending time playing together,” King said. “The more you do that, the more comfortable you get. Also, a big part of it is knowing the basics and fundamentals of doubles. Kenny does a great job of teaching us.” While the pair gained some momentum last season, they were sidetracked by an injury to Spir’s shoulder that required surgery last spring. He missed the early portion of the fall season following
shoulder surgery. “It took a little while to get back in the rhythm for matches,” he admitted. “I went about four months without playing, so it took a while to get used to the routine. It was tough at the beginning, and I had a hard time last season. I worked a lot with Kenny, and the results have been a lot better.” Not just better but spectacular. King and Spir compiled a 15-4 record during the fall season including the run in New York, and they catapulted to eighth in the rankings as the spring season commenced in January. “We don’t talk about it (the rankings) very much,” said Spir. “We just focus on our matches. Even if we do win, there are other matches that the team plays, so we’re just doing our part for the team. We don’t pay much attention to the rankings. We just want to do what’s best for the team.” “We’d figure that we’d be ranked after a good fall, but we don’t look at it too much,” added King. “There’s still a long season ahead of us, and we’re focused on the team doing well. At the end of the year, we can take a look and enjoy it.”
Not only has Spir teamed up with King to accomplish great things in doubles, but he has risen to 48th nationally in singles.
As they prepare for the remainder of the spring season, the ACC and NCAA championships loom on the horizon beginning in late April. “The goal is to win ACC and national titles,” Thorne stated. “We’ve had the highest-ranked singles player in Guillermo Gomez (ranked as high as third in the nation last year) and now the highest-
ranked doubles team. That’s a tribute to the hard work these guys are putting in.” “If we keep working and keep the right mindset, we can play with anyone in the country,” said King. “I’d love to make a run for the national championship at Stanford.” ■
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Georgia Tech will be busy this spring hosting ACC softball, swimming and diving championships
By simit shah
As Georgia Tech’s swimming, diving and softball programs pursue ACC titles in 2011, they’ll do it from the comfort of their own home. The Georgia Tech Aquatic Center will host the ACC Championships, as the women compete Feb. 16-19 and the men hit the water Feb. 23-26. Mewborn Field, which opened in 2009, will host its first conference softball championship May 13-15. The process started early last fall when the administration submitted bids to the ACC. The conference had encouraged Tech to apply given the quality of facilities and ease with which the city can handle events. “For all the sports, each team likes being in their home atmosphere, whether it’s the pool or on the softball field,” said Theresa Wenzel, associ-
Tech’s swimming teams huddle prior to its meet against Georgia.
ate director of athletics. “They get a chance to compete in front of their fans. From the standpoint of the campus, it draws another amount of energy and enthusiasm to what Georgia Tech represents.” While other schools can boast Olympic-caliber pools, Georgia Tech is one of only two schools that actually has an on-campus venue that hosted the Olympics (Southern Cal is the other). “The coaches love our facility,” said assistant director of game operations Cheryl Watts. “Virginia Tech is building a new facility. UNC has hosted in the past, but the ACC really likes our aquatic center. They encourage us to bid pretty often. We haven’t hosted swimming and diving since 2008, so they asked if we’d consider putting in a bid.” “If we agreed to host it every year, the coaches in the ACC would love it,” added Wenzel. “They’ve asked for it on a regular basis. People don’t always realize the amount of time and number of volunteers that go into hosting a swimming championship.” The swimming and diving event will span 14 sessions, and each one requires upwards of 45 volunteers, the majority of which are timers, in addition to the five full-time operations staff members.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, but it’s a great advantage,” said swimming and diving head coach Courtney Hart. “The Georgia Tech fans in the area can come see us, and it is a free event. For the coaches and athletes, we know the pool since we swim and dive The Yellow Jackets will look for their third straight ACC title in the friendly confines of Mewborn Field there every day. We know in May. the starts and turns better than anyone in the conference, so it’s a little home cooking with the home pool advantage.” Georgia Tech softball hosted NCAA Tournament games two years and a Super Regional in 2009, and they’ll be front and center again in May. The team moved into their new locker rooms in early February, and there is also an adjacent film room, lounge and officials area. “We knew that once we built that field, we’d want to host an ACC championship,” said Watts. “What we were waiting for was everything that complemented the field, including locker rooms. The team just moved into them, so now everything is ready.” “This is special for our softball program, because they’ve never had the opportunity to be on campus,” added Wenzel. “Our old stadium didn’t have lights, so we couldn’t even bid.” The softball championship will be part of a busy period on campus. The coliseum reconstruction will be in full swing next door, and UNC will be in town for a key baseball series. There’s also the