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T e c h I n k s 1 0 - Y e a r D e a l w it h I S P

all the right tools Luke Murton has become a more consistent hitter over his career

What to Watch For Guide for Tech fans attending practice

Championship Caliber Guillermo Gomez looks to guide Tech men’s tennis to the top of the polls

Hitters Paradise The new home of Tech softball

T-Day Spring Game April 18

March 2009


May 2009 • Volume 2, Number 5 EDITOR


Cheryl Watts

David Johnson, Sam Morgan and Barry Williams



Simit Shah Jack Wilkinson

Summit Athletic Media

may 2009


Owen Shull, Mark Josephson, Matt Brown, Miranda Bryen

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The Buzz is published six times a year by ISP Sports in conjunction with the Georgia Tech Athletic Association. The price of an annual subscription is $14.95. Persons wishing to subscribe or those wishing to renew their subscription should send a check or money order (credit cards not accepted) to: THE BUZZ ISP Sports 540 North Trade Street Winston-Salem, NC 27101 (336) 831-0700 x1769 or (888) 877-4373 x1769 All material produced in this publication is the property of ISP Sports and shall not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission from ISP Sports and Georgia Tech. The appearance of advertising in this newspaper does not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser and/or the advertiser’s product or service by Georgia Tech or ISP Sports. The use of the name of the University or any of its identifying marks in advertisements must be approved by Georgia Tech and ISP Sports. Please send all address changes to the attention of Amanda Vellucci at the address noted above.

In This Issue 4

Q&A WITH bruce heppler


signing on




Wes Durham Column

Georgia Tech inked a 10-year extension with ISP

Luke Murton has much at stake in his final year on the Flats


A guide for Tech fans attending spring practice

16 20 26 31

HITTERS PARADISE The new home for Tech softball is one of the nicest in the Southeast

CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER Guillermo Gomez has taken Tech men’s tennis to a new level

MAKING A DIFFERENCE Alexander Tharpe profile


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20 QUESTIONS WITH: Bruce Heppler

SpringHill Suites Atlanta Buckhead

By wes durham

Since June 27, 1995, Utah native Bruce Heppler has been the curator of the golf program at Georgia Tech. In being named head coach of the Jackets 14 years ago, Heppler took the wheel of a successful program and has gone to the next level of success across the board. The Jackets have been consistent participants in the NCAA Tournament and have captured 5 ACC titles in his tenure. But Heppler has continued to make Georgia Tech one of the top programs in the country while also putting golf into a team perspective for his players. It’s a concept that many talk about but few can incorporate it as successfully as Heppler has done in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets continue to host their own event, the U.S. Collegiate Championship, each April at the sensational Golf Club of Georgia. With those preparations going on, Heppler visited with me on making golf a “team concept” to his players, technology in the game, recruiting nationally, and the impact on the sport that Tiger Woods has, even at the collegiate level. 1: How was the U.S. Collegiate Championship born? BH: When our program first became associated with the Golf Club of Georgia, Jeff Patton (then the head pro) wanted to do an event that would showcase the facility even more. They were hosting a Senior PGA event at the time too, so the schedule never quite worked. Jeff later became the Director of Golf, and the Senior event moved on, so there were more dates to work with. We talked about an event that would help teams get ready for the ACC and SEC tournaments too. Jeff had a vision to make it a big event, and now in four years it has become of the top events for college golf in the country. 2: You have always preached a “team concept” to college golf, which is an individual sport. What are the differences? BH: In high school or junior golf, these guys just go play and try to shoot low scores and get better. They have a team, but at this level, if we can create a “team concept”, where everyone is invested, then it might give us an advantage on our opponents. This level is really their first “team.” The difference for us is the preparation and getting ready to play. We do all the strength and conditioning together, as a “team.” It helps create that concept in a tangible way with our players. 3: Is it hard to be on a “team” in golf? BH: It was hard at first, but over the years, it has become part of our culture. It helps us a lot, because we have guys who know coming in that its one of the things we are going to do. Again, it’s a thing that if


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we are a “good team,” it can help us be successful every time we play. 4: What is the one trait you look for in a golfer? BH: Outside of the game’s fundamentals, its length. Length is a big deal, because courses are just going to get longer, and its one thing you can’t teach. Just like height in basketball or speed in football, your program can help a little, but if you have it to start with, it makes a difference. 5: You have had great success recruiting Georgia, but also nationally. What does it mean to “nationally recruit?” BH: Obviously, Georgia Tech sells itself very well in a lot of areas. We live in a very interesting part of the country when it comes to golf. You can grow bent grass here really fast. Our climate is favorable for the most part, because with the exception of about 10 days a year, you can play the game if you are willing to wear a sweater and stocking cap. But the bent grass concept makes learning to play the game around the greens critical to your success. If you can’t play around the green, you can’t play. Other areas of the country (Florida, California, etc.) are Bermuda or Poa Anna and it is just not the same. 6: Novice golfers hear about technology changing the game each year. Has that happened on the collegiate level? BH: It think it has slowed down a little. The precision of the launch monitor has changed things to let these guys know what kind of club head, shaft and type of ball to use. Our guys probably lock down on a set of irons to use and stick with it through most of their college careers. 7: Cameron Tringale is one to the top players in the nation this year. As a senior, what part of his game has improved the most since he arrived here? BH: His short game has gotten a lot better. His wedge, bunker play and putting have improved each year. His commitment to that aspect of his game has made a big difference so far in his senior year as well. He may also have a sense of urgency about his senior year too, knowing that he is headed out on his own next year. 8: Who has been your most surprising player this year? BH: A lot of was expected from “Ming” (Minghao Wang; Reunion, Fla.), and he seemed focused during the recruiting process. But it is stronger than I thought. He is trying to be the top guy on this team and in each event, every time he puts it on the tee. It’s not arrogant, but he knows that if he is going to play on the tour, then he knows that he better be good here.

Bruce Heppler is in his 14th year at the helm of the Yellow Jacket golf program.

