When people look back at the past year in sports, the headlines are going to have just as much to do with those in charge as the games that were played.
The Atlanta Braves said goodbye to Bobby Cox as manager after 25 seasons and a run of 14 consecutive division titles, the Georgia Bulldogs cut ties with former athletic director Damon Evans after his DUI arrest on June 30, and White County High had its own football coaching turmoil when Tommy Flowers was forced to take over as head coach midseason for former coach Gregg Segraves.
Of course, some things remain the same regardless of the year. Once again, Buford High racked up on state championships. And at the very end of the 2010 spring season, the Gainesville High boys rounded out an incredible undefeated season and Class AAA state championship in boys soccer.
Here’s our list of the Top 10 sports stories for 2010:
1. DAMON EVANS OUT AT UGA
When University of Georgia athletic director Damon Evans was arrested for DUI on June 30, it was the biggest public relations nightmare for the school’s sports programs since the Jan Kemp lawsuits of the 1980s.
Evans, a Gainesville High graduate, was pulled over by the Georgia State Patrol for driving erratically and crossing the center line in north Atlanta late that Wednesday night, and it only got worse from there. In the car with the married Evans was not his wife, but Courtney Furhmann, and a pair of her red panties was between his legs.
According to police reports later released, Furhmann was “very loud and obnoxious and obviously intoxicated.” Evans made several attempts to get out of the arrest by asking for a warning and a ride to a motel, but was eventually arrested and booked in the Atlanta City Jail.
Evans’ arrest drew many a jab since he took a public stand against drunk driving, including his video message that played during home football games at Sanford Stadium. The day after his arrest, Evans made a public statement in Athens where he made no excuses for his actions and said he “failed miserably” as a representative of the University of Georgia, but that wasn’t enough to keep his job.
Evans’ departure was officially classified as a resignation and became official on July 5. He was given a $100,000 longevity bonus for the six years he served in the position and paid a three-month salary as severance.
Six weeks after Evans’ departure, Greg McGarity, who arrived in Athens after 18 years at the University of Florida, was hired as the new athletic director and took the job officially on Sept. 1.
2. WHITE COUNTY FOOTBALL
The White County High football team had every reason to fall apart after head coach Gregg Segraves resigned amidst allegations of domestic violence midseason. Instead, the Warriors rallied behind Tommy Flowers, who was promoted from the position of defensive coordinator on Sept. 22 with no previous head coaching experience and carried the team to a 9-3 record.
Not only did the Warriors stay competitive in Region 8-AAA, but finished with one of the best seasons in the program’s history. White County played host to Gainesville in the region championship game on Nov. 5 and despite losing that game, still owned home-field advantage for the opening round of the state playoffs.
The following week, the Warriors made school history with their first home playoff win in school history by defeating LaGrange 28-20. White County pulled off the come-from-behind victory in large part due to a great touchdown catch in the end zone by senior D.J. Rogers and a two-touchdown effort from running back Ashely Lowery.
3. BRAVES SAY FAREWELL TO COX
The Atlanta Braves sent former manager Bobby Cox out in style this season with his 15th and final playoff appearance with the club before his long-scheduled retirement at season’s end.
The Braves got back to the postseason after a five-year absence by playing well enough down the stretch of the regular season to earn the NL wild card spot. Even though Atlanta couldn’t win the World Series it was hoping for to send Cox into retirement, it still battled hard and lost 3-1 in the NL division series to the San Francisco Giants, the eventual World Series champs.
Cox finished his distinguished career with 2,504 career wins. He led the Braves to the 1995 World Series championship and five NL titles in his 29-year career as a manager.
Less than 48 hours after the season ended, Fredi Gonzalez was announced as the club’s new manager on Oct. 13. He’s a familiar face to Atlanta having served as the team’s third-base coach from 2003-2006. He began the 2010 season as manager of the Florida Marlins before being fired in the midseason.
4. IT’S STILL BUFORD
Buford football stayed on the map this season with its fourth consecutive state championship.
This year’s state title came with a little drama as the Wolves pulled out the 31-24 victory against Calhoun in overtime at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 10. With the win, Buford become only the second school in state history to win four straight state titles in football, joining West Rome (1982-85).