possibility that the women’s tennis team will be hosting an NCAA regional. A track meet was moved to another date to alleviate congestion as well as creating a warm-up area for softball. The two events this year are among a string of recent and future events. Last year, Georgia Tech hosted NCAA regional events in golf, baseball, softball and tennis. A men’s basketball regional (at the Georgia Dome) is on the docket next year, and the Final Four and men’s golf championship come to Atlanta in 2013. “Most of our teams have had a lot of success at home, so I think across the country every program recognizes how important it is to be at home, not only the venue but because your fans are here,” Wenzel said. Once the coliseum is rebuilt, the school is likely to bid for a NCAA women’s basketball regional, according to Wenzel. “We start planning for these early, and there’s a lot of work that goes into it,” said Watts. “It takes a lot of volunteers, and honestly, that’s the only way it can run smoothly.” Anyone interested in volunteering for either event can register here -- http://www.volmanager2.com/GTAA/
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a jacket for life At 75, Ledbetter shows zero signs of slowing down
By Simit Shah
As a youngster, Robert Ledbetter would make the trek from his hometown of Rome, Ga., to downtown Atlanta to watch Bobby Dodd coach the Ramblin’ Wreck in their heyday. Little did he know that it would be the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the Institute. “As a child, we used to come down to the game,” he recalled. “I probably started around 1948, and it was a real treat to go to Grant Field. Georgia Tech football was a big deal, especially in those days. I played football in high school, so we always enjoyed going to the games.” After attending Darlington School and Culver Military Academy, Ledbetter didn’t have a long list of colleges where he wanted to apply. In fact, the list had only one school. “I applied only to Tech, and I was accepted,” he said. “My older brother had gone there, and it was sort of automatic that’s where I would go. I don’t think back then getting into school was quite as difficult as it is now. There are so many more people applying now, but it wasn’t quite so competitive back then.” Once on campus, Ledbetter found the academic experience as an industrial management major challenging, but he also found a social outlet as a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. “The school was very difficult, and we had to study,” he said. “We even had to go to school on Saturdays. My children don’t believe that. That only gave us one social day a week. The social events were all around the football games, and social life was very exciting. We dated a lot of the young ladies around Atlanta. “I think I was not a top-of-the-class student, but I was pleased with my grades at Tech,” he continued. “I was probably in the top third of my class. I had a wonderful time in school. I enjoyed my courses and professors. Later in life, I was able to use a lot of the things I learned at Tech in business.” Upon graduating in 1958, Ledbetter joined the United States Navy and served as a Lt. JG on the U.S.S. Ticonderoga aircraft carrier for two years in the western Pacific. “I had a tremendous time on those tours,” he said. “I wouldn’t give anything for that time. I even thought about staying in the Navy, but it wasn’t meant to be. My naval career was one of the great experiences of my life.” Ledbetter returned to Rome to work in his
family’s businesses, which spanned across construction, paving and mining. “It was a good time to be in the construction business in the late 1960’s,” he explained. “There wasn’t much competition in the business at that time. We helped build a lot of the highways around Atlanta and the southeast.” The company’s prosperity allowed Ledbetter to get involved in the ownership group that bought the Atlanta Hawks, and they were awarded the Atlanta Flames hockey franchise during NHL expansion in 1970. There were several other Tech graduates in the consortium, though Ledbetter was the youngest in his mid-30’s. “Pete Maravich was on the team, and he was just amazing to watch. He was worth the price of admission,” Ledbetter recalled. “He could score like you couldn’t believe. That was an awful lot of fun. My kids were just learning to ice skate too, so they had a great time going to the games in Atlanta.” The group later sold the Hawks to Ted Turner in 1977, and the Flames were sold in 1980 and moved to Calgary. “There are a lot of things you can do in life, but few compare to owning a professional sports team,” he said. “I’m thankful to have gotten an opportunity to do that.” Ledbetter later sold his family construction business to several national companies, and went into semi-retirement until the mid-80s. He then founded R.H. Ledbetter Properties, specializing in commercial real estate. The company was ranked among the top 100 retail real estate owners in the country in 2010 by an industry magazine, and the firm’s portfolio is approaching two million square feet of properties in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Indiana. At 75, Ledbetter isn’t slowing down, passionately speaking about some of his company’s newest projects. His three sons help run the company. Beyond his business, he plays golf regularly and recently shot his age at the Coosa Country Club course in Rome. He has been married to his wife, Betty, for 48 years, and they have five grandchildren with another on the way. Family gatherings often revolve around Georgia Tech football, as Ledbetter is a longtime season ticketholder with eight seats in the west stands. Also, with a cottage at Sea Island,