9: What’s been the biggest change in college golf since you arrived at Georgia Tech in 1995?

BH: Caves Valley in Maryland. The 2005 NCAA Tournament was there. Marvelous place - great, great golf course.

BH: I have to go back a few years before that. In 1988, I was working at UNLV as the assistant, watching the U.S. Junior Amateur. At the end of stroke play, I was one of two coaches who stayed to watch the match play portion of the event. Last year, after stroke play ended, 114 coaches stayed to watch match play. There are more good events and more good coaches in this sport today than there have ever been. It’s a much deeper pool across the board and coaches coming up have learned to do all the things (coaching, recruiting, fund raising, etc.) to make it so competitive.

14: How good a golfer is Coach Heppler?

10: Who is the best player you have had here? BH: (Laughs) So, I have to offend the other four or five guys. I think those guys would acknowledge that Bryce Molder is that guy when you add it all up. It is a pretty impressive resume when you think about the national record for Career Stroke Average, the four-time All-America, Two-time National Player of the Year, NCAA Top 8 Award, and you can go on. 11: When you watch golf, who do you watch? BH: Any of our alumni on the tour and Tiger Woods. 12: Does Tiger Woods impact college golf that much? BH: Find your biggest superlative and double it. That’s how big an impact he has had on the sport period, and college golf falls right in line as well. 13: Where is the best course that Georgia Tech has played an event since you became head coach?

BH: (Laughs) He is awful. He is so bad, he doesn’t even play. 15: What coaches do you watch in other sports?

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BH: They are primarily college basketball coaches, but I always find Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo very interesting in the ways they build and coach their teams. 16: What’s your favorite movie? BH: “Forest Gump.” I like the concept of, if you see it and you’re not good enough, but you believe it, then you can do it. 17: What’s your favorite book? BH: “Bobby Jones On Golf” 18: If you weren’t coaching golf, what would you be doing? BH: I have an accounting degree from BYU, and passed the CPA exam, so I would likely be an accountant. 19: What’s your favorite moment as coach of the Yellow Jackets? BH: It is the biggest emotional ride of my career, when in 1999, we came from behind to tie Oklahoma State for the NCAA title, then lost it in sudden death. I was so proud of this team, but so devastated that we didn’t win the title. 20: What is the one thing that you try to impart every year to your team? BH: Put other people first. That’s the thing that helps form a team. But they also have to remember that they are representing a lot of people when the play for Georgia Tech, including themselves.

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Signing On for a Bright Future Georgia Tech has extended its contract with ISP while adding FM programming for Yellow Jacket sporting events.


by Simit Shah Georgia Tech and International Sports Properties have extended their multimedia rights agreement for another ten years, guaranteeing the school nearly $50 million during the span of the deal. The new pact signals a fundamental shift in the partnership between ISP and Georgia Tech, calling for revenuesharing rather than a flat guarantee. The school is set to receive $48.95 million (with annual payments ranging from $3.895 to $5.965 million), but the deal could be worth substantially more via the revenue-sharing arrangement. “Georgia Tech has been a flagship university partner with ISP since 1999, and we are extremely pleased to extend

our relationship,” ISP president and CEO Ben Sutton said at a January press conference. “We thoroughly enjoy working with Dan Radakovich and his staff and are most appreciative of the confidence they have shown in our team with this new agreement. We are delighted to have the opportunity to build on a decade of work in our partnership, expanding revenue opportunities and broadening exposure for Yellow Jacket athletics.” Georgia Tech and ISP began their relationship in 1999 at a time when outsourcing rights was still a relatively new concept. Since then, the majority of major college programs have followed suit. ISP currently represents 63

schools and conferences, making them the leader in the industry. “Georgia Tech was one of the first ten schools for ISP, and they also put us in a big market,” noted Owen Shull, ISP’s general manager for Georgia Tech. “Being in the Atlanta market is key because of the amount of companies and agencies that are based here. It was a big addition for ISP from the very beginning.” “ISP has become a giant in the marketplace,” added associate athletic director Wayne Hogan. “As time has gone by, you’ve seen companies come and go. Right now, ISP has a leg up on the competition. It is certainly the norm around college athletics today. There

are a lot of reasons it makes sense, and there are more if you can craft it in the way we did.” The synergies will extend to a new sales group called Georgia Tech Sports Properties, which will be housed in several converted suites within Bobby Dodd Stadium. The unit will be responsible for ad sales on television, radio, online and gameday. Current renovations are underway at Bobby Dodd Stadium that will create additional opportunities for inventory. “Having that extra inventory will be a great value to us,” Hogan explained. “Under the previous contract where we received a straight guarantee, there

was not as much incentive to increase the inventory. Now that we get a certain percentage of every dollar, that’s more valuable to us.” “We have a lot of economies of scale that schools can’t do on their own,” stated Shull. “We’ve got over 60 schools now, and there’s some operational savings we can provide because of that. Plus, we have sellers in all those areas. We have a lot of people selling Georgia Tech outside of Atlanta.” One immediate development is the addition of an FM signal for radio broadcasts. 790 The Zone continues to serve as Georgia Tech’s flagship station, while WYAY-FM/True Oldies 106.7 will simulcast football and basketball games, as well as the coaches’ shows. “We’ve worked for a number of years to get an FM signal,” Shull said. “Our flagship 790 The Zone has been a good home for us in a lot of ways. Their nighttime signal has been a problem, and now we’ve been able find a way to reach a wider audience. That was big for us. It’s huge from a sponsor’s and fan’s standpoint. We want more fans to be able to hear, and it provides more exposure for clients too. That’s a very big addition for us.” “This quest for a commercial FM radio partner has been a top priority since we arrived at Georgia Tech,” said Radakovich. “We are elated that, through the hard work and persistence of ISP and members of our staff, this has become a reality. We owe station

manager Paul O'Malley and the staff at WYAY a debt of gratitude for seeing the value and prestige of carrying Georgia Tech sports to the Atlanta marketplace just as 790 The Zone has for several years. We are equally happy that our AM relationship will continue." The new ISP deal follows two other recent long-term corporate partnerships—a 13-year, $5.94 million deal with Coca-Cola to continue exclusively serving their products in Tech venues and a 10-year $22.6 million pact with Russell Athletic for uniforms and apparel. The trio of deals provides the Athletic Association valuable financial footing in a time of economic uncertainty, and the ISP agreement creates new opportunities for revenue. “From the first meeting we had with Ben until the end, he was extremely willing to listen,” Hogan said. “He was willing to get out of the normal box that ISP has used very successfully. We’ve really done something unique by creating a true partnership rather than a client-vendor relationship. “Our timing was critical,” he continued. “Some of it was luck, some of it was by design. We really feel like we did our due diligence on this one. We took our time to look at what our best option was, whether we wanted to stay with ISP or go out in the marketplace. When you look at the landscape, ISP is a great partner for Georgia Tech.” ■