Although the Wolves led the majority of the game against Calhoun, the Yellow Jackets tied the game with a 31-yard touchdown catch from Chase Rierson with 7:44 remaining in the game and a 45-yard field goal from Adam Griffith to tie the score at 24 with only 10 seconds left to play.
In overtime the Wolves wouldn’t be denied. After taking the ball on the opening drive of overtime, Buford scored on a 9-yard run by senior fullback Dominique Swope, and then the Wolves stopped Calhoun on its ensuing offensive possession to secure the state championship.
This year, Buford defeated Calhoun for the third consecutive season for the state title, the first time two schools have played three consecutive seasons for a state championship in school history.
5. GAINESVILLE BOYS SOCCER WINS STATE
The Gainesville High boys soccer team came up clutch all season. When the Red Elephants went to overtime against Woodward Academy in the Class AAA state championship game on May 14, they didn’t stress out. Gainesville proceeded to outscore Woodward 5-4 in penalty kicks and capture its first state championship since 1998.
Aiden Reising produced the winning kick for the Red Elephants (19-0) in the fifth and final round of PKs.
The state championship match wasn’t the only time in the postseason that the Red Elephants emerged victorious in a close contest. In the second round of the playoffs, Gainesville won in overtime by the score of 3-1 against Riverwood at City Park. Then in the state quarterfinals, Gainesville edged out Perry 2-1.
Senior Irving Salgado led the Red Elephants in scoring with 21 goals this season, and converted a penalty kick in the state championship game against Woodward Academy.
6. NORTH HALL BOYS MARCH TO MACON
The North Hall High boys basketball team accomplished more than most dreamed possible last season. Not only did the Trojans win the Lanierland tournament and Region 7-AAA title, but also shattered the school record with 27 victories. Then on March 12, North Hall earned its first trip to Macon for the state semifinals. In Macon, No. 5 ranked North Hall lost to top-ranked LaGrange 60-49.
7. FALCONS FLYING HIGH
The Atlanta Falcons are having a dream season and it isn’t over yet. With a 12-3 record, the Falcons are already secured their third consecutive winning season for the first time in franchise history. With a win against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Atlanta will secure home field advantage in the playoffs.
8. BULLDOGS SINK INTO MEDIOCRITY
By any standards, this season was a disappointment for the University of Georgia football program. The Bulldogs finished with a 6-7 record, their first losing season since 1996.
The season, some say, was doomed from the beginning. Evans was forced to resign as AD. A string of players were arrested. Then to top it all off, junior wide receiver A.J. Green was suspended for four games for selling last year’s Independence Bowl jersey to an agent.
After winning the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, the season bottomed out with four straight losses (South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Colorado), which started the rumor mill that coach Mark Richt’s job was in jeopardy.
Georgia salvaged a win against Georgia Tech in the regular season finale in Athens, which helped quiet some of the talk for the time being about Richt.
9. BUFORD SOFTBALL’S DYNASTY
Football isn’t the only dynasty at Buford High — the softball program is pretty good too. On Oct. 30, the Lady Wolves (32-4) won the Class AA state crown with a come-from-behind 6-2 win against Union County in Columbus. Trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning of the championship game, senior Melissa Dickie connected on a solo home run to tie the game, then the Lady Wolves scored four more runs in the inning to secure victory.
Karly Fullem, a senior, pitched her 15th complete game for the Lady Wolves in the championship game and finished the season with a 15-1 record, 0.87 ERA, 117 strike outs. Lexi Overstreet added a seventh inning home run for Buford in the state title game and finished the season with a .431 average with five home runs and 43 RBIs. The Lady Wolves have claimed the state title in each of Tony Wolfe’s four seasons at the helm.
10. LADY WARRIORS WIN IT ALL
White County lived by the motto ‘The Year of the Warrior’ this fall, and the softball program certainly held up its end of the deal. On Oct. 30, White County earned its first fastpitch softball state championship with a 12-11 victory against Alatoona in Columbus.
Trailing 7-2 in the third inning of the championship game, the Lady Warriors got back in it with home runs from Morgan Jacobson and Aubrie Gstadler.
Heather Herdliska and Stephanie Satterfield, The Times Softball Player of the Year, also added home runs in the championship game for White County, which finished the state tournament with 14 home runs.
Satterfield finished the season tied for the state record with 16 home runs for White County (30-6).