the family enjoys holidays together and when the north Georgia weather is cold. Throughout his successful business career, Ledbetter has always had one eye on giving back, especially in the education arena. “I feel fortunate to have been able to give back to the education of today’s youth,” he said. “I want them to get a good education, just like I got.” In addition to being a Life Member of the Alexander-Tharpe Fund, Ledbetter gave $1 million to the College of Management to establish the Robert H. Ledbetter Sr. Professor of the Practice of Real Estate Development. The professorship is currently held by alum Skip Beebe (IM ’66), and Ledbetter and his sons speak to his classes at least once a year. In his hometown of Rome, he gave $2 million to Shorter University to fund the Baptist school’s business program, which is named the Robert H. Ledbetter College of Business. He was the featured speaker at the school’s fall commencement ceremony. “It’s important to contribute in whatever way you can,” he said. “I’ve stayed in touch with Georgia Tech, and I’m thankful I was able to do what I’ve done. Georgia Tech has meant so much to me, and the least I can do is to give back. My involvement with Georgia Tech was one of the highlights of my life.” ■
By paul parker
Assistant Director of Athletics for Compliance Services It is widely known that boosters and/or representatives of athletics interests are not permitted to provide currently enrolled student-athletes with benefits of any kind (e.g. cash, gifts, services). What is not as well known is that this prohibition also extends to former student-athletes. Many former student-athletes like to maintain close relationships with the teams they played for. In doing so, they may develop friendships with newer members of the team, as well as continue existing ties with current student-athletes whom they may have played with in the past. These close ties cause many former student-athletes to believe that it is permissible for them to provided benefits such as taking current students out to eat, as well as providing transportation, inviting them to parties at no cost, or even lodging for their former teammates and acquaintances. In most cases, providing these benefits is not permissible.
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“I didn’t know that was a NCAA rule” is not a justifiable excuse for violating NCAA rules. The NCAA requires each institution to educate in order to maintain institutional control. It is the responsibility of each member institution to control its intercollegiate athletics program in compliance with the rules and regulations of the National Collegiate Athletics Association. Therefore, we ask that you review this section and understand the role of a “representative of athletics interest.”
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It is important to note that simply being a former student-athlete does not necessarily equate to being a booster. A representative of athletics interest is any individual who has ever: • Participated in or been a member of the AT-Fund; • Contributed to the athletics department; • Assisted or have been requested by the athletics staff to assist in the requirement of prospective studentathletes; • Assisted in providing extra benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or • Been otherwise involved in the Georgia Tech athletics program. Once an individual is identified as a representative of the institution’s athletics interests, the person remains a Georgia Tech booster forever. Even if a former student-athlete does not meet the technical definition of a booster; however, providing any of the aforementioned items to a current enrolled student-athlete would constitute an extra benefit, which is impermissible. A studentathlete who receives an impermissible extra benefit will be deemed ineligible and will have to repay the value of the benefit to a charity of their choice prior to being eligible to represent Georgia Tech in intercollegiate athletics. Offers and Inducements It is not permitted for a representative of athletics interests to directly or indirectly make arrangement for giving or offering to give any financial aid or other benefits to a prospective student-athlete (PSA) or the PSA’s relatives or friends, and current
student-athletes or the current studentathlete’s relatives or friends. The following list expressly prohibits these types of financial aid, benefits and arrangements (not all inclusive): • Ticket(s) for any kind of entertainment including Georgia Tech athletic events; • Free or reduced merchandise from a merchant (unless it is available to the general public); • Free or reduced meals at a restaurant; • An employment arrangement for a PSA’s relatives; • Gift of clothing or equipment; • Any use of a car or other transportation; • Arrange financial assistance for a PSA, their family or friends; • Money, gift cards, loan(s), a guarantee of bond or signing/co-signing of a note to arrange a loan; • Any tangible items (e.g. cell phone, Ipod, video games); • Free or reduced-cost services (e.g. workout, training, coaching services), rentals or purchases of any type; • Free or reduced-cost housing; • Birthday and Christmas gifts; and • Use of athletics equipment. Contact with Prospective StudentAthletes Representatives of athletic interests are prohibited from making in-person, on- or off-campus recruiting contacts, and written or telephonic communications with a PSA or the PSA’s relatives or legal guardians. This prohibition also includes contacting high school coaches or guidance counselors to get information about prospects.
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