Georgia Tech can now be heard on both the AM and FM dials with the addition of WYAY 106.7. AM 790 The Zone will continue to serve as the Yellow Jackets’ flagship AM station.

The new ISP deal brings an updated look to the south endzone at Bobby Dodd Stadium, including a new video board in addition to added ribbon boards.

the georgia tech sports properties team

Owen Shull


The Buzz

Matt Brown

Miranda Bryen

Mark Josephson


Mb men’s basketball

A Luke-Warm Stake, Aged to Perfection Yellow Jacket senior Luke Murton is primed for his best season yet


by Jack Wilkinson A reading from the Hardball Gospel According to Luke: Life is good, very good. Ashley’s heavenly. Fear not, the dingers are on the way. And I, Luke Murton, can take the ribbing with the ribbies. I mean, what’s a little power outage when you answer to a higher power? In the meantime, though, have at it, fellas. And so the fellas have. “Hey, Murt,” Tom Kinkelaar, the Georgia Tech pitching coach, said recently, “you’re a table-setter.” This, to a 6-foot-4, 228-pound slugger who’ll never be confused with a table-setting leadoff hitter like, say, Jose Reyes. Miles Costello went a step further. “Murt, you’re a four-tool player. You have everything but power now.” This, in late-March in Blacksburg, Va., from Tech’s student manager. This, from a sophomore who “has about zero athletic ability,” according to Tech head coach Danny Hall. “When your manager is giving it to you,” he said, laughing, “that’s rough.” And then there’s mealtime on

the ACC road. Through the season’s first 19 games - 16 of them Tech victories, sweet enough for a No. 3 national ranking -, Luke Murton, who can put on Home Run Derbyworthy displays of power in BP, who smote all 12 of his 2008 homers in last season’s second half, had zero count ‘em, zero - homers. The Sultan of Squat, indeed. So at team meals, in restaurants on the road, when the Jackets normally eat according to seniority seniors first, then juniors, followed by sophs and frosh -, Murton’s hurtin’ in that gastronomic batting order. “When we go into a restaurant,” said senior catcher Jason Haniger, Murton’s best friend on the team and a Tech co-captain, “we joke around and say, ‘OK, go in order of homers. Luke, you go last.’” And he who eats last, laughs best. “That’s the big joke, as well as the truth,” Murton said, laughing in late-March, safely on the Flats, far from a hot vegetable table. “I don’t have any homers. So I don’t get the

steak. I have to sit in the back and get vegetables.” Of course, it’s better eating veggies than eating crow. In 2006, as a freshman from McDonough, Murton batted .339, hit 6 homers, led Tech in batting in ACC games (.364, with 4 homers and 21 RBIs) and made the All-ACC Tournament team. That was largely due to a monstrous game against Clemson, went Murton homered in three consecutive at-bats and had 7 RBI’s - including four on his ninth-inning grand slam. He went 4-for-7 in the College World Series before going back home. And then in 2007, he went nowhere. A .239 average, a 100-point drop worthy of the Dow on a bad day. Just 9 homers in 226 at-bats, 45 strikeouts, 43 RBI’s and an on-base percentage of .315. “For Luke, that was really rough ‘cause he wasn’t expecting to be here more than two years,” said Haniger. Indeed, Murton hoped to turn pro just like his older brother, Matt, a star at Tech from 2001-03 before signing with the Red Sox as a

supplemental first-round pick in 2003. But when he wasn’t taken until the 40th round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Yankees, Luke wisely returned to the Flats. “His freshman year, it was probably a case of where he didn’t think a lot,” Hall said. “He was happy to be playing. (He) just went out and played. Luke’s sophomore year, it was almost like he had to justify his name.” The family name. His brother’s name. “In Luke’s sophomore year,” Hall said, “and part of his junior year, there was a heavy burden of trying to live up to his brother.” “Luke’s in a good place right now,” Matt Murton said by phone one late-March morning, while driving to a Cactus League spring training game in Arizona, where he was trying to make Colorado’s

Opening Day roster. Asked about Luke’s sophomore swoon, Matt said that although his younger brother benefited from Matt’s example and expertise, “I also believe having a brother who played before you can put too many expectations on yourself.” In hindsight, Luke says now, his sophomore struggle “was probably the most productive baseball season I’ve ever had, as far as learning. I’d struggled before. I went up to Cape Cod [in that famed collegiate summer league] and struggled. As a sophomore, I could just never get it going. I was frustrated, not enjoying the games. “As a player, you’ve always had success,” Luke said. “You start to question yourself: Can I really play this game? Can I really mentally handle it? You’re not producing for the team. It’s really rough. I felt lost as a hitter, didn’t know how I wanted to go about it as a hitter. Do I take more swings? Do I take fewer swings? Do I take no swings? I’d go to the cage and try something new every day.” “Luke’s always been an extremely hard worker,” Hall said. “A little like Cal Ripken - he always likes to tinker with his stance.” “At times, I’m a little OCD with my swing,” Murton said. “I can hit a ball well, but if it’s not exactly what I like…” Well, then he’ll tinker. So… Nothing worked. Not that season. Not even given the fact that Murton is very religious, a young man of strong and abiding faith. And yet when Murton got off to a slow, power-less start last year, he was flustered. Extremely so. “He came in and talked to me,” Hall recalled. “I said, ‘Hey, you have to answer to yourself. I know you have a little bit of a burden trying to live up to your brother.’ From that

