Thursday, September 11, 2003

Bold move by Vandy may signal new trend


The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt chancellor Gordon Gee caught everyone by surprise with his plan to eliminate the school's athletic department and merge Division I sports with intramural programs - and he landed an endorsement Wednesday from NCAA president Myles Brand.

Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson also came out in favor of the move, and Mississippi State's Jackie Sherrill predicted other colleges will follow to save money.

"It is a major shift in the collegiate sports culture. It will be a model for how to embed the operations that have been isolated from the university with similar functions throughout the campus," Brand said.

Gee's announcement prompted questions about Vanderbilt's commitment to the Southeastern Conference.

The football team has lost 27 of its last 28 SEC games and has 20 consecutive losing seasons. The women's basketball team annually goes to the NCAA Tournament but never has won an SEC regular-season title. The men's basketball team has been to the NCAA Tournament once since 1994.

Vanderbilt trimmed its athletic department budget $1.5 million this year because fund-raising is down, as are ticket sales in football and men's basketball.

A recent study found almost every NCAA school regularly loses money on sports. Sherill said merging the athletic department with the rest of the school will eliminate duplicated services.

"Vanderbilt did something that an awful lot of the universities around the country will start doing," Mississippi State's Sherrill said.

GEORGIA: Leading rebounder Steve Thomas was kicked off the basketball team by new coach Dennis Felton on Wednesday.

The school did not say exactly why Thomas was taken off the team. Thomas could not be reached for comment.

The 6-foot-8 center was Georgia's top inside player last season as a junior, ranking third on the team with 10.2 points a game and first with 7.3 rebounds.

With the dismissal of Thomas, Georgia's only returning players will be four seniors: forwards Chris Daniels and Jonas Hayes, and guards Damien Wilkins and Rashad Wright.

FRESNO STATE: Fresno State was put on four years' probation by the NCAA on Wednesday for violations including academic fraud.

The probation is retroactive to December 2002, when Fresno State penalized itself, including banning the men's basketball team from postseason play last season and cutting three scholarships.

Most problems were in men's basketball, but there were others in men's soccer and women's basketball.


DEVILS: The oldest player in the NHL will play one final season: Igor Larionov signed with New Jersey on Wednesday to fill the void left by the departure of center Joe Nieuwendyk.

Larionov, 42, entering his 14th season, won Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, '98 and 2002.


SOLHEIM CUP: The women's matches between the United States and Europe begin Friday on the southwestern coast of Sweden, where fans are likely to come out in droves to support Swedish star Annika Sorenstam.

"I wouldn't say I feel any extra pressure, but I do feel a little more excited," Sorenstam said at Barseback Golf & Country Club. "I know the crowds are going to be huge. I know they'll be supportive. And I think that makes for a great week and a great championship."

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Bold move by Vandy may signal new trend

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