Badgers' practice a magnet for fame

By Times Staff
Published December 28, 2004

TAMPA - Wisconsin had a special guest at practice Monday.

Lou Holtz , who recently left his post at South Carolina and retired from coaching, stopped by to give the Badgers a motivational speech. When Holtz was gaining fame as Notre Dame coach in the 1980s, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez was one of his top assistants. The men have remained close and speak often.

"He's someone that has meant a lot to me over the years," Alvarez said. "Lou is a great speaker. We spent the morning together."

Holtz, who lives in Orlando, wore an Augusta National Golf Club cap and a Notre Dame pullover. Before leaving the practice facility at the University of Tampa, he gave a brief interview to an area television reporter. While Holtz spoke, a black Mercedes pulled up behind him and a man from inside the car shouted, "I love Lou Holtz. He's my favorite."

It was baseball star Fred McGriff , a Tampa native. McGriff later was seen jogging on a track that surrounds the field at UT.

A BOOT MADE FOR WALKING: Alvarez, hobbled by a broken right foot, has spent a good bit of time riding around practice in a golf cart. He was injured, of all places, while playing golf for the first time at Augusta National a few weeks ago. He walked a few holes after the injury but had to finish his round in a cart. He's now wearing a protective boot. Doctors have told the coach he won't need surgery.

ANOTHER PERK: The game is great and the weather is nice, but Alvarez likes being here for another reason: recruiting. "That exposure helps," the coach said. "They're not reading about us during the season." Wisconsin has only a few Floridians on the roster, but one is All-America defensive end Erasmus James .

OUTBACK REUNION: The only other time Georgia and Wisconsin have met was in the 1998 Outback Bowl, and it is unlikely anyone from either team has better memories of the meeting than Georgia quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo .

Bobo, who was the Bulldogs quarterback from 1993-97, was named MVP of the 1998 Outback Bowl after leading Georgia to a 33-6 victory. He completed 26 of 28 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown while setting Outback and Georgia records for consecutive completions with 19. He also set an Outback record for completion percentage (92.9).

There's a chance Bobo, 30, will see another quarterback overshadow his record performance. Georgia senior David Greene is already the NCAA's all-time winningest starting quarterback with a 41-10 record (Tennessee's Peyton Manning was 39-6) and holds Georgia records for passing yards (11,264) and touchdown passes (70).

ODDS AND ENDS: Georgia is aiming for its third straight bowl victory. It is one of the top six bowl teams of all time, making its 40th appearance in post-season play Saturday. The Bulldogs have played in 18 different bowls, the most of any team in the country. ... Georgia coach Mark Richt has local ties with his sister, Nikki, living in Tampa. Nikki is married to Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson .

-KEITH NIEBUHR, EMILY NIPPS,Times staff writers