point on, he just took off.” “Yes, sir,” Murton said when asked about that sit-down with his coach. Murton says “Yes, sir” a lot in conversation. “Last year, I went nearly the first half without a home run, then get hot and on a streak. I’ve always started slow: Georgia Tech, high school, Cape Cod, everywhere. I’m always a slow starter: Hits, average, homers.” Last year, the right-handed slugger smacked all 12 of his homers in the season’s second half. The presence of a new hitting coach – former Tech player Bryan Prince - didn’t hurt, most likely helped. He raised his average 93 points to .332, with career highs in hits (70), doubles (25), RBIs (51), slugging percentage (.621) but also strikeouts (50). Lasting until the 33rd round of the 2008 draft solved one dilemma: Would Murton sign with Arizona or return to Tech? This season, Murton came out swinging, if not slugging. He’d worked out religiously in the offseason, dieted and lost 20 pounds, improved his conditioning and agility, and remained the Jackets’ biggest offensive threat. He’s even improved defensively, although in the pantheon of right fielders, Murton will never be mistaken for, say, Roberto Clemente. “Maybe Jose Canseco,” Hall said, laughing. Of course, like Canseco, Murton would probably run through a wall for you. Only he’d do so intentionally. “He’s played very well,” Hall said of his everyday right fielder and No. 5 hitter. “He’s never gonna be the smoothest outfielder, but he’s much improved.” Of course, Murton’s most memorable moment of the season came the Thursday night before the Feb.


Luke Murton Class:

Senior Major:

Management Hometown:

McDonough, Ga. Notable athletic achievement:

The brother of former Tech great and current major leaguer Matt Murton, Luke has been selected in each of the last two Major League Baseball drafts.


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2006 ACC All-Tournament team; Top-10 in Tech career record books for doubles

Luke Murton proposed to Ashley Auton the day before the start of the 2009 baseball season.

Despite the ribbing he takes from his teammates, Luke Murton has grown quite a bit in his four years on the Flats and is primed for his best season yet in 2009. 20 opener against Lipscomb. If you think Murton tinkers with his swing, you should hear him plan a wedding proposal. Her name is Ashley Auton. She’s a senior at Kennesaw State. They’d met when Murton was still in high school, playing his last year of East Cobb baseball. Driving back home that evening, Murton thought, “I’m going to marry this girl.” As the only four-year starter on this Tech team, an everyday player who’s started every game this season, Luke Murton has done his finest work on the bench. Not inside Tech’s home dugout on the third-base side, but rather on the bench in Atlantic Station. Luke and Ashley’s bench. In romantic terms, it’s the Johnny Bench of benches. “It’s the bench where we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend,” Murton said. “The bench where I told her I loved her.” It’s a bench in a grassy plot near Ashley’s favorite restaurant, the

Cheesecake Bistro in Atlantic Station. On a frigid Thursday night before that Friday opener, Luke took Ashley to dinner at the bistro. He knew she wanted a photo taken of their engagement, so he enlisted the photographic help of one Jason Haniger. “We ate dinner, and it’s freezing,” Murton recalled. “I called Jason from the bathroom and said, ‘We’ll be at the bench.’ Then I tell Ashley, ‘Let’s go to the bench.’ She goes, ‘Nah. Too cold.’ I said, ‘Let’s go to the bench.’” Haniger was waiting, in the shadows. Murton had an engagement ring, but Ashley already wore a ring on her left ring finger. What’s a Romeo to do? “How am I gonna get her to the bench without making it so obvious?” he said. He coaxed her there, then took the ring off her left ring finger and dropped it beneath the bench. “I had a perfect roll,” Murton See Murton page 10


recalled. “It hits and kicks back under the bench. She goes underneath to get her ring back and picks up the picture frame.” The frame that will hold the engagement photo Haniger is about to take. The frame that’s engraved with the date of a lifetime - except instead of 2/19/09, it reads 2/19/08. “I was still in my ’08 form,” Murton shrugged. No matter. It worked. Ashley said yes, even if Luke put the ring on her finger before actually proposing. Haniger took the keepsake photo. Smile and say, “Cheesecake!” They haven’t set a wedding date yet. What’s the hurry? As of March 25th, Murton hadn’t even homered yet. Not that he’s worried. Even in a mid-March weekend series at Virginia Tech, when he’d gone 1-for-12, “I hit the ball OK. Hit it hard Sunday. I’ve always been a hot-and-cold guy, but what I’m happy about is I hit the ball hard. And I only struck out once. In the past, if I went 1-for-12, I’d have had four or five strikeouts.” So, not to worry. The homers will come. The wins likely, too. And if Tech should get to Omaha and another College World Series? Then two things will have surely happened: Luke Murton will have gone on a homer binge, and he can have all the corn-fed Omaha steaks he likes. And that’s the gospel truth. ■

Murton HR Update: Two days after submitting this story for print, Luke Murton hit his first and second home runs of the season to help Georgia Tech to a 13-9 win over No. 2 Miami.
















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What to Watch For A Guide for what Tech fans can expect at football practice this spring


by Simit Shah Last spring, Paul Johnson and his staff entered the early practice period with more questions than answers, but what a difference a year makes. A 9-4 season that surpassed all expectations and included a 45-42 streak-busting victory over Georgia has changed the dynamic for Johnson’s second season at the helm. The coaching staff welcomes back 17 starters among its 62 returning letterwinners, fueling plenty of optimism as they prepare for the 2009 campaign. Last spring saw the installation of Johnson’s vaunted triple-option offense in its infancy, marked by too many busted plays and fumbles to count. The T-Day finale left fans underwhelmed and questioning how the team would muster more than a handful of wins in the fall. All that has been erased. Tech approaches this spring with more depth, talent and, most importantly, confidence in the team’s offensive

and defensive philosophies. “We know what the coaches expect, which is a high-tempo practice,” said rising junior safety Morgan Burnett. “A lot of guys are anxious and excited about being back and finally putting helmets back on. We didn’t really know what to expect last spring, and I think we weren’t really sure what we were doing most of the time.” Experience has erased many of those doubts, but the Jackets still boast a youthful roster with only six seniors on scholarship. There are holes to fill, but there are viable candidates in most cases. “When you leave spring, you’d like to know what your two-deep is going to look like,” Johnson explained. “There’ll be some freshmen coming in that’ll help us some, but we can’t rely on that. We just try to get better at the fundamentals. We’ve got a lot of things to work on.” A look at what to watch this spring:

-- Defensive line: It’d be naïve to think that the talent and leadership of Darryl Richard, Michael Johnson and Vance Walker will be easily replaced, but the Jackets do have the luxury of experienced players in the wings. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack liberally substituted along the line last season, resulting in Jason Peters, Robert Hall and Ben Anderson seeing meaningful action. There’s little doubt that junior defensive end Derrick Morgan will anchor the retooled unit, but there will be competition at the other spots, and Anthony Egbuniwe, Antonio Wilson and T.J. Barnes are all expected to be in the mix. -- Offensive line: Season-ending injuries to senior tackles Andrew Gardner and David Brown forced youngsters into action late last season, but the luxury of returning starters won’t be realized this spring as center Dan Voss and tackle Nick Claytor are sitting out spring drills

T-Day Spring Game April 18

while recovering from injuries. Last season proved the need for depth along the line, so an area of intense scrutiny this spring will be to develop dependable depth. -- Special teams: The Jackets’ struggles in virtually all aspects of special teams play last season were well-documented, and Johnson has vowed added emphasis this spring. It’s not a stretch to say that there will be open auditions for many of the spots. “We’re going to make it an area of concern to get the return game better, both punt return and kickoff return,” he said. “We didn’t work on that much last spring, but we’re going to work on it every day this spring.” -- New faces in new places: There are a handful of new faces competing for playing time, and there are some familiar faces in new positions. See Watch page 14

Reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer will get a major boost in the backfield this season with the addition of Anthony Allen, who received a redshirt last season.

Yellow Jacket quarterbacks begin lining up for the first snaps of the spring on the opening day of practice.


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Tech fans will quickly learn about Anthony Allen, a transfer from Louisville. He’s drawn rave reviews from coaches and teammates while sitting out last year. Johnson has an abundance of talent in the backfield and has mentioned “cross-training” Allen, reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer and Lucas Cox at both the A- and B-back positions. Receiver Corey Earls, generally regarded as the fastest player on the team, is moving to the defensive backfield after two seasons on offense. He’ll be joined in the secondary by Jerrard Tarrant, who missed last season dealing with legal issues. Don’t forget the 14 scholarship freshmen who were redshirted last season. A handful could land on the two-deep as well as special teams. -- Expanded offense: During the bowl practice period, Johnson teased that the offensive playbook would expand using elements of the run-andshoot, but that never came to fruition in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. He’s dropped similar hints this spring, and the timing seems right given the veteran group on the offensive side of the ball. Plus, Johnson will need a few new wrinkles to keep opposing defensive coordinators guessing. The T-Day Game is set for April 18, and the season kicks off September 5 against Jacksonville State at Bobby Dodd Stadium. ■

The defense, under the direction of coordinator Dave Wommack, runs through drills on the first day of practice

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sb softball

The Yellow Jackets faced Tennessee-Martin in the first game at the new stadium

Hitter’s Paradise The new softball stadium, or “The Shirley” as it’s been dubbed, has been a long time coming for the Yellow Jackets


By Jack Wilkinson This was a fortnight into its infancy, just two weeks after the unofficial opening of Shirley C. Mewborn Field. Or, as Yogi might say, “It ain’t open ‘til it’s open.” Yet on an overcast Tuesday afternoon, Mewborn Field, a/k/a, “The Shirley,” as it’s already come to be known and loved, was already well on its way to accomplishing its goal: To become the best softball complex in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Call it March Gladness. “We all love it,” Whitney Haller said. “We feel like we’re spoiled.” Haller, a senior first baseman, Georgia Tech’s career home run and RBI leader and just the second Tech softball player to be named All-ACC in her first three seasons, was sitting in the stands about two hours before a March 24 doubleheader with Georgia Southern. Fourteen days earlier, when this $4.99 million fast-pitch palace opened its gates for an afternoondelight doubleheader sweep of Tennessee-Martin, Haller had gushed, “It made me feel like the World Series.” On the 24th, she was still aglow about her team’s new downtown digs, if already a bit wistful. “I’m really jealous,” said the Harrison High grad from Marietta, who’ll graduate from Tech in May. “In two years, the ACC Tournament is going to be here. “I wish I could play here longer,” Haller said. “The facility is awesome, and it’s only going to get better.” Somewhere, surely, Shirley was smiling. “I think she’d really like what we’ve done,” Haller said of the late Mewborn, one of the first women to graduate from Georgia Tech in 1956, with a degree in electrical engineering, and one of the Institute’s most generous alums. Before her death in 2003, Mewborn was the president of the Tech alumni association and had endowed a basketball scholarship in her name. Now, the sparkling on-campus softball stadium is nestled next to the O’Keefe Building,


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thanks to Mewborn’s generosity as the principal donor to the $4.99 million complex. “For me,” said Haller, an industrial engineering major, “it’s so special they named it after one of the first two women to graduate from Tech, and with an engineering degree. She was a trailblazer. We wouldn’t even be able to come [to school] here, much less play here, without her. “I think we’ll do her proud.” On the unofficial opening day, they already had. “Wow! What a facility!” Duke Mewborn, Shirley’s husband, marveled and told the crowd before a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 10. “Shirley would be so proud.” “Isn’t it beautiful?” Duke said, gesturing about the ballpark. His

voice cracked with emotion, and nearly broke. And it is beautiful, just as Tech had planned. Mewborn Field sits on the site of the old parking lot beside the O’Keefe Building, bounded by Fowler and 8th streets, right beside Alexander Memorial Coliseum. After playing off campus, most recently at Glenn Field on 14th Street behind a local television station, Tech softball moved into its new home just a year after ground was broken. After a 2002 $9.7 million renovation of Russ Chandler Stadium, the home of Tech baseball, NCAA gender equity rules stipulated that facilities for a similar women’s sport must be equal. An on-campus site was not only critical, but an instant hit.

“Everybody I’ve talked to who’s come has really enjoyed it,” Haller said of games at The Shirley. “Before, we had almost no fan base. People didn’t know where we were [playing], or what time games are. Now, a lot more people are coming, just in passing, 10 minutes or so. Friends will come by for 10-15 minutes, watch an inning or so, then go do what they have to do.” “We’ve even had some baseball players come over before their practice,” Haller said, “and they’ve watched a few innings before going to practice.” In return, Haller and some of her teammates have walked across Fowler Street and down to Fifth to watch the highly-ranked Jackets baseball team

See paradise page18

Fans can get close to the action in these new chairback seats, a commodity that was missing at their old stadium.


play at the Rusty C. On the unofficial opening day, hundreds of students stopped by Mewborn (the admission is free, the sightlines terrific) to watch the pre-game festivities and games. Some Tech football and men’s basketball players dropped in. The Tech Pep Band, three tubas strong, even played the national anthem. This made everyone smile, especially Theresa Wenzel, Sharon Perkins and Jason McFadden. “I think this park epitomizes a family atmosphere, and a lot of what Georgia Tech is about,” Wenzel, Tech’s associate athletics director/senior woman administrator, said that day. “A certain sense of elegance and sophistication, if you can definite a softball field like that,” she added, smiling. You can, and you should when the field is The Shirley. McFadden, the project manager for Barton Malow, is a Penn State alumnus who worked on two other athletic projects at his alma mater: The renovation and enlarging of Beaver Stadium, Penn State’s football colossus, and also the school’s baseball stadium. McFadden said that ballpark is as good as a Single-A or even Double-A

ballpark. Mewborn Field is a gem of a diamond, too, if a few carats smaller. “A ship in a bottle,” McFadden called The Shirley, which had to be tucked into a tight space that previously held 150 or so prime parking spaces for Tech basketball. Not to worry: The design, craftsmanship and construction are as splendid as the view of the Atlanta skyline. There are fine, eco-friendly design touches: A 42,000-gallon underground cistern beyond the right field wall that, when full, can keep the playing field watered for two or three weeks of drought. There’s an energy-efficient lighting system, and 99 percent of the construction debris was recycled. That truly makes The Shirley a green cathedral. That, and the fact that only five or so trees had to be cut down. With its on-campus, downtown location, with two frat houses beyond the right and center field walls, with the old O’Keefe High School-turned-Tech facilities building beyond left field, Mewborn Field has already evoked a Camden Yards feel. Just imagine when the lights will finally go on for the first time April 10, when NC State comes to town for a Friday twi-night doublehead-

er. Before that? The March 28 twinbill with Florida State after a truly grand opening celebration. “Kinda neat,” was Sharon Perkins’ assessment of the ballpark’s baptism against Tennessee-Martin. The coach, who got her 100th win at Tech and then her 101st, was very involved in the planning. Her wish list included lights, indoor batting cages - there’s a terrific indoor facility down the left field line - and, of course, bathrooms in the dugouts. No more scurrying to a Porto-John behind the home dugout, as the Jackets had to do at Glenn Field. The ensuing two weeks only left the softball program flushed with excitement and success. “We seem to play well here,” Perkins said, smiling. “Defensively, they’re getting used to their surroundings, how the dirt and grass feels. The consistency of the [infield] dirt’s been great. The grounds crew has been phenomenal.” Opponents have been duly awed. “One of the UT-Martin players said, ‘It was a privilege to play here,’” Perkins recalled. “I’ll bet it was: she (Jenny Bain) was the first player to hit a home run outta here! The first two, actually.” The coach laughed.

“I said, ‘I’ll bet it was. It wasn’t a privilege to pitch to you!’” The view, of course, is spectacular. Far above and beyond center field (220 feet to straightaway center) is the Bank of America Tower, or, as Haller calls her favorite facet of Atlanta, “The Pencil Building.” It’s 190 feet down the right and left-field lines. Those are the minimum distances required in order to hold NCAA tournaments. That’s no accident. Merely an inevitability. The view from the first-base side, from the visitors’ dugout, is of midtown Atlanta and its burgeoning glass highrises. There’s a small grassy berm above the visitors’ dugout, a much larger one behind the Jackets’ dugout. Up there, fans are welcome to bring folding chairs and blankets to sit on, or to stand and yell, but beware line-drive foul balls. If Tech baseball has the frat boys who sit on the Rose Bowl Field wall in right, just beyond the right field wall in Russ Chandler Stadium, Tech softball has the berm in The Shirley. And, like baseball, a room with a view that’s unmatched in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And, already, a softball stadium that’s unsurpassed in the ACC. ■

The field is named after the late Shirley Mewborn, one of the first females to earn a degree from the Institute caption for stadium entrance

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Gomez became the highest-ranked men’s tennis player in Georgia Tech history when he moved to No. 7 in the ITA poll in late February.

Men’s tennis


Shortly after clinching a victory over Tennessee Tech with a dominating win in straight sets, Guillermo Gomez sat in the stands watching the final match of the contest on a sunny weekday afternoon. A pizza box in his hand, the Spaniard walked over to the Golden Eagles and offered fellow countryman Mario Gutierrez a slice. It was less an act sportsmanship than a nod to his passion for his homeland. “I didn’t think anyone saw that,” he laughed. “He’s a good friend, and their assistant coach (Borja Zarco) is one of my best friends. I was so happy to see them.” Gomez has a lot to be happy about these days, as the sophomore has become the highest-ranked men’s player in the history of Georgia Tech tennis. He has paced the team with more than 20 singles victories and has been ranked as high as seventh in the nation this season. “He absolutely came here to work hard,” said men’s tennis coach Kenny Thorne. “He hates to lose. He doesn’t accept it. If you see him in a match, that can be a source of frustration that he has to control. At the same time, I don’t know anyone in the nation that wants to win as bad as him once he steps on the court.”


Guillermo Gomez

Of Championship Caliber Guillermo Gomez is having unprecedented success for the Tech men’s tennis team – and he’s only a sophomore by Simit Shah


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Sophomore Major:

Industrial Engineering Hometown:

Alicante, Spain Notable athletic achievement:

ACC Freshman of the Year and All-ACC in 2008, Ranked as high as No. 7 in the nation this season

Gomez made his first visit to the Flats during a layover to visit other colleges, and that impromptu visit has paid dividends for Georgia Tech Gomez’s path from the Mediterranean city of Alicante, Spain to Georgia Tech wasn’t exactly a traditional recruiting tale. He had climbed the ranks of amateur tennis in his native country, even training at a tennis academy alongside Rafael Nadal. However, he didn’t see competing in college in Spain as a viable option. “There came a point where I had to choose between playing tennis or my studies, so I decided to come here,” he explained. “I had several friends that told me that this would be good for me.” Gomez’s father had also attended college briefly in the United States, so he started exploring potential schools. He originally had his sights set further west, but a layover in Atlanta on a trip to visit Pepperdine and UCLA presented an opportunity for an unofficial visit to Georgia Tech. Thorne hadn’t seen Gomez play, but he received strong recommendations about Gomez’s prowess on the court and his character. The visit went well, and Thorne extended a scholarship offer that Gomez accepted. “He hits a very big ball and moves well,” noted Thorne. “He’s a very strong player physically. You always hope they are mentally mature, but sometimes you can only find out after they get here.” “After seeing those other schools, I thought this was the best option for me, especially the combination of tennis and academics,” said Gomez, who is majoring in industrial engineering. Both his father and uncle are telecommunication engineers in Spain. In recent years, collegiate tennis

rosters have seen an influx of international talent. While Georgia Tech has been no stranger to that trend, it was actually the opposite that lured Gomez. “I really chose this school because there weren’t too many international players,” he said. “I preferred to come to a place where I’d have to speak English.” While he’s tasted plenty of success on the court, Gomez admits the transition has its challenges. “It’s a big adjustment,” he said. “Everything is different, beginning with the language. The culture is different. You cannot take siestas. The food is different. Everything here goes fast. I wake up, go to class, go to practice, study and then go to sleep.” “Four to six in the afternoon is usually his naptime, and we’re in the middle of practice,” Thorne laughed. “He says he enjoys his ‘happy food time.’ He enjoys that, and pulling him out of the lunchroom and onto the court isn’t as easy as some of the other guys. Once he gets going though, he’s a bull.” On the court, Gomez has had to adjust to playing tennis as part of a team. “It’s very different,” he noted. “When I first came here, I was in the middle of a point, and they were suddenly cheering for the guy on the next court. That scared me a little, but then you get used it. I had to learn how to manage that. Now I get happiness when the team wins.” Last year, Thorne bucked convention and placed Gomez in the number one singles slot as a true freshman. Despite being new to both the country

and collegiate tennis, Gomez responded remarkably, earning ACC Freshman of the Year, all-ACC and all-ACC academic honors. “He came in as a freshman, and we needed a guy at the top of the lineup,” said Thorne. “We had a few injuries last year. Putting a freshman at the top of the lineup in the ACC and against our schedule is not easy, and I don’t think I’ve seen too many freshmen See caliber page 22

The Yellow Jacket leads the team in wins and has played atop the singles lineup since his freshman year.


that have handled themselves better than he did. It shows he’s a very mature player.” “Last year could have been better,” Gomez said, shaking his head. “I lost some matches in the third set. I wasn’t satisfied with that and want to do better. Mainly I learned how to play doubles. I didn’t really have a clue.” Gomez’s freshman season ended in the first round of the NCAA singles championship, but he felt that last year was a learning experience that he’s been able to apply to his sophomore campaign. “There are lots of things I want to accomplish while I’m here,” he said. “I want to be number one in college and win the NCAA Championship. We have good players, and we can be very good. I think we can win a championship as a team.” “He said that when he came in,” added Thorne. “He’s done a good job to get into the top ten. He’s got more work to do to get to number one. He’s got to develop his game more, and he can do it. He’s willing to put in that work. “He’s got a target on him, and that’s good for him. He’s got to deal with all the different kinds of pressure. As long as embraces that, he’s going to do well.” ■

Gomez returned home last summer to compete in several Futures tournaments in and around Spain.

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Making a Difference

Diane Griffin continues her late husband’s legacy by making a difference in the lives of Tech’s student-athletes


By simit shah Diane Griffin grew up in Chicago far from the passion and rivalries of the ACC, but her husband, Marvin, did his best to give her a crash course in the southern-fried fervor. “I was from the North, so I didn’t know a whole lot about the ACC,” she said. “He’d tell me, ‘You’ve got to learn about football and basketball. In the South, there are three religions -- Baptist, Methodist and Football.’ So I learned as much as I could, and I really grew to love Georgia Tech. They are my team, and that was definitely shaped by Marvin.” Marvin Griffin was one of Georgia Tech’s most illustrious alums, and he passed away at the age of 63 in 2002. Diane now lives in Franklin, Tennessee, but she and her stepchildren, Mark and Katherine, maintain strong ties to Georgia Tech, channeling Marvin’s love of his alma mater. Marvin grew up as the eldest of four boys in the small, central Georgia town of Perry. The city’s most famous citizen is Sam Nunn, who grew up and was close friends with Marvin throughout their school years. The Griffin family lived modestly, and they placed a great deal of emphasis on education. Marvin’s uncle had gone to Georgia Tech and his father was delighted when Marvin and his brother, Terry, also chose to attend the Institute. Like many others before and after him, Marvin heard the infamous, “Look to your left, look to your right...”speech, but he ended up being among the third that thrived at Georgia Tech. He joined Phi Delta Theta and later became the fraternity’s president and was also in the co-op program. “Georgia Tech really helped shape Marvin’s life,” Diane said. “He would bring up Georgia Tech often in conversation, because the school was so instrumental in teaching him the discipline that enabled him to be successful in his career and in his life...and oh, how he loved Georgia Tech athletics!” Marvin graduated in 1962 with his industrial engineering degree and initially worked at Warner Robins AFB in Georgia. He then moved back to Atlanta and headed various ventures before joining Coca-Cola in 1978. He became the soft drink giant’s Senior Vice President of sales, marketing and advertising in 1980, and then took over as President of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated in 1983. His position at Coke just across the

loved the Georgia Tech sports program as much as any man I have known.” “We loved being at the games,” Diane added. “There’s something so different about college football compared to the pros. We went to a lot of Falcons’ games, too, but being at a Georgia Tech football game on a beautiful fall afternoon with Katherine and Mark was pretty special. There was no place we’d rather be. It was a big part of our lives, as it had been for Marvin when he was a student.” Marvin would later become CEO and Chairman of the Board for Daisy

Manufacturing, famous for their BB guns and air rifles, and subsequently Chairman of its subsidiary Brass Eagle. That job took him to Rogers, Arkansas. It wasn’t exactly a hotbed of Georgia Tech faithful, but he and Diane remained as loyal as ever to the gold and white. When Tech’s basketball team earned a berth in the 1990 Final Four, the couple was quick to book their trip to Denver. “We lived in Arkansas at the time,” she remembered. “Arkansas was also in that Final Four, so we were on the

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In 2004, Diane Griffin dedicated the Marvin Griffin Conference Room in her late husband’s name.

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street allowed him to strengthen his relationship with Georgia Tech, and he became a key ally in the rebuilding efforts of Tech athletics in the early 1980’s. “I originally met Marvin through John Lagana, one of our former football players, when Marvin was Senior Vice President for Coca-Cola here in Atlanta,” recalled Jack Thompson, Georgia Tech’s Associate Director of Athletics. “He helped us get our first coaches television shows on the air with Coke’s sponsorships of the Tech Athletic Association. He turned into a close personal friend, as has Diane. We enjoyed vacations together and he


flight out there with all these Razorback fans. They were calling the Hogs the entire time, and since we were the only Georgia Tech fans on the flight, we laid low. Georgia Tech lost to UNLV, but we had a great time, and it was fun to be with all the other Georgia Tech fans.” Following Marvin’s death in 2002, Diane named one of the Athletic Association’s conference rooms in Marvin’s memory. She recently endowed a scholarship to remember him. It is annually awarded to one of Georgia Tech’s quarterbacks and is currently held by rising junior Josh Nesbitt. Lee Scott, former President of Wal-Mart, said at Marvin’s memorial service that Marvin was a “difference maker” in his family, in his church, in all his leadership roles within the community and in all the businesses he ran. Diane feels that also exemplifies the students at Georgia Tech. “They become ‘difference makers.’ They work very hard to get their degree from Georgia Tech and eventually each student makes a difference in their profession, wherever their career takes them.” Whenever she visits the campus, Diane feels that Marvin’s spirit is embodied by the current students and athletes. ■

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Josh Nesbitt is the latest recipient of the Diane & Marvin W. Griffin Athletic Scholarship

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NCAA Compliance Corner

By Katreshia Louis

Georgia Tech Assistant Director of Compliance Services

To hire or not hire. That is the question… Have you hired a student-athlete lately? If you have not, you should consider. If you are seeking a natural leader, a team player, someone who is goaloriented, capable of working with diverse groups, and has a competitive attitude, consider searching a campus nearby. Student-athletes often have untraditional schedules because of practice and competition. Nevertheless, they are seeking valuable opportunities to develop their careers. There are several myths surrounding the employment of a student-athlete, however. Per NCAA rules a student-athlete may be employed as long as he or she is paid the normal going rate for work actually performed. Let’s dispel a few myths. Myth #1: An employer cannot hire a student-athlete if they are on an athletic scholarship.

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Fact: An employer can hire a student-athlete at any time. It does not matter the type of aid he or she is receiving. Myth #2: Student-athletes can only volunteer; they may not receive cash or be placed on payroll for work actually performed. Fact: Student-athletes may be paid the going rate for work actually performed. They may not be paid at a higher rate than someone with same job description just because they are a student-athlete. Myth #3: Student-athletes are only available to work during the summer. Fact: Student-athletes can be hired any time throughout the academic year. They have very detailed schedules, but they can be employed as long as the job does not interfere with their class time. Most student-athletes are great at multi-tasking. It would be advantageous for any employer to discover what a student-athlete can bring to any employment situation. If you are considering hiring a Georgia Tech student-athlete, proper documentation must be completed with the Office of Compliance Services. Please review the NCAA bylaws regarding student-athlete employment below.

NCAA bylaw 15.2.7 - Employment. E arnings from a student-athlete's on- or off-campus employment that occurs at any time is exempt and is not counted in determining a student-athlete's cost of attendance or in the institution's financial aid limitations, provided: Discover the many ways to rekindle passion at 255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303 404-659-2000/

(a) The student-athlete's compensation does not include any remuneration for value or utility that the student-athlete may have for the employer because of the publicity, reputation, fame or personal following that he or she has obtained because of athletics ability; (b) The student-athlete is compensated only for work actually performed; and (c) The student-athlete is compensated at a rate commensurate with the going rate in that locality for similar services.

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NCAA bylaw 12.4.1 - Criteria Governing Compensation to Student-Athletes. Travel should take you places®

Compensation may be paid to a student-athlete: (a) Only for work actually performed; and (b) At a rate commensurate with the going rate in that locality for similar services.

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Profile for George P. Burdell

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