By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 3, 2001
For the first time since 1997, Florida will start the season on the pole of at least one football poll.
The veteran and talent-laden Gators are No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches preseason poll released Thursday, receiving 25 of the 60 first-place votes and 1,401 points. Miami is second with 15 first-place votes and 1,349 points followed by Oklahoma, Nebraska and Florida State.
"The plus side is that we're getting favorable publicity across the country," UF coach Steve Spurrier said. "We're getting people saying, "Gosh those Gators are good.' "
The Hurricanes, who beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl and return 16 starters, haven't been as high in the coaches poll since they were No. 1 in 1992. Meanwhile, the Seminoles, who haven't finished lower than fifth in the final coaches poll in the last 14 years, begin with their lowest ranking since 1989. The coaches tabbed the Seminoles No. 6 in the preseason poll that year.
CLEMSON: Tommy Bowden's third season could produce the most season tickets sold in the school's football history. Clemson has sold 57,141 season tickets for the 2001 season and is within distance of the record 57,625 set in 1988, ticket manager Van Hilderbrand said. This year's figure is the highest since 1990.
CONNECTICUT: Coaches and athletic officials got a glimpse of the future when they toured the construction site for the school's new 40,000-seat stadium.
The heavy equipment and crews were still working, and the onlookers could see their $90-million dream taking shape.
"I had goose bumps," said athletic director Lew Perkins. "You can literally see now what the bowl will look like."
Crews broke ground nine months ago at the 75-acre Rentschler Field in East Hartford, the former airfield donated by United Technologies Inc.
UConn, entering its second season in Division I-A, currently plays in the 16,000-seat Memorial Stadium on the Storrs campus. The NCAA has waived the 35,000-seat I-A requirement until the stadium is built.
GEORGIA TECH: Coach George O'Leary likes what he has seen so far of his freshmen class after the last of four workouts for the first-year players. The 30 freshmen, including 22 scholarship athletes, were tested on the pro bench press, and 15 of 30 did 10 or more repetitions at 225 pounds. Fourteen freshmen turned in vertical jumps of 30 inches or more.
KENTUCKY: Heidi Lape Bowie, wife of former basketball star Sam Bowie, is facing felony charges of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. Heidi Bowie, 40, waived formal arraignment and pleaded not guilty in Fayette District Court. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. She was being held in the Fayette County Detention Center.
JACKSONVILLE: Ron Grigg was named associate head track and field coach. He will be responsible for coaching sprints, hurdles and jumps. He will begin his second stint at Jacksonville after spending 18 months as an assistant coach at Kansas State. Grigg originally came to Jacksonville in 1998.
PENN STATE: Workers installed a 1,500-pound copper-and-steel Nittany Lion weather vane atop Beaver Stadium, one of the final steps in the $93-million renovation of thefacility. The weather vane was designed by sculptor Travis Tuck and modeled after the limestone Nittany Lion sculpture on the Penn State campus. Mounted on a pole above the stadium's southwest corner, the sculpture will turn so that the head faces into the wind.
- Information from Times wires was used in